SMU’s 2015 Common Reading explores the end, and beginning, of civilization with Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, North American coverSMU’s incoming class of 2019 will read and discuss the first work of speculative fiction chosen for the University’s Common Reading program – Emily St. John Mandel’s acclaimed fourth novel, Station Eleven.

Mandel’s book explores a post-apocalyptic America in which a deadly strain of influenza has wiped out 99 percent of the world’s population, mere days after A-list actor Arthur Leander has died of a heart attack during a performance of King Lear. Leander’s fellow cast members who survive the pandemic band together as the Traveling Symphony, bringing music and theatre to the small and struggling human settlements that remain. The novel tells the story both of the global disaster in real time and of its survivors 20 years later.

A New York Times best-seller and 2014 National Book Award finalist, Station Eleven received the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel of the year in May 2015. George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and FireGame of Thrones) chose it as his favorite book of 2014, calling it “beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac.”

“This is a book not as much about apocalypse as it is about our human society, particularly the objects and technology we live with but take for granted on an everyday basis,” said Associate Provost Harold Stanley in an e-mail to faculty and staff members dated Thursday, April 16, 2015. “…[T]he book enables readers to consider how art can create meaning and value in the most constrained of human circumstances.”

Station Eleven is the third work of fiction chosen for the University’s Common Reading since the program began in 2004. The first, How to Be Good by Nick Hornby, was the Common Reading book in 2007; We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulaweyo ’07 was the 2014 selection.

Past SMU Common Reading books also include Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman (2004), Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (2005), The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (2006), The Devil’s Highway by Luís Alberto Urrea (2008), Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (2009), Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2010), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2011), The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2012), and The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2013).

The Common Reading Selection Committee is now seeking leaders for the pre-Convocation reading discussion on Sunday, Aug. 23. Discussion leaders will receive a free copy of the book. Active and emeritus professors from all SMU schools are invited to take part, as well as University staff members.

In addition, St. John Mandel will give a public lecture for the entire community at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, in McFarlin Auditorium.

To volunteer as a discussion leader, or for more information on this year’s selection, contact David Doyle.

> Watch for more information at SMU’s Common Reading homepage: smu.edu/commonreading

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Ellen K. Solender, SMU alumna and professor emerita, endows new chair in women and the law

Ellen K. Solender, SMU Professor Emerita of Law

Ellen K. Solender, SMU Professor Emerita of Law

Ellen Karelsen Solender, SMU law alumna and professor emerita, is giving $2 million to the Dedman School of Law to fund the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and the Law.

The Solender Chair will support a Dedman Law faculty member to encourage research, teaching and advocacy in legal education and the legal profession, aimed at advancing equality for all women.

The gift provides $1.5 million for endowment and $500,000 for operational support until the endowment matures.

“Professor Solender’s decision to endow a chair in women and the law could not come at a better time,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “This faculty position underscores Dedman Law’s commitment to empowering women to assume positions of influence in their professions. Hers is a gift that will have continuing impact.”

“As only the second woman to receive tenure at the law school, Professor Solender has been a trailblazer in legal education, said Jennifer Collins, Dedman Law’s Judge James Noel Dean and professor of law. “She has dedicated her career to promoting equity and mentored countless women along the way.  This gift will allow the law school to continue Professor Solender’s important work on issues that will advance the rights of women, ensure gender equality, and train lawyers to pursue these goals.”

Solender points to a number of significant events over the last 100 years that raised hopes for gender equality, citing the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in 1920, the right of women to serve on Texas juries in 1954, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

“My mother worked for the passage of the 19th Amendment and thought she would see equality in her lifetime. I thought I would see it in mine,” Solender said. “Now I worry whether my granddaughter and my great-great nieces will see equality in their lifetimes. I now realize these were only milestones on a longer journey to equality. These issues are so important to me, it is my hope that this endowed chair could be a catalyst and hopefully speed up the journey to equality for women.”

