Dedman Family, Foundation Gift Creates Interdisciplinary Institute

A $5 million gift from the Dedman family and The Dedman Foundation has created the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute (DCII). The new institute supports the University’s mission to expand knowledge through research and engaged learning beyond the classroom.

The new Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute launched its IMPACT (Interdisciplinary Meetings to Address Pressing Current Themes) series of symposia October 31 with a panel discussion on the concept of privacy. Speakers included English, history, economics, psychology, engineering and law faculty.

The new Institute will bring together faculty and students from the humanities, sciences and social sciences for collaborative research and other programs. The institute’s projects also will reach beyond Dedman College to the broader University and the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

“The Institute is a perfect fit for a college that spans departments from philosophy to physics,” says Dedman College Dean William M. Tsutsui. “By creating opportunities for substantive collaboration across the disciplines, the Institute will open new vistas for research and help prepare students for real-world challenges requiring multiple perspectives.”

Caroline Brettell, University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and an expert on immigration, has been named the first director of the DCII. Unlike interdisciplinary centers at other universities, the institute involves undergraduates as well as graduate students and faculty. Students and faculty from across the SMU campus have the opportunity to participate in three informal and interdisciplinary research clusters being offered this academic year. Roundtable discussions and other collaborative activities will focus on the topics of “Futures for Humanistic Learning,” “Reframing Africa” and “The ‘World’ in University Education.”

Annual Fellows Seminars provide a platform for the cross-disciplinary exploration of complex issues. This year’s seminar topics are “Medicine and the Humanities: Suffering, Knowledge and Culture” and “Thinking About Agency,” which will delve into “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or exerting power” across a range of disciplines.

Institute seminars and research clusters will generate capstone courses, a vital component of the new University Curriculum.

The $5 million gift for the DCII is the latest of numerous major gifts from the Dedman family and The Dedman Foundation to SMU. Their cumulative gifts and pledges to SMU have a current value in excess of $82 million.

“SMU has benefited from the Dedman family’s extraordinary vision and support for more than five decades,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Few other families have had such a wide-ranging impact on the University’s development. Their major gifts have supported areas from humanities and sciences to law and lifetime sports. As we celebrate the University’s Centennial, this latest gift will help SMU continue to move forward among the nation’s leading universities.”

The Dedman family has strong ties to SMU. Robert H. Dedman, Sr., who died in 2002, earned his Master of Laws degree from SMU’s School of Law in 1953. His wife, Nancy McMillan Dedman, received a bachelor’s degree in political science with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1950.

Their daughter, Patricia Dedman Nail, earned a Master’s degree in psychology from SMU in 1981. Their son, Robert H. Dedman, Jr., earned both J.D. (’80) and M.B.A. (’84) degrees from SMU. He serves as vice chair of the SMU Board of Trustees and on the Second Century Campaign Leadership Committee. His wife, Rachael Redeker Dedman, earned a Master of Liberal Arts degree from SMU in 1996.

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