On the Way Out: A Senior’s Perspective

By John Morrow

It’s a bittersweet place in which I find myself—two days away from my last undergraduate final exam. Although I won’t participate in graduation ceremonies until May due to a full-time internship next semester, my undergraduate education at SMU will effectively come to an end when I turn that last test on Wednesday morning. Now that I find myself at the end of my three-and-a-half years, I can honestly buy into the cliché. College goes by too quickly; so make sure you take advantage of every opportunity. It feels like just yesterday I was moving into Virginia-Snider to begin my freshman year with my parents before shipping off to Mustang Corral.

Fast forward to now, and I realize how much I’ve been able to do and what I’ve accomplished all because of the opportunities SMU provides its students. In three and a half years, I’ve studied abroad in England, joined two Greek organizations, worked four internships, been a student ambassador, forged lifelong friendships, and still had time to graduate with honors with a history minor and accounting major. None of these would have been possible had SMU not provided the requisite programs, support systems, and facilities for me to take advantage of each.

I am so thankful for all of my experiences during my time at SMU. So thankful in fact, that I decided I wanted a bit more. While my undergraduate career is coming to an end, this university isn’t rid of me yet. Sorry, but you’re all going to have to put up with me for one more year while I pursue my masters degree in accounting from the Cox School of Business. I just wasn’t quite ready for this good thing to end.

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Taking a Study Break with Meadows Performances

Untitled5​By Katelyn Hall

I’m a journalism major in Meadows School of the Arts, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not artsy. I can’t draw, I’m tone deaf, and I trip on my own feet.

But my artistic deficiencies make me appreciate the work my peers in Meadows do even more. I have friends doing a gallery shows as senior art majors, Brown Bag performances in dance, and black box theater performances as theater and film majors. The best part about all this talent in Meadows is that I get to see all of it for free.

There are countless productions every week. I already have time carved out of my study schedule to see my friend perform in a theater production this evening and I can’t wait to get into the holiday spirit with the Belle Tones and Southern Gentlemen winter performance.

There’s something really magical about getting to experience amazing art on campus – especially when I’m cramming for my finals and writing Spanish research papers.

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Pony Up, Mr. President

By Carissa Laughlin

I was very fortunate as a student at SMU to have the opportunity to attend a presentation from former President George W. Bush about his new book, 41: A Portrait of My Father. This opportunity was provided to me from the Hunt Leadership Scholars program and the generosity of the Hunt family.

Having the opportunity to attend such a prestigious event is something I will never forget. Hearing former President George W. Bush talk about his childhood and growing up with his father as President of the United States was a very unique experience. Former President George W. Bush was extremely candid and open with the crowd, which made everyone lean in to listen to the stories of exchanges between father and son, in and outside the White House.

Untitled2(Pictured (left to right): Carissa Laughlin, Emily Hegi, & Elizabeth Dubret at McFarlin Auditorium at SMU with signed copies of 41: A Portrait of My Father)

One of my favorite stories was when former President George W. Bush was very young, and stole a set of toy soldiers from a local shop in Midland, Texas. His father noticed the toy soldiers and asked where they came from, and former President George W. Bush not wanting to lie, proceeded to tell the truth. Admitting to the stolen items, former President George W. Bush was escorted by his father back to the store, and was told to apologize and return the items. Former President George W. Bush said this was how his father would discipline. It was much more about learning and growth from the experience, and making things right. Though it is easy to put leaders up on a pedestal and forget that they are normal people, hearing these stories really humanized two historical leaders of this country.

These types of opportunities are often made available to students at SMU through on-campus events, the Tate Lecture Series, and on-campus programming from student organizations.

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Celebration of Lights: Behind the Scenes

SMU_celebration_of_Lights_CrowdBy Jack Murphy

Without a doubt, one of the most popular traditions SMU hosts in the winter is the famed “Celebration of Lights.”  Students since the 1970s will talk about their magical experience singing along to Christmas carols with their friends while sipping on hot chocolate on the steps of Dallas Hall.  I am proud to say Celebration of Lights is my favorite event not just because of the night’s magical allure, but because this December I was given the opportunity to plan all the festivities.