Solender entered what was then known as SMU School of Law in 1968 at the age of 44. She had earned a bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College and worked for AT&T’s Bell Labs before joining The Wall Street Journal after she and her husband, the late Robert L. Solender, moved to Dallas. Active with the League of Women Voters, Solender believed government officials were not taking her questions seriously, and she entered law school to improve her credentials.

She earned her J.D. in 1971 and joined the law school’s staff shortly after graduation. In 1973 she joined the law faculty, and in 1977 she became the second woman in the history of the law school to receive tenure. She also co-authored the Research Methods/Legal Writing Manual with the late Alan R. Bromberg, University Distinguished Professor of Law. Solender retired in 1994 as professor emerita of law.

> Read the full story from SMU News

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SMU Bookstore hosts all-day flash sale Thursday, May 7, 2015

The SMU Bookstore is offering an additional 50 percent off all clearance items for one day only. The savings are available in store during an all-day flash sale Thursday, May 7, 2015. The entire University community is invited; no SMU ID is required. Please note: Flash-sale discounts do not combine with faculty-staff or other discounts.

For more information, contact the SMU Bookstore at 214-768-2435.

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Five honored with 2015 Faculty Senate Outstanding Staff Awards

The SMU Faculty Senate honored five staff members for exceptional performance with its 2015 Faculty Senate Outstanding Staff Awards. The honors were presented during the Senate’s last meeting of the 2014-15 academic year on Wednesday, May 6.

This year’s winners:

  • Karen Click, Women and LGBT Center
  • Dee Darwin, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts
  • Kate Livingston, Extended Learning/SMU-in-Plano
  • Jordan Morrison, Education Policy and Leadership, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development
  • Dan Sly, Café 100, Hughes-Trigg Student Center

In addition to award trophies, each honoree received a tote bag containing gifts ranging from season tickets to museum memberships, donated by SMU Athletics, the SMU Bookstore, SMU Dining Services, Meadows Museum and the Meadows Division of Theatre.

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Statistician and data-journalism pioneer Nate Silver to speak in SMU’s Tate Distinguished Lecture Series May 5, 2015

Nate Silver, SMU Tate speaker

Statistician, author and blogger Nate Silver – who has earned a national spotlight with his innovative analyses of political polling – will deliver the next Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture of 2015. Silver gives the Jones Day Lecture at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 5 in McFarlin Auditorium.

Follow Nate Silver on Twitter: @NateSilver538

Before his work in politics, Silver established his credentials as an analyst of baseball statistics. He developed the acclaimed sabermetric system PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm), which predicts player performance, career development, and seasonal winners and losers.

He first gained national attention during the 2008 presidential election, when he correctly predicted the results of the primaries and the presidential winner in 49 states. In 2012, he called 50 of 50 states. The accuracy of Silver’s analyses and predictions, and the innovative ways in which he arrived at them, led TIME Magazine to name him one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People in April 2009. In 2013, he was listed at #1 on Fast Company magazine’s list of The 100 Most Creative People in Business.

In 2010, Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog was licensed for publication by The New York Times. The site won Webby Awards for Best Political Blog from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences in 2012 and 2013.

> Learn more about Nate Silver’s work at FiveThirtyEight.com

The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

Today, Silver is pioneering the new field of data journalism with the new FiveThirtyEight, recently relaunched in partnership with ESPN. The new format allows Silver to cover a wider range of topics, including politics, sports, science and travel. He also appears as an ESPN on-air commentator.

Silver’s first book, The Signal and the Noise, reached the New York Times best-seller list and was named the #1 best nonfiction book of 2012 by Amazon.com, as well as winning the 2013 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science. Silver has also contributed chapters to several books in the Baseball Prospectus series, including Mind Game, Baseball Between the Numbers, and It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over.

Silver earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago in 2000. Since then, he has received four honorary doctorates.

Tuesday’s evening lecture is sold out, but SMU students may attend for free with their University ID if seats become available. They may meet in the basement of McFarlin Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Silver will answer questions from University community members and local high school students in the Turner Construction/Wells Fargo Student Forum at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 5 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom. The Forum is free, but seating is limited. SMU faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend; RSVP online to ensure a place.

