Alumnae/i Feature

The Simmons Connection: A Tale of Two Sisters

Abby (Bent) McKie ’00 ’02HS (R) and Dana Bent (C) at the 2024 Simmons Commencement
Abby (Bent) McKie ’00 ’02HS (R) and Dana Bent ’24MSW (C) at the 2024 Simmons Commencement

“Simmons has a tight knit community, even in the online program. [Commencement] was a full circle moment.”

Abby (Bent) McKie ’00 ’02HS graduated from Simmons with her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietetic Internship Program Certificate, and Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Health Promotion. At her Commencement, a photographer snapped a picture of McKie with her younger sisters, Dana and Nyla Bent, which was later included in the Simmons Review (Volume 84, Number 2, Summer 2002). This Spring, McKie had a unique opportunity to take a similar photograph at Simmons University’s Commencement, where her sister, Dana Bent, earned her Master’s degree from the Simmons’ Online Master of Social Work Program. We caught up with both sisters to learn about their Simmons experiences, and what this photo means to them.

“I was always interested in nutrition,” says Abby McKie ’00 ’02HS. “I studied ballet for a number of years before transitioning to running, and nutrition plays a huge part in both sports.” McKie grew up in a small town in New Hampshire and didn’t want to move too far from home for her college experience. “I liked the city, but I enjoyed the small college feel at Simmons,” she recalls.

Abby (Bent) McKie with her younger sisters at her Commencement from Simmons
Abby (Bent) McKie (C) with her sisters at her own Commencement.

Though her attendance at her eldest sister’s Commencement was captured in the Simmons Review, Dana Bent ’24MSW doesn’t remember much about the event — she was only four years old, at the time. “I think we went to lunch at Barking Crab afterward. I was more focused on that,” she recalls.

Years later, Bent recalled her sister’s connection to Simmons when she was accepted to the Simmons’ Online Master of Social Work Program. Though her program was fully online, their experiences of Simmons had some similarities. “Simmons has a tight knit community, even in the online program,” says Bent. “I liked the program, my colleagues, and my professors. [Commencement] was a full circle moment.”

Reflecting on her Simmons experience, McKie says, “the curriculum exposed me to different facets of nutrition.” She recalls taking class trips to various neighborhoods in Boston, interviewing pregnant mothers at Beth Israel, and experimenting in the food science lab. While at Simmons, McKie worked with Head Start, a federal program that offers services for low-income families, teaching participants about nutrition.

“The exposure Simmons provided helped guide me on my career journey,” says McKie. “I did my thesis at a skilled nursing facility, where I fell in love with the geriatric population.” After graduation, she worked as a clinical dietitian before transitioning to senior living with Compass Community Living (CCL) Hospitality Group, a sector of Compass Group. After working as the Director of Dining Services in a nursing home for a number of years, she now gets to use her nutrition and management skills in her role as the Director of Safety and Quality Assurance.

For Bent, the smaller class sizes allowed her more engagement with her professors and peers. “Even via Zoom, we had a community,” she recalls. “I would log on thinking, I can’t wait to see my classmates!” She also cites the program’s spotlight on different areas of social work as valuable for her future career. “There is always room to grow in social work,” says Bent. “Simmons exposed me to subjects, materials, and concepts I don’t think I would have learned without these classes. We engaged in a lot of role-playing and group projects, and I was able to practice my skills, collaborate with peers, and create connections in class.” Though her undergraduate experience (at a different institution) was in person, she says it lacked the community feel that Simmons faculty created in their online classrooms.

For Bent, internships at Simmons have also made a huge impact. She looks forward to working as a school social worker, having interned at a K–5 school while in the program. “Since COVID, there has been a need for social workers at schools,” she notes. “I like working in groups, bouncing ideas off of each other, and teaching coping skills to help [students] through their day.”

For those considering Simmons, McKie notes, “Simmons is very academically focused. It’s not a ‘party school,’ but you get the chance to enjoy everything that Boston has to offer: the culture of the city, the museums, art, and music. Tap into all of those resources and enjoy opportunities as they present themselves.”

Bent encourages students to reach out to peers and faculty for support. “I haven’t had one professor not willing to work with me and help me out,” she says. “Everyone has been so supportive, it’s a good community.”

Both sisters are pursuing fields related to healthcare, both of them focused on face-to-face interactions. “As I’ve grown up, I’ve noticed that [Abby and I] have similar qualities,” notes Bent. “Caring for people, making sure our Dad is taking care of himself. We have that propensity for empathy, making sure that everybody’s needs are met.”

Now, the sisters can add a Simmons education to the list of things they hold in common.

Publish Date


Alisa M. Libby