Endowed Chairs Add Special Areas Of Expertise To The Faculty

SeatsBannerBy Susan White ’05

In September, when SMU announced that it had attracted an internationally recognized expert in cyber security to the faculty, as well as a scholar in international politics and national security, it was evident that the University was expanding research and teaching in areas critical to a global society. They are among several faculty who have joined SMU as endowed chairs in areas ranging from economic freedom to medieval studies.

EndowedGraphicEndowments created through The Second Century Campaign provide permanent funding for scholarships, faculty positions, research opportunities, academic programs and facilities. With endowed faculty chairs, SMU can recruit top faculty and reward current faculty for outstanding research and teaching.

Normally, a gift designated for an endowed faculty position takes five years to become fully funded before an appointment can be made. But during The Second Century Campaign, the Board of Trustees established new centennial endowments in recognition of SMU’s 100th anniversary. These giving opportunities provide permanent funding as well as operational funds to initiate the faculty position or scholarship quickly. For example, Centennial Distinguished Chairs are endowed at $2.5 million, plus start-up funding of $1 million for the first five years to provide immediate support for the position and related research. Other funding levels create Centennial chairs and professorships.

To date, SMU has 96 substantially endowed faculty chairs. SMU’s Board of Trustees recently increased the targeted goal from 100 to 110 endowed faculty positions for the remaining two years of The Second Century Campaign. The number is significant because of what it tells the rest of the world about the University, including organizations that rank colleges and universities, says Linda Eads, associate provost for faculty affairs and Dedman School of Law professor.

“The best faculty in the country note if SMU is hiring for and growing its number of endowed chairs. It means that SMU is on the move academically and that our alumni and donors support our goals in this area. To attract the best faculty you have to match what other comparable institutions are offering, and endowed chair support enables us to do that. Raising funds for endowed chairs shows that we are going after the best and keeping the best.” Eads also notes that endowed chairs often attract external funding for their research, particularly in the sciences and engineering. “Most importantly, what they bring with them is their network and ability to bring us into the national discussion in a variety of areas,” she says.

NAVIGATING CYBERSPACE

Joining a team already conducting research on cyber security in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering is Frederick R. Chang, the new Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security. Chang, whose career credentials include leadership positions in academia, business and government, will develop a multidisciplinary program aimed at tackling today’s most pressing cyber challenges.

Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security Fred Chang (left) and benefactor Bobby B. Lyle.

Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security Fred Chang (left) and benefactor Bobby B. Lyle.

Chang says he enjoys working toward something bigger than himself – a philosophy that carries over from his service at the National Security Agency and that he shares with SMU students. “There are some very difficult problems that the nation faces in cyber security,” he says. “I am confident that SMU, working with different partners, can make a difference at the national level.”

Chang will add to the research that Computer Science and Engineering faculty members Suku Nair, Mitch Thornton and Tyler Moore are conducting in network security. “What is required today is cyber security research that incorporates innovative thinking with consideration of people, processes and technology,” he says.

Chang’s Centennial Distinguished Chair is made possible by a financial commitment from SMU trustee and longtime benefactor Bobby B. Lyle ’67, for whom SMU’s engineering school is named. “Research will be significant under Dr. Chang’s leadership, but he also intends to teach courses that make information about cyber science and security accessible to students of all disciplines,” Lyle says. “That’s a tremendous gift, as understanding the rules in cyberspace becomes more important in our daily lives.”

Reflecting a trend toward greater interdisciplinary collaboration, Fred Chang is also a senior fellow in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

EXAMINING FORCE AND WAR

Joshua R. Rovner, the new John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security

Joshua R. Rovner, the new John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security

Looking at security issues from another angle is Joshua R. Rovner, the new John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security, who aims to bring wide-ranging discussions on the use of force and war to SMU’s undergraduate program in political studies. He recently added to the conversation when he served as co-convener of the sixth annual Tower Center National Security Conference in October featuring senior defense officials, military officers and leading national security experts.

Rovner, who writes extensively on strategy and security, also has been named director of studies for the Tower Center and associate professor of political science in Dedman College. His research on terrorism and surprise attacks challenges conventional wisdom, and his writing confronts widely held beliefs about counterinsurgency and U.S. strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before joining SMU, Rovner served as associate professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College. He was attracted to SMU because of its commitment to undergraduate security studies, the national prestige of the Tower Center and the endowed chair. “The Tower Center is where undergraduates engage in meaningful debate over critical issues as they prepare for careers in public service,” he says. “It is a place to interact with faculty from across the University as well as public officials from the United States and abroad.”

A DISTINGUISHED TRADITION

Chang and Rovner join a distinguished list of faculty members who have held endowed chairs since the University’s early years, names familiar to the thousands of alumni they taught. SMU’s first endowed chair was the E.A. Lilly Professorship of English, established in 1920 and then held by Jay B. Hubbell, who founded the Southwest Review. The chair was later held by beloved English professors Lon Tinkle and Marsh Terry ’53, ’54, and since 2006 by former SMU provost Ross C Murfin, a scholar on 19th- and 20th-century British literature.

Eads points to Latin American history scholar Kenneth Andrien, the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Chair in History, as another example of a recent appointment that attracted national attention.

