Spreading Smiles into the Special Needs Community

3.16 Emily Osman (1)Every smile, every hug, and every “I love you” reminds me that one individual can have a profound impact on the lives of others. Since my middle school years, I have found great joy in giving back to the special needs community, and some of my best friendships have been built within it. In high school, I was heavily involved in the Miracle League of Arizona, a nonprofit in my home state that hosts a baseball league specifically for disabled kids and adults. Volunteers are paired with players who have a disability—be it physical or mental—and they learn how to play baseball on a rubber turf (suitable for wheelchairs). This wondrous organization gives individuals who may not normally be able to play baseball the chance to be homerun hitters.

My involvement within Miracle League sustained my joy throughout high school, but I wanted to grow a similar family when I moved away to Texas to attend SMU. Fortunately, I discovered the club Best Buddies on campus—a group of students are paired with a special needs individual in Dallas. At the beginning of my fall semester, I was paired with Ashley. Every month, we hang out and have girl nights, watch movies, go to dinner, sing at church together, and so much more. Since we met back in August, Ashley and I have become best friends. My heart is filled with such joy every day when I receive a text or phone call from her, and I know that I will always have a true friend by my side.

3.16 Emily Osman (2)Our SMU Best Buddies chapter pairs with other chapters in Texas to host dances, fundraisers, and other events. This past semester, we had a football party, game nights, and a winter formal. Coming up in the spring, we have our Best Buddies Friendship Walk—a 5K in the heart of Dallas that benefits the special needs community. Ashley and I as well as other SMU buddies have been fundraising for this event, and all the proceeds go directly back to the special needs community. We also have our spring formal to look forward to where we get to dance, eat great food, and sing our hearts out. Best buddies has been monumental in shaping my first year here at SMU—I have met some of my best friends already through it, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

-Emily Osman

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Everything All in One City

03.16 Chad SolomonBeing in Dallas gives you the opportunity to explore a lot of pretty amazing things. With the help of Uber, DART, and of course your friends, you can take in everything that Dallas has to offer and you don’t even need a car on campus to enjoy it all!

This February I had the chance to re-live a favorite experience from my childhood years. For Valentine’s Day, my girlfriend and I took on Medieval Times. Just fifteen minutes away from campus and paired with a student discount of 50% off, it could not have been a better opportunity. We left about thirty minutes before the show started and were in our seats with a couple of minutes to spare. It wasn’t as thrilling as I remember as when I was 12 years old, but it was still a great way to spend a couple of hours. Sitting in an arena watching flying Falcons, jousting matches which consisted of grown men on horses with long wooden spears, and much more, are definitely not things you see every day. But whether you like watching men pretend to be knights or prefer trying new restaurants and shops, there are hundreds of activities downtown Dallas and the greater Dallas area have to offer.

I’ve been at SMU for almost two years and I still haven’t had the chance to visit a majority of the restaurants and sites in Dallas. Saying I love the location of SMU may sound cliché, but I really do believe that no other university can beat it. I don’t know many other schools where you can have class at nine, go to a sushi bar for lunch (on campus), go to a tanning pool in the afternoon, ride a horse at Medieval times and then end up at a professional sporting event all in one day.

-Chad Solomon

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Change Should Be Exciting

01.16 Dallas-Hall-StudentsAs a senior in the class of 2016, my last semester at SMU can most accurately be described as a 10-year old kid (me) taking his fully-grown German Shepherd on a run. I just can’t seem to keep up. All too often when you ask a soon-to-be college graduate how they feel about leaving their home of the previous four (hopefully only four) years, you will hear something along the lines of: “I can’t believe the four best years of my life are almost over!” I cannot deny that SMU has given me four years of incredible, lasting memories and friends I will cherish for the rest of my life, but all of those memories were the direct result of a conscious decision to leave South Carolina – my friends, family and comforts – to call Texas and SMU my new home.

It has been almost four years since that decision day to commit to this truly amazing University, nestled right in the heart of Texas. For those of you reading this who are either juniors or seniors in High School, I would like to give you one piece of advice in the coming months as you tour schools and ultimately make your College decision.

Much like me, you are coming to a crossroads in life where one decision will profoundly impact you as an individual. My advice to you is this: Don’t shudder, don’t hesitate and be confident in yourself. I have no doubt you have worked tirelessly to achieve everything you have accomplished up to this point in your life and you should be proud of that. Step out of your comfort zone as frequently as possible. This conviction led me to leave the comforts of South Carolina, and for it I am eternally grateful. SMU has afforded me the ability to challenge myself daily, laugh deeply, experience lasting friendship and live every single day with a smile on my face at one of the best Universities in the country.

