Leading the Charge on Commons Development

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 4.02.54 PMBy Kaleb Lee

This summer I did some research abroad with the Residential Commons Leadership Corps. In July of 2014, SMU flew me and six other members of the RCLC out to Oxford and Cambridge to conduct res earch on behalf of the new residential commons model. It was an amazing experience. We toured more than 8 different colleges at Oxford and really learned about their inclusion of faculty in the residence.Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 4.03.07 PM

We were able to meet up with the student studying abroad as a part of the SMU-in-Oxford program, which was absolutely incredible! We attended “High Table” lecture and dinners with them and were able examined their classroom and residential structure and see how it was both similar and dissimilar to SMU. We lived on campus at Oxford for about ten days. It was an incredible experience and I cannot wait to go back to London and see the city, away from the college campus.

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Discovering Dallas: Fair Friendly Friday

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 4.14.47 PMBy Kelsey Buttrell

This past week, I put on my favorite pair of red cowboy boots and walked over to the DART station to make my way to the Texas State Fair. This was my second time attending the fair while being at SMU, and it was as entertaining as I remember. The key is to go during the day on a weekday, so it is not too crowded. The DART let us off right in front of the entrance gate, and we got our tickets. While I was there, we roamed around looking for what we wanted to eat. This was quite the process. There was absolutely everything, and when I say everything I mean everything fried. They had fried diet coke, fried thanksgiving meal, fried snickers and fried enchiladas. I ultimately decided to try one fried treat: the fried pumpkin pie. As crazy as this sounds, it was simply delicious. Then, we walked around to the petting zoo where I got to feed a llama and I rode the Ferris wheel that had the most spectacular view of Dallas. It was definitely an amazing adventure and a great break to this busy week. If you have not visited the Texas State Fair yet you have to go! There is nothing quite like it.

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Academic Spotlight: Wellness at SMU

By Whit Rasmussen

For the UC curriculum, every student is required to complete a physical wellness course. Walking, fencing, ping-pong, triathlon and basketball are just a few of the many classes to choose from. For my wellness credit, I decided to check off a bucket list item and signed up for marathon training. I couldn’t hide the sense of accomplishment when I added the class to my upcoming semester list. That is, until I actually realized signing up for the class meant running 26.2 miles. For any cross country or track runners out there, 26.2 miles might not seem too daunting. For a mildly in-shape College sophomore just looking to check off a bucket list item, every long weekend run felt like finals week all over again.

1391806_222872844556486_2011383281_nTo this day, almost a year after my marathon training, I attribute all of our class’s success to our professor, David Bertrand. Professor Bertrand educated, trained and inspired us through the grueling 3-month training program. Even though the class only met two times a week, we obviously had to train much more. Professor Bertrand often sacrificed a great deal of his time every week to schedule outside training runs, provide nutrition and training advice, or just hang out and have a good time.

As the weeks flew by and the marathon date moved closer and closer, what once seemed like a distant, unrealizable goal – to run 26.2 continuous miles – now seemed entirely possible. The sore legs, blistered feet and mental exhaustion became more and more bearable – our small class of 11 runners could feel the excitement looming. We were about to become marathoners! The final days leading up to the race seemed to take an eternity. Could we actually finish? In the end, the marathon was canceled due to the “icepocalypse” ice storm in December 2013. We were all clearly upset, we couldn’t achieve our final goal, 26.2 miles now seemed farther away than ever. Less than an hour after receiving the fateful email from the race directors, informing us of the cancelation, Professor Bertrand sent a follow up. It is hard to sum up an experience like training for a marathon in college with 11 other students, but Professor Bertrand’s email did just that. He reminded us of the amazing feat we had all accomplished.

Every runner in the class was prepared for that race and I have no doubt we all would have finished the race. Professor Bertrand reminded us that the race is not what mattered. The class was all about the experience of training for a marathon and succeeding. We all completed the training; all grew extremely close as friends and would never forget the lessons learning during that 3-month span. To this day, I remain in contact with everyone in my class and Professor Bertrand. The 11 runners in my class embody what is true of so many SMU students – we are ambitious, dedicated and committed to helping each other succeed. Marathon training wellness class is just one of an endless amount of examples. When you come to visit campus, ask other students to share their stories and I’m sure you will hear something very similar. If you choose to make SMU your home for the next four years, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Pony Up!

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What are FiRs for?