“Last year there was a review of SMU’s Clements Department of History by faculty from UCLA, USC and Yale, and one of the first things they mentioned was SMU’s impressive faculty for Southwest and

Eads, who has been a professor of law at SMU for 27 years, finds there are now more faculty throughout the University who are known regionally and nationally. She cites Bill Dorsaneo, the Chief Justice John and Lena Hickman Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Dedman School of Law, as an example of “stellar endowed faculty: He’s considered one of the absolute experts on Texas litigation and civil procedure, and his book on the subject is widely used in Texas courtrooms.”

STRENGTHENING PROGRAMS

Hermang Desai, the Robert B. Cullum Professor of Accounting in the Cox School of Business.

Hemang Desai, the Robert B. Cullum Professor of Accounting in the Cox School of Business

Hemang Desai, the Robert B. Cullum Professor of Accounting in Cox School of Business since 2007, joined SMU in 1998. As a nationally recognized researcher on mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, short selling and financial reporting, he often is quoted in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and The New York Times, among others. He also chairs an Accounting Department that has two other endowed chairs – Jody Magliolo, Distinguished Chair in Accounting, and Wayne Shaw, the Helmut Sohmen Endowed Professor in Corporate Governance. Endowed chairs have enabled the Business School to recruit top researchers and teachers at both the senior and junior faculty levels, Desai says.

“The chairs help to build a department and develop a culture that helps attract other top-quality faculty. This has a direct impact on the quality of education for our students. We are very fortunate to have donors who want to make a difference in the lives of our students and, by extension, help develop future leaders of business and industry.”

Alyce McKenzie, the George W. and Neil Ayers LeVan Chair of Preaching and Worship

Alyce McKenzie, the George W. and Nell Ayers LeVan Chair of Preaching and Worship in the Perkins School of Theology

Alyce McKenzie, who has been at SMU since 1999, was appointed in 2011 to the George W. and Nell Ayers LeVan Chair of Preaching and Worship in Perkins School of Theology. The appointment signaled that “the University values as scholarship the fields of homiletics and liturgics, which are crucial to faith communities and bridge the distance between the academy and church. The chair will allow me to pursue my own passions in preaching and worship and to help re-energize the preaching and worship ministries of others,” she says.

(McKenzie also wryly notes that the chair was not just a title – she was actually given a chair. “It’s a beautiful captain’s chair with my name and the LeVan family’s name carved in the back. I sit in it every day.”)

Beyond the University, McKenzie is widely known in her field of homiletics, having written numerous books on preaching that focus on the wisdom literature of the Bible and, more recently, the role of creativity in preaching. She writes the blog Knack for Noticing that highlights “insights from everyday life that might spark ideas for sermons,” and the weekly column Edgy Exegesis, a reflection on the New Testament that attracts nearly 5,000 readers worldwide.

REAL-WORLD PERSPECTIVES

Tony Pederson, The Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair in Journalism

Tony Pederson, The Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair in Journalism, Meadows School of the Arts

Ultimately it’s the students who become the beneficiaries of what endowed faculty bring to the institution. Joining SMU in 2003 as The Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair in Journalism in Meadows School of the Arts, Tony Pederson brought perspectives based on 29 years with the Houston Chronicle, where he was managing editor and executive editor. An expert on media ethics and converging media, Pederson is a longtime activist on issues related to the First Amendment and international press freedom, especially in Latin America. Today he directs a journalism program that was strengthened in part through support from The Belo Foundation in Dallas. “It allowed us to build this terrific facility” that transformed the lower level of Umphrey Lee Center. It comprises three digital classrooms equipped with cable television and multimedia projection and a cutting-edge convergent media lab, among other resources.

The Belo gift also enabled Pederson to attract and support faculty who “are dedicated to the old-fashioned values of producing professional content and emphasizing reading, writing and editing. But they also teach students how to adapt to rapidly evolving methods for delivering news content – from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to social media venues such as Twitter.”

Mark Vamos, the William J. O'Neil Chair in Business Journalism

Mark Vamos, the William J. O’Neil Chair in Business Journalism

The funding also allowed the SMU Journalism program to respond to specific market needs in Dallas through focus areas in fashion, business and sports journalism. The William J. O’Neil Chair in Business Journalism attracted longtime journalist Mark Vamos to SMU. His background includes serving as a reporter and editor at Business Week, Newsweek, SmartMoney.com and Fast Company magazine. As the first holder of the O’Neil Chair, Vamos designed and launched an interdisciplinary program with the Cox School of Business to prepare undergraduate students to become business journalists for print, broadcast and the web.

“After 25 years as a working business journalist, I had become convinced that too many people were entering the field with too little knowledge and understanding of business and economics, and that they often were not making up for this deficit in the course of their work,” Vamos says. “I wanted to do something about that. The O’Neil Chair represents the cornerstone of SMU’s commitment, not just to offer a business journalism course, but to establish an innovative interdisciplinary program that would help train the next generation of business journalists.”

Linda Eads believes that SMU’s strong current faculty have created the kind of environment that welcomes and attracts the caliber of faculty who are appointed to endowed chairs, who in turn have created new energy among the faculty. “Our faculty and endowed chairs are very active people. They are always seeking ways to connect things, organizing colloquia, programs, symposia,” she says. “They are doing what they love. As more endowed chairs come here, they stimulate the environment for everyone else.”

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