SMU Faculty in Residence

As live-in faculty members in SMU’s Residential Commons, Faculty in Residence (FiRs) serve as the intellectual leaders of their commons. The FiR program creates opportunities for students to know faculty members outside of the classroom and emphasizes a culture of mentorship, intellectual discourse and community.

The student Residential Commons Leadership Corps also is blogging at

Cockrell-McIntosh Salons: A Tuesday with President Turner

An update from Dr. Beth Wheaton, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Cockrell-McIntosh Residential Commons:

Since ancient times groups have gathered together to share a time of intellectual discussion and entertainment. The term “salon” was coined in France in the 17th century.  Cockrell-McIntosh Residential Common has recreated this practice of the salon with the new mission of “engaging students.”

Whether going to school on an active campus like Southern Methodist University in a dynamic city like Dallas or across the world, students have an overwhelming number of ways in which to use their free time. Much of their formal education is received in a classroom setting.

Over the past year Team Cockrell-McIntosh (C-M) has been developing a concept called Tuesday Salons. The salon offers a new way to engage students in an informal and fun setting. Salons provide students with the space and atmosphere to meet and talk with each other as well as with SMU and DFW professionals. These opportunities lend well to the information sharing and networking that is vital to students’ education and career development.

SMU designed each FiR apartment with a large living room into which students may be invited. Each Tuesday during the semester, Team C-M prepares snacks and I open my apartment to receive students.

Some Tuesday Salons are private gatherings for the students to mingle in a friendly atmosphere with their fellow residents and C-M’s pup-in-residence Lone Star. Other nights, I invite a star-studded line-up of SMU and DFW professionals to come in and talk with, not to, C-M residents.

Tuesday, August 26 was Cockrell-McIntosh’s inaugural Tuesday Salon. The special guests were SMU President Turner and Mrs. Gail Turner. Over 100 C-M students attended the event to meet the Turners and have ice cream brownie sundaes with homemade hot fudge.  The following week was a low-key, residents-only “make your own candy sushi” Tuesday Salon.

Turners at C-M Salon 26AUG14 I

Whether the Tuesday Salon includes a group of SMU and DFW fitness professionals, legal professionals, music professionals or simply a group of fellow C-M residents, students can have an hour’s break from studying to learn in a new way. This engagement may come from talking with each other, learning to communicate with professionals in a variety of fields, experiencing a new activity (like creating candy sushi), or simply taking a moment to pet the pup.

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Lights… Camera… wait, you want this by WHEN?

An update from Dr. Mark Kerins, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Morrison-McGinnis Residential Community:

As the academic year winds down, we’re still as busy as ever prepping for next year – lots to do before we head into the summer!

Big news this week (as usual, news first posted via Twitter @MoMacRC) is that we now have a full complement of four Faculty Affiliates (FAs) on board for the fall, which was the last piece of our team to come together. I’m really pumped about the people we have: not only are they great faculty whom I think our students will love having involved with MoMac, but they come from disciplines all across the university, so hopefully all our residents can find some common interests with at least one of them.

Joining us as FAs this fall will be (in alphabetical order by first name, just to change things up since our Twitter post was ordered by last name – next time I’ll have to go by department…):

  • Darryl Dickson-Carr, English
  • Jodi Cooley, Physics
  • Joe Kobylka, Political Science
  • Scott Norris, Mathematics
FA Carr

Darryl Dickson-Carr, English

FA Cooley

Jodi Cooley, Physics

FA Kobylka

Joe Kobylka, Political Science

FA Norris

Scott Norris, Mathematics

Excited to work with all of them.

As for the rest of the leadership team, including our student leaders, Liz, and me, the bulk of our work recently has been working on our “welcome” video for new residents, which we’ve spent the past two Fridays shooting for and are now editing.

I love the concept we have for our vid, and though it’s imperfect for a number of reasons (most obviously, we don’t even LIVE in our RC yet so don’t have any footage of past events or the residence to draw from – I have to admit I’m a bit jealous of those RCs who already have a FiR in them in terms of the media they already have for a project like this), I think it’ll give a good sense of who we are and what we’re about.

As a professor who teaches film production, though, I have to admit the whole process of how these came about irked me a bit: basically the RCLC group was told “we need each RC to have a video for our website, and we need them quickly.” Right. Because anyone can knock out an awesome video quickly, with no experience – it’s not like we have students who spend their four years here (and many more post-graduation) learning the art and craft of filmmaking and honing their skills. Sure, even films from my experienced junior/senior students still have aspects that should have been done differently artistically and technically, but that’s no reason a bunch of non-film students shouldn’t be able to conceive, shoot, and edit some great videos in a couple weeks!

