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Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson gives two lectures at SMU Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016

This story is updated from a version that was published Aug. 17, 2016.

Attorney and author Bryan Stevenson'Just Mercy' book cover, whose intimate account of politics and error in the U.S. criminal justice system became SMU’s 2016 Common Reading, visits the Hilltop on Thursday, Oct. 13. The Common Reading Public Lecture begins at 4:30 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Also on Thursday, at 8 p.m., Stevenson will deliver the Jones Day Lecture in SMU’s 2016-17 Tate Distinguished Lecture Series.

Students who wish to attend the Tate Lecture can go to the basement of McFarlin Auditorium at 7 p.m. with their SMU IDs for possible free seating on a first-come, first-served basis.

> Visit the SMU Reads website: smu.edu/smureads

Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the criminal justice system.

> Follow Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative on Twitter: @eji_org

Bryan Stevenson

Author and attorney Bryan Stevenson will give a free lecture at SMU Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016.

One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machinations, and legal brinksmanship — and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice. His telling of the McMillian case is captured in Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

The story is “[e]very bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so … a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields,” wrote David Cole of The New York Review of Books in his review.

And Stevenson is “doing God’s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope,” wrote legal writer and novelist John Grisham, author of A Time to KillThe Client and The Innocent Man.

> Learn more at SMU’s Common Reading website: smu.edu/commonreading

Take a closer look at student innovation during the 2016 Engaged Learning Symposium and Big iDeas Pitch Contest, Friday, Sept. 23

engaged-learning-logo-300Make an appointment to see outstanding students show their work and stump for their innovations during the Fall 2016 Engaged Learning Symposium and Big iDeas Pitch Contest.

The two events take place Friday, Sept. 23 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum, as part of SMU’s 2016 Family Weekend.

Find the complete symposium line-up at the SMU Engaged Learning homepage

During the Engaged Learning Symposium, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., students in research, service, creative and internship programs from across campus will present their work and take questions from the audience. They will include SMU’s Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellows, Summer Research FellowsUniversity Honors Richter Research Fellows and McNair Scholars, as well as Engaged Learning Fellows.

> See the Big iDeas Pitch Contest rules and guidelines

SMU Big iDeas logo, blue background-400From 2-5 p.m., find out what some of SMU’s most innovative students are up to during the Big iDeas Pitch Contest. After developing their ideas, undergraduate teams pitch their ideas to a panel of judges with backgrounds in innovation and entrepreneurship. Next, judges determine which ideas are most realistic and can be developed in the following three months. The winning teams are eligible to win up to $1,000 in seed money to prepare prototypes and pilot programs for the Demo Day Fair in early February 2017.

> Visit SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning online

Andrew J. Torget’s history of cotton, slavery and the Texas Revolution wins 2015 Weber-Clements Book Prize

'Seeds of Empire' coverSMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies will present its annual Weber-Clements Book Prize to historian Andrew J. Torget for Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850 (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Torget will be honored Tuesday, Sept. 27 at a 5:30 p.m. reception, followed by a 6 p.m. lecture and book-signing in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. To register, call 214-768-3684 or visit the Clements Center website.

In addition, Torget will discuss his work on KERA 90.1’s “Think with Krys Boyd” during the noon-1 p.m. hour on Thursday, Sept. 22. Listen live. audio or podcast

The David J. Weber-William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America honors both the Center’s founding director and founding benefactor. The $2,500 prize, administered by the Western History Association, is given for fine writing and original research on the American Southwest and is open to any nonfiction book, including biography, on any aspect of Southwestern life, past or present.

Andrew J. Torget, 2015 Weber-Clements Book Prize winner

Andrew J. Torget, SMU’s 2015 Weber-Clements Book Prize winner. Photo credit: Jun Ma/UNT

Torget, associate professor of history at the University of North Texas and the Clements Center’s inaugural David J. Weber Fellow, has won nine major book awards for Seeds of Empire, including the Weber-Clements Prize. The book explores the roles cotton and slavery played in fomenting the Texas Revolution, which was in part a reaction against abolitionists in the Mexican government, and in shaping Texas’ borderlands into the first fully-committed slaveholders’ republic in North America.

In selecting the book from a large field of entries, judges wrote: “Torget’s deep archival work brings a fresh perspective to the conflicts over slavery in Texas on the eve of the Civil War. The book’s most notable accomplishment is the emphasis on cotton and slavery as a world-wide system that bound Texas history to larger economic and political forces in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. He challenges the traditional interpretation that the westward movement in the early nineteenth century was primarily motivated by ideologies of racial supremacy that characterized Manifest Destiny. Instead, Torget demonstrates that, although westering Americans felt superior to the people whose lands they invaded, they mainly migrated to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the trans-Atlantic cotton economy that the Mexican government had established by offering them free land.”

Finalists for the Weber-Clements Book Prize included Emily Lutenski for West of Harlem: African American Writers and the Borderlands; and former Clements Fellow John Weber for From South Texas to the Nation: The Exploitation of Mexican Labor in the Twentieth Century.

SMU honors fallen 9/11 first responders with honor guard, bell ceremony at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, 2016

Scene at the SMU flagpole on Sept. 11, 2001

Scene at the SMU flagpole on Sept. 11, 2001.

The SMU Police Department and first responders from the surrounding community will commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11 with a solemn ceremony honoring the police officers and firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

University police officers, along with members of the Highland Park and University Park Police and Fire Departments, will participate in a combined honor guard and bell ceremony for the fallen. The ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, at the flagpole on the Main Quad. The event is free and open to the public.

To symbolize the first responders’ devotion to duty, the bell ceremony includes a special signal of three rings, three times each, representing the end of duty and a return to quarters. The signals ring out that “those who have selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow man, their tasks completed, their duties well done … are going home.”

The remembrance will also feature remarks from SMU President R. Gerald Turner and Police Chief Rick Shafer and a benediction by University Chaplain Stephen Rankin, as well as bagpipe performances of “Amazing Grace” and “America the Beautiful.”

“We welcome the community to come and help us remember those who gave their lives while protecting those they served,” said Chief Shafer.

The remembrance ceremony is one of several opportunities for campus community members, both in-person and virtual, to reflect on and remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001:

> Christina Rancke and Osama Bin Laden’s death
> Journal entries written by the SMU community 15 years ago

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is topic of SMU’s 2016 Common Reading discussion Sunday, Aug. 21

Bryan Stevenson'Just Mercy' book cover was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the criminal justice system.

One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machinations, and legal brinksmanship — and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice.

“Presumptions of guilt, poverty, racial bias, and a host of other social, structural, and political dynamics have created a system that is defined by error, a system in which thousands of innocent people now suffer in prison,” Stevenson writes. His telling of the McMillian case is captured in Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, and his book will be discussed by faculty, staff members and new SMU students as the 2016 Common Reading on Sunday, Aug. 21, before Opening Convocation.

The story is “[e]very bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so … a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields,” wrote David Cole of The New York Review of Books in his review.

And Stevenson is “doing God’s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope,” wrote legal writer and novelist John Grisham, author of A Time to KillThe Client and The Innocent Man.

Stevenson will visit the Hilltop on Thursday, Oct. 13, for a free and open Common Reading Public Lecture at 4:30 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium. On the same night, at 8 p.m., he will deliver the Jones Day Lecture in SMU’s 2016-17 Tate Distinguished Lecture Series. Watch for more information in a future SMU Forum post and at the Common Reading website.

> Learn more at SMU’s Common Reading website: smu.edu/commonreading

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