Written by Lucero Benitez, COSS Communications Specialist

The Humanics Program at Fresno State will soon be under the leadership of Don Simmons who will act as Co-Director of the program. Simmons has been a member of the Humanics community since 1984, when he was faculty at Biola University and worked with American Humanics, now known as the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. As a local Community Benefit Organization (CBO) staff member, he partnered with Humanics at Fresno State in 2005, before he began as a guest lecturer in Humanics courses in 2007, and then as a lecturer in 2008. 

Simmons enjoys being a part of the program because it allows him to connect his two passions: teaching and community service. He says being a part of a student’s learning journey and creating relationships with student-scholars, alumni, and community partners give him hope for the future and enrich his life. 

“The intellectual challenges, as well as the ‘practical’ challenges of working with community benefit organizational partners keeps me on my toes,” said Simmons. 

Highlighting the impact the Humanics program, students, and alum have on the local Fresno community he shared that he worked alongside a Humanic’s alum, who is now a CEO of a local CBO, on a program that will impact hundreds of low-income Fresno residents. He also helped bring a million dollar endowment for the Humanics program with the Whitney Foundation. 

Now he acknowledges the challenges of distance, online learning due to COVID-19, as the program is a community-based, project-based program and all the local and national CBO partners have gone online. 

“It’s been much more difficult to observe board meetings, have ongoing conversations with foundations and CBO leaders, to feel that relationships are being nurtured and maintained,” he said. 

However, despite the challenges, Simmons has plans for his role as Co-Director of the Humanics program. He intends to re-establish the Humanic’s Advisory Council into a functional working group, establish Humanics curriculum and teach team sustainability to ensure that Humanics is not dependent on any individual for the long term, and work to provide additional financial support for the program.

Simmons shared there will be new courses added including a new “Fundamentals of Fundraising” course, along with expanding the teaching faculty in the program and creating new pathways for under-represented persons to become involved in the program to continually strive for more diversity and inclusiveness.

“I want people to know that Humanics is more than a grant writing course and is focused on connecting social justice and healthy community benefit organizations through advocacy, organizing, board leadership and socially-responsible investing.”

Simmons is grateful to Dr. Matthew Jendian, who established Humanics at Fresno State 20 years ago, and for the other faculty and administration, including former president, Dr. John Welty, for their vision and commitment to the program. 

He will lead the program beginning in the spring 2021 remembering a personal motto he learned from one of his mentors. “My fruit grows on other people’s trees. I am grateful to Humanics for giving me the opportunity to help produce that fruit” Simmons said. 

Please join us in welcoming Simmons as Co-Director of the Humanics program.