Susan Kress

SMU joins the Clinton Global Initiative University Network

Clinton Global Initiative University Network logoSMU has joined Ohio State, Tuskegee University, Brown, Cornell and the University of California-Berkeley as one of 23 members of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Network – a consortium of colleges and universities that support, mentor and provide seed funding to student innovators and entrepreneurs.

With the approval of SMU Provost Paul Ludden, the University’s Office of Engaged Learning has committed the required $10,000 in funding for SMU students who design and execute an accepted CGI U project in one of five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health. The office will manage the budget and allocate the funds.

Successful applicants must submit their project ideas by the organization’s deadline of Jan. 30, 2013. The deadline for completion of each project will be built into its design, possibly ranging from a single academic term to multiple years. Director of Engaged Learning Susan Kress will guide SMU undergraduates through the process.

These project plans, called Commitments to Action, must be “new, specific and measurable initiatives that address social or environmental challenges on campuses, in communities or in different parts of the world,” according to the CGI U website. These commitments have ranged from manufacturing wheelchairs for developing countries to establishing campus bike-share programs, and from creating free vision clinics to mentoring youth through chess.

Through the SMU Engaged Learning initiative, “we’ve identified a few students who are thinking far beyond their years about projects that fit CGI U’s focus areas, and we’ve invited them to apply for funding,” Kress says. She will also work with students to identify faculty experts who can help steer their plans. “Engaged Learning has helped us build some very good relationships with several professors who are willing to work with students” on such projects, she says. Her office will give monthly updates to CGI U on each approved project.

President Bill Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University ( in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders from college campuses around the world in developing plans and taking action to create positive change. Participants attend CGI U’s annual meeting where students, youth organizations, subject matter experts and thought leaders discuss and develop innovative solutions to global challenges.

CGI U 2013 will be held at Washington University in St. Louis from April 5-7. About 1,200 students from around the world are expected to attend. The opportunity to network with peers and leaders at these meetings is “potentially life-changing for some of these students,” Kress says.

Five SMU students have participated independently in CGI U since its inception.

For more information, contact Meleah Chriss in the Office of Engaged Learning, 214-768-3223.

> Visit SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning online
> Learn more about the Clinton Global Initiative University

Engaged Learning Expo 2012 connects students with opportunities

SMU students who want to learn outside the classroom, tackle real world issues and explore potential careers as part of their university experience will find representatives from DFW-area organizations and agencies who want their help at Monday’s Engaged Learning Expo. The event also will be of interest to faculty who want to develop courses with community components and staff who want to expand opportunities for their programs.

Scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 27, 2012, in the Umphrey Lee Center’s Mack Ballroom, the expo will celebrate 100 SMU undergraduates who worked on significant projects this summer, and provide opportunities to mix and match interested students with 15 different campus programs as well as 45 DFW-area community partners. Refreshments will be served, and participating students will be issued an Engaged Learning “passport” that can be entered into a lottery for prizes.

“A student who engages in a learning activity beyond the classroom has the opportunity to transfer the knowledge and skills of the classroom to a real-life situation, learn from the experience, reflect on it and use it as a basis for further learning,” said Susan Kress, director of Engaged Learning at SMU. “This is a taste of what it means to be a lifelong learner, and, for some, the first step in living a life of meaning and success in a complex world.”

SMU President R. Gerald Turner will speak about SMU’s commitment to community partnerships and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Ludden will outline the impact of Engaged Learning on the University. Gillian McCombs, dean and director of Central University Libraries, will explain how the Digital Repository: Engaged Learning Collections will house the publications of students who produce Engaged Learning projects.

In addition, James Quick, associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies, will announce the first recipient of the Excellence in Mentoring Award and introduce SMU’s first director of undergraduate research.

Kimberly Cobb

> Find a list of participating companies and organizations at SMU News

Engaged Learning announces 2012-13 Unbridled student projects

SMU students pursuing 2012-13 Unbridled Projects through the Office of Engaged Learning

Thirty-seven SMU students – some of them pictured here – will pursue 2012-13 Unbridled Projects through the University's Office of Engaged Learning. Photo credit: Hillsman S. Jackson.

In the coming academic year, 37 SMU students from throughout the University will take on special projects of their own design in research, civic engagement, creative work and internships.

They are all part of the 2012-13 Unbridled Project, part of the SMU Engaged Learning initiative. Of the 37 participating students, 32 requested and received grants to complete their projects.

Visit SMU’s Engaged Learning homepage

Three students conducted Unbridled Projects during the program’s first year in 2011-12. The new group represents a more than 1,100 percent increase in participation. As the initiative begins its second year, “we are right where we hoped to be,” says Director of Engaged Learning Susan Kress.

“We’re very excited for the students,” Kress adds. “The University has invested a lot of effort in raising awareness of the opportunities available through this initiative, and those efforts have paid off.”

The students are especially gratified to know that faculty members are interested in their work and support their efforts, Kress adds. “And at the same time, faculty members are excited that this ties in to the ‘engaged teaching and learning’ happening in their classrooms.”

SMU student Kimberly MendozaJunior Kimberly Mendoza (left), a double major in biological sciences and chemistry in SMU’s Dedman College, can attest to the importance and inspiration of engaged faculty. For her Unbridled Project, she will research health-related traditions, beliefs and practices in the indigenous Mayan community in Guatemala and evaluate how these values and beliefs occasionally clash with Western medicine. Nia Parson of the Department of Anthropology will serve as her faculty mentor.

During her first year at SMU, Mendoza took Parson’s course “Health, Healing and Ethics,” which examines cross-cultural perspectives on sickness and society. “It was one of the best classes I have taken at SMU,” she says. “Dr. Parson gave me so much insight into health as viewed from different perspectives. She also was very passionate about her anthropological work and health in a global perspective.”

