How I Became I Human Rights Major

Senior Emily Mankowski is researching the historical racism of the Aboriginal people in Australia to shed light on present-day discrimination as well as efforts to remediate discrimination. (Major: HRTS; PLSC; Mentor: Dr. Rick Halperin). Follow her blogs at 

This is why I can confidently say that I am proud to be an SMU student, because I get to interact with my hero on a daily basis. Thank you Dr. Halperin for reminding me how choosing to be a Human RIghts major was the best decision I have ever made.

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Exploring International Theatre

Junior theatre major Eva Meiling Pollitt (Mei Mei) will be attending international theatre festivals in Avignon, France and Edinburgh, Scotland and collecting information about the artistic work being done abroad. You can follow the rest of her blog at 

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In (counting) four days, I am boarding a plane to Europe to embark on a 5.5 week long journey during which I will experience a lot of international theatre. I will provide information from my experience through this blog. After I return, I will organize this information and create an installation project to be presented at my University that showcases any discoveries I have made regarding the development of contemporary theatre.


Because I want to be a theatre artist when I grow up. And I happen to go to school with a lot of other people who do too. And I thought it would be a good idea to go to Europe where international theatre festivals are heaping together all sorts of professional theatre artists with all sorts of budgets and all sorts of ideas and see how their work and way of working may influence me and my peers’ budding artistic personalities.

In other words:

To see how the world’s art can be brought into my art.

First, I must research the world. My journey (this time) begins with a 3-week stint in Avignon, France at the Festival D’Avignon, one of the most significant international theatre festivals in the world. I will be taking theatre and French courses at the Université D’Avignon by day and scouring the 40+ performances being presented at the festival by night and weekend.  I will also be interviewing the artists and audiences involved with each performance, as circumstances allow.

Then I shall lollygag for a week or so in the likes of Paris and Brussels, awaiting the beginning of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is the most significant international theatre festival in the world. I shall spend 4 days in Edinburgh, Scotland, absorb as much of the most original theatre as possible, interview the artists, etc. Who knows, I may even gain some contemporary theatre experience while in Paris and Brussels. I will certainly be seeking art where ever I go.

Wish me luck. Track my progress at Tell me if you have any questions.




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Investigations Into The Contemporary Dance Company

Senior Morgan Beckwith will intern with Mystic Ballet professional dance company to gain inside knowledge about the administrative and artistic sides of a successful contemporary dance company. Follow her blog

Spring of 2013 Southern Methodist University’s Engaged Learning program awarded me with a $2,000 grant in order to effectively enhance my SMU education by exploring  outside the boundaries of the classroom.

For the duration of my project, (“Investigations into the Contemporary Dance Company”), I will be interning with The Mystic Ballet in order to gain inside knowledge about the administrative and artistic sides of a successful non-profit contemporary dance company.

With the help of my mentor, Shelly Berg, I plan to conduct a series of interviews along with real-time observations and research on the creation of artistic product and the way in which Mystic Ballet engages with the community.

As an SMU dancer I have been privileged enough to be involved with numerous rehearsals and performances within the dance community. Everything from performing with the Graham company on the Winspear stage to reconstructing a Joffery ballet with Mia Wilkins has prepared me to take the next step in my dance career. However, I found myself wondering about the actuality of working for a dance organization in today’s society: salary, contractual rights, touring, and community engagement to name a few. While there is a vast variety of management and business plan styles within the dance community I thought I would investigate one in hopes of revealing some of the realities of the way a non-profit dance company operates.

I hope to bring back this information to the SMU dance department and whoever else is interested in the larger dance administration and performance world.

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CGI America

An update from Rahfin Faruk, a rising junior studying economics, political science and mathematics who runs Green Riba, a storefront dedicated to zero-interest loans for Dallas entrepreneurs.

According to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, American civic engagement is at an all time low. Fewer people are volunteering. Even fewer are joining clubs and associations. And, yes, bowling alleys — supported by bowling clubs — across the country are closing.

The end impact, according to Putnam, is falling social capital and trust. The glue that makes a democracy work is getting less sticky.

This week, I had the opportunity to attend CGI America. Representatives from the private, public, non-profit and academic sectors — four sectors often divided — came together to discuss and propose solutions on some of America’s greatest domestic problems: rising inequality, growing urban-rural divide, declining manufacturing, falling test scores and decaying infrastructure.

At first glance, America’s future seems bleak. But, after attending meetings, America’s future is still bright.

