Teaching & Learning Alumni

Paul Polanco '20

Paul Polanco is a Data Analyst at Big Thought, a Dallas-based nonprofit that provides a range of services to area youth. He graduated from Simmons with a Ph.D. in Education in 2019.

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?

I am currently working as a data analyst at Big Thought, a local non-profit that provides a range of services to the Dallas metropolitan area youth. The most rewarding area of my job is how through data analysis, I provide insightful information that makes me of the decision-making process as it relates to program development that benefit the children we serve.

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?

When I became a graduate student, I had many ideas of how to work with the local community and how use my previous experiences as a teacher in the local school district to make an impact locally. At Simmons, I had a group of dedicated mentors who guided my thinking and provided the necessary research so that I could make the best decision based on my interest. In other words, I found the personal and educational support I needed to meet my goals.

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?

At Simmons, there was a strong focus on data analysis and using data to support decisions that impact education in areas of policy and teaching practices. This focus on data also considered qualitative information about the communities impacted by the policies or practices which helped us make better analysis about the issues we had at hand. More importantly, it provided the necessary tools to well-rounded decisions in my current position, looking at the different perspectives when deciding what programs could better serve our local children.

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?

Working with professors who were dedicated to investigating policies and practices that impacted the educational community was really impactful in how I looked at my own research. Moreover, having a group of professors who were mentors and colleagues is another highlight that shaped my experience at SMU.

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

At Simmons, I found a community of intellectuals that helped me use my background to shape my research agenda and who challenged me to look for the best solutions to current educational issues. Also, the faculty at Simmons is also actively engaged in the local educational community and it has a voice that is respected. Having a supportive faculty working on research and using it to positively impact the local community is something that definitely makes me proud to be a Simmons alum.

Condensed and edited.