OK, maybe it irked me more than a bit: awesome though the RCLC members are – and at least the MoMac ones are FANTASTIC! (shout out to Olivia, Alexis, and Michael) – this is a lot to put on them, even if it wasn’t the end of the semester (which it is) and they didn’t have a ton of projects, papers, etc. already to do (which they do).

Anyhow, it’s a truism in film that everyone wants their movies to happen fast, be inexpensive, and come out well, but at best you can achieve two of these at a time. So given that it was a no-brainer that we wanted our video to be good, and we didn’t have a budget, Liz and I made the executive decision that the video would be finished when it was finished, whatever arbitrary deadlines had been established. Feeling better about the project after that, we buckled down and came up with an idea, started shooting the next week, and after about 6 or 7 hours of shooting I think we have the footage we need to make the video we want (or at least a first draft of it, with some clips to be replaced once we have footage of actual MoMac events in the fall). Keep your eyes on our FB page for our video, coming soon (but not as soon as they’d like)…

…And as we head into finals I think that’s my last post for the semester. Excited to be in MoMac and see all our work from this year start to come to fruition. Ready to throw up my M’s….

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The Importance of Mentoring: Learning from the Best

An update from Miroslava Detcheva, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the McElvaney Residential Community:

A recent experience inspired me to write about the importance of mentoring. It was a great honor to receive an invitation to the 2014 Women’s Initiative Fellowship* Graduation Ceremony at the George W. Bush Presidential Center earlier this month. Since 2012, each WIF Class has consisted of a diverse group of extremely talented women from the same foreign country. Through their academic background and professional achievements, they represent the most influential sectors of a modern society, such as education, health, law, business, politics, and media.

At the 2014 Women’s Initiative Fellowship (WIF) graduation, it was exciting to hear the unique stories of 18 professional women from Egypt and to learn about their journey through the program. The graduation speaker was none other than the mastermind and visionary behind the initiative, Mrs. Laura W. Bush. As each fellow was called on stage to receive her graduation certificate, one other important person was standing next to each of the graduates – the fellow’s mentor. During the year, the participants in the program met many fascinating people, including Diane Sawyer, and visited a few exciting places, from the Google campus outside San Francisco to NYC and D.C.; it seemed, however, that the one thing each fellow cherished the most from the whole experience was the building of a quality relationship with her WIF mentor.

The participants in the WIF are paired with prominent professional women from the U.S. who serve as mentors and provide constant “guidance, advice, and support” throughout the program. Mentoring is the “critical component” of an initiative that “empowers and equips women to become [effective] leaders in their country.” Upon graduating, each fellow desires to create positive social change in her country. The common experience of the WIF, founded on mentor support and intellectual exchange, later creates an impact in the fellows’ communities that is “substantial, concentrated, and powerful.” After witnessing the strong bond between the mentors and fellows of the WIF, there is no doubt that these unique mentor-fellow relationships serve as the building blocks of the success of this program.

As I was learning more about the Women’s Initiative Fellowship and the creation of amazing mentorship experiences, I could not help but think about the Residential Commons (RC) and the creation of future strong bonds among students as well as between students and faculty in each RC community. The Faculty in Residence (FiR) living on campus will serve as intellectual leaders and mentors. They will be joined by a diverse and talented group of faculty affiliates representing many SMU schools and departments. Together, faculty and students will exchange ideas, share experiences, and in the process, create even stronger communities on campus.

SMU is fortunate to be the home of the Bush Center and the Women’s Initiative Fellowship. There are many things the SMU FiRs can learn from the WIF mentoring structure and success. Who knows, maybe a few years from now, some of our own SMU-grown world leaders will in turn become mentors helping create positive social changes on a global scale.

*The Women’s Initiative Fellowship was created by Mrs. Laura Bush, and its Director is Mrs. Bush’s Senior Advisor, Charity Wallace. Since 2012, it has hosted women from Afghanistan and Egypt. The current Fellowship group is from Tunisia.

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“…And YOU get housing, and YOU get housing, and YOU get housing…”

An update from Dr. Mark Kerins, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Morrison-McGinnis Residential Community:

Big exciting news for MoMac this week (as posted earlier via Twitter@MoMacRC): our fabulous acting RCD Liz Rader decided she WILL be joining us as the full-time MoMac RCD! Our RCLC team and I were ecstatic, and anyone who’s going to be living in MoMac next year should be, too – she’s fantastic!