In a session, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew said, “I believe in the resiliency of the American spirit.”

In a new century, Americans will have to tackle problems that there are no frameworks for — climate change, demographic shifts brought on by aging and migration and globalization.

I am here to represent my microfinance organization, Green Riba, which seeks to deliver zero-interest loans to West Dallas, a socioeconomically disadvantaged part of Dallas.

Microfinance organizations usually fall into a high interest trap. Because loan sizes are small and the risk of default is higher but operational costs stay about the same, organizations charge interest rates higher than those at a traditional bank.

Slowly, however, the framework on high interest loans is changing. Recently, Kiva, an international microfinance organization that has delivered more than a million loans, launched Kiva Zip.

The approach is a radical one. Realizing that even traditional microfinance loans left room for financial exclusion, Kiva Zip is dedicated to offering zero-interest loans to the most vulnerable: refugees, the unemployed and the undocumented.

No one framework has the solution. There are no one size fits all solutions.

It will take new ideas and paradigms to solve our most complex problems. CGI America has given me hope that this type of radical change is possible.

Chelsea Clinton with students at CGI America

Chelsea Clinton with students at CGI America

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London Bound

Junior Lauryn Bodden has begun a food as culture project locally and, while studying in London, will expand her knowledge of the glocal food movement, comparing Londoners’ attitudes about food and eating habits with Americans. Follow Lauryn’s food blog


As my junior year at Southern Methodist University (SMU) comes to a close, I look onto this final school year with an overwhelming amount of emotions, questions, and  wonder. This past semester alone has been a whirlwind of new experiences and change that when all thrown together have brought me to exactly where I want to be. I know the person I wish to encompass, my daily passions in life, what brings me excitement in my work, where I want to be in the future, and the people I want surrounding me through it all.

Finals are done and grades are posted, but the year is nowhere near a close. Come May 22, everything will change. By 7:30 pm Wednesday night, I will be high above the United States, soaring across the vast Atlantic ocean, heading toward my final destination: the booming city of London. One of fifteen students participating in the SMU Communications Internship program, I couldn’t imagine a better way to further my education, gain unique professional experience, discover the cultures of the world, and uncover more of who I am as an individual. London is a leading global city, with strengths all over the board. It has the fifth-largest metropolitan area GDP in the world and is one of the most-visited cities in the world. With more than 300 languages spoken, there’s a diverse range of people and cultures. Without a doubt, I know just simply roaming the city streets I will push myself pass limits and gain knowledge in a way that I could never replicate.

In addition to this amazing opportunity, I will conduct undergraduate research through the SMU Engaged Learning program, studying the food culture of America versus that of London. Food is necessary not only for sustainable purposes, but for identity, culture, tradition, and sociological being. It is a huge part of every individual’s day, providing nourishment, entertainment, and comfort, but its importance is often overlooked. Through participant observation, interviews, and other qualitative research analysis, I want to investigate how people on a global landscape eat, cook, and relate to food in a way that is similar and different than we as Americans do.

Self-diagnosed with what I like to call “Food A.D.D.,” I feel this blog alone is enough evidence of the extreme foodie living inside me. Reflecting on restaurant explorations as well as home cooking ventures, I use my blog to show the association I make to the surrounding world through my love my food. It is a source that will further my research findings and help me share every amazing, scary, and mind-blowing second of these next 6 weeks in London. Come along on this journey with me by following my blog and be a part of this next big chapter of my life.

Ready or not, London here I come!!

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One Week Out

Junior Thomas Gelo will bring to life the view of a foreign culture from the eyes of a study abroad student through the medium of an Avant Garde film. Read the rest of his journey on his blog site

I’m just six days away from my flight to London.

At this point I’m still not sure what this film is going to evolve into.  Ideas I hope to explore are:

-British perceptions of Americans.

-The human constructs of borders versus free will and a inherent ownership of the Earth.

-Cultural discomfort and dissonance.

I’m excited to know that my good friend Rachel Wilson will be joining me filming her own documentary on the British music scene.  I hope we can bounce ideas off of each other.  In the next week, it’s time to crack down and make sure I have all of my equipment in order.  Check out the details.

I’ve decided to shoot this film in 720p HD, at a frame rate of 60fps.  For a while I was debating this format versus full 1080p HD at 30fps, but settled on 720p for it’s higher frame rate.  This’ll pull in a crisper image especially when the camera’s on the move, and will give me more flexibility with time shifting in the editing room.  Since the majority of my shooting will be in natural light, I don’t expect exposure to be an issue.

