Harvey Luna

Meet Harvey

A program analyst, cat lover, movie club watcher who reads CBO reports for fun.

A native Texan who crunches numbers and helps out with the family floral business, Harvey Luna thrives on data and building relationships. We sat down with Harvey and his cat Cheney over Zoom to ask him a few questions.

What do you do?

I am in education research and evaluation at the Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) in the Simmons School of Education & Human Development at SMU. CORE evaluates K-12 afterschool and summer school programs – their quality and their effects on students – as well as professional development for teachers, how teachers are being trained, the content of the training and adult learning.

Even though CORE is part of the University, we operate similarly to a business with clients. We have contracts with Dallas ISD other Texas ISDs. Nonprofits and funding agencies like Communities Foundation of Texas hire us to evaluate some of their grantees. On a typical day, I may do anything from design an evaluation plan to data collection analysis or report back to a client.

What do you hope to accomplish in your role at CORE? 

My main goal is continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is so important, whether it's a system or ourselves or professional development or self-care. At CORE, we carry that desire for constant improvement into helping school districts and teacher professional development. Through research and evaluation, we study something to see what works and how it can be improved. And then we study it again and see how it’s going and if there’s another way we can improve on it.


When you're away from the office, how do you spend your time?

Harvey Luna

Playing fetch with my cat Cheney. She likes to play fetch a lot. When we first adopted her, Cheney was her given name, and, although we thought about it, we waited too long to rename her. Since people often ask, Oh, did you name her after the vice president? – I Googled other meanings for the name, and one was French oak wood. Now I tell people she's named after French oak wood.

I also like cooking dinner with my partner, playing video games with friends and watching movies. We started a movie club, and that's been very fun. Each Saturday we get together online and watch a movie together. I enjoy chatting with friends and family. My mom has a flower business, and so I also help her with that. She does arrangements for home delivery and weddings. My dad does the other side of the floral business, which is for funerals. I grew up around flowers, and I love that I still get to be around them.

If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go?

Japan was the last place I traveled. That was in November of 2019 for my birthday. I really want to go back and visit the Hokkaido prefecture to see the flower fields. It's in the northern part of Japan – a big island detached from mainland Japan. While there are some urbanized areas, there are a lot of beautiful flower gardens and rolling hills. There are also hot springs, a lot of active volcanoes and snow festivals.

What are you reading right now?

I started reading a book, by the recommendation of a friend, called Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. It just came out this year, and it’s an exploration of our history of breathing and it includes useful breathing techniques that I’ve been able to apply.

What makes you nostalgic for your college years?

I would say the conversations with my professors – specifically in the political science department. I would go during office hours to review a paper that I had written, but then we’d also talk about current events. And of course, friends. I'm still friends with all my college peers, and they've all stayed in Dallas. I've been very lucky in that sense. I don't necessarily feel nostalgic because they're still around. I studied at SMU, I work there, and I can't seem to escape. But that's quite alright because I love it.

Harvey Luna

What's the hardest class you had to take?

I would say econometrics. It combines math, statistics and also technology. You have to learn software and coding to some degree. It was a great class, but I really had to put in my hours to get that subject matter down.

What advice would you give for current SMU students?

Don’t be afraid to take a class that you perceive as hard or difficult. If it's truly something that's of interest to you, go ahead and pursue it. You might find that some of your favorite classes are the hardest ones, whether it's because you have to invest more into it or learn more than you expected. Don’t be afraid, take that leap.

What is the nerdiest thing about you?

Whenever the Congressional Budget Office comes out with reports – I like to read primary sources a lot. It's either that or whenever the Fed Chairman makes a statement. I will read that as well. I guess this is why I studied political science and economics, subjects I very much love. I guess that’s the nerdiest thing about me. What's the benefit? I don't know. It’s just something that sparks my interest.

What is your spirit animal?

I would say that my spirit animal is a Meerkat. They are curious, clever, and group-oriented creatures. Their instinct for forming strong social bonds among a small cohesive group resonates with me. I feel that a few great quality relationships are important to have, rather than the number of connections one makes in life. It’s always great to be part of a strong support group to help each other grow together. Plus, Meerkats are super cute animals.