Skip to Main Content

First Generation Faculty

First Generation Faculty Members


Jonathan Dannatt, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Organic Chemistry

Jonathan Dannatt

Dr. Jonathan E. Dannatt received his undergraduate training in chemistry and mathematics from Lyon College, a small liberal arts college located in the foothills of the Ozarks. While at Lyon, he had the opportunity to engage in a number of undergraduate research projects including an NSF funded REU at Georgetown University. These pivotal research experiences shaped his decision to pursue a graduate degree at Michigan State University after completion of his course work at Lyon in 2014. At MSU he joined Professor Robert Maleczka's highly collaborative team where he studied organic chemistry. Specifically, his doctoral studies focused on uncovering active and selective iridium based C–H activation borylation catalysts and the targeted synthesis of silsesquioxanes, a hybrid organic-inorganic class of compounds shown to provide significant polymer property enhancements. He defended this research and earned his doctorate in July of 2019.

Jonathan joined the faculty at the University of Dallas in August 2019 and teaches the organic chemistry sequence. Given the significant impact undergraduate research had on his career path, he hopes to provide equally transformative research opportunities in organic chemistry to students at UD. 

Deanna Soper, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Biology

Deanna Soper

I was born in a poor suburb on the South side of Chicago, but at 6 my parents moved to a middle-class home in Crown Point, Indiana to escape the poor living conditions. After 12 years of education in Crown Point, I attended Tri-State University (now called Trine University) and majored in Biology and Science Education. Upon graduation, I obtained a job teaching high school biology at my Alma Mater, Crown Point High School. During my time teaching there, I went to graduate school in the evenings for a Master's in Business Administration. Although I ultimately decided not to pursue a career in business, that degree taught me that I am truly an educator and my passion is biology. Three years later, I began a Ph.D. at Indiana University (Bloomington) in the fields of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. In 2012, I graduated with my Ph.D. and over the next 4 years I had a number of different jobs including a postdoctoral position at the University of Iowa and a Visiting Assistant Professorship at Beloit College in Wisconsin. In 2016, I interviewed for a number of positions for tenure-track jobs. Although going into the process I laughed at the idea of living in Dallas, the university, expectations of the job, and the facilities that the university had would allow me to reach my professional goals. I also really liked everyone I met while on my interview and felt it would also be a great place to live and work. Fall 2016 was my first semester in this role and I have enjoyed it ever since, knowing that this is the right place for me. Throughout this journey, I had many stumbling blocks that I had to overcome and a number of them were quite higher due to the fact that I was a first generation student. For example, I never imagined that I would be able to obtain a Master's let alone a Ph.D., primarily because I didn't view myself as having the capability to do so. I was the first person in my family to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, so I thought I was done with being a student! But, life taught me that my true calling required me to obtain higher degrees. It took me longer to figure out how to do that because I had no one that I personally knew to ask questions of. As a result, I took every opportunity possible including three summer teacher workshops that enabled me to interact with research professors at major research institutions. It was those interactions and questions that I asked that helped to be my guiding light in the process. As a professor now, I always recommend to students to remain curious, ask questions of others, but more importantly of yourself. What is it that you really love? How can I get there? Who do I know that is already doing that job? If I don't already know someone doing that job, can I seek out that interaction? And, for those students who aren't first generation, and have parents who are already in careers, be open to helping your friends answer some of those important questions. If your friend doesn't have the means to travel and your parents are open to them coming along, invite them to come along (travel is such a great way to explore and discover one's self). If your friend needs to talk to someone in a particular field and one of your family members is already doing the job (or something similar) that they wish to do, connect them! Networking is possibly one of the most important skills to get you where you need to be (something else my M.B.A. taught me!). In the end, I think the most important thing is to remain curious, don't be afraid to ask the questions even if they are difficult to answer. And, as always, you have a home in my office! If you need anything, please let me know!

Malcolm Kass, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Economics


Dr. Kass was raised in a rural area in the midwest. Neither of his parents had a college education. After his undergraduate degree, Dr. Kass worked for 10 years, including at 3M as an engineer, before returning to graduate school to pursue his doctorate degree in Economics.