One thing that makes SMU so great is they treat their students with opportunities that other universities cannot offer.  Other schools only let the administration take part in organizing their Homecomings, Family Weekends, and big traditions on campus.  At SMU, it’s up to student organizations to plan the university’s largest events.  I was tasked with organizing Celebration of Lights (also known to our planning committee as “COL”) for 2014 and I was up for the challenge.  After putting together a committee of experienced and ambitious students, we started our planning process.  We chose that this year’s event would feature a live webcast for alumni and parents to watch from anywhere in the country.  This new addition was a huge step in COL history, and our team is very proud to be the first to bring SMU’s biggest tradition into everyone’s home and to their smartphones.


At the end of the day, we put up more than 140,000 Christmas lights and over 300 luminarias lining the sidewalks, set out 140 gallons of hot chocolate and apple cider and 40 dozen Tiff’s Treats cookies, sponsored 82 children from the Dallas CASA Angel Tree program who have been affected by domestic violence, listened to SMU’s talented students perform songs of the season, SMU President R. Gerald Turner read the Christmas story, and we lit up Dallas Hall the SMU Christmas tree as we celebrated the holiday season.


You can watch Celebration of Lights 2014 here at smu.edu/live!


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Celebration of Lights: A Senior’s Perspective

Untitled5By Taylor Thompson

With finals approaching (actually, they start in 3 days, yikes!) it’s always nice to take a break with friends to celebrate the holidays. My favorite tradition that we have on campus is Celebration of Lights. Students, faculty, staff, and families from about the Park Cities all come together on Dallas Hall Lawn to eat warm cookies, drink hot chocolate, and sing everyone’s favorite carols. The entire lawn is lit up by the most beautiful glow from all the lit candles as we stand together as a community. Now you must be wondering, if this event is called Celebration of Lights, where are all the lights?! The last song we all sing together is Silent Night. After the first verse, 138,000 white lights that are wrapped around Dallas Hall and all the trees on the Lawn are all turned on at once. It’s hands down the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen when it comes to Christmas lights. For me, this year was particularly special as it was my last Celebration of Lights as a student. Standing with all my friends, I was reminded at how many memories I have created and how many life-long friends I’ve made over my past 4 years at SMU. As the temperature keeps dropping, our planners become more filled with review sessions, and sweatpants are considered “getting dressed,” Celebration of Lights couldn’t be a better reminder what this time of hear is all about.

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Celebration of Lights: A Holiday Tradition

By Melody Davis

It’s time for finals now for SMU students – which means late nights studying, extra coffee, stress to pull off those good grades; no surprise there. But finals time also means something else on campus for SMU: Celebration of Lights. This past Monday, I celebrated my fourth but hopefully not last Celebration of Lights ceremony at SMU. Coming back from Thanksgiving break to Celebration of Lights is the perfect transition into the Christmas spirit and semester wrap-up. Celebration of Lights is such a special time with holiday songs, the reading of the Christmas story by President Turner, and the lighting of our already spectacular campus with thousands of beautiful white lights. This year was especially bittersweet, watching the ceremony for my senior year, but also seeing special friends who came back to celebrate with us even after graduation. If I’m lucky enough to stay in Dallas next year, you can bet that I’ll be back to celebrate one of the most wonderful SMU traditions!

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Top 22: The Best Things About Winter

By Laura Spitler

It’s that time of year again! The temperature is dropping, the year is drawing to a close, and the holidays are upon us. Here is my list of 22 of the Best Things about Winter in Dallas:

1.  Cozy SMU Apparel

2.  We get to see snow! …but it doesn’t last long enough to be annoying

3.  Attempting to have a snowball fight with your friends

4.  Getting “Ice Days” off of School

5.  Just when you are getting too cold, there will be a random 70F day

6.  The Russian Ballet performs the Nutcracker at McFarlin Auditorium

7.  Ice skating around the giant tree at the Galleria

8.  Horse-drawn carriages through Highland Park to look at Christmas Lights

9.  The Tomato Basil Soup from La Madeline

10. Procrastinating studying by watching the classic holiday movies

11. Therapy dogs at Fondren Library

12. Warm holiday brews from Café 100

13. Choir performances at Meadows

14. Holiday parties in your residence hall or with your campus organizations

15. Getting a nice LONG winter break at home with your family

16. Fondren library brings in free food during exam week

17. The window displays at Neiman Marcus downtown

18. Klyde Warren Park is beautiful at night

19. Celebration of Lights at SMU

20. We get TWO reading days (no class!) before final exams

21. Campus organizations sell hot chocolate by the west bridge as fundraisers

22. Gingerbread cupcakes from Sprinkles

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Happy Thanksgiving from the Hilltop!

