political science

SMU mourns the death of Prof. Dennis Simon, founding member of the Tower Center for Political Studies and leader of SMU’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage

Dennis SimonSMU Associate Professor of Political Science Dennis Simon died Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017 in Dallas after a long illness. An SMU faculty member since 1986, he was a recognized expert on the American presidency, national elections, women and the political glass ceiling, and the politics of change in the United States.

Passionate about his students and his work, he continued to teach and present lectures on the presidential elections to the SMU community through fall of 2016.

“Dennis Simon’s legacy at SMU will not be forgotten,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He was both a brilliant scholar and devoted teacher, talents he bridged with a sense of humor that never wavered. Dr. Simon invested his time, commitment and his passion for political science with his students, fellow scholars and the community. His influence will live on in the many lives he touched.”

The Texas House of Representatives “gaveled out” its regular session Tuesday, Feb. 14, in Simon’s memory on a motion by State Rep. Morgan Meyer. Services for Simon are pending.

Simon was quick to say that his proudest and most impactful work came in guiding since 2008 both undergraduate and graduate students on SMU’s annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage to historical sites across the south.  The 7-8 day bus trip occurs during Spring Break every year, creating an immersive learning experience that “pilgrims” describe as life changing.

During Simon’s 31 years as an SMU faculty member, he received nearly every teaching award offered by the University, including the “M” Award, the Willis Tate Award and President’s Associate Award. In 2005 he received the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award, given to just four professors each year for their commitment to student learning. Known for his mentorship and dedication to teaching, he used U.S. elections as a living laboratory, teaching his popular course, “Presidential Elections,” every four years.

Simon’s other teaching and research interests included presidential-congressional relations, public opinion, electoral behavior and research methodology.  His research appeared in leading journals such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Politics.  He was the recipient of the Pi Sigma Alpha award given by the Southern Political Science Association for his study of national forces in state legislative elections, and twice the Miriam Irish award given by the Southern Political Science Association for his study (with Assoc. Prof. Barbara Palmer) of the emergence of women in U.S. electoral politics.  His most recent book, with co-author Palmer, Women and Congressional Elections: A Century of Change (Lynne Reinner Publishers) was published in May of 2012. The book’s first edition was published in 2006.

Simon’s recent research projects included “The Perilous Experiment,” a historical and quantitative study tracing the evolution of popular and legislative leadership in the American presidency and “Southerners in the United States House of Representatives,” a history of electoral and ideological change in the South since 1930, supported by a grant awarded by the Dirksen Congressional Center. He earned his B.A. from Wittenberry University in Springfield, Ohio, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the department of political science at Michigan State University. Before joining SMU, Simon was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

Simon was a founding member of SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, where he served as a member of the Tower Center Faculty Advisory Board and as a senior fellow. The Tower Center was created in 1992 to promote the study of politics and international affairs and stimulate an interest in ethical public service.

“He was a dedicated supporter of our center, serving us in a variety of ways,” said the Hon. Dan Branch, chair of the Tower Center Board of Directors and former member of the Texas House of Representatives. “Most of all, he was a devoted mentor to our students.”

Simon also joined the faculty of SMU’s Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) program when he arrived in in 1986, teaching courses such as “Politics and Film,” and “The American Presidency” to hundreds of graduate students in the predominantly evening program. He began teaching “The Politics and Legacies of the Civil Rights Movement,” to both MLS students and undergraduates in 2008, combining it with an existing trip organized through the SMU Chaplain’s Office to historic sites in civil rights history. Simon never tired of sharing with an audience the “power of place” he said came with combining a semester-long course with personal experiences shared at the sites of civil rights violence and struggle.