Dr. Kass went to the University of Nebraska. He says, “For me, I only applied there because in my parents' mind, colleges were homogenous.  They were all more of the same, so they didn't understand how a college at U of Dallas can be a very different place vs. a large state school. ” His greatest challenge was seeking knowledge about what to do when at school.

After college, Dr. Kass worked for a large manufacturing company in Missouri. Today, he serves as an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Dallas. Some advice he would give to his past self highlights that “There are many benefits of studying/working hard in college outside of your grades.  Many more doors will be open to you than what you realize. I would have worked harder in class AND gotten to know my professors!  Too often, students view professors as enemies and will not interact with them.  But we want to help!”

Steven Foutch, M.F.A. - Department Chair, Art


Mr. Foutch lives and works in Irving but was born in the outskirts of a small town in Southern Illinois. He makes art primarily in print media, drawing, and installation. He earned his BFA from Southern Illinois University. While at SIU he received the Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award. In 2007, Mr. Foutch received his MFA from the University of Notre Dame.

Mr. Foutch is currently Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Dallas. He heads the printmaking area and directs the Matrix Printmaking Program. He exhibits his work widely and has had several recent solo exhibitions in Dallas. His research explores contemporary landscapes with a focus on rural america.

Mr. Foutch went to Southern Illinois University for undergrad and Notre Dame for graduate school. “Applying to graduate school was very difficult and time consuming. The main challenge was that each school had a different requested format for the materials. The challenge in undergrad was making sure that I was taking advantage of benefits that were available at that time in Illinois.” His motivation was the passion he had for his major.

After graduating, he worked for a regional museum, substitute taught, and then worked in commercial printing where he was the Director of Operations for a large online company. Some advice he’d give to his old self is to “not waste time in grad school!” He emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of every second and of every resource available. “Stay focused.”

Carmen Newstreet, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Education


Dr. Newstreet was born and raised in Florida where her father worked in management at Ford Car Dealership and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Neither of her parents had a college education. Dr. Newstreet is the third child in her family - where her two older brothers graduated from college and her younger sister partially completed her education at a local junior college.

She says, “I was convinced that I would study medicine. Then I learned that you had to be strong in math and science classes. High school convinced me to choose another career path.”

Dr. Newstreet graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. “Back then the process was arduous and conducted hard copy via snail mail. I started looking at possible schools when I was in middle school. My father suffered a massive stroke the summer of my junior year in high school and I needed to find substantial financial aid in order to go to college because suddenly, my family was no longer able to afford to send me.”

Her motivation during those years was simply her wish to graduate. Dr. Newstreet wanted to prove to herself and her family that she could accomplish the task. She worked numerous hours at jobs that paid her living expenses and managed to earn good grades.

After graduating, she applied to graduate schools in education but decided at the last minute not to go due to expenses. She joined the corporate world and helped write training programs for employees.

Some advice she’d give to her past self may be very familiar to many first-gen students today: “I frequently made myself physically sick with worry that I would not do well on tests. I realize now that was because I never really believed that I belonged in the university setting, when in fact, I did. I was just as bright as anyone else, and worked just as hard as my fellow students. I would try to be easier on my past self.”

Lance Simmons, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Philosophy


I teach in our Philosophy Department. I went to college for a semester, dropped out, and returned two years later. After graduating I went to graduate school.

Before college, did you know what you wanted to do?
No. Not at all.
Where did you go to college and how did you achieve that? What was the application process like? Any challenges?
I went to the University of California at Berkeley. My family was supporting me, but I dropped out after one semester. When I returned to school two years later, I supported myself by working summers and part-time during the school year.
What was your motivation during your college years?
I fell in love with philosophy in my second year, and after that my only motivation was to get the opportunity to study more philosophy.
What did you do after graduating from college?
I went to graduate school, then came to teach here.
What’s some advice you would give to your past self?
Consult with your advisor regarding your schedule.
After having been a first-generation student, how does it affect you today?
I keep in mind that many of my students are working to put themselves through school.