Thanksgiving-PhotosBy Ryan Herrscher

Finals are just over the horizon with winter break and December graduation on the other side. All of those things bring stress, happiness, joy, and a general sense of excitement to our campus. This week though, we pause our hectic schedules and push aside the busyness of our daily routines. Thanksgiving provides a much needed break and an opportunity to look back and give thanks for the experiences that make up our lives. My time at SMU has been one of the defining experiences in my life and I know I will continue to be thankful for the opportunities I have had long after this Thanksgiving and my graduation in May. Regardless of where you find yourself this Thursday, I hope you are able to find things in your life to be thankful for as well.

We will not have any posts on the blog for the next week as many of us will be back home with our families or around Dallas with friends. In the meantime, I think I speak for all the Ambassadors when I say happy Thanksgiving and Pony Up!

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Homecoming 2014: Crown the King and Queen

Untitled3By Adam Melson

As the fall semester ends and the temperature drops, its a telltale sign that Homecoming is near. This past Homecoming weekend was again one of the best weekends of the fall semester.

(Pictured: 2014 Homecoming King Kyle Cantrell representing Beta Upsilon Chi and 2014 Homecoming Queen Taylor Goerke representing Chi Omega)

Alumni from all years past came back to the Hilltop to celebrate being a Mustang and relieve their college years. To kick off the weekend, the SMU men’s basketball team kicked off their season with a win at Moody Coliseum. The celebration continued the next day with the Homecoming parade and the Boulevard. So many organizations were represented by floats on the parade, which was led by SMU alum and star of the Office, Brian Baumgartner. The Homecoming Boulevard was a welcoming reminder of all the support and spirit for SMU. The festivities stretched from Dallas Hall down to the tip of the Boulevard and each tent was a representation of the community spirit of our organizations on campus. It was incredible to see the blocks of Hillcrest avenue and the boulevard teeming with fans cheering for SMU. Unfortunately this was my last Homecoming parade and Boulevard of my undergraduate years, but I look forward to coming back to Homecoming each year as an alumni member.

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Homecoming 2014: Winter is Coming

By Katie Maiers

This past weekend, I experienced two special occasions here at SMU; it was a weekend of welcoming alumni, but it was also a weekend of welcoming some the coldest temperatures this season. Sun or snow, the weekend was full of excitement and energy as campus welcomed alumni, families, and friends to campus for the traditional Homecoming festivities. My parents also came up from Austin for the weekend, and it was actually the first time that they’ve seen campus aside from move-in days!

Before the Homecoming activities kicked off on Saturday afternoon, I took my parents around campus and showed them some of my favorite features about SMU. Naturally, I took them up to the 3rd floor of Dallas Hall to show them my favorite view of Dallas. I also took them into the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum where they were amazed by the beautiful design, architecture, and content. We then fueled up for the Homecoming Parade by stocking up on carbs at one of my favorite Dallas pizzerias, Olivella’s.

The parade this year was my favorite one yet. The floats were incredible, and they included special guests such as Woody and Jessie from Toy Story, Aladdin and Jasmine, and even Jay-Z and Beyoncé to coincide with this year’s theme, “Dynamic Duos.” It’s always amazing to see the results of the countless hours that students put in in order to create the floats.

We then ventured to the boulevard where I was able to introduce my parents to my friends and their families. My favorite part of this boulevard, however, was being able to introduce my parents to an SMU alum who provided me with an amazing internship this past summer at a local advertising agency. It was great to connect my parents with someone who is not only a former boss, but also a great friend and fellow Mustang. After cheering on our Mustangs and the Homecoming candidates at an especially chilly Ford Stadium, it was time to call it a night and a day well spent.

I’ve always enjoyed Homecoming weekend because I consider it to be a weekend that celebrates SMU’s past, present, and future by continuing and creating traditions. This year, Homecoming definitely lived up to its expectations!

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