Associate Professor of History & Director of the Center for Presidential History on Secret Service Changes

(CNN) — Some people are wondering about the capability of the Secret Service after it was revealed that Omar Gonzalez, the fence jumper who breached White House security two weeks ago, made it much farther into the house than previously reported, running through the first floor before he was apprehended outside the Green Room.

The details of Gonzalez’s intrusion, coupled with a new report on Tuesday that an armed security contractor was allowed to get into an elevator with the President on a recent trip to the Centers for Disease Control, plus a report that it took the Secret Service four days to learn that seven bullets had hit the White House’s residence area in 2011 and a string of other blunders in recent years (such as a couple crashing a state dinner and a prostitution scandal in Colombia), have put the Secret Service under a harsh light.
The problems plaguing the Secret Service go beyond PR embarrassments, and changes seem inevitable. But despite the cries of reform, significant alterations to the way the agency functions will be difficult and ultimately may not even be known to the public.

A change at the top

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson’s future is uncertain. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama has confidence in Pierson, whom he appointed in 2013. But the fervor surrounding this incident doesn’t bode well for Pierson, the agency’s first female director.

“When you lie, and when you obfuscate and when you cover up, especially in the 21st century, that’s an offense you can’t walk back from,” said Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and a Secret Service expert. “That’s really the kiss of death for any leader.” READ MORE

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Alumnus David Craig Pearson, new seismologist for the Texas Railroad Commission

Houston Chronicle, October 3, 2014

…After high school, he found work with the oil field services firm Halliburton, according to his résumé. He earned a geology degree at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, then enrolled in a master’s program at SMU, where he became a favored student of a scientist named Brian Stump.

“He’s curious; he was hands-on,” Stump recalled. “He was not somebody that closes his mind to things.”

At SMU, Pearson studied seismic imagery. After earning a doctorate, he followed Stump to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Their research focused on coal mining explosions that could be mistaken by foreign governments for nuclear weapons testing. The work took Pearson around the world, contributing to documents with names like “Shallow Velocity Structure at the Shagan Test Site in Kazakhstan.” READ MORE

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Cal Jillson, political scientist, Ebola heightens partisanship

San Antonio Express

WASHINGTON — As Americans wait to see how many more U.S. Ebola cases will be diagnosed, a sharp partisan divide is developing around the issue of whether or not the administration is doing enough to stop the spread of the disease.

Particularly in the right-wing media, President Barack Obama is being blamed for the crisis. “PRESIDENT EBOLA,” the conservative Daily Caller site’s lead headline trumpeted Friday. Commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have been hammering the theory that Obama has been remiss in not ordering limitations on travel from affected African countries to the United States — even though scientists have repeatedly insisted that such a move would be ineffective and probably counterproductive.

Conservative America’s regard for scientists’ pronouncements is not high — and, perhaps more to the point, neither is the regard for Obama, whose approval ratings nationwide are hovering around 40 per cent.

“But in the great swath of the South that includes … Texas, Obama’s (approval rate is) in the teens,” political scientist Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University said Friday. “So nothing is too outrageous to say to good effect.” READ MORE

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Annual Event Brings Dedman College Scholars and Supporters Together For Thought Provoking Book Discussion

Dallas (SMU) September 30, 2014 – Dedman College Dean, Thomas DiPiero welcomed student scholars and their sponsors to the 5th annual Dedman College Scholars’ Book Discussion on Friday, September 5. In a discussion led by David Doyle, Director of the University Honors Program, the students examined author Denise Kiernan’s book, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. SMU Board of Trustee member Dr. Fred Hegi and his wife, Jan, hosted the event at their home.Dedman Scholars Book Discussion

“We enjoy the opportunity to meet these incredibly talented individuals as well as observing their social skills and their true enjoyment of meeting each other,” Dr. Hegi remarks. “Additionally, the depth of insights about their reading assignment is stimulating. Every year, we have been impressed with the students’ thoughtfulness, maturity and diversity of thought.”

The event’s central focus was a spirited discussion of Kiernan’s New York Times bestseller based on recent interviews with women who worked at “Site X” now Oak Ridge, Tennessee, from 1942 to 1945 and unknowingly participated in the creation of the first atomic bombs. 

