Tower Center selects nine SMU scholars to join global policymaking immersion program

SMU News

Originally Posted: January 26, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – Nine SMU sophomores pursuing minors in public policy and international affairs have been selected as 2016 Highland Capital Management (HCM) Tower Scholars for the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies.

After a competitive process, Tower Scholars are chosen for their knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs, national security and defense and international political economy. They will develop mentor relationships with public policy practitioners, work with clients on actual cases and have access to global and national leaders, local business leaders and Tower Center board members. Senior-year directed-research projects along with Dallas-based placements provide real-world policy experience, and opportunities for relevant study-abroad options exist. READ MORE

Doctors told Debbie Dupree that her son would be dead by the time he was 19. They were wrong. Ben is now 23 and a Dedman College alumnus.


Originally Posted: January 20, 2016

When most little boys were running up and down stairs, Ben Dupree was using his arms to pull himself up the wood banister in his home in University Park. His mom, Debbie, knew something was wrong.

“I can remember any step he would take, being worried that he was going to fall,” she said.

Ben was 9 when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Like an estimated one in 3,500 boys, his muscles were beginning to weaken, starting with the hips and thighs.
For a while, Ben continued to walk. But when he was 15, he slipped — and he decided it was time for a wheelchair.

“I kind of was almost in denial,” Ben said. “Ignoring it, pushing it off for awhile.”

Doctors told Debbie Dupree that Ben would be dead by the time he was 19. For many boys with Duchenne, that’s the reality.
But today, Ben is 23 years old. He’s a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University. Ben’s success in slowing down the disease is partly thanks to genetic luck, and support from people like his mom.
“We have spent a lot of time, and a lot of expense, going to additional therapies to keep him in the shape that he’s in,” she said. She helps her son with everything from stretching and managing medication to doctors’ appointments. She also works with the nonprofit Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.

“The emotional impact of this on him and our family and other families with muscular dystrophy is huge,” Dupree said.
Over the years, there have been many attempts to find cures for the fatal disease, but so far, Dr. Eric Olson says nothing has worked.

“While some of the approaches that have been taken provided some short term benefit for these boys, ultimately, they inevitably succumb to the disease if they have a mutation in the dystrophin gene,” Olson says.

Olson is chairman of molecular biology at UT Southwestern and co-director of the school’s new Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center. His latest research is shaking up the Duchenne muscular dystrophy community. Why? Well, he’s figured out how to use a new gene editing tool to correct the mutation that causes the disease in mice.

“It’s really amazing,” Olson said. “Because what it allows you to go into the DNA sequence of the body and with absolute precision to change even a single letter in the DNA code that may have a mutation and eliminate that mutation permanently.”
The gene editing tool is called CRISPR/Cas9.

To understand how it works, imagine a big banner in the sky; it’s supposed to say, “Congratulations” but instead reads

“Congratulations.” You have to figure out a way to reach the banner, then cut out that extra letter “L.”
That’s essentially what this high-tech pair of gene editing scissors makes possible.

Granted, instead of editing a banner, we’re talking about editing a gene about the size of a mustard seed. And instead of doing it in humans, Olson’s team did it in mice. Still, researchers say it is an impressive advance.

Gang Bao, a bioengineering professor at Rice University, says the possibility of using gene editing to treat diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy or Huntington’s is exciting. Imagine a single injection correcting muscles in the body, including the heart. A major challenge, Bao says, is keeping the Nano scissors from cutting what they’re not supposed to cut.

“They may cut at the location you want them to cut, but they may also cut at other locations. Those could cause a disease, so the potential is there,” Bao said.

As researchers work to refine the technique, and prepare for human trials, young men like Ben Dupree are cheering from the sidelines.

“I would like to see a stop in my decline,” Ben said. “Which I think is probable with [gene editing], but it may not be in the near future.”
Ben’s near future is promising. He’s just applied for a master’s degree and wants to be a genetic counselor.

“My original excitement about genetics was all due to wanting to understand my condition,” he said. “I found that I really enjoyed more of the human element, talking with people, explaining what muscular dystrophy is, how the genetics is involved and wanting to be in a position where I can help other people with Duchenne manage and understand the condition.” READ MORE

Health & Society student wins UT Southwestern research competition

Originally Posted: January 25, 2016




Congratulations to Katie Logsdon


Health & Society Major, Winner of the 5th Annual UT Southwestern Office of Global Health Conference Student Research Competition

The conference and competition was held January 22-23 at UTSW, T. Boone Pickens Biomedical Building Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. Students from North Texas presented research in global health to a globally oriented audience and panel of global health experts. Presentations were judged by a panel including UTSW faculty members and featured speakers. Competing against 1st through 4th year medical students, Katie’s presentation on “Perception of Pain in Childbirth Pain in Dutch Women” shared data from her Richter-Funded pilot study in The Netherlands. She returns to The Netherlands Summer 2016 to complete her Distinction research project.

More information on Health and Society.

How Can My Student Kick-Start the New Term?

Originally Posted: January 11, 2016

There is no better time than the start of a new year and new term for your student to fully and honestly assess how the first semester went.

