Meet Our Students

Meet Our Students

“The culture at SMU is inclusive and inviting. You knew people cared about you from the moment you got here.”

– Rachael Capua, student

Class of 2020 

Tom Buning

MillspaughInternational Acquisitions Adviser, M&A Crown Group, LLC

M.B.A. Business Administration - Southern Methodist University

B.S. Engineering - United States Military Academy

"Getting higher education right for the next generation is critical to the continued growth and development of our great country and our ability to be a leading force for good in this world.  The leadership legacy I want to leave is one that makes a significant and lasting impact for my children and for generations to come.  Graduating from this program will give me the tools and the abilities needed to make a positive leadership difference."


Gilbert Castillo

WhitesellSpeech Faculty, Richland College

M.A. Communication - The University of Texas-Pan American

B.A. Communication Studies - The University of Texas-Pan American

"I am pursing an Ed.D. in Higher Education because I want to learn and apply concepts and strategies that will benefit students in accomplishing their goals when seeking a degree in higher education.  Being in this program will advance my understanding of the system and help me pursue an administrative or faculty leadership position at an institution where I can collaborate with others to find solutions to various problems affecting students."

Emily Cobb

WhitesellSenior Academic Counselor- ALEC, Southern Methodist University

M.S. Sport & Fitness Management - Troy University

B.A. Sport & Fitness Management - Troy University

"My passion for higher education was developed through my personal and professional experiences in intercollegiate athletics.  Throughout the course of this program, I am eager to strengthen my knowledge of governance and organizational structures within higher education.  My hope is to use this information to develop a dynamic relationship between the athletic department and university, as a whole."

Nazia Ahmed Hossain

MillspaughProject Lead- Upward Bound Program, Richland College

M.S. Counseling - Southern Methodist University

B.S. Psychology - University of Texas-Dallas

"In my personal experience as an American Muslim, I have witnessed being misunderstood and discriminated against, therefore my goal is to ensure that the faculty, staff, and students of SMU are able to effectively collaborate and work on solutions to change the world.  I am currently working on the SMU signature enterprise on diversity and inclusion and a doctoral degree from SMU in higher education will help me lead institutions in becoming ready for the complex cultural demands of the 21st century."

Nicole Sonaike

WhitesellAssociate Director of Professional MBA Admissions, Southern Methodist University

M.B.A.  Business Administration - Auburn University at Montgomery

B.S. Business Admin-Human Resources Mngt. - Auburn University

"Being in this program allows me to expand my knowledge of the higher education industry while simultaneously applying what I'm learning to my job.  Our cohort consists of a well-rounded group with diverse backgrounds and professional experiences.  This generates robust conversations in and outside of class which furthers our learning even more."

Jenn Paull

MillspaughAssociate Director of Career Development, Southern Methodist University

M.S. Ed. Counseling & Counselor Education - Indiana University

Bachelor of Convergence Journalism - University of Missouri

"As a student affairs professional, I believe that the best way I can help students develop is by taking a holistic approach to understanding what makes them who they are, and what motivates them to succeed.  Similarly, I believe that a holistic understanding of higher education will allow me to grow in my role and serve as a better colleague, supervisor, mentor and advocate.  I am excited to be a part of this program, and look forward to learning and developing with my cohort over the next three years."

Essence Smith

WhitesellAssistant Director- Employer Relations, Southern Methodist University

M.Ed. Education Administration - University of South Alabama

B.A. History - University of Alabama

"The dynamic of being surrounded by inquisitive intellectuals who desire to both gain and share knowledge is invigorating.  I believe this program will build on the knowledge I already have and allow me to engage with other professionals as we work together to analyze issues in higher education and develop practical and sustainable solutions."

Christa Rohan

MillspaughAssociate Director- Student Services for M.S. Programs, Southern Methodist University

M.S. Education Policy, Foundation and Administration - Portland State University 

B.S.  Psychology - University of Idaho

“To be able to work within higher education while simultaneously studying it is one of the most professionally rewarding experiences. “Theory to Practice” is a term that we hear frequently, but few of us get to go into a classroom on the weekends and then into the workplace on Monday and directly apply what we learned. Earning a doctoral degree has been a goal of mine for some time, it just was never the right time nor was I in the right place. I truly feel that I have found my place and time to thrive in my Ed.D. program here at SMU.”

