SMU has announced that it will work in partnership with community organizations in helping to rebuild the urban area of West Dallas. Under plans currently being developed, SMU will partner with Dallas Faith Communities Coalition and the West Dallas Education Task Force to explore the area’s needs and goals for access to high-quality K-12 schools.
“This effort is part of SMU’s commitment to apply the University’s resources of intellect and involvement to make a positive impact on our city, in cooperation with community groups,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Discussions with community leaders have involved several SMU deans and other top officials, as well as faculty with expertise in issues related to urban redevelopment.
University-wide involvement will be possible through SMU’s seven schools: Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Cox School of Business; Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering; Meadows School of the Arts; Perkins School of Theology, Dedman School of Law; and the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
The Simmons School is particularly well suited to draw upon its expertise, research and training programs in areas ranging from reading to mathematics. “Our multidisciplinary approach at the University will allow us to study and deliberate on how to make the best contribution to the community,” said David Chard, the school’s Leon Simmons Dean. “We have great tools at hand, such as assessment and research, strong academic programs and a dedication to student placements and internships.”
SMU, at the recommendation of its Community Engagement Council, will undertake further deliberations, studies and dialogue to determine how best to make an impact. Possibilities include involvement of faculty, staff and students in community and school activities; collecting and offering best practices for urban redevelopment; providing learning opportunities in a number of disciplines, both for students and for teacher training; mentoring and tutoring.
“These activities will also provide outstanding learning experiences for our students,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White, who chairs SMU’s Community Engagement Council with Provost Ludden.
SMU officials took part in a breakfast and discussion May 18 at Dallas City Hall sponsored by Mayor Tom Leppert, the West Dallas Education Task Force and the Dallas Faith Communities Coalition.
“We don’t yet know exactly what form our involvement will take in West Dallas,” said Associate Provost Ellen Pryor, a member of SMU’s Community Engagement Council. “But we are very excited about the possibilities that will strengthen both the campus and the West Dallas community in meaningful ways.”
SMU’s involvement in West Dallas will be in addition to its existing community engagement projects with other areas of Dallas, such as Dedman College’s Academic-Community Experience program and house in East Dallas, activities in Vickery Meadows, college readiness programs available to many DISD schools, and pro bono legal services in South Dallas and East Dallas, among other programs.
Above, participants in Dedman College’s Academic-Community Experience (ACE) Program outside its house in East Dallas.
• The Dallas Morning News: Investing brainpower and energy in W. Dallas
• SMU in the Community website