Dana Grossman Leeman

Simmons Professor to Speak at SXSWEdu

What's your favorite class to teach?

Social Work with Groups. Students often come into this class really scared of groups, but when they leave they cannot wait to facilitate groups.

What's your favorite book?

That's a tough question, there's a tie for three:

  • March, by Geraldine Brooks
  • The Trial of Fallen Angels by James Kimmel, Jr. 
  • Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Vergese. 

Fill in the blank: When I was in college...

...I was the co-director of our dance company.

If you could travel to anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?

I would absolutely go to London. London is gorgeous. I enjoy ballet and theater, and the music scene is amazing

When I'm not teaching, I'm ____

The Program Director of SocialWork@Simmons.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I wouldn’t exactly call it a hidden talent, or even a talent! I sing and play guitar in a really wonderful, but pretty mediocre, band.

Favorite quote?

It isn’t so much a quote, but a word: Namaste. It encapsulates the way that I try to engage with people in my life, be they family, friends or colleagues. It's Hindi and it means, “the light and the life in me bows to and honors the light and the life in you.” It's about treating human beings respectfully and with honor.

What song is your personal anthem?

That is an impossible question! Music is central to my life and I have so many favorite songs, but to choose one…can’t do it!!

I love my students because ____

There is nothing more precious than being with them on their professional journey. To be the person who gets to watch them fall in love with an idea, theory, or approach to practice is really exciting. I also love their passion, intelligence, creativity and warmth. I am very lucky to be their teacher.

Fill in the blank: I love Simmons because ____

I started the School of Social Work Ph.D. program in 1994 and now 20 years later, I'm the Program Director. I love that I've had ample opportunities to grow as a teacher and administrator within such a supportive environment.

What's the topic of your talk at SXSWEdu?

I will be speaking about creating meaningful relationships in distance education. I think there is a firmly held belief that online education is impersonal and somewhat cold because students aren’t ever in the same physical space. What I have been committed to doing at SocialWork@Simmons is creating structures for students to connect and build warm, substantive relationships with each other and the faculty. I will be using our program as a model for best practices.

What excites you most about the event?

I am truly honored and thrilled that I will be speaking at SXSWEdu because I look forward to sharing what we are doing at SocialWork@Simmons. I am deeply proud that our online students are feeling a part of the Simmons School of Social Work, and describe our program as being very warm and supportive. 

Relationships are the currency of social work practice, so to be modeling engaged, authentic connections with and between students in our online program is proof that distance is not synonymous with disconnection. Everything we do is to create community -- whether it's on Twitter or Facebook, hosting community meetings for students and faculty, advising sessions and student support groups. I don’t know if other online programs devote so much energy and time to creating a diverse menu of student support structures. Our online “brand,” so to speak, is “intimacy and rigor.”

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