By Quincy Schurr

This year marks the first year that each residential commons has a Faculty in Residence (FiR) living in the building. While it might seem a bit strange to have a SMU faculty member and their family live in your building, our FiRs are going above and beyond to provide an experience to make each student’s residential commons a home away from home. One of the benefits of having FiRs is that students are able to develop a relationship with faculty members who they may not have met otherwise since the FiRs come from a variety of areas of study.

IMG_1722The FiRs have come up with creative ways to bring their communities together. For example, some of the FiRs have Sunday Night Snacks; students come to chat about their week while eating cookies, muffins, and other treats baked by the FiR. Last year, my FiR hosted “Potter and Pancakes” which was my favorite event, because who wouldn’t like to be served a pancake breakfast while watching Harry Potter? My current FiR invites the students in my building over every Sunday morning to make our own smoothies and hang out with him and his family.

I love attending all these events because it is a great opportunity to get to know other students in my building outside of the classroom. It is great to meet other students who live on different floors and the FiR’s residence becomes our community meeting area. I feel like the FiRs act as our community leader and they set the tone for the interactions of our commons. The other great thing about these events is that I get to know a faculty member in a casual setting and see him in his daily life.  I think this helps students feel less intimidated when dealing with our professors and staff.  It is a reminder that they are real people too, with lives and interests away from their professions!

An added bonus of having the FiRs living with us is that many of them live with their family, including children and pets.  A few minutes of cuddling with the resident pup, or singing silly songs with a 5 year old can really reduce stress and distract you from homework, studying and deadlines. It definitely makes our residence feel more like a home.

Many of us really enjoy our newly gained freedom once we move to the dorms, and relish the independence that comes with moving away from home.  However, I think that it is reassuring to know that there is a responsible adult just downstairs whom we can turn to if needed, not just as a professor, administrator or an adult, but as a friend.

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Mustang for the Win

By Alex Porter

In between classes and social life here at SMU, there are many opportunities to become involved in clubs sports and other intramurals. I was looking around for a club to join that I could apply my swimming and track background to. DSCN0789While looking for a club last semester, I took a PRW (Personal Wellness and Responsibility) class called Intermediate Triathlon. SMU offered training within this class to take a student who has never thought about doing a triathlon race to the level where they can complete a sprint triathlon! It seemed like the right place to look.

(Photo of Alex and fellow Mustang, Geoff Lowe. Taken after completing a triathlon in the Spring)

Since taking that class last semester, I have gone crazy for doing triathlons! I have completed two sprint triathlons, the second of which I finished second in the collegiate level which was a fantastic feeling. I am currently training for my first Olympic distance triathlon which is in a couple of months. Aside from a back injury that is currently holding me back, I feel very confident that I will smash the race! I am doing the event with the SMU triathlon club team that is supported by the Student Senate, who helps us to be able to compete. I’ll do my utmost to represent the Mustangs as best as I can and hopefully be able to bring back a medal.


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SMU & TCU: The Battle for the Iron Skillet

IMG_1188By Nikki Carenza

It’s no secret there is an epic rivalry between SMU in TCU. Therefore whenever we meet in sports everyone comes out to show support for their team. This year SMU hosted TCU for the annual football game rivalry. I was especially looking forward to this event because my entire family decided to come down and visit me! I was so excited to host my family in Dallas for the weekend and show them how spirited SMU students and alums are. At SMU it’s a tradition before every football game that SMU students, alums, and family gather from the top of Dallas Hall lawn all the way to the end of the boulevard and celebrate before the game.

The boulevard is lined with tents and everyone comes out dressed in SMU colors to show support for the team and get excited for the game! My family decided to get a tent on the Boulevard for the first time ever for this years TCU game so we would all have a place to gather and invite friends to stop by. Anticipation began building all through campus during the week before the game and by Friday everyone could barely contain their excitement! The game was set to start at 11 a.m., which meant everyone was getting geared up for a very early morning boulevard at 8 a.m.

The day finally came and we went out to the boulevard to be greeted with tons of people, music and food. Everyone was having a great time and the TCU fans even joined us on the boulevard! It was so fun meeting up with friends who go to TCU and showing them how SMU does game day. Around 11 my grandpa and I headed over to the stadium and took our seats to watch the mustangs and horned frogs compete. The stadium was packed with SMU and TCU fans, everyone excited to see the two teams compete in their rivalry.

