graduate student news

Three SMU graduates receive 2017 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards

Three recent SMU graduates have received 2017 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards (ETA). The program place Fulbright recipients in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers. The ETA’s help teach the English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States.

Adam GarnickAdam Garnick, a graduate of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has received an ETA to teach next year in Budapest, Hungary.

Garnick earned a Master of Education degree in May. A native of Philadelphia, Garnick is an eighth-grade history teacher at Dallas’ E.H. Cary Middle School and a member of the Teach for America program. In Hungary, he will be teaching English with a focus on academic writing at Budapest Metropolitan University.

“My teaching along with my courses at SMU have provided a great foundation for what’s next,” Garnick said. “I feel prepared to teach at a university. I’m going to take the strategies I’ve learned in teaching English language learners to Budapest.”

At Simmons, Garnick conducted research on the “flipped classroom” as part of a technology and discourse course taught by Dara Rossi, clinical associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning. In a flipped classroom, students use classroom time for exploratory and collaborative work, and watch video lectures at home to prepare. “It’s a strategy I’ve been able to use in my classroom,” Garnick says. “I’m convinced it’s the future of education.”

Kristen BiedermannMaster of Education graduate Kristen Biedermann has accepted an ETA to spend 10 months teaching English at the University of Cauca in Popayan, Colombia, starting at the end of summer 2017.

“I had an opportunity to travel to Guatemala to help one of my professors with research and professional development for Guatemalan teachers on behalf of SMU,” Biedermann says. “I learned that when people acquire more than one language, it gives them an ability to connect across cultures, which is important to me, so I’ve become passionate about helping people cross barriers through learning a second language.”

That international classroom experience – and the time she spent teaching in bilingual Dallas-area classrooms before earning her Master’s in 2016 at SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development – sparked Biedermann’s interest in pursuing her studies further.

“When I come back from Colombia, I would love to go into the Ph.D. program, become a professor and do research on retention and promotion of language-minority students at the university level,” Biedermann says. “I hope to be able to work on a campus and help adult English-language-learner students succeed in higher education and conduct research that eliminates the inequities that exist at that level.”

Jennie LeeBachelor of Music and world languages graduate Jennie Lee has accepted an ETA to spend 10 months teaching English in Germany.

Building on the interests and activities she discovered at SMU before graduating in 2016, she’ll teach English through extra-curricular activities like after-school yoga classes and singing lessons.

“I studied opera in college and got a degree in vocal performance and world languages,” says Lee, who came to the University from a traditional conservatory prep school background and earned a place in the musical honor society Pi Kappa Lambda.

“The thing that drew me to SMU is the ability to get conservatory-style training – a super-intense program where I would study arts and music – but also have the opportunity to double major, because I wanted to do that too and a lot of schools don’t offer that,” Lee adds. “That was a huge pull for me.”

> Read more of their stories from SMU News

Composer, SMU graduate student Olga Amelkina-Vera named 2016-17 student composer-in-residence with Irving Symphony

Olga Amelkina-VeraOlga Amelkina-Vera, a master’s student in music composition in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, has been named the 2016-17 Student Composer-in-Residence with the Irving Symphony Orchestra (ISO).

Launched in 2011, the student composer-in-residence program is a unique partnership between SMU Meadows and the ISO. Each year, an undergraduate or graduate Meadows music composition student is selected to serve as a composer-in-residence with the orchestra and to create a commissioned work to be premiered by the ISO. It is the only known program of its kind between a professional orchestra and a university music department.

An annual competition to select the winner is held by a committee composed of two members of the SMU composition faculty and ISO Music Director Hector Guzman ’83, who earned his Master of Music in instrumental conducting at SMU.

Amelkina-Vera won the honor with her piece Cattywampus Rompus (Texas Tarantella), a five-minute composition give the ancient musical “tarantella” form a modern, Texas twist. The piece began as an award-winning work for guitar quartet, but for this commission it has been expanded into a full work for orchestra. It will be premiered by the ISO during its regular season concert on Saturday, April 8, 2017.

“I feel fortunate and grateful to SMU composition faculty members and Maestro Guzman for selecting me for this honor,” she said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about writing for orchestra in a ‘hands-on’ way. I am also enjoying having an inside look at the behind-the-scenes work of rehearsals and outreach with the ISO. Having my work premiered by them will be an invaluable experience!”

“For many professional composers, an orchestral residency is the ‘golden ring’ they aspire to, with only a few getting the opportunity even once,” said Robert Frank, associate professor of composition. “For our students to gain this professional experience and to have a work performed in a concert season by a wonderful orchestra is beyond anything I am aware of at any other university. Olga came to us already holding her D.M.A. in guitar performance, so she has already established a professional performing career as a soloist. This residency gives her the chance to break across disciplines into the composer side of her career, which we have enjoyed helping her develop during her studies in Meadows.”