My Gear:

I plan to shoot on the Canon Rebel T2i- a great travel camera as it is compact, supports full HD, and has several features of a higher end camera.

Your typical stock Canon Lens, nothing special here.

Your typical stock Canon 18-55mm Lens, nothing special here.

A Canon 75-300mm Telephoto Lens provides nice distance or a boost in perspective for landscape shots.

A Canon 75-300mm Telephoto Lens provides nice distance or a boost in perspective for landscape shots.

I picked up this Wide Angle lens converter on Amazon.  This Lens adapter will be perfect for capturing vast European architecture.

I picked up this Wide Angle lens converter on Amazon. This Lens adapter will be perfect for capturing vast European architecture.

Before Wide Angle Adapter

Before Wide Angle Adapter

After Wide Angle Adaptor

After Wide Angle Adaptor

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White Girl

For her Engaged Learning project junior Lauren Mishoe will create a mixed-media solo performance as a result of her time abroad studying female empowerment of the Maori people in New Zealand. Read all of Lauren’s blog posts on her blog site

An 11 hour plane ride almost erases the idea of distance. Initially only the multitude of unfamiliar trees made me feel as though I were carrying a small terrier in a wicker basket and wearing ruby slippers: I weren’t in Texas anymore. The first two weeks of living in Auckland were full of adjusting, adapting, and maneuvering myself to appear as invisible and unassuming as possible. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable testing the waters of a new culture could be. Luckily for me, Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and it was easy to blend in within the surprisingly international crowd. Eventually, as I familiarized myself with the layout of the city and formed friendships with those living with me, I felt I had a right to own the space I occupied.

Like your last hairpin inhaled into the vacuum, the feeling of validity vanished when I walked into my first class at University: Intro to Pacific Studies. I immediately realized, for one of the handful of times in my life, I was a racial minority in this space of 170+ people. I also realized  I had never spoken to anyone of Pacific Island ethnicity before. At this point, I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable, I simply noticed it. I gravitated toward a group of American students I knew from orientation week. The warm, smiling professor introduced himself and proceeded to discuss typical “welcome to class this is what we’re covering” type topics. As I was listening and taking down some notes, the prof. mumbled a joke in Samoan (I think) to which the class roared with laughter. I was startled by the energetic response and looked around to see everyone around me, save the 4 or 5 American students beside me, was rolling with laughter. I awkwardly laughed along. I laughed for the fact I had no clue what just happened, for the fact that none of my friends did either – but mostly I laughed because at that moment I felt so different and small that I wanted to jump on a bald eagle and fly back to Texas right then and there.

An overreaction? Probably. The regret for leaving my comfort zone was fleeting. It was only for the duration of the laughter  that I continued to dwell on my insecurity. I’ve since made many friends from all over the world, a few of them I met in Intro to Pacific Studies. But this whole event got me asking some hard questions of myself.

Why did I notice, the moment I walked in, that I was ethnically different from everyone else? What does it mean that this made me feel uncomfortable? What’s up with this human craving to fit in? Did everyone else notice I was different too?

Does all of this make me racist? … What does it mean to be “racist”?

The woman on the left side of the coat of arms...
The woman on the left side of the coat of arms of New Zealand is Zealandia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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SMU at the Clinton Global Initiative University

Last weekend, I travelled to St. Louis with five other SMU students to take part in the annual Clinton Global Initiative University. CGI U, hosted by President Bill Clinton, is a meeting that invites students from over 300 universities and 75 countries to examine pressing issues and learn from renowned public figures. The conference, which was held at Washington University in St. Louis, examined several issues including environment and climate change, education, peace and human rights, public health, and poverty alleviation. The meeting featured several notables, such as Muhammad Yunus and Stephen Colbert. I had the opportunity of representing SMU at the conference with five other students- Rahfin Faruk, Daiskuke Takeda, Timm Wooten, Josh Bakarich, and Chibundu Nnake. My commitment, which fell under the Peace and Human Rights section, involves The Nari Kit. The Nari kit is a transitional crisis kit that provides battered women with basic necessities as they transition from critical situations to a secure environment. Rahfin and Daisuke represented their organization, Green Riba, which is dedicated to delivering zero-interest loans to entrepreneurs in Dallas. Timm and Joshua represented Props Social Ventures, which gives DFW entrepreneurs the chance to jumpstart their business with student-operated microloans. Chibundu provides students in North Memphis with after school tutoring and mentoring to help guide them from middle school to high school and then through college and beyond. With over 1000 students from all over the world in attendance, the conference was an unparalleled experience.