The game flew by and although TCU ended up beating us it was still such a fun game showing my family all the traditional cheers and songs at SMU! The day was a blur of fun with family and friends but my grandpa put it perfectly when he said “Well they certainly know how to do football in Texas!” Boulevarding is just one of my favorite SMU traditions that all collectively make my time at SMU that much more unique and exciting!

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Comfort Zones: People Watching on Campus

IMG_5121By Tien Dang

This is my favorite place on campus to people watch. From here, you can see couples coming together, friends leaving in different directions, that dude who’s always long boarding everywhere, the cliques that students separate themselves into. On cloudy days, you can see where the ground ends and the sky begins. On clear days, it looks like the sky goes on for trillions of miles. I catch myself sitting here daydreaming more often than not.

(Picture: Dallas Hall lawn and Dallas skyline as seen from the third floor of Dallas Hall)

The view of the Dallas skyline is a constant reminder of where I come from, and where I want to go. When I am discouraged, when I am happy, when I just want to think, this is the spot that I choose to go to. Sometimes, there are people who enjoy the view just as much as I do sitting there, reflecting on their thoughts. I think it’s beautiful when both of us sit together, private in our thoughts, but sharing in the beauty of what we have been blessed with. SMU may lack a lot of things, but it also runs rich with much more. People watching tells you a lot about others but it also provides a lot of insight into you.

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SMU Abroad: The Oxford Experience

By Caroline Gurley

This past summer I had the opportunity to study abroad in Oxford, England.  This was one of my greatest memories of college thus far.  I studied in Oxford with around eighty other SMU students and we had a fantastic time.  I took two classes completely outside of my major while I was there.  I am an Electrical Engineer and I took two classes that focused on antiquity.  I know more about Greek and Roman culture than I ever thought I would!  An SMU professor taught one of these classes while an Oxford tutor taught the other.  This allowed all of the students to see the difference between higher education in England and higher education in the U.S. carolinePersonally, I had a great experience with both professors, but I developed a relationship with my SMU professor that I hope will continue throughout my time at SMU.

(Picture of Caroline taken at Blenheim Palace in the United Kingdom)

Of course I learned an enormous amount academically, but I learned even more about myself.  I found a new confidence in myself that I never would have gotten in the U.S.  After my luggage got lost and credit card got compromised, I thought I was going to get on the next plane to the U.S.  I stuck it out, handling both problems with limited communication with my parents, and learned that I can handle a lot more than I thought.

Studying abroad was the best decision that I have made at SMU.  I learned just as much about myself as I did about the subjects that I was studying and the culture I was absorbing.

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Songs From (and for…) the Heart

heartBy Nadine Kakish

One of the first groups I got involved in at SMU was the female a cappella group on campus, the SMU Belle Tones. I have had the time of my life singing alongside 15 amazingly talented ladies, and we have had so many opportunities to sing at some incredible events, like the SMU Men’s Basketball game, Dining with Decision Makers, and others, some of which were even attended by former President Bush!

This past weekend on September 13th, we were able to sing at the American Heart Association’s annual Dallas Heart Walk! Despite the unseasonably cold and rainy morning, this was such a humbling experience as we were performing in front of nearly 70,000 people! We were asked to sing a short set of songs as well as the national anthem, where we were joined by SMU’s male a cappella group, the Southern Gentlemen. Not only was singing at such a large-scale event an amazing start to my Saturday morning, but also a surprise run-in with SMU Men’s Basketball coach Larry Brown was the cherry on top of my day. I absolutely love being able to attend a school where such incredible opportunities are presented to me and I had a fantastic morning at the Dallas Heart Walk!

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Planning Park N’ Party

BParknParty8-650x433y James Jang

I had found out a few months ago that I had been given the position of Programming Chair for Program Council, a student organization at SMU that focuses on fun campus-wide events, and I was in charge of a huge on-campus event called Park N’ Party. I had planned events before, and I was fairly confident that this event would be no different. Then, my adviser informed me that my budget was $13,000. I was in shock for the next 5 minutes! I had never planned an event that had a budget of over $2,000, and here I was, a college first-year at the time, being put in charge of a $13,000 event.

I was given complete creative freedom to do whatever I wanted with the event. It was amazing. Finally, after months of planning and some crazy weeks leading up to this event, it finally came together. This event represents months of hard work, and I would have never thought I would ever have been able to do something like this. I suppose this is the norm at SMU though… amazing opportunities and incredible experiences!

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