“The students were interested in the fact that women contributed to the war effort without fully understanding what their specific role was,” said Dedman College Dean, Thomas DiPiero. “They persisted, knowing they were working toward a common goal. One of the students pointed out that that was precisely what the students themselves were doing, both in the book discussion and in their new academic lives in Dedman.”

Joining the 32 continuing Dedman Scholars for the Fall 2014 semester is a group of 12 new Scholars with an average SAT score of 1485 and an average GPA of 3.9 in rigorous high school courses as well as demonstrated involvement within a variety of extracurricular activities. There are 44 active Dedman College Scholars.

About Dedman College:

Named in 1981 after SMU alumni Robert H. Dedman Sr. and his wife, Nancy McMillan Dedman, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences is the oldest and largest academic unit at SMU. Students in Dedman College have the advantage of exploring 38 undergraduate majors, 55 minors, 15 master’s programs and 14 doctoral degrees offered in 16 academic departments spanning the humanities and social, natural and mathematical sciences along with numerous interdisciplinary studies.



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Essay: Finding great teaching at an expensive university and a community college


By:Preston Hutcherson

As a student at a private university I had a sneaking suspicion that the magic between the pages of our great books had nothing to do with the cost of tuition, but had much to do with the generous heart of the instructor — no matter the setting. I think I was right.

I spent the fall of 2013 enrolled at a community college in Texas trying to discover what you really get when you pay the most in the world of higher education — and what you get when you pay the least.

By day, I was a junior English major at Southern Methodist University, one of the nation’s most expensive private universities. By night, I was a commuter student in an American literature class at Richland College, a nearby community college. An English class at my university cost over $5,100, while at Richland it was only $153. While at SMU, after a few false starts, the liberal arts had come alive through accessible professors and vibrant class discussions, something near the fantasy of “Dead Poets Society” but with textbooks too expensive to be able to justify tearing out any pages. As the semesters passed, I began to wonder about the extent to which this experience was tied to the amount I paid for it — what do the liberal arts look like on a budget? What does a literature class feel like at our most accessible institutions? I went to find out. READ MORE

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Economics Professor Klaus Desmet Featured in The Economist’s “Free Exchange” Column

The Economist: Goldilocks nationalism

The size and homogeneity of a country’s population has a big bearing on its economic policies

Desmet-photo-150x150The Economist’s “Free Exchange” column covered the research of SMU economist Klaus Desmet as part of a larger examination of the ideal size of nations from an economic perspective and within the context of Scotland’s recent vote on the question of independence. READ FULL ARTICLE



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Controversies re-emerge in fight over Texas textbooks

San Francisco Chronicle slideshow and story quotes Dedman College history professor Kathleen Wellman while highlighting 15 big issues in Texas textbook debate READ MORE


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The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Opens Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter

Program will develop emerging leaders in health through year-long service projects inspired by Nobel Peace Prize recipient and humanitarian-physician Albert Schweitzer 

Dallas, TX, September 26, 2014—The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) today announced the launch of a program chapter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The site will be housed at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and is supported by a consortium of Dallas-Fort Worth-based universities including Baylor University, Louise Herrington School of Nursing; Texas Christian University; Texas Woman’s University; University of Dallas; University of Texas at Arlington; University of Texas at Dallas; and University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center.

Recruiting is underway for the chapter’s first class of Fellows, who will begin their Fellowship year in April, 2015.

“The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship excels in developing emerging leaders in health who will serve vulnerable populations not just in their Fellowship year, but throughout their career,” said Sylvia Stevens-Edouard, Executive Director of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. “Our individual chapters supplement traditional education with programs focused on supporting emerging professionals’ desire to serve populations in need. Our new program in Dallas-Fort Worth will make important and vital contributions that will improve lives and create positive change.”

“The Dallas-Fort Worth Schweitzer Fellowship Program will embrace Albert Schweitzer’s commitment to service and compassion for people in need,” said Courtney Roy, Program Director for the Dallas-Fort Worth Schweitzer Fellowship Program. “Our program will support a range of projects that address health and wellbeing in multiple and creative ways, in order to reach those with needs that often go unmet in traditional healthcare and social service settings.”