Amelkina-Vera is the fifth SMU student selected for the ISO Student Composer-in-Residence program. The first was Vince Gover, whose “Let Us Begin Anew…” (a quote from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech) premiered in November 2011 at an ISO concert honoring the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. The second winner, Alvin Trotman, premiered Jubilee in November 2012, followed by Jesus Martinez’s Harmonic Tremor in February 2014. Last year’s winner, Michael van der Sloot, premiered a piece titled Cascade in March 2016.

> Read the full story from SMU News

SMU law students to spend Spring Break 2017 representing detained immigrant women, children in Karnes, Texas

Karnes City Family Detention Center

Detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center (Photo by Eric Gay of The Associated Press courtesy of National Public Radio)

About an hour outside of San Antonio, hundreds of undocumented immigrant and refugee women and children who fled violence in their home countries are detained at the Karnes City Family Detention Center, faced with the threat of deportation from an administration that wants them gone.

Starting Sunday, March 12, 2017, a team of eight SMU Dedman School of Law students (led by professor and immigration law expert Natalie Nanasi) will spend their spring break providing pro bono legal services to these undocumented immigrants, hoping to win them asylum in the United States.

The Karnes City center, operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been open since 2014, housing women and children who have crossed the border into the South Texas.

“A majority of the Karnes City detainees are coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and fleeing gang violence, family violence or some combination thereof,” Nanasi said. “Their trip is supremely dangerous. Many don’t make it, and that’s something important to remember; these people flee because they know that if their daughters stay there, it’s certain they’ll be raped, and if their sons stay there, it’s certain they’ll be kidnapped by gangs.”

— Kenny Ryan

> Read the full story from SMU News

Meadows Wind Ensemble presents ode to Dallas in Cityscapes, Friday, March 3, 2017 at SMU

The dramatic transformations of Dallas’ skyline and development of the city’s Arts District are the inspirations for an upcoming concert by SMU’s Meadows Wind Ensemble.

Cityscapes is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, 2017 in Caruth Auditorium, Owen Arts Center. The program features Dallas Symphony Pops conductor Jeff Tyzik’s composition Cityscapes for Brass Quintet and Wind Ensemble and continues the “city” theme with Olivier Messiaen’s Couleurs de la cité celeste and Aaron Copland’s Quiet City.

The program will conclude with a performance of Stephen Paulus’ Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble, featuring Meadows graduate student Nick German on piano. The piece was written on commission for the MWE, and the performance will be a tribute to Paulus, a longtime friend of the Ensemble who passed away last year.

Tickets are $8 each for SMU faculty, staff and students. For more information, contact the Meadows Ticket Office, 214-768-2787 (214-SMU-ARTS).

Meadows Opera Theatre presents The Elixir of Love at SMU Feb. 9-12, 2017

Elixir of Love rehearsal stillThe Meadows Opera Theatre’s first show of 2017 opens tonight in SMU’s Bob Hope Theatre, featuring the Meadows Opera Orchestra and the slogan, “Never underestimate the power of true love and a little cheap Bordeaux.”

The Elixir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti is directed by Hank Hammett and conducted by Paul Phillips. Performances are scheduled Feb. 9-12 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Bob Hope Theatre, Owen Arts Center.

Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for seniors, and $8 for students, faculty and staff.

The opera will be sung in Italian with English projected titles.

> SMU Opera Behind the Scenes: A new way of rendering costume designs

Donizetti’s enduring comedy focuses on a poor, uneducated young man who, though he thinks he’s a nobody, is hopelessly in love with the most popular, affluent girl in town. With the help of a flamboyant snake-oil salesman and a bottle (or two) of a special “love potion,” he sets out to win her.

First performed in Milan in 1832, the opera remains a keystone of the international repertoire and one of Donizetti’s most frequently performed works. The SMU production was inspired by the works of artists Jerry Bywaters and Romare Bearden.

For more information, contact the Meadows Ticket Office, 214-768-2787 (214-SMU-ARTS).

Escher String Quartet showcases work of student Michael van der Sloot

Escher

Members of the Escher String Quarter, left to right: Aaron Boyd, violin; Pierre Lapointe, viola; Adam Barnett-Hart, violin; and Brook Speltz, cello.

The internationally acclaimed Escher String Quartet is set to perform two free concerts, open to the public, at SMU. This will be the second program of their 2015-2016 Meadows residency. This group has previously performed at New York’s Lincoln Center, London’s Wigmore Hall and Berlin’s Piano Salon Christophori. Now, they’ll perform at  Caruth Auditorium on March 17 and at O’Donnell Hall on March 18, both at 7:30 p.m.

The concert on March 17 will showcase three pieces, most notably the world premiere of Night Music, composed by Meadows Master of Music degree candidate Michael van der Sloot. Van der Sloot, who studies composition and is also a talented cellist, he has written works for the Calgary Youth Orchestra and Grammy-winning violinist and SMU Meadows Artist-in-Residence Matt Albert, among others.

Michael

Michael van der Sloot (M.M. Composition ’17)

Van der Sloot describes the piece as “pretty creepy and restless.”

“It’s like when you’re lying completely still in bed, wide awake because you know there is a monster in the closet. There’s a little bit of anxiety and anticipation,” he says.