To ask Silver a question via Twitter, send a tweet to @SMUtate with the hashtag #SMUtate.

> Visit SMU’s Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series homepage

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SMU Guildhall hosts 2015 Spring Exhibition Friday, May 15

Paul Bettner

Paul Bettner, co-creator of Words with Friends and founder of Playful Corp, will speak at a graduation reception for The Guildhall at SMU’s Cohort 21.

The Guildhall at SMU hosts its bi-annual graduate exhibition showcasing video games developed by graduating students on Friday, May 15, 2015. The 2015 Spring Exhibition will honor Cohort 21: 26 master’s degree candidates who specialize in art creation, level design and programming.

The Exhibition will take place in Building 2 of the SMU-in-Plano campus at 5232 Tennyson Parkway. All of the following events are open to the public:

  • 2:30-4 p.m. – Open play session of 2D and 3D games developed by Guildhall students
  • 4-5 p.m. – Cohort 21 Honors presentations and awards
  • 5-6 p.m. – Cohort 21 Capstone team games presentations

An invitation-only reception for Cohort 21 and their friends and family will conclude the day’s events.

> Find more SMU Guildhall events on Facebook

Paul Bettner, CEO and founder of the McKinney, Texas-based game development studio Playful Corp, will be the honorary keynote speaker at the Cohort 21 graduate reception.

Bettner has been creating interactive entertainment for 20 years. In 2008, he co-founded Newtoy, Inc. with his brother David to create the hit social game Words with Friends. Before that, he worked with Microsoft Game Studios, where he helped create blockbuster hits Halo Wars and Age of Empires.

In 2012, Bettner founded Playful Corp. Their first announced title, Lucky’s Tale, is a platforming adventure game designed exclusively for virtual reality. Bettner and his team are also in active development on Creativerse, currently gaining fans through early access on the Steam gaming site.

> Visit The Guildhall at SMU online: guildhall.smu.edu

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Save the date: The 2015 SMU Staff Association President’s Picnic takes place Thursday, May 21

The SMU Staff Association and President R. Gerald Turner invite all University staff members to the 2015 Staff Appreciation Day and President’s Picnic. The traditional post-Commencement celebration takes place 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, May 21 on the south lawn of Clements Hall.

This year’s event will include a commemorative Centennial photo, to be taken at 11:15 a.m., and special T-shirts exclusively for Centennial photo participants. Register online at smu.edu/picnic to ask for your T-shirt size. For more information, contact Staff Association President Kristi Kaiser Trail, 214-768-8283.

> Visit the SMU Staff Association online: smu.edu/staffassociation

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Calendar Highlights: Finals week, May 4, 2015

celebratingSMU’s 100th Commencement is almost here – the end of Spring 2015 (and another academic year) at a glance:

  • May 4: Last day of instruction
  • May 5: Reading Day
  • May 6-12: Examinations (no exams scheduled for Sunday)
  • May 13: Residence halls officially close for non-graduating students not enrolled in MayTerm
  • May 14-29: MayTerm 2015 for SMU main campus and SMU-in-Taos
  • May 15-16: May Commencement Weekend
  • May 17: Residence halls officially close for graduating seniors
  • May 23: University Holiday, Memorial Day
  • June 1: 2015 Summer Sessions begin
  • June 4: Last day to file for August graduation
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Tune In: Peruna Paint Project promotes the value of college

SMU students and alumni took time for their community as part of the Peruna Paint Project at Dallas’ Lee A. McShan Elementary School on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

The ongoing project – in which University community members paint colorful murals using SMU themes – was created to encourage local elementary- and secondary-school students to think about college and to inspire them toward future opportunities.

Click the YouTube screen to watch the Mustang Minute video by Myles Taylor of SMU News, or visit this link to watch the Peruna Paint Project in a new windowvideo

> Check out more videos at the Mustang Minute blog

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SMU hosts 2015 Honorary Degree Symposia Friday, May 15

Three international leaders who will receive honorary degrees at SMU’s 100th May Commencement will participate in symposia on the main campus Friday, May 15. All symposia are free and open to the public.