I wish nothing but the same for all of you! Pony up and Go Mustangs!

– Whit Rasmussen ‘16

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Seniors, You Will Be Missed!

03.16 Anna Scott PhillipsSpring is full swing here at the Hilltop! I just go the opportunity to sit in an alumnus seats at the Seniors last Basketball game. It is amazing to watch our student body rally around our student athletes. I think one of the most touching parts of this game (besides the big win against UCONN) was the senior speeches at the end of the game. Each of the seniors commented on the amount of positive change has happened since their freshman year. They noted that now, the stands are spilling over with support and lines for miles for entry into Moody Coliseum. Hearing head Coach Larry brown comment on the commitment of the players and our student body had many on lookers tearing up! This school has many proud moments, but this one had crowds of people gathered around to hear about the complete 180 of a program now near and dear to our heart.  After the game, the students gathered to sing “The Varsity”, which is a tradition for all athletic events at SMU.  After the game we sung of all alma mater, with men who have grown and devoted themselves to not only the program but this university. Thank you seniors!  You will be missed.

-Anna Scott Phillips

*Image Source: www.ctpost.com

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Pancakes and Tulips and Human Rights, Oh My!

My class, jet-lagged but excited after just landing in Amsterdam.  (From left to right: Back row: Arya McCarthy, Marcus Pinon, Dr. David Doyle, Kenny Martin, Terisha Kolencherry, Daniel Muerhing, Sam Coday, Joseph Di Pane. Front Row: Tyrell Russell, Courtney Tibbetts, Angela Wang, Olivia Nguyen, myself, and Sara Jendrusch)

My class, jet-lagged but excited after just landing in Amsterdam.

Picture perfect windows in picture perfect canal houses lined with picture perfect flower boxes.

This is what I was lucky enough to experience over Spring Break thanks to SMU and the University Honors Program (UHP). No Destin or Breckinridge for this gal; two weeks ago, I left the United States for the first time, essentially on the Honors Program’s dime. Amsterdam was where I landed.

The trip was a component of the course, “Sexual Minorities and Human Rights,” a UHP course co-taught by a member of the French faculty, Professor Maxime Foerster (who also holds degrees in Gender Studies) and History professor Dr. David D. Doyle. A course designed to take an insightful look into the history of sexual minorities in the United States, Europe and Africa, “Sexual Minorities and Human Rights” is divided into three sections— one for each continent. The beginning of the European section of the course coincided with this midterm trip to what is sometimes called “the world’s most liberal city.”

03.16 Blair Betik 2

A classmate, Courtney Tibbetts, and I at Dam Central, where the city began.

Amsterdam is a dream. Under slightly cloudy skies I strolled on cobblestone, crossing bridges over the canals in the city, and ate the most delicious and buttery pancakes you could possibly imagine. I sniffed tulips at the Bloemenmarket, a stretch of the Singel Canal in the city center. Bicycle wheels spun wildly around me, the row houses stretched on for kilometers. The air was just brisk enough for my Texas bones to be reminded that winter had yet to begin.

It was almost utterly picturesque. But where the idyllic ended, the education began.

My classmates, professors, and I (a group of fourteen in total) were lucky enough to take on the Dutch perspective of the topics we had been discussing for seven weeks. On the topic of sexuality, we spent an entire evening in the Red Lights District, touring with former sex worker and current activist for sex worker’s rights, Mariska Majoor, founder of the Prostitution Information Center located directly behind the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building and church. It was incredibly eye-opening experience to gain insight into the legal practice of sex work in Holland.

Also in the realm of our gender and sexuality topics was a day trip out to Rotterdam, to visit a non-profit community center specifically for LGBT youth in the heart of that incredible urban hub. This center, called The Hangout 101, was founded by Gert-Jan Vanboom, a hilarious man who welcomed us with jokes and warmth, but also information on the role being LGBT plays in being both a Dutch citizen, and also being a refugee in the Netherlands. We dined and spoke with LGBT refugees to Holland from Egypt, Armenia, and Jamaica, who told us their personal stories of persecution and immigration.

For the Human Rights perspective of our course, our group was also lucky to experience The Hague, the political capital of Holland. The Peace Palace, where the Nuremberg Tribunal of Post-World War II was held, was one of our stops, as well as a unique location called Humanity House. This was an interactive experience, where visitors take on the role of refugee in a educational simulation. It was an incredibly humbling experience, to feel the fear and anxiety that comes with seeking asylum.

Back in Amsterdam, between incredible lectures and educational field trips and pancakes, we were able to a number of other excursions. I walked through the Anne Frank House and saw where she had spent so many months in hiding before her deportation to Auschwitz. The art history major in me was moved at the Rembrandt home, the Rijksmuseum, and most of all, the masterpiece of an institution that is the Van Gogh Museum.

