Jamie Lakey, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Gulzar Babool

Director, Shelton Montessori Training, June Shelton School & Evaluation Center 
M.A. Teaching, Montessori Education, Dallas Baptist University 
B.B.A. Information Systems, University of North Texas

"Through this program, I plan to conduct research in the realm of multi-sensory learning and examine its impact on neurodiverse learners from varied sociology-economic environments. This opportunity to research in a guided environment coupled with engaging in discourse with my peers and faculty is what I aspire to take away from this program."

Danielle Riddick, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Mark Basham

Principal, Butler Elementary, Arlington ISD
M.Ed. Education Administration, University of North Texas
B.A. Interdisciplinary Studies, University of North Texas

"I believe in our responsibility as school leaders to create schools where all students can flourish and positively impact our communities. A degree in educational leadership at SMU will help me create, influence and lead innovative and lasting solutions to systemic challenges that will make these beliefs a reality for our students and communities."

Tiffany Gilmore, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Shakeatha Butler

Chief Academic Officer, Cincinnati Public Schools
M.S. Educational Leadership, Nova Southeastern University
B.S. Healthcare Administration, University of North Florida

"I believe that all students deserve a high quality education and high quality educational experiences regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. In the words of Kofi Annan, “Education is the great equalizer of our time. It gives hope to the hopeless and creates chances for those without..." 

Cloris Rangel, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Cassandra Chapa

Chief of School Leadership, Tyler ISD
M.Ed. Educational Leadership, Southern Methodist University
B.A. Fine Arts, St. Edwards University

"I am motivated to improve the quality of education by supporting the design of engaging classrooms and building leadership capacity of educators and students for the future."

Emmanuel Trevino, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Claudia Herrera

Executive Director of Elementary Schools in Arlington ISD
Master's, Texas Woman's University
Bachelor's, University of North Texas

"My why for pursuing a degree in educational leadership is to create more equitable and inclusive educational experiences for marginalized student groups and increase their access to opportunities that will break cycles of poverty and that will empower them to positively impact change in a multicultural society."

Erin Crosby, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Benjamin Higgins

Manager, Analytics & Insights at The Commit Partnership
M.S. Education, Johns Hopkins University
B.S. Physics, New York University Abu Dhabi

"My parents immigrated to the United States to continue their studies in physics, and education has been a central part of my family's idea of the American Dream. I hope to ensure others have the opportunity to benefit from a high-quality education just like I have."

Ellen Alexandrakis, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Marion Jackson

Master Principal, West Dallas STEM School, Dallas ISD
M.Ed., Concordia Texas at Austin
B.A. Broadcast Communication, University of Louisiana Monroe 

"To pursue my doctorate in Educational Leadership is a dream come true. The opportunity to impact Education Policy in an effort to consistently improve educational practices is at the heart of my decision. If education is truly the great equalizer, we need to create systems that would not only support achieving economic and social mobility but do so equitably and courageously."

Terra Johnson

Senior Accountant, Lewisville ISD
M.L.S. Humanities and Organizational Dynamics, Southern Methodist University
B.A. Economics, The University of Texas at Austin

"SMU is an institute that promotes collaboration with amazingly innovative thought leaders.  Applying research and practices to my district will help transform the impact of education on our students."

Tomika Johnson, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Amber Lasseigne

Executive Director of Finance - Lewisville ISD 
M.S.W., Ohio State University
B.S.S.W., Ohio State University

"Educational attainment is the path that enables all individuals to succeed, and our role as education leaders is to provide a roadmap for all students. By obtaining an Ed.D I am seeking to become the best leader possible for my district."

Jameile Choice, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Cynthia Marlow Gould

Special Education Coordinator, Highland Park ISD 
M.S. Communication Sciences and Disorders, Southwest Texas State University
B.S. Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Texas at Austin

"The education of children is my passion. Every child deserves the ability to learn and grow in a safe environment, to explore academic and non-academic learning through passion, determination, and curiosity, and to provide students, through strong relationships, with lifelong tools to take risks to achieve their wants and dreams so that they can become flourishing and productive members of society."

Lisa Lovato, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Tomeka Middleton-Williams

Principal, Eduardo Mata Montessori School, Dallas ISD
M.Ed. Leadership and Policy Studies, University of Texas at Arlington 
B.S., University of Texas at Arlington

"I truly believe that education does not prepare one for school, but for life.  As an educational leader, I believe it is our duty to prepare children for the world in which they live.  We must provide all children the opportunity to learn and achieve.  I look forward to learning how to create, follow, and implement policy to make a positive difference in the educational lives of children."

