Alumnae/i Feature

A Friendship Born at Simmons: Allyson Irish ’04MS and Jan Taylor ’07MS

A composite photo of Jan Taylor ’07MS and Allyson Irish ’04MS
Jan Taylor ’07MS and Allyson Irish ’04MS

Some of my best friends are from Simmons. There is a connection. I became aware of the experiences of women through the Simmons lens, and having that experience alongside my colleagues creates a bond.

Communications majors and Simmons pals Jan Taylor ’07MS and Allyson Irish ’04MS know how exciting — and daunting — a career shift can be.

Taylor worked for 11 years at Simmons, getting her Master’s degree in Communications, and ultimately becoming Assistant Vice President of Alumnae/i Relations and Annual Giving. “I built my career at Simmons,” says Taylor. “I tapped into the feminine experience and the history of women in education. I’m grateful I had access to that at Simmons.” Although accomplished within higher education, she was drawn to the idea of branching into the fitness realm. A milestone birthday inspired her to attempt a half marathon which, surprisingly, led her to seek multiple fitness certifications. She describes this move as "so Simmons...explore, pursue, and then go for it.”

In 2014, Taylor opened Get Lively Health & Fitness in Watertown, Massachusetts, which offers fitness classes, personal training, and lifestyle coaching. “It was absolutely my Simmons experience and the Simmons community who got me to the place where I was bold and courageous enough to take that leap,” says Taylor. “I wouldn’t have done it if not for Simmons, where I saw women making bold choices.”

Though she planned her business for years before leaving her position at Simmons, she was new to the fitness industry and to entrepreneurship. “I was able to step into a place where I have the confidence and joy of deciding what I put out into the world, welcoming people into my studio, and having an impact on their lives.”

Like Taylor, Irish had been working for several years at Simmons before enrolling in the Communications Master’s program. She worked at Simmons for 16 years, editing the Simmons Magazine and eventually serving as Senior Director of Marketing Communications. Currently, she is Director of Editorial & Creative Services at Phillips Academy, a private boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts.

Having been in the marketing and communications field for nearly 30 years, Irish was looking for a way to expand her skill set and perhaps try something else. Surprisingly, she found that new career path in London. After enjoying high tea there in 2022, Irish became inspired to study tea. Last summer, she obtained certification as tea sommelier, which includes a thorough understanding of the history, processing methods, and preparation of tea, as well as the ability to advise on tastes and food pairings. In November of 2023 she established her new business Teally, which provides custom tea tastings and presentations.

“It was definitely something out of my comfort zone to start a business,” says Irish. Yet she was pleasantly surprised by all of the positive support she received, especially from her former Simmons colleagues. “Even though the tea industry and having a tea business is still very new to me, I quickly saw that once I stepped into something that I am truly passionate about, others have responded in like fashion,” says Irish. “I’m still testing the waters as to how I move this business forward, but hopefully it will become my next career.”

Taylor also admits that leaving her full-time job to open her business was challenging. “I was bold and courageous, but I was also terrified,” she says, noting that years of considering the possibility came down to the advice from Simmons colleague Lorita Williams, then-Executive Director of Alumnae Relations. “She asked me, ‘What is the worst that can happen if you fail?’ I played out the worst case scenarios. Also, I know that I can go back to [my previous career] — it’s not like those skills and that network is gone.” Both Taylor and Irish cite their work at Simmons as supporting their current endeavors, especially planning logistics and managing large events, like the Black Alumnae/i Symposium and the Simmons Leadership Conference. The friends also recall fond memories of meeting on campus while they both worked at Simmons. Which begs the question: is there something special about Simmons friendships?

“No doubt,” says Taylor. “Some of my best friends are from Simmons. There is a connection. I became aware of the experiences of women through the Simmons lens, and having that experience alongside my colleagues creates a bond.”

In the years since working at Simmons, Irish says that her appreciation of the institution has grown. “I’ve learned how special it was, and is. There are so many remarkable women that I worked with who are so supportive. When I reach out with a question or for advice, they welcome it.” Taylor adds, “Simmons people prioritize your call! It’s about tapping into that network — you know you’ll have a fruitful interaction.” This is precisely how this joint interview about their unique business ventures happened. “That’s why it occurred to me,” recalls Irish. “I thought, of course, why not reach out to Simmons?”

Publish Date


Alisa M. Libby