My friends and I in front of the Rijksmuseum.

My friends and I in front of the Rijksmuseum.

I was so incredibly lucky to get to learn and explore in Europe this Spring Break through SMU’s University Honors Program, with some of SMU’s brightest students and most dedicated faculty. My heart feels as full as the stalls and stalls of tulip shops, bursting with color and energy, now that I’ve had such an eye-opening experience.

-Blair Betik

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A Night at Reunion Tower

03.16 Nadine KakishThere are a lot of cool things that come out of being involved in one of SMU’s a cappella groups, the SMU Belle Tones. Whether that’s singing the national anthem at SMU Men’s Basketball games, or performing in the presence of President Bush at Dining with Decision Makers, there’s always something to look forward to. Earlier this month, the Belle Tones had the opportunity to sing at an event in one of Dallas’ most iconic buildings: Reunion Tower. Being a Dallas native, I’m embarrassed to say that I had never gone up to the tower before this event, so needless to say I was incredibly excited to knock that off my bucket list.

The event consisted of groups of people from the Dallas area getting a reduced price at coming up to the top of the tower to check out the view! The event was fairly low key, but we absolutely had the best time singing some of our favorite songs for these groups of people. The event was (hopefully) not only enjoyable for the guests, but also enjoyable for us as students. I loved my experience so much because we got to see Dallas from one of the skyline’s standout features.

Reunion Tower has a series of interactive computer screens in which you can see and learn about the different historical landmarks in the city. I had so much fun messing around on the screens because it gave me the opportunity to learn a little bit more about my city in such a fun setting. I was all too thrilled to have the chance to do what I love in Reunion Tower through my campus involvement. This experience singing with the Belle Tones at Reunion Tower reminded me of all of the incredible opportunities that Dallas has to offer and made me so thankful to attend a school that offers me these experiences on a regular basis!

-Nadine Kakish

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Why I Chose SMU

03.16 Quincy SchurrIt’s hard to believe that three years ago I was a senior in high school, stressing about choosing the right university for me to spend the next four years. And I guess if you’re reading this you know what my decision ended up being. That’s right, I decided to pack up my stuff, leave Colorado for the great state of Texas to attend SMU, and pursue a degree in Computer Science. So, why SMU? I toured a ton of colleges (32 to be exact) and by the tenth visit I knew what I wanted in a college. My list was long and specific and I knew I wasn’t going to get everything on my list; I mean no university could be a perfect match.

I wanted to attend a university where the student body was mid-sized. I didn’t want to feel lost in a sea of students, but I also didn’t want to go to a university the same size as my high school.

I wanted to attend a university that had great academics across the board. No matter what discipline I ended up in, I wanted to have a respected degree from my university.

I wanted to attend a university where I had access to resources that would help me develop my soft skills and my technical skills and would allow me to enter into a career fully prepared.

I wanted to attend a university that looked like it could be straight out of a movie. I know, silly. But I wanted red brick buildings and the big open lawns.

I wanted to attend a university where I wasn’t just an engineering student. I wanted to get involved and I wanted to be able to hold leadership positions.

I wanted to attend a university that had outstanding professors; professors who were willing to take the time to help me understand course material or to be a mentor.

I wanted to attend a university where the students were enthusiastic and engaged learners.

So, why SMU? SMU has a student body of 6,537, which is mid-sized. I love going to a school where I know a ton of people, but don’t know everyone, yet. SMU is well respected in every discipline of academia. If I ended up not liking Computer Science, I wanted be able to switch majors easily and SMU definitely offers that flexibility. SMU offers a ton of resources for students when it comes to careers. From the Hegi Career Center to the Hart Center for Student Leadership in the Lyle School of Engineering, I’ve been able to refine my resume and feel confident in my ability to network and find an internship or job. SMU is without a doubt one of the prettiest campuses I visited and I love walking or hanging out on campus. Our president even says “life’s too short to go to school on an ugly campus”. SMU has designed course curriculum with students in mind. It’s very easy for students to double major, minor, and have a social life. I’ve been able to get involved in a number of activities that I am passionate about. I’m not just an engineering student. SMU’s professors are incredible. I have been able to learn so much from each and every one of my professors and appreciate that they are all always available to talk outside of the classroom. My professors are genuinely interested in where I want to be in the future and help me find tools that will get me there.

SMU’s biggest selling point for me was the mindset that the university had about education. In class, I’m not learning about programming practices that have become obsolete in the last five years. I’m learning about languages that are just being introduced. I love that I’m not being told exactly how to solve a problem, but that I’m being given the tools and support that will help me solve it.