SMU students at CGI U

SMU students at CGI U

The conference included several sessions that focused on the primary issues of conversation. One of the first sessions, called “Getting off the Ground: Stories of Starting Up”, featured a panel of innovators who shared their insights and experiences of launching their own businesses. Speakers at this panel included Chelsea Clinton, Mark S. Wrighton, President Bill Clinton, Kenneth Cole, Jack Dorsey, William Kamkwamba, and Zainab Salbi. The panel of entrepreneurs spoke on how young innovators should accept preliminary failures as part of the process of getting started and shared lessons they learnt from their own experiences. President Clinton made an interesting point when he stated, “your commitments say a lot about what you care about and what kind of world you want to live in”. Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, explained that “the way to implement our imagination is to believe in ourselves and believe that we can do it”.

Opening Plenary Session

Opening Plenary Session

The second session, titled “A Better Future for Girls and Women: Empowering the Next Generation”, featured public figures who discussed ways that today’s youth can support women and girls in having a brighter future. The panelists spoke on how students can work to empower girls and women. Speakers included Chelsea Clinton, Shabana Basij-Rasikh, Hawa Abdi Diblawe, Stephen J. Felice, and Muhammad Yunus. Shabana Basij-Rasikh explained that “it really takes persistence, patience and the belief that you can do something”. Dr. Yunus pointed out that “the power of technology can go far beyond what it was intended for. Technology can transform everything”.

A Better Future for Girls & Women

A Better Future for Girls & Women

I also attended a working session, titled “The Human Rights Information Revolution”, which was part of the Peace and Human Rights section. The speakers included Sarah Kendzior, Sabrina Hersi Issa, Emily Jacobi, and Alec Ross. The panelists spoke on digital human rights activism and increasing Internet access all over the world. The panel examined how the Internet can be a tool for human rights, as well as a human right. Alec Ross stated, “any of you can leverage your social and mobile networks to raise a lot of capital for your campaigns”. The last plenary session, which was called “Solutions without Borders: Working with Unlikely Allies”, examined the necessity for collaboration. Speakers for this panel included Bill Bishop, Will Allen, Claire McCaskill, Sara Minkara, and Brendan Tuohey. The panelists spoke on how to form effective partnerships, and the significance of cooperation over conflict. Senator McCaskill said, “I know you’re all going to be the shining stars leading this country”. I attended another working session called “Modern Day Slavery: How do we end human trafficking?”. The panel featured Alex Wagner, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jeannette Richardson-Baars, and Dan Viederman. The panelists spoke on the major issues related to trafficking and how CGI U representatives can support the fight against trafficking. Jada Pinkett-Smith spoke about the new Be Safe application that she is involved with, and stated, “we’re hoping the Be Safe app will become the new 911”.

Human Trafficking lecture

Human Trafficking lecture

The closing conversation was certainly the highlight of the night- with speakers President Bill Clinton and Stephen Colbert. Colbert’s talk doubled as a taping for his show, and the excitement in the room was beyond palpable. The closing conversation added a light-hearted touch to the conference, reminding students that commitments should be exciting. President Clinton explained, “we’re all tied together. We live in an interdependent world”. When asked about CGI U, President Clinton said, “the great thing about Clinton Global is that it has created a global network for giving”. After the closing conversation, I headed to office hours with Gary White, co-founder of White spoke on the initial struggles of his now famed non-profit venture, and gave us advice on how we can utilize resources around us to bring our commitments to fruition. After office hours, I made my way to a working session with Chelsea Clinton for Women and Girls related commitments. The working session not only served as an avenue to network with like-minded students, but also gave us insight on how we can continue working to support women and girls. The weekend concluded with a service project with Gateway STEM High School. The morning kicked off with a talk from President Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, and the principal, Dr. Beth Bender, who all spoke on the importance of giving back. CGI U students worked on various restorative projects around the school. President Clinton closed out the weekend saying, “If you want a future of shared prosperity, everyone has got to be a part of it”.

Closing Conversation

Closing Conversation

CGI U was certainly an unparalleled experience. From the valuable connections I made to hearing the inspiring words of today’s leaders, I came back from CGI U more inspired than ever. CGI U isn’t just a place to discuss ideas, it’s a place where today’s youth takes concrete steps towards creating a better future.


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