Emily Sharma

WhitesellLecturer & Coordinator- ESL, Southern Methodist University

M.A. Applied Linguistics - Columbia University

B.A. Real Estate Finance - Southern Methodist University

"Through SMU's Ed.D. in Higher Education, I look forward to discovering innovative and effective ways to create strong support structures for students in every arena from admissions to academics to extracurricular life.  I hope to effect positive change not only in my professional role at SMU, but also at other institutions through replicable models focused on international and multilingual learners."

Wesley Waggoner


Associate VP for Enrollment Management, Southern Methodist University

M.B.A. Not-for-Profit Management - University of Dallas 

B.A. History - Tulane University

"I work at a university partially because I love to learn.  The Ed.D. is helping me to understand more about the whole university beyond my division, and that's going to help me do my job better.  That will help me, and it will help my institution - a win-win!  I like that the Simmons School at SMU has a particular emphasis on engagement with the community and supporting universal access to college. It's clear the faculty have a noble purpose - one beyond just to research and teach.  They are brilliant and a tremendous inspiration."

Class of 2021 

Lindsay Davis

MillspaughHunt Leadership Scholars Program Director, Southern Methodist University

M.Ed. Educational Leadership - Southern Methodist University

B.B.A. Entrepreneurial Management - Texas Christian University

B.A. Theatre - Texas Christian University

"My own experience as an undergraduate student leader first shaped my passion for higher education, and I am thrilled to take my knowledge of this dynamic field to the next level by pursuing and Ed.D. I particularly look forward to working with the faculty in the Simmons School and building a network of knowledge and support within my cohort. The SMU community is a very special place to work and learn, and as someone with a passion for lifelong learning, I cold not be more excited to get back in the classroom."


Agapito Flores Jr.

MillspaughDirector Carl D. Perkins CTE Success Center, Navarro College

M.Ed. Higher Education - Abilene Christian University

B.A. History - University of Texas at Arlington

"My work in higher education has been focused on delivering meaningful student experiences that develop student growth and success. My experiences engaging students, developing student centered programming and wanting to further develop my impact on students has lead me to pursue the Ed.D. at SMU.  This program will expand my knowledge of higher education and support my growth as a higher education administrator."


Brooke Guelker

MillspaughExecutive Assistant to the Associate Provost, Southern Methodist University

M.A. Medical Anthropology - Southern Methodist University

B.A. Anthropology - University of Texas Pan American

"I sought this program to better understand how people, organizations, and other institutions affect organizational structure and internal policy development.  SMU's program will provide the foundation i need to make more meaningful contributions to higher education in general, and the institution in particular.  The program is further enriched by the cohort dynamic, which promises greater learning opportunities."


Kate Montgomery

MillspaughAssociate Director of Graduate Liberal Studies, Southern Methodist University

M.L.A. Global Studies Concentration - Southern Methodist University

B.S. Marketing - University of Colorado, Boulder

"Throughout my professional life, I have embraced innovation and change to make measured impacts in a constantly evolving society.  I am acutely aware of the need to constantly engage and learn from younger generations in order to grow and prevent myself from becoming obsolete.  The SMU Ed.D. program offers the opportunity to build on my academic and corporate experiences and learn from impressive faculty and my fellow cohort."


Erin Morrison

MillspaughAssistant Director of Annual Giving Developing and External Affairs, Southern Methodist University

M.S. College Student Personnel Administration - University of Central Missouri

B.S. Speech Communication - University of Central Missouri

"I am looking forward to learning and working  with my incredible  cohort over the next several years. This program will prepare us  to be strong practitioners  in higher education.  We are all leaders in our current roles but this doctoral program will provide us with the tools to be effective within our future roles in higher education. As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”


Lauren O'Brien

MillspaughAcademic Counselor, Southern Methodist University

M.A. Anthropology - Southern Methodist University

B.A. Anthropology -Tulane University

"My decision to pursue an Ed.D. in Higher Education was driven by my desire to attain a greater understanding of the of the historical background and contemporary issues of higher education while facilitating research that is directly applicable to my development as an educator and a professional."


Susana Ruelas Pérez

MillspaughDirector of Admissions, Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep

M.S. Human Relations/Business - Amberton University

B.B.A. International Business/Spanish - University of Texas at Arlington

"I am passionate about underrepresented populations and their plight to gain access and find success at the collegiate level. I knew I had to advance my education and SMU’s Ed.D. Higher Education Leadership Program aligned with my goals to gain knowledge on the latest data and research methodology to affect change and current practices. The cohort experience is invaluable as we work together in small groups, drawing on all of our experiences. While we are in session and in between sessions, the cohort support is immeasurable.