His piece was chosen among submissions from multiple other music composition students. “The atmosphere and the title of the work were a compelling fit for our program, which deals with death, either through direct personal experience as in Benjamin Britten’s Quartet No. 3, or indirectly as in Franz Shubert’s Death and the Maiden,” says Aaron Boyd, one of two violinists in the Escher String Quartet. “We were struck by the quality of all of the composers’ submissions, but van der Sloot’s work was an impressive combination of  aleatoric freedom with real textural and timbral beauty.”

The quartet will also hold workshops and classes as part of their residency. One workshop will be a particularly immersive experience for the students and will culminate in the formation of the March 18 concert. This side-by-side concert with the quartet and music students of the Meadows school will include works by Brahms, Dvorak, Shostakovich, and Haydn.

Three years of ‘educational diplomacy’ between SMU and Pakistan culminate in 2015 Islamabad conference

Workshop participants at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University

Participants in a workshop at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University. (Photo courtesy of thePeshawar.com)

Two professors and a clinical graduate student from SMU’s Department of Psychology will travel halfway around the world to help the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University (SBBWU) of Peshawar, Pakistan, host an international psychology conference in Islamabad on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.

The conference, “Advancing Women Issues: Local and Global Directions,” will feature 55 speakers and 400 participants from across the region. It’s the culminating effort of a three-year partnership between SMU and SBBWU supported by a $1.2 million U.S. State Department grant.

“I look at it as educational diplomacy,” says SMU Psychology Department Chair George Holden. “The U.S. State Department wanted to do something to help relations between the countries and recognized the need to help Pakistan develop its educational system so the Pakistanis can better improve their country.”

At the conference, Holden will present the SMU and SBBWU’s joint research on trauma in Peshawar, where the threat of a terrorist’s bomb is never far from mind. During a Friday, Dec. 11 workshop, SMU psychology professor Lorelei Rowe and graduate student Rose Ashraf will present the latest version of Rowe’s popular psychological assessment tool, SCID-5, which helps doctors diagnose their patients through an interview-like examination process.

Other presenters will focus on topics such as promoting the well-being of women and children in Pakistan and the impact of Nepal’s earthquake on Nepalese women and children.

The SMU-SBBWU partnership is one of 20 funded by the State Department. All 20 partnerships connect American universities with universities in Pakistan or Afghanistan. SMU’s grant also brought SBBWU students and faculty to SMU, where they interacted with SMU students and faculty in an exchange of ideas and education.

— Kenny Ryan

OE2C: SMU to use savings to fund new Ph.D. fellowships initiative

Dallas Hall steps from a 3rd-story windowSMU is taking steps to increase the number of Ph.D. students on campus by creating a new University-wide fellowship program, announced by the University’s OE2C initiative:

Using funds saved as a result of the OE2C initiative, new graduate fellowships will be awarded this spring to up to 15 high-achieving Ph.D. students in a variety of SMU’s 22 doctoral programs.

Faculty graduate advisors across SMU were invited to submit up to two nominees for the new fellowship. The nominations were reviewed by the SMU University Research Council, a committee of faculty members drawn from disciplines across SMU; the council meets three times a year to vet nominees for SMU Ford Fellowships and other grants.

According to Associate Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies James Quick, increasing the number of Ph.D. students will provide benefits to the University as a whole.

“We want to have outstanding faculty to provide better education to undergraduates as well as graduate students, “ says Quick. “We want to have outstanding grad students because they add to the educational experience of the undergraduates. They are intermediate in their career development between faculty and undergraduates and are role models. If the grad student is also functioning as a teaching assistant, they add to the faculty member’s ability to teach.

“The new University-wide Fellowship program will enrich an outstanding Ph.D. program, and outstanding students coming to SMU enriches the atmosphere.”

The move to build up SMU’s doctoral programs was encouraged by the SMU Faculty Senate, which, in its resolution of December 4, 2013, urged SMU to create University-wide fellowships for doctoral students, saying they “play a crucial role in engaging and interfacing with undergraduate students in faculty research projects that in turn helps us recruit high quality undergraduates and raise the academic quality of the incoming class … and … [that] doctoral students are the future leaders of research, innovation and scientific progress, of creative enterprise and arts, and of great scholarship, all of which are some of the longest lasting contributions and legacies that SMU can make to the local economy and community. …”

The Faculty Senate followed up with a resolution on April 2, 2014, requesting that the SMU administration devote “… a substantial and appropriate portion of any savings or additional revenue resulting from Project SMU” toward recruitment and retention of high- quality faculty; investment in research infrastructure, university libraries and doctoral programs; increasing the number of laboratory and teaching assistants to improve the quality of undergraduate education; and University-wide fellowships to attract high-quality graduate students.

The new University-wide Fellowship program fund is expected to grow over time, starting with $150,000 for the program’s first year. The inaugural selected Fellows will receive up to $10,000 in addition to teaching or research assistantships offered by their department.

Quick expects the first award recipients to be announced after April 15.