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 2019 

Caitlin Anderson

AndersonLecturer, Department of Applied Physiology & Wellness, Southern Methodist University

M.S. Educational Leadership - Texas A & M University

B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies - Texas A & M University

"It is critical that the decisions I make are data driven. This program will not only expose me to new content areas so that I can make more informed decisions related to the curriculum I teach, but will also give me the tools needed to ask critical questions and determine a course of action to answer those questions."

Rachael Carranza Capua

CapuaManager of Internal Communications, Tarrant County College District

M.Ed. Adult & Higher Education - University of Oklahoma

B.S. Advertising & Public Relations - Texas Christian University

"I appreciate the program's focus on educational leadership and policy.  With a background in corporate marketing and development, student affairs, and now in internal communications, I believe this experience and having an Ed.D. from SMU will prepare and equip me for advanced opportunities after graduation."

Kathleen Furr

FurrDirector of Research, American University of Sharjah

M.S. International Studies - Oklahoma State University

B.A. Political Science - Oklahoma State University

"I appreciate the cohort experience. Small groups of professionals working together to address problems of practice, rather than the traditional degree program appealed to me."

Nali Kim

KimInstructor & Specialist, English Language Institute, University of Texas at Arlington

M.A. Teaching English as a Second Language - University of San Francisco

B.A. International Studies - University of California- San Diego

"I hope to make a difference in the structure of how international students gain access and acquire degrees in American universities that are located in the United States as well as their satellite campuses."

Jennifer Millspaugh

MillspaughDepartment Coordinator, Speech, Richland College

M.A. Communication Studies - University of North Texas

B.A. Communication Studies - University of North Texas

"I love the cohort style and clear organization of the courses. The weekend based program seemed manageable with my current career. Additionally, I have always admired SMU and felt that the institution will provide me with a quality experience."

Nick Whitesell

WhitesellAssistant Dean, Campus Life, Texas Christian University

M.Ed. Counseling - University of North Texas

B.S. Communication Studies - Texas Christian University

"The SMU program allows the opportunity to continue full time employment and associated responsibilities while also pursuing graduate studies. SMU acknowledges and places importance on work, life, and school balance for its students while also pushing students to grow personally and professionally."

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."


Daniel Serralde

MillspaughEconomic Education Coordinator, Southern Methodist University

M.Ed. Educational Leadership - University of North Texas

B.A. International Development Studies -Point Loma Nazarene University 

"The cohort experience brings a unique team-building experience to the program. We are there to lift each other up and help each other to the finish line. Having a terminal degree from SMU will certainly help advance my career in Higher 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.”