When Mendoza decided to pursue an Unbridled Project, “I immediately thought of Dr. Parson, and she was so helpful to me throughout the application process.”

Mendoza’s mother is of indigenous Maya origin, but fled her native Guatemala during the civil war in the 1970s. “As a result, she did not grow up learning the traditions, culture, values and language that bind this group of people together,” Mendoza says. When her maternal grandmother, also an indigenous Maya, received medical treatment in the United States for a malignant brain tumor, Mendoza experienced first-hand how strongly those traditions and values are upheld. “I also witnessed the dichotomy between my grandmother’s spiritual and traditional beliefs and the Western medical system,” she says.

Through her Unbridled Project, Mendoza seeks to understand how to better relate to those who hold such traditional values and beliefs, she says. She plans to become a physician with an emphasis in global health and hopes to work with Doctors Without Borders.

“It is an intellectual treat for me to mentor Kimberly,” Parson says. “As a medical anthropologist, specializing in Latin America, I know how important and interesting her project is – not only because it illuminates the different ways people experience and think about health in Guatemala, but also because of the implications of this knowledge for our own health care systems.”

Mendoza’s research could help in providing better care for Guatemalan and other immigrants here in Dallas, Parson adds. “It is very gratifying to see Kimberly bringing together her family’s ties to Guatemala and her educational experience here at SMU.”

The Office of Engaged Learning provides institutional support for SMU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), created as part of the University’s reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). “Engaged Learning Beyond the Classroom” allows all SMU undergraduate students to participate in at least one extensive experiential learning activity prior to graduation.

A full list of students who will pursue 2012-13 Unbridled Projects appears below the link.


Tune In: SMU celebrates 2012 Engaged Learning Day Feb. 13

SMU celebrates Engaged Learning Day 2012 on Monday, February 13, with a series of events aimed at encouraging students to take their learning experience beyond the classroom by tackling real-world problems.

Activities will include an open house at the Office of Engaged Learning in the lower level of Clements Hall, as well as workshops and presentations by students who are currently completing projects.

“We want students to ask themselves ‘What do you care about?’ and ‘What are you going to do about it?’” says Susan Kress, director of Engaged Learning. “Answering these questions will hopefully inspire them to imagine and make a project happen, a project that links to their SMU education.”

Learn more now with the University’s updated Engaged Learning video for 2012 by Eva Parks of SMU News. Click the YouTube screen to start watching, or click here to open SMU’s Engaged Learning 2012 promotional video in a new windowvideo

> Find a complete schedule at SMU News
> Visit the Office of Engaged Learning online at

Susan Kress becomes SMU Director of Engaged Learning Oct. 1, 2011

Susan Kress, SMU Director of Engaged LearningSusan Kress of the SMU International Center will become the University’s new Director of Engaged Learning effective Oct. 1, 2011. Her office is in the General Education suite in the lower level of Clements Hall, adjacent to the Scholars’ Den honors community commons. She reports to James Quick, Associate Vice President for Research.

Kress has been with SMU since 2008 in her role as Director of Education Abroad. She received her B.F.A. degree from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, and her M.F.A. degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Prior to accepting her position at SMU, she was assistant director of The International Center and coordinator of study abroad and national student exchange at Winthrop University.

Her new position was created to provide institutional support for the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), created as part of SMU’s reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). “Unbridled Learning: Engaged Learning Beyond the Classroom” will allow all SMU undergraduate students to participate in at least one extensive experiential learning activity prior to graduation, according to the plan set forth by SMU’s QEP Committee in January 2011.

The oversight infrastructure will include the Engaged Learning Advisory Committee, as well as community partners and mentors, and a new website to keep track of experiential learning opportunities for students.

> Learn more about the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan

Kress will start by working with Quick to assemble an advisory committee of SMU campus community members, she says. By spring 2012, they hope to have an external advisory committee of community and national leaders and friends of SMU, she adds.

The committees’ advice will help establish priorities for the program, Kress says. “We will focus on bringing together different constituencies and talking to students to find out what they want.”

Kress sees the Office of Engaged Learning as serving as “an umbrella that will bring together the people behind the myriad experiential learning activities already happening on campus, making it easy for students to know where to go to practice the knowledge and skills they are learning in the classroom in a real-world context,” she says. “Students, based on their needs and interests, are already asking for it. A big part of my job is to establish the business practices needed for a coordinated and exciting program that underscores the value of active learning as a distinctive component of a SMU education.

“The University is looking at the next 100 years. As we go forward, this engaged learning will be part and parcel of the academic experience, not something separate.”

> Visit SMU’s “Unbridled Learning” homepage

SMU Abroad adds 100 new programs

Shelby at PetraSMU Abroad is taking students more places in 2009 with the launch of 100 new programs.

Offered in collaboration with the Council on International Education Exchange and other study abroad organizations, the new programs provide opportunities for study, internships and service in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Oceania.

SMU will continue to offer its 30 semester, academic year, winter and summer programs, including discipline-specific programs led by SMU faculty, in locations such as China, England, France, Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Poland, Russia and South Africa.

“By working in partnership with the country’s leading university study-abroad program providers, SMU is able to diversify its programs, the majors who can participate and the locations offered,” says Susan Kress, director of SMU Abroad. “Students now can opt to spend a semester at SMU-in-Paris and follow up with an internship in Senegal.”

The new programs were reviewed and approved by SMU’s Education Abroad Council for academic content and suitability, and follow the recommendations of SMU’s Task Force on International Education to increase opportunities abroad.

Read more from SMU News
Learn more about the Task Force on International Education (log in with SMU ID and e-mail password)
Meet SMU students abroad at the Student Adventures blog

By | 2009-08-25T11:30:13+00:00 August 25, 2009|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , |
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