Karen Pierce

MillspaughGraduate Assistant in Research in Mathematics Education, Southern Methodist University

M.A. Teaching - Austin College

B.A. Biology - Austin College

"I selected this program because it offers an opportunity to investigate a problem of practice that is interesting and personal to me through the completion of an applied dissertation.  I feel that the courses and support I receive from both professors and cohort members will prepare me to assume a professional role in which I will continue to identify and improve upon problems in the field of education."


Whitney Thomas

MillspaughAlumni Network Manager, IGNITE

M.A. Multicultural Women's and Gender Studies - Texas Woman's University

B.A. History - Southern Methodist University

"The executive style Ed.D. program allows me to advance my own knowledge and leadership skills while staying focused on my career, and the students I serve. Receiving the Ed.D. credential will position me to be a visionary leader in higher education, committed to student success and empowerment.”


Class of 2022 

Corey Benson

MillspaughAssociate Dean of Students, University of Texas of the Permian Basin

M.Ed. Educational Leadership and Policy Studies -The University of Texas at San Antonio

B.A. Communication -University of Houston - Clear Lake

"The doctoral program in higher education at SMU provides the opportunity to both broaden and deepen my understanding of post-secondary education and allows me to immediately apply what I am learning in and out of the classroom in my daily work."


Lauren Chapman

MillspaughAssociate Director for Program and Events, Southern Methodist University

M.A.Ed. Higher Education and Student Affairs -Virginia Tech

B.A. Spanish and International Studies - Southern Methodist University

"After 13 years of full-time experience in higher education, it was time for me to assess my professional goals and seek opportunities to expand my skills. Pursuing the EdD at SMU will allow me to become more knowledgeable about the overall higher education landscape, discover transferable skills applicable to diverse career paths, and learn how to solve complex problems to improve student success and learning."


Heather McClary

MillspaughDirector of Research Compliance, Southern Methodist University

M.P.H. Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences -The University of North Texas Health Science Center

B.S. Biomedical Science -Texas A&M University

“I never intended to pursue a career in Higher Education; my path evolved organically.  I am seeking an Ed.D. at SMU so I can learn more about all aspects of higher education and undergo the dissertation process.  The knowledge and experience I will gain will further my career and give me the tools I need to facilitate institutional growth and improvement."


Albert Mitugo

MillspaughAssistant Director, Outdoor Adventures Program, Southern Methodist University

M.Ed. Educational Leadership - Southern Methodist University

B.S. Animal Science -Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya

I love the cohort model, having been exposed to it during my master’s degree course where students work together on an academic journey while building networks of knowledge amongst themselves. As a Student Affairs professional, I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of higher education while practicing it as I continue to develop students for success. I am looking forward to various future roles in higher education administration or in the classroom."


Arturo Ozuna

MillspaughSenior Manager of Organizational Development, North Lake College

M.B.A . -The University of Phoenix

B.S. Information Systems -The University of Texas at Arlington

"What excites me the most about the program is that it is designed for those who want to drive change in higher education and beyond.  My goal is to pursue an academic leadership role that will allow me to address global issues such as poverty, equity, and/or social justice. This program will help me develop the skills I need to have a greater impact on my community through partnerships, policy, and advocacy."


Brianne Sardoni

MillspaughLead Faculty, English Department, Brookhaven College

M.A. Rhetoric and Composition - Monmouth University 

B.A. English- Writing - William Paterson University

"I  believe that the connections I make at Southern Methodist will bring new opportunities for me to grow as an educator. The SMU EdD in Higher Education Administration was appealing because it is brings people together in a face to face setting and allows for  real time discussions about issues in higher education." 



Joanna Wang

MillspaughDeputy Chief of Innovation Officer, Dallas County Community College District


M.B.A. Business Administration - University of Dallas, Graduate School of Management 

B.S. Education - University of Henan


"The operational problems within the higher education environment are extremely vibrant and complex. These problems touch legal and legislature, policies and practices, federal funding and state grants, curriculum design and workforce development, enrollment and graduation. These operational problems call for a structured approach to use academic research philosophy and methodology to gather information, to access data, to quantitatively and qualitatively analyze and evaluate the data, and to thoroughly study situational factors before addressing a solution for a particular problem.  I am fascinated with the Ed.D. program at SMU. I believe my ambition to solve operational problems will drive me to succeed in SMU Ed.D. program."