Emmanuel Trevino, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Marquetta Masters

Principal, Dallas Independent School District
M.Ed., Texas Woman's University
B.A. English Education, Langston University

A Lifelong learner with a commitment to transformational leadership, innovation, and service. "Be the change you wish to see in the world" - Gandhi

Justin James, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Class of 2022

Lorena Tule-Romain

Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, ImmSchools 
M. Ed. Higher Education, Southern Methodist University
B.A. Government and Spanish Literature, The University of Texas at Austin

"I'm pursuing a doctorate in education leadership because I seek create a safe and welcoming learning environment for all our children in K-12 schools, especially those that are undocumented."

EdD Headshot of Leigh Adams

Leigh Adams

Principal, Morton Elementary School, Arlington ISD
M.Ed. Educational Administration, Lamar University 
B.S. Psychology & English, Stephen F. Austin State University 

"I believe in 'Getting Better Every Day' as a professional and a person. I have a personal responsibility as the leader of my school community to provide an equitable education to all students. As a leader, I set the tone for setting high standards and expectations to shape a vision of academic success for all students, enable and build capacity in educators to be at their best in their practice and promote a shared responsibility with parents so that ALL students can thrive in their education journey through goal-setting, perseverance, and accomplishment." 

EdD Headshot of Nancy Avery

Nancy Avery

Mental Health Coordinator, Plano ISD

M.S.W., University of Texas at Arlington
B.S.W., University of North Texas

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education." – MLK Jr.

EdD Headshot of Arlena Gaynor

Arlena Gaynor

Deputy Chief of Academics, Attuned Education Partners
M.Ed.,American University
B.A., Georgetown University

"I enrolled in this program with the goal of fostering personal growth and becoming an even stronger leader for all the children I serve. I strongly believe in the transformative power of education, particularly for historically marginalized students. As Nelson Mandela wisely said, "Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world."

EdD Headshot of Ashley Goodwin

Ashley Goodwin

Principal, Price Elementary, Mesquite ISD 

M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction, Houston Baptist University
B.A., University of Houston

"It is not enough to just be the leader of a school. As school administrators, we must lead. Through meaningful change, setting the example of excellence and resilience, and finding ways to encourage and inspire individuals for growth, every day, I strive to lead my students, staff, and community better than I did the day before. Pursuing this degree allows me to handle solutions to systemic challenges better and develop the necessary skills to lead our students and the communities we serve effectively."

Ed.D. Headshot of Nick Harris

Nick Harris

Coordinator, Racial Equity Office, Dallas ISD 
M.S. Educational Administration, Texas A&M University
B.A. Communications, Mississippi State University

"One of my favorite quotes is, "Be the change you wish to see." I embarked on this doctoral journey to become a better change agent and become more equipped with the skills and knowledge so that I can be most impactful. This degree isn't just for me but also for my family and for the students and families I will continue to impact. "

EdD Headshot of Shannon Nadalini

Shannon Nadalini

Head of Primary and Lower School at St. John's Episcopal School
M.A. Teaching, Columbia College
B.S. in Kinesiology, San Diego State University

"Robert Fulghum wrote, “The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.” I joined this program to fill my watering can and grow personally and professionally so that I can transform students' minds in learning environments that foster meaningful inquiry and critical thinking. I believe education should broaden the lens through which students see and experience the world and that trusting relationships have the most significant impact on school culture and student outcomes. ”

EdD Headshot of Oscar Spurlock

Oscar Spurlock

Executive Director of Feeder in Houston ISD
M.Ed. Education Leadership, Southern Methodist University 
B.A. Psychology and Pre-Med, University of Southern California

"I entered the educational leadership and policy doctoral program driven by my unwavering commitment to making a lasting impact on our education system. My passion lies in creating equitable opportunities for all students, empowering them to thrive regardless of their backgrounds or zip codes. My personal philosophy centers on the belief that education is the catalyst for societal progress, and I embrace the challenges of leadership to effect meaningful change. 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.' - Nelson Mandela. As I embark on this journey, my mantra remains, 'Equity in education, a pathway to a brighter future for all.'"

EdD Headshot of Natasja Benfaida

Natasja Benfaida

Pre-K Bilingual Teacher, Martha Turner Reilly Elementary, Dallas ISD
M.A. Leadership Studies, University of Victoria
M.Ed., Lesley University
B.A. Anthropology, Hispanic and Latin American Studies, Connecticut College

This program will help me grow with our cohort to be successful education leaders and great friends. I appreciate the flexibility to continue to teach full-time, while starting my degree and raising a young family.