Liz for Board

RCD Liz Rader

The backstory behind this transition – the fact that we had an “acting” RCD in the first place – highlights the behind-the-scenes challenge of the transition from SMU’s current residential setup to the Residential Commons model that will all be in iplace in the fall. One of the biggest challenges for all of us in getting ready for the RC model has been that in addition to all the obvious challenges of the transition (building new buildings and remodeling old, determining identities for the various RCs, putting together leadership teams, getting buy-in from current students who already have experience with the current model) there are some logistical issues with the transition process.

For instance, in this particular case, the challenge is that SMU is adding several new buildings, and will have ELEVEN RCs opening in the fall. The problem this creates, of course, is that we don’t have that many now, meaning there aren’t enough current RCDs (Residential Community Directors, i.e., the SMU equivalent of “hall directors” for old folks like me) for all the RCs that will be in place next year. Not a big problem, you think, we’ll just hire some more for next year, right? Well, that’s exactly what they’re doing – except that the hiring season for Res Life is in the spring, and we’ve been doing necessary planning for each RC since last fall. So while we’re going through the interview and hiring process now, it’s way too late in the game to have waited to do planning until this new batch of RCDs is hired. This meant that various current RLSH (Residential Life and Student Housing, I think? Everyone just always says “relish”) staff stepped in last fall to fill in the gaps as “acting RCDs” to help with the planning process for those RCs that did not yet have an RCD assigned. So Liz, who in her day job does a whole bunch of other stuff within RLSH, has been working with the MoMac team in the role of RCD, even though it was never a given that she would leave her current job to be an RCD.

Much to all of our joy, this week, we found out she had decided to take on that role, meaning our MoMac leadership team will continue unabated. That leadership team, by the way, now includes several new student additions since the last blog post now that the peer advisors have been named. So a big MoMac welcome to Jessica Mitchell (Peer Dialogue Leader), Noah Earland (Peer Health Educator), Meg Mochel (Peers for Academic Enhancement), and Courtney Kent (Peer Academic Leader). With the peer advisors, RAs, RCLC members, Liz, and myself now all locked in for next year, our leadership team is a lot clearer than it was just a few weeks ago (when it was me and the RCLC team, with no one else set in stone) and mostly set. Next addition will be upper-class Community Council elections next month!

ANYHOW, for us MoMacers, finding out Liz was staying on was the big news of the week, but the other significant happening this week, which affected all the RCs, was the Housing Selection event. This happened Monday and Tuesday, when everyone living on campus next year was supposed to come to McFarlin Auditorium and sign up for an RC. This proved to be a phenomenally inefficient event, with each of the RCs staffing a table for about 12 hours total while students came by occasionally to sign up or get information about a particular RC.

One curious finding: as a group SMU women seem much more concerned with where they live than SMU men – every RC had a certain number of spots designed for males and a certain number for females, and pretty much across the board the women’s spots filled first, while many of the men’s slots were still unfilled even at the close of the two-day event (meaning, as I understand it, that a lot of men chose not to show up and are going to be randomly assigned to RCs). In MoMac, for instance, we had a dozen women signed up before our first man, and when our women’s slots were filled (meaning we could not sign up anymore) we still had over half our men’s slots left. Not sure what to make of that, but it was intriguing to see the same dynamic playing out for every RC – and just looking around the room at just about any given point in the event it was clear that there were far more women going through the process than men.

Liz ran our sign-up much of the time, with the rest of us stopping by to cover times or just say hi as we had the chance. Ben and Rory came by to help recruit a bit toward the end of the day on Monday, but not sure how effective it was, as the “Look! Babies!” appeal seemed to be less effective on the males, but we had already filled all our female slots by that point. Nevertheless, those on the MoMac team who hadn’t already met them got a kick out of doing so, and they enjoyed sharing some quesadillas with Liz

liz w kids

By the way, you can see their MoMac lanyards, which were a bit of swag to welcome students – as each student signed up for a particular RC, he/she received a lanyard with that RC printed on it. Kind of a nice gesture, I thought, and the lanyards are pretty nice. My kids quickly decided they wanted more of these so wandered around stealing them from every other table. Luckily I got most of them back to the right people by the end of the day (though they snuck a few Loyd ones out that I had to return Tuesday).

