Campus & Community

“I felt welcome at Simmons”: Celebrating Trans Visibility Day with Dane Groves ’04, ’09, ’20MS

Dane Groves

“Even though Simmons is women-centered, it’s not exclusive. Any trans individual can find their place at Simmons.”

Dane Groves ’04, ’09, ’18MS first visited Simmons University (then College) with his mother, who was a student in the School of Library and Information Science. “She was an industrial engineer going through a career change, and she chose librarianship,” Groves recalls. Interested in art and technology, Groves was looking for a small school in New England, having grown up in Southern Maine.

“More than anything, I wanted to go to an all women’s college,” reflects Groves, who was assigned female at birth. “My mom is a super cool, powerful woman. I knew I wanted to be in an environment where feminism and strong women were really important. I had already come out as gay, at that point. I felt welcome at Simmons.”

Groves recalls the two-day summer orientation he attended before his first semester. “I met people there who were my friends throughout college,” he says. “It was very easy for the queer community to interact at Simmons — it’s a strong, inclusive community, and we felt supported by the faculty. I felt seen.”

Initially, Groves was drawn to the Department of Communications, with its mix of art, design, computers, animation, video, and journalism. He earned his first bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Simmons, and was hired full time as an Assistant Lab Manager in the Communications Labs while also doing some independent design work on the side. “I realized I didn’t want to work in a design firm,” he recalls. “I also didn’t want to hand over the development part of creating websites, I wanted to build the website, too.” That led to a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, while a full-time staff member.

Groves became an Adjunct Professor in 2009, teaching Information Technology 101, Web Design, and Advanced Web Design for the Communications Department, while also serving as Assistant Lab Manager in the Communications Department. While he considered leaving Simmons for another position, there was another change on the horizon: he realized that it was time to transition his gender identity.

“The idea of going to a new place before I transitioned seemed really scary and hard,” says Groves. “It seemed like a lot of unnecessary stress for something that was already going to be life-altering.” He also had proof that his colleagues’ response to his transition would be positive: Groves would be the third staff member to transition while working in the Department of Communications. “I knew it would be a good place to transition — everyone had already been through it twice! At that point I made a conscious decision to stay at Simmons, at least throughout my transition.” He recalls sending emails explaining his new name and, later, his preferred pronouns. The response was one of complete acceptance.

Throughout his time at Simmons, Groves has enjoyed his varied roles as student, staff, and faculty. “I’ve had the weirdest jobs at Simmons,” he quips, recalling working with former Archivist Jason Wood in the Simmons Archives. “I was adding [digital] entries for the Microcosm [the student yearbook],” he recalls, “I found photos of the Freshman-Junior Wedding tradition [in the early 1920s] where first-year students were assigned to upperclassmen mentors [and held a mock wedding]. I thought, this is so cool! I had no idea it had existed at Simmons.”

Also during his undergraduate studies, he was a research assistant for SLIS Professor Emerita Ching-chih Chen. “I scanned thousands of images of clay warrior figures from China,” he recalls. “Later, I scanned binders of meticulously labeled slides of her family members through generations. It was for a research project she was doing with MIT on facial recognition software. I scanned her whole family history!” Years later, due to his interest in information architecture — a way of effectively organizing and structuring content, particularly on websites — Groves followed in his mother’s footsteps and earned a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science.

Now a Manager of Endpoint Systems in Simmons Technology, Groves works with a team that manages all of the computers, or ‘endpoints,’ at Simmons, on and off campus. They handle software updates for security, manage equipment replacement, and deploy software for classes, per faculty request. They also manage the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure for Simmons, enabling users to login to a Windows Desktop and use licensed software such as SPSS, MatLab and Maple from any computer.

As this role isn’t student-facing, Groves is grateful for his adjunct work. “Teaching impacts my work as a staff member,” he says. “I always liked working with students at Simmons. When I was working in the Communications lab I was constantly helping students learn to do things and troubleshoot problems. Now, teaching keeps me connected to students and grounded in the work I’m doing to support teaching and learning. Also, when I teach I use the technology we are supporting for faculty, but I’m [testing] it directly.”

Groves’ varied student career at Simmons has uniquely prepared him for his current role. “In the Communications Department, I was focused on computers and design as well as journalism and art. It helped me understand how people read and understand information.” He frequently draws on what he learned in computer science courses in networking and security, and on organization of information principles he learned in SLIS. One pivotal course was Structure and Organization of Programming Language (CS330) taught by Professor Nanette Veilleux. “In that class, I actually understood for the first time the overarching hierarchy of how programming works, and how the different languages follow programming paradigms. Once you grasp that, you can understand every language, it’s just syntax differences.”

Groves is also grateful that Simmons offers a safe space for transition. “I know so many people who transitioned while at Simmons,” he says. “It’s a place where being trans isn’t necessarily a conversation, which is really nice. Faculty know their students, care about them, and take time to mentor them. I found supportive faculty members in every program I pursued, and even in [electives] outside of my major. Even though Simmons is women-centered, it’s not exclusive. Any trans individual can find their place at Simmons.”

Publish Date


Alisa M. Libby