EdD Headshot of Karily Dean Cruz

Karily Dean Cruz

Assistant Principal, Dallas Hybrid Preparatory, Dallas ISD
M.A Women and Gender Studies, University of North Texas
M.Ed., Lesley University
B.S - Spanish Literature and Linguistics, Tarleton State University

I am pursuing my Ed.D for those who believed in my abilities, for the educators in my life that grew me, mentored me and for the little 5 year old Spanish speaking undocumented self, to show her that ¡SI SE PUEDE! My area of focus examines the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, gender and othering to identify barriers and drivers to accessing academic opportunities and breaking the systematic barriers that prevents us from pursuing and accomplishing higher education.

EdD Headshot of Charde Dockery

Charde Dockery

Executive Director of Secondary, Terrell ISD
M.Ed., Lamar University
B.S., University of North Texas

A wise leader once told me to “Live my life so that others are successful”, and I have taken this quote to heart and live by it daily. Of the many characteristics of leadership, humility, selflessness, gratitude, empathy, and grit are key traits I have developed over time. They are most significant when you are in the business of growing people. Servant leadership is, and will always be the model in which I lead. My firm belief is to walk alongside your team, as there is no role or job too small or too big, we all matter in this work. The current state of education has definitely challenged and shifted my mindset, which indeed has impacted how one would normally lead. The cohort structure of the SMU program is one of the primary reasons why I feel this is the best program for me. This journey isn’t one that can be completed alone, and I am grateful for the community within the program and I will be ready and willing to share my time and support my fellow classmates.

EdD Headshot of Abril Jimenez

Abril Martinez

ESL Coordinator & LPAC Chair, Dr. David Vroonland Vanguard High School, Mesquite ISD
M.Ed. Educational Leadership, Southern Methodist University
B.A.A.S. Business & Human Resource Management, University of North Texas

This doctoral program will provide an opportunity to deepen my understanding of educational policy, research methodologies, and leadership strategies. With this knowledge, my goal is to transform educational institutions into beacons of inclusivity and excellence, where all students can thrive and achieve their dreams. My commitment to making a meaningful impact on the lives of students, fostering an equitable educational system, and setting students up for future success has led me to embrace this opportunity for growth and learning. One of my core personal philosophies is rooted in the principle that every student, regardless of their linguistic or cultural background, deserves access to quality education that fosters their unique potential. As an educational leader, I aspire to dismantle barriers, challenge inequities, and pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive educational landscape.

EdD Headshot of Tommie Lee

Tommie Lee

Campus Principal, Ripley House PreK-8th, BakerRipley Community Schools
M.Ed., Lamar University
B.B.A., University of Notre Dame

I am committed to the belief that as educators, we must create environments where every student has the opportunity to thrive and make a positive contribution to our communities. My passion for ensuring high-quality education and equity for all students drives me toward a degree in educational leadership at SMU.

EdD Headshot of Chris Polk

Chris Polk

Assistant Principal, DeSoto High School- DeSoto ISD
M.Ed. Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, The University of Texas at Arlington
M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction- Math Emphasis, The University of Texas at Arlington B.A.A.S. Applied Arts and Sciences, University of North Texas

My goal in pursuing my Ed.D in Educational Leadership at SMU is to: 1) build upon the experiential knowledge gained as an instructional leader in my current role; 2) contribute to and learn from the different experiences of other educational leadership colleagues in a cohort setting; and 3) impact the learning environment of all stakeholders through learning from the researched based study and implementation of best practices in educational leadership. Furthermore, I am passionate about service leadership, continuous learning, establishing collegial bonds, and my unrelenting commitment to mastering my craft in how I implement instructional and educational leadership practices.

EdD Headshot of Lorena Toffer

Lorena Toffer

Co-Founder Dallas ISD CityLab High School, Founder and Past President of The CityLab Foundation
Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington - College of Architecture, Planning & Public Affairs Masters in Architecture, Texas A&M University
B.S. Architecture, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Estado de México

Through the Educational Leadership Doctorate program, my goals are to grow as a transformational leader and cement my commitment to erasing barriers for entry, promote retention and advancement in the Design professions for the Latinx populations in North Texas. I see myself as a bridge between secondary Career & Technical Education and Higher Education, an instrument in service of those that like me, immigrated to the US in the pursuit of the American dream to build a legacy.