So now everyone’s either signed up for an RC or been randomly assigned to one, and actual room selection began today online (though why that couldn’t have happened at the same time as the RC sign-up event remains a mystery to me) so by next week we should know who all our upper-class residents will be and what rooms they’ll be in, and we’ve already started planning a MoMac spring welcome event for April where everyone can meet each other. For now, we’ll keep plugging away at our plans for the 2014-15 year and keep the ball rolling forward for the fall 2014 opening of the new MoMac!

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MoMac Attack

An update from Dr. Mark Kerins, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Morrison-McGinnis Residential Community:

This is an exciting week for the Residential Commons system, with Wednesday’s housing expo giving students a chance to learn about the various RCs and then housing selection happening next Monday and Tuesday. So a week from now we’ll have the first half of new MoMac residents chosen, with the other half being first-years coming to SMU this fall.

The focus of the MoMac leadership team – now expanded from myself, Liz (our RCD), and our RCLC members to include our RAs – over the last couple weeks (including spring break) was getting materials together for the housing expo. We put together a pretty cool trifold board with a lot of great info about MoMac, including both useful building information (such as what types of rooms and bathrooms are available and where MoMac is located relative to key campus buildings) and details about some of our plans for the new RC – values, programming, traditions, motto, and the current leadership team. No sneak peek here, though – if you want to see it, for now you have to check out the Housing Expo on the 19th!

Next up other than the housing selection is finalizing a calendar for the fall – we have a lot of ideas and options but won’t be able to do all of them in one semester so need to hone down a little bit. I’m guessing what stays and what goes’ll be a topic of some hot debate at this week’s meeting….

More exciting MoMac news coming soon!

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Getting Ready to Move “Stuff” (Yow!)

An update from Dr. Tom Tunks, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Ware Commons:

For the past several years I have spent most SMU spring break weeks on Alternative Break trips with students. Great trips have included Taos, NM; the Snowbird Cherokee reservation on the Tennessee-North Carolina border; Xalapa, Mexico; and two times to Quito, Ecuador. Not this spring, though! Next week Jeanne and I will devote most of our time to readying our house and belongings for our big move to the SMU campus.

Our move is (will be) multidimensional. For the three years we expect to live in Ware Commons (great new name!!!), our elder son, Adam; daughter-in-law, Catherine; and grandson, Jeremy (group pictured here)tunks, will occupy our house. It will be theirs totally, including all their “stuff.” That means most of our “stuff” will leave – either to go to our Ware (love using that name) apartment or to go into storage. Their house in Garland will go on the market this week, and when (not if) it closes they will move into our house with us. Because our scheduled move-in to the Ware apartment will probably be the first week of August, we will have two sets of people and two sets of “stuff” in the house for some amount of time.

The people part, we expect, will be easy – we all get along quite well and are respectful of each others’ needs and sensitivities. Besides, Jeanne and I will be traveling quite a bit in the early summer (much to everyone else’s relief, I would think). The “stuff” part involves some logistic problem-solving. When their house closes their “stuff” will come here. Some of our “stuff” will remain upstairs; just enough to satisfy our daily living needs. Anything else, such as living room furniture, extra (off-season) clothes, etc., will go into storage for anywhere up to four months of time. Of course, any overage of “stuff” that we won’t move to Ware will need to be in storage, probably for the next three years, after which we will re-occupy the house. Ah, the decisions about how much, and exactly what, to take.

We do look upon this as an adventure, as well as a great time to unload “stuff” that has been collecting unnecessarily for the 34 years we’ve lived in this house. For both our time in the Ware apartment and our time after returning to the house, we expect to be living leaner and cleaner. In fact, in our collective memory, some of our happiest times through the years have been times (either before we had collected much or when we lived elsewhere on leave or vacation) when we haven’t had much “stuff” to keep track of or defend. To us, life is far more about people and experiences than about “stuff.”

OK, enough writing for today. Time to get about organizing “stuff.”

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Why the Residential Commons?

An update from Miroslava Detcheva, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the McElvaney Residential Community:

Why do we need the Residential Commons? This is a question many students have asked me. Personally, I see the Residential Commons (RCs) as melting pots of academic interests, unique talents, and ever-growing cultural diversity that will shape and mold excellent scholars and well-rounded individuals. In the new communities, students will be able to interact with peers from all academic disciplines and diverse backgrounds. They will also connect on a more personal level with enthusiastic faculty willing to mentor and share unique life experiences.