The symposia will feature 2015 honorees Meave Leakey, a renowned anthropologist whose research in Africa has revealed important clues to humans’ earliest ancestors; Irene Hirano Inouye, who helped build the Japanese American National Museum and is founding president of the U.S.-Japan Council; and Helen LaKelly Hunt, a donor-activist, author and SMU alumna whose life focus has been to empower women and educate people about the value of healthy, intimate relationships. All three will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, during the Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16.

> The history of honorary degrees at SMU, including honorees by name, year and degree

Meave Leakey

“Human Evolution in the East African Rift Valley:
A Symposium Honoring Meave Leakey”
Friday, May 15, 2-4 p.m.
McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

Leakey, one of the world’s most distinguished paleoanthropologists, is a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya, director of Plio-Pleistocene research at the Turkana Basin Institute, Nairobi, and research professor in anthropology at Stony Brook University, New York. In 2002 she was named a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Leakey is a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and an honorary fellow of the Geological Society of London.

David Pilbeam, curator of paleontology at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, will moderate the symposium.

Leakey will speak on “Human Evolution in the East African Rift Valley.” Also presenting will be Frank Brown, dean and distinguished professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, who will speak on “Time and the Physical Framework in the Turkana Basin, Kenya;” and Kay Behrensmeyer, curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, who will speak on “Faunal Context of Human Evolution in the East African Rift Valley.” Thure Cerling, Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geophysics and Biology at the University of Utah, will speak on “Floral Context of Human Evolution – as Represented by Geochemical Signatures;” and Bonnie Jacobs, professor of earth sciences in SMU’s Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, will speak on “Floral Context of Human Evolution – as Represented by Plant Fossils.”

Irene Hirano Inouye

“Celebrating the American Experience and U.S.-Japan Relations:
Irene Hirano Inouye, Her Life, Works and Achievements”
Friday, May 15
Reception, 3-3:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion and Remarks, 3:30-5 p.m.
Hillcrest Appellate Courtroom and Classroom, Underwood Law Library 

Inouye is a leader in international relations who, while still in her 20s, began tailoring her career toward service as director of a Los Angeles medical clinic providing affordable care for poor and uninsured women. She helped build the Japanese American National Museum, which opened in 1992, and became the founding president of the U.S.-Japan Council in 2008.

Panel participants are Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, U.S. Navy (ret.), Tower Center senior fellow and former commander of the Pacific Fleet; Anny Wong, research fellow in the Tower Center and a member of the board of the Japan-America Society of Dallas-Fort Worth; and moderator Hiroki Takeuchi, associate professor and director of the Tower Center’s Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia. Inouye will deliver closing remarks and will be available for questions.

The symposium is free, but registration is required; email the Tower Center to RSVP. More information is available at the Tower Center website.

Helen LaKelly Hunt

“A Revolutionary Approach to Conflict Resolution:
A Symposium Honoring Helen LaKelly Hunt”
Friday, May 15
Panel presentation 10:30 a.m.-noon, Smith Auditorium, Meadows Museum
Lunch and remarks, noon-1:30 p.m., Jones Room, Meadows Museum 

Hunt is a donor-activist, author and SMU alumna who has been recognized for both her work for healthy marriages and family and her efforts in helping to build the global women’s funding movement. She is the founder of The Sister Fund, a private foundation that supports women’s social, political, economic and spiritual empowerment. Hunt has helped establish several other organizations, including Dallas Women’s Foundation, New York Women’s Foundation, Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions. Her books include Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance, as well as seven books on intimate relationships and parenting co-authored with her husband, Harville Hendrix.

Hunt and Hendrix will discuss the new science of relationships with panelists David Chard, dean of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human DevelopmentRita Kirk, director of SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public ResponsibilityLorelei Simpson Rowe, associate professor and graduate program co-director in SMU’s Department of Psychology and an expert in couples relationships; and Michelle Kinder, executive director of the Momentous Institute.

Please RSVP for the lunch to Family Wellness Dallas.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Learn more about SMU’s Commencement ceremonies, events and traditions at smu.edu/commencement

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