Eric Simeon: Helping higher education institutions solve challenges

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eric Simeon originally dreamed of becoming the next Spike Lee. His undergraduate experience, however, led him toward a different career path that enables him to make a difference in the lives of countless high school and college students.

Eric Simeon Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

Simeon, who was born and raised in the New York City Tri-State Area, earned his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature, with a focus on cinema and cultural studies, from Stony Brook University. An active member in student government and of the Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Inc., he ultimately stayed at Stony Brook to earn a master’s degree in social work. As part of his master’s program, Simeon completed a social work internship at a high school in his neighborhood that helped him discover how he could positively impact students in his own community.

“The more I interacted with these high school students, the more I realized many of them had no intention of going to college,” Simeon said. “It wasn’t something they felt they could achieve, due to various circumstances. I would tell them college isn’t easy, but it’s going to open doors to different experiences and opportunities.”

After graduating with his master’s degree, Simeon worked in residence life positions in Florida and Pennsylvania before moving to Austin, Texas, where he served as a resident assistant at St. Edwards University, and as the director of campus life and first year experience at Huston–Tillotson (HT) University.

“Since HT is an historically Black university and I identify as African American, it was my dream job,” Simeon said. “I oversaw all levels of student activities, from first-year initiatives to Greek life.”

Although Simeon enjoyed forging relationships with students and collaborating with HT leadership to enhance student life, he also realized he had reached a ceiling professionally. The next logical step, he said, was to pursue a doctorate in higher education. Penn State was Simeon’s top choice, as several of his family members are also graduates.  

“I had a great support system and I worked with world-class faculty during my time at Penn State,” Simeon said.

After he finished his doctorate, Simeon worked as a loan consultant at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. He said that role helped him learn more about the business and financial aspects of higher education and expanded his understanding of how decisions at the state level trickle down and affect students.

In 2017, Simeon became the national director of education for Sigma Lambda Beta, headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa. His primary responsibilities included developing educational programs, improving standards for current and incoming members, engaging current members with fraternity alumni, and creating surveys to understand member expectations.

One year later, Simeon capitalized on an opportunity to utilize his social work education and experience, and serve an entirely different demographic, when he became an assistant director at the Center for Family Services in New Jersey. There he oversaw a facility that assisted children who had been separated from their families at the southern U.S. border.

“Our facility provided a variety of healthcare and educational services for these children,” Simeon said. “They came and went every couple of weeks, so the challenge was figuring out how they could get the most out of our programs, in what little time they had with us.”

In fall 2019 Simeon returned to the field of higher education as a consultant for the Harbor Institute, a premier educational consulting firm committed to partnering with institutions to achieve a shared mission of student success and diversity. He enjoys helping organizations identify and address their challenges via educational programs and training. And while Simeon feels his consultant role has brought him full circle in his career, he hasn’t given up on his aspiration of one day becoming a famous director.

“A few colleagues and I are working on documentaries about diversity, equity and inclusion, and global citizenship,” Simeon said. “So, it's possible that could turn into something bigger. The dream is definitely still there.”

Simeon lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife, Brenda. He has a three-year-old son, Liam.

Last Updated March 09, 2021