As we are getting ready for the grand opening of the Residential Commons, some students have questioned the transformation of campus living. As many students have had wonderful experiences while being a part of the Engineering, Hill Top or Hunt Scholars communities, they are in their right to question the changes. No doubt, sharing experiences with like-minded scholars is beneficial as one grows in his or her particular field of study. However, exchanging ideas across academic disciplines and unique personal experiences is invaluable when it comes to building a strong and integrated yet diverse residential community in which every individual is equally valuable and important. This is what the RC program is going to achieve – it will provide the environment for both academic and personal support.

In a formal classroom setting, no matter how interactive the course may be, the intellectual exchange is limited to the subject taught. Furthermore, interaction between students and professors, to a great extent, is constrained by the traditional professor’s duties of teaching, examining and evaluating students. In actuality, there is a great interest among faculty to expand the intellectual exchange and learning process beyond this traditional student/teacher interaction.

My personal college experience was truly enriched by professors who in addition to being great teachers in the classroom, continued to teach me about “the world” outside the classroom walls. The professors who make the extra effort to be mentors are the ones that “touch lives” in addition to teaching new skills and helping students succeed academically.

Within the Commons, faculty and students will be on the same team working together to shape exciting new living and learning communities. This time, the learning process will be a two-way street, and faculty will have the opportunity to learn from students as well. What better way to gain access to student mindset and thus improve communication and efficiency of teaching? Finally, the assessment will consist not only of grades and averages, but also of meaningful experiences and continuous personal enrichment.

The future Residential Commons will offer a great variety of intellectually stimulating academic activities and engaging social events. The engineer will learn from the artist, and the artist will learn from the engineer. We do not all have the same interests, but we can all benefit from being exposed to different ideas and from being a part of a community that cultivates an understanding for different points of view and an appreciation for diversity. The RCs will definitely make our campus a more exciting place. In addition, this model of living and learning is also the path to shaping well- rounded individuals and global citizens of today’s interconnected world.


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Signing Day with a Side of Sugar

An update from Dr. Mark Kerins, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Morrison-McGinnis Residential Community:

Prep for next year continues, and the pace is now picking up as the launch date for the RCs gets closer. Last Friday I met with the usual MoMac team (RCLC members Michael, Alexis, and Olivia, and RCD Liz Rader) to prep for the housing expo next month, where returning students can find info about the various RCs and decide where they want to live. Obviously, MoMac will be the place to be, but it still took some serious discussion about the best way to convey that on a trifold board. We usually meet in a conference room, but given the nice weather we decided to head outside and get some inspiration by working in the shadow of MoMac instead as we figured out the board.

picture 1

That evening, the big event was RA signing day. Each RC had a table set up to welcome the new RAs when they found out where they had been assigned.

Our two returning RAs, Carmen and Greg, had already been announced so they were able to help Liz set up some decorations at our table for the event.

picture 2

As you can see in the lower left corner of the last pic, the fam came with me to signing day to help welcome the new RAs – the kids even helped me bake and decorate some cupcakes the night before (my plan was to put the MoMac dual-M logo on each, but they decided dumping prodigious amounts of sprinkles on top was a better idea)! What we didn’t know, though, was that the event was going to start with a half-hour walk-through of the RA contracts, guidelines, etc. The kids were excited at the start – they got to put on nametag stickers and wave mustang flags:

picture 3

…but as the intro lecture went on they lost their patience and we had to let them break into the cupcakes to keep them under control.

picture 4

Of course, that led to a sugar high and insanity (see video here) so Jess and I took them out of the room for a bit while they settled down. When we got back we found they had finished announcing all the RAs so we congratulated the new MoMac-ers (from left: Candace, Alexis (who I already knew from the RCLC), Carmen (returner), Greg (new), and Joe). (not pictured but equally welcomed: Niki and Greg (returner) who had to leave before we took the picture))

picture 5

Excited to have what looks to be a fun and enthusiastic crew to work with – I’m looking forward to getting to know them as we continue our planning. These RAs will join our leadership/planning team immediately as we continue prepping for housing selection, our spring welcome event, and then of course our full slate of programming in the fall.

Hard to believe less than six months from now we’ll all be in the newly renovated MoMac (with a whole new crop of first-years added to the returning upper-class students) and the fall semester will already be under way. Faraway so close…

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It’s a Team Effort

An update from Dr. Robert Krout, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Mary Hay/Peyton Residential Community:

Going into this year as a FiR in Mary Hay-Peyton Halls/Fine Arts Community, I knew that