Were they satisfied or disappointed with their grades from the first semester? Are they willing to take responsibility for their successes and their failures? In case of a less than satisfactory GPA, is everything someone else’s fault or do they hold themselves accountable?

The Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC) offers one-on-one counseling, one time or on a regular basis, for students looking to focus – or in some cases refocus – their efforts. First-semester “disasters” do not have to mean a disastrous college career. Call 214-768-3648 for an appointment.

Read tips for the new term from SMU’s learning and library experts at the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center and Central University Libraries.

Regardless of students’ GPA, most everything said in August still applies:

1. Go to class;
2. Get to know the professors for each class; and
3. Take advantage of the resources on campus (hint: the A-LEC has free tutoring, academic counseling and a writing lab).


Avery Acker named the Academic All-American of the Year


Congratulations to senior setter Avery Acker. She was named the Academic All-American of the Year, College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) announced Thursday. Acker earned the academic equivalent of a National Player of the Year award with a 3.95 GPA in accounting with minors in chemistry and biology, and has been accepted into medical school. READ MORE

Save the Date: 2016 Career Fair, Feb. 18 from 4-7 p.m.


New lifestyle blog “Ramen & Rosé,” created by undergraduate students with ties to Dedman College’s Department of World Languages & Literatures

SMU Daily Campus

Originally Posted: December 9, 2015

Meet the SMU trendsetters behind Ramen & Rosé

At the Starbucks in Snider Plaza on a sunny Friday afternoon, Chandler Helms arrived first and Jessica Jan came shortly after her. Immediately when the SMU students saw each other, the two fashionistas launched into a conversation about new shoes and formal dresses.

“You got the shoes!” Jan said to Helms.

Helms, who sported a pair of brightly colored flats with fun designs on them, showed off her new shoes and asked Jan about which formal dress she was going to wear that night.

After a few minutes of small talk, the two got down to business. They were here to discuss their new blog “Ramen & Rosé,” a lifestyle blog for young and fabulous millennials on a budget. The blog features style, food and travel sections.

It was obvious that Jan and Helms are both friendly and fun to talk to, but what was so admirable about the pair is their knowledge of fashion and their ability to shine professionally.

Many SMU students are familiar with Jan and Helms. Jan, who is well known for working at SMUstyle, is easily spotted by her spunky, unique outfits that are inspired by the different cultures of places like Asia and Europe. READ MORE

Jewish Studies is officially a Minor

SMU Daily Campus

Originally Posted: December 8, 2015

Students may now declare a minor in Jewish Studies as of the Fall Semester 2015. 

Senior finance major Trish Weisberg came into SMU as a religious minor and declared a Jewish Studies minor after she decided to learn more about her own faith.

“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s enhanced all parts of who I am,” she said.

She said the program is a way for her to get away from all the numbers she deals with in her finance major, and get a more faith- based perspective on life. It has helped her understand the Jewish religion in a more historical and theological sense.

“Understanding yourself and other people’s faith is so essential in today’s world,” she said.

This new minor requires 15 hours of courses and provides students with structure and guidelines on how to make them educated in their field.

SMU now offers a total of 24 classes in Jewish studies, including five courses new to the curriculum this semester or beginning in spring ’16.

The classes offer an interesting way to study the various Judaic cultures by spanning more than 3,000 years of history.

The courses are not just for the Jewish students. In fact, most of the students who take these classes are not Jewish. So far, there are about 500 students enrolled in the courses.

“It provides a way to study side-by-side the different Jewish cultures,” said Shira Lander, director of Jewish Studies.
Senior Robyn Langley is studying fashion media and minors in art and Jewish Studies. She decided to pursue Jewish Studies because she had grown up in Hebrew school, and when she went through college, she always kept religion in her mind. However, it was important to her to make it her own decision to learn more about her faith instead of being “coerced” into taking Hebrew school.

“It gives a broader perspective, if you’re Jewish or not, you can really [gear] towards what your interested in and learn about something you don’t know,” she said.

SMU estimates that it has a 2 percent Jewish population and Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus, estimates closer to 5 percent. Landry says this is likely because not all students chose to disclose their religious preference to the admissions office.

This program is unique because it offers classes in Dedman and Meadows. Students now have the opportunity to learn about culture, politics, art, music, poetry, English, and history in a versatile way.

According to Professor of Religious Studies Serge Frolov, offering major and minors in ethnic studies is a growing trend for at some the country’s largest universities. The Jewish Studies program was started to prevent SMU from falling behind its fellow peers.

“I can only speak for my own classes. The study of religion is interdisciplinary; they get a good idea of the different cultures and the role of religion,” he said.

More information on the Jewish Studies minor can be found at:

For interested students, the new classes offered under the major are:

Introduction to Jewish Studies (JWST 1300)

Introduction to Jewish Music (MUHI 1322)

Literature of the Holocaust (ENGL 3370)

Reel Judaism: Cinematic Representations of Jewish Life (RELI 3383)

A Persistent Prejudice: Anti-Semitism in Western Civilizations (RELI 3390)