“We are so pleased to host the Dallas-Fort Worth Schweitzer Fellowship Program,” said Renee McDonald, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Psychology for SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. “The values of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship align closely with those of Southern Methodist University, which is to prepare students for leadership in their professions and their communities. We look forward this collaboration.”

Schweitzer Fellows are graduate students in healthcare fields, social work, law, education, and other fields who design and implement year-long service projects that address the root causes of health disparities in under-resourced communities, while also fulfilling their academic responsibilities. The process of moving their Fellowship projects from an initial concept to completion teaches Schweitzer Fellows valuable skills in working with others in allied fields. As Schweitzer Fellows develop professionally, this skill is critical to their ability to effect larger-scale change among vulnerable populations.

Schweitzer Fellows who have successfully completed their year-long service project are called Fellows for Life. Some of ASF’s Fellows for Life include Robert Satcher, Jr., MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Anderson Cancer Center and NASA Mission Specialist; Rishi Manchanda, MD, author of the TED Book, The Upstream Doctors: Medical Innovators Track Sickness To Its Source; and Jessica Lahey, JD, who writes about education and parenting issues for the New York Times, The Atlantic and on her blog, Coming of Age in the Middle. Additionally, three Schweitzer Fellows for Life are among those currently working in West Africa to fight the Ebola outbreak: Meredith Dixon, MD, who is a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer; Nahid Bhadelia, MD, director of infection control at Boston’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory and a hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center; and William Fischer II, MD, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine.

The Dallas-Forth Worth chapter will be the second Texas-based chapter; the Houston-Galveston chapter opened in 2008. The Dallas-Forth Worth chapter is ASF’s 12th US-based program. The others are in Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Columbus-Athens; Los Angeles; New Orleans; New Hampshire and Vermont; North Carolina; Pittsburgh; and San Francisco. ASF also has a program chapter based in Lambaréné, Gabon, at The Albert Schweitzer Hospital.


About The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) is improving the health of vulnerable people now and for the future by developing a corps of Leaders in Service—professionals skilled in creating positive change with and in our communities, our health and human service systems, and our world.

Through community-based, mentored direct service and a multidisciplinary, reflective leadership development program, ASF is building community capacity and training a professional workforce that is:

  • skilled in addressing the underlying causes of health inequities;
  • committed to improving the health outcomes of underserved communities; and
  • prepared for a life of continued service.

To date, nearly 3,000 Schweitzer Fellows have delivered nearly 500,000 hours of service to nearly 300,000 people in need.  Additionally, more than 100 Fellows have provided care at the 100-year-old Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Africa. Through this work and through the contributions of Fellows whose professional careers serve their communities, ASF perpetuates the legacy and philosophy of physician-humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer. ASF has 12 program locations in the U.S. and one in Lambaréné, Africa. Its national office is located in Boston, MA and hosted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.



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Ömer Özak, Economics, can a nation’s soil explain its economic fortunes?

The Atlantic

..Two economics researchers, Brown’s Oded Galor and Southern Methodist University’s Ömer Özak, recently published an ambitious paper reminiscent of Diamond’s work. Like Diamond, they make an argument that is so simple and intuitive that it at first glance appears reductive: People whose ancestors come from places with richer harvests are more likely to appreciate the benefits of long-term thinking. Essentially, the theory suggests that because people who lived in especially fertile areas had more reason to believe that patience pays off, they came to create cultures that are okay with delaying gratification… READ MORE

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Dedman College experts address controversial content proposed for Texas’ new public school textbooks

DALLAS (SMU) — SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences faculty members Ron Wetherington, Kathleen Wellman, David Brockman and Edward Countryman are speaking out about what they see as “flawed” and “distorted” textbooks being considered for Texas classrooms.

Wetherington, Wellman and Brockman addressed the State Board of Education (SBOE) at a daylong hearing in Austin on Sept. 16. Earlier that week Brockman and Countryman participated in a press conference, releasing research findings that have garnered national attention. READ MORE

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