SMU may not be what every student wants on their college wish list, but it checked every box on my list and then some.

-Quincy Schurr

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Fun in Taos

03.16 James Jang 1This past winter break, I went to SMU’s campus in Taos, New Mexico and completed a January Term class. A Jan-Term class is basically a condensed class completed within 8 class days before the spring semester starts. You can complete up to 4 credit hours at SMU’s Dallas or Taos campus. I chose to take a 3 credit hour class being held on the Taos campus.

My friends and I thought that it would be fun to road trip to Taos (Taos is about a14 hour drive from Dallas). We were not wrong about our predictions! We ended up staying one night in Santa Fe, and were able to check out some cool restaurants and attractions there before heading to Taos.

When we arrived at Taos, I was pleasantly surprised to find nice facilities. Taos is a gorgeous campus surrounded by snow and trees. Unlike Dallas, the Taos campus was a winter wonderland! Plus, the food was incredible. The dining hall was stocked with snacks 24 hours a day, on top of the three great meals per day. I think the best part was that the kitchen had a stocked ice cream freezer filled with Snickers ice cream bars.

03.16 James Jang 2In Taos we spent about 6 hours a day in class. It was a lot of information given within a short period of time, but my professor did a great job making sure that our class of four students all understood the information well. After class every day, my friends and I had time to explore Taos, go skiing, or some nights stay up late studying. Whatever we ended up doing, it was a lot of fun getting to hang out with my friends while also receiving credit hours in such a cool place.

I am so glad I got to Taos!

-James Jang

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Believing in Basketball

Tammy WinterI’m not saying SMU basketball got me through the end of last semester, but SMU basketball got me through the end of last semester. Tests, homework, personal issues — all of it goes away every time I get to watch SMU basketball play. It probably sounds silly, but if you haven’t already I implore you to watch a game. If you can, go see an SMU basketball game live; it’s even better. This team embodies Moody Magic in every sense of the phrase.

It’s not as simple as saying our basketball team is great, although statistically it is one of the best teams in the entire country. The real story is in how this team has survived hit after hit and just keeps getting better. They’re a joy to watch, and the energy on our team and in the audience palpable every time the school comes together in Moody Coliseum to watch them play. It’s probably also the reason everyone from former President George W. Bush to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to Mavs start Chandler Parsons wants in on the action.

What makes our team special is that there isn’t one star; each player is pretty invaluable made more so by the fact that currently there are 7 scholarship players on the roster). Nic Moore comes to mind immediately; his skill as a point guard regularly makes him the subject of national conversation. Then there’s Jordan Tolbert, our senior transfer from Texas Tech who has one of the highest individual percentages of offensive rebounds in the entire country. Or Shake Milton, the freshman who’s already had a pretty great year, and by all accounts has a great future to look forward to as he grows as a point guard. The same goes for Jeray Foster, who’s already starting to come into his own. Marcus Kennedy is impossible to guard; he’s not afraid to drive the ball to the basket, and the fact that he’s taller than almost everyone on the court at any given time doesn’t hurt either. Ben Moore and Sterling Brown, our two junior players, work incredibly well together and are versatile; you can count them for anything from stellar 3-pointers to consistent free-throw shooting. And with basketball’s successful recruiting of Tom Wilson and Harry Froling, two excellent Australian seniors, the future looks brighter than ever for SMU basketball.
Watching SMU this season I’ve gotten the distinct feeling that I’m actually watching a future ESPN 30 for 30 unfold – I hope I’m right.

-Tammy Winter

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Peruna Foosball in the Innovation Gym

Caroline GurleySMU’s Lyle School of Engineering is one of a kind. My favorite part of the Lyle School is the Innovation Gymnasium. Located in Caruth Hall, the Innovation Gym is a place for students to work as consultants for companies throughout the Dallas metroplex. This past semester, I had the opportunity to build a foosball table with other engineers as well as students in different schools around the university.  This was not a regular foosball table.  It was SMU-themed with 3D printed designs covering the table.  The players were 3D printed Perunas and the handles were Peruna tails.  We provided light to the field by incorporating LED lights around the perimeter of the field.  We built a speaker system so that anyone could play music off of a mobile device while playing foosball.  The project taught me so much about the practical applications of my engineering classes.  I learned how to communicate ideas effectively with different groups of people.  We also learned how to prioritize goals when faced with a time restraint.  Most importantly, this project allowed me to see how different engineering disciplines come together to solve problems.  This project was the highlight of my semester and I can’t wait to try another one soon!

-Caroline Gurley

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