> Watch Dennis Simon’s 2012 Maguire Public Scholar lecture at YouTube video

Dennis Simon, Civil Rights PilgrimageWith his Chaplain’s Office partner, Ray Jordan, and student leaders chosen each year, the trip featured stops at sites Simon described as “ground-zero,” in the civil rights movement, such as Little Rock High School, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home in Montgomery. History came alive at each spot, thanks to Simon’s friendships with original participants he called “foot soldiers” in the civil rights movement, who shared their recollections with students, sometimes hopping aboard the bus to lead tours.

The class and trip, sponsored by the Embrey Human Rights Program and SMU’s Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, are now a core requirement of SMU’s human rights undergraduate major and the human rights emphasis in SMU’s Master of Liberal Studies program. Each year students share their thoughts and memories of the trip on an online blog.

> Read blog postings from the 2015 Civil Rights Pilgrimage on the 50th anniversary of the 1965 voting rights march

“I will always be thankful to Dr. Simon for showing us all what it looks like to not only celebrate the light, but to be the light in situations where it seems like the darkness might swallow us up,” said Michelle Anderson ’15, who served as student leader of the pilgrimage in 2015. “I’m missing our fearless leader already. Keep marching, pilgrims.” Anderson is pursuing a Ph.D. in media studies with a focus in transitional justice at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Simon also generously shared his expertise with the news media, serving as an expert on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, the impact of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the changing role of women in politics, and trends in presidential and mid-term elections. He regularly presented lectures to the community and served as a panel member at lecture series throughout the Dallas area.

See Dennis Simon’s last lecture, shared with the community Nov. 12 as a wrap-up of the 2016 presidential election

“The qualities that made Dennis a fine person – intelligence, enthusiasm, and honesty – made him an extraordinary teacher and mentor to his students,” said Joe Kobylka, SMU associate professor of political science and Simon’s longtime friend. “His passion for studying American politics and change electrified his lectures and infused his students with his enthusiasm. When that happens, education ensues, and Dennis was a master educator. I learned from him, as a student and then a colleague. I will draw on those lessons daily.”

> Find more of Dennis Simon’s work at SMU News

February 16, 2017|For the Record, News|

Luisa del Rosal named executive director of SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies, Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center

Luisa Del Rosal, executive director, Tower Center for Political Studies and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center, SMULuisa del Rosal ’08, former director of strategy and international affairs with the Cox School of BusinessLatino Leadership Initiative, has been named executive director of SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies and its Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center. She began her duties on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016.

“Luisa del Rosal is a leader in higher education with the ideal background and combination of skills to build the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center,” says Jim Hollifield, director of the Tower Center. “An SMU graduate and dual national, Luisa has a deep and intuitive understanding of the vital relationship between Texas and Mexico in all of its dimensions and complexities. We are delighted that she has returned to the Tower Center and Dedman College to assume this critical leadership role.”

Del Rosal was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and lived there until she moved to Dallas to attend SMU. She holds dual bachelor’s degrees in political science and sociology, with a minor in Italian, as well as a master’s in higher education policy and leadership. She is bilingual in her native Spanish and English, and proficient in Italian.

“I am honored to return to the Tower Center for Political Studies as its executive director and to serve as the founding executive director of the newly established Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center,” Del Rosal says. “Leading these centers enables me to contribute to the regional, national and global reach of SMU.”

“The centers will help shape important regional and national conversations on topics such as education, trade and energy – topics that impact our communities every day,” she added. “As research policy centers, they’ll be places not of rhetoric, but of facts and idea sharing. The unique missions of each will influence policy questions and carry out the critical goals of engaging and mentoring the students who will become our next generation of leaders.”

In her new position, Del Rosal will have strategic and operational responsibility for both centers, including staff oversight, programming strategy and execution, board coordination and ensuring all activities are aligned with the centers’ missions.

“Luisa will add a great deal to the knowledge base of those two centers,” says Thomas DiPiero, dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. “She has tremendous international experience, she’s worked a great deal with people in public policy and in Mexico, and she has the diplomatic skill set that will allow the two centers to thrive under her leadership.”

The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. Announced earlier this year, the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center seeks to understand and explore the political, cultural, economic and business relationship between Texas and Mexico. The center focuses on the key areas of research and policy that include border issues, energy, human capital and education, immigration and trade.

Prior to working for the Cox School, Del Rosal was director of programs and external relations for the Tower Center.

— Kenny Ryan

August 24, 2016|For the Record, News|

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

May 1, 2015|Calendar Highlights, News, Save the Date|

Harold Stanley named 2015-16 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar

Harold Stanley, SMU Engaged Learning Expo 2013, photo by Kim Leeson

SMU Associate Provost Harold Stanley speaking at the University’s 2013 Engaged Learning Expo. Stanley, the Geurin-Pettus Distinguished Chair in American Politics and Political Economy in Dedman College, will be a 2015-16 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. Photo credit: SMU/Kim Leeson.

Harold Stanley, Geurin-Pettus Distinguished Chair in American Politics and Political Economy and SMU associate provost, has been named a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year.

Stanley, who was named SMU’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs in late March, joins 12 other outstanding scholars in the liberal arts and sciences from institutions including Columbia, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, NYU, UCLA, Penn State, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University and the Institute for Signifying Scriptures.

Past Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars have included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers and journalists, and Nobel Prize winners. Stanley is the third SMU faculty member to be selected for the program: Annemarie Weyl Carr, University Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History, participated in 1986-87; and William F. May, Professor Emeritus and Maguire Chair in Ethics, served in 1999-2000.

“It’s an honor to be in such distinguished company and a delight to take part in this exchange of ideas with other colleges and universities,” Stanley said. “I look forward to meeting my hosts and participating in their intellectual lives.”

During the 2015-16 academic year, Stanley will travel to eight institutions that house Phi Beta Kappa chapters, spending two days on each campus. He will meet informally with students and faculty members, participate in classroom discussions and seminars, and give a public lecture open to the academic community and the general public.

Stanley’s research focuses on American government, particularly on Southern and Latino politics as well as presidential elections. He has written three books: Vital Statistics on American Politics, now in its 15th edition (CQ Press); Voter Mobilization and the Politics of Race: The South and Universal Suffrage, 1952-1984 (Praeger, 1987), and Senate vs. Governor, Alabama 1971: Referents for Opposition in a One-Party Legislature (University of Alabama Press, 1975).

He has also published numerous reviews, book chapters and journal articles in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and The Journal of Politics, among others.

A former president of the Southern Political Science Association, Stanley received the 2010 Outstanding Teaching in Political Science Award from Pi Sigma Alpha and the American Political Science Association.

Founded Dec. 5, 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has made it possible for undergraduates to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The program was created to contribute to intellectual life on campus through an exchange of ideas between Visiting Scholars and resident faculty and students.

> Visit the official Phi Beta Kappa website at pbk.org

April 2, 2015|For the Record, News|

Tune In: Tower Center’s Joshua Rovner on ‘Think’ Oct. 30, 2013

Joshua RovnerJoshua Rovner, director of studies in SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, will discuss how U.S. strategy in national security and defense is affected by budget restrictions on KERA 90.1 FM Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Rovner will appear on “Think with Krys Boyd” during the noon-1 p.m. hour.

> Tune in at kera.org/listen

Rovner’s “Think” appearance ties in with the Tower Center’s 6th annual national security conference Oct. 30-31. The proceedings will emphasize emerging regional threats and national security under conditions of budget austerity.

“The Tower Center National Security Conference brings together a stellar group of senior military officers, policymakers and academic security specialists who can speak to the big picture as well as the nuts and bolts of the defense budget,” says Rovner, who also serves as the University’s John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security. “We hope to encourage a serious discussion about the future of international security, the range of U.S. strategic responses and the difficult choices that will be necessary under fiscal austerity.”

> Learn more about SMU’s 2013 Tower Center National Security Conference

October 30, 2013|Calendar Highlights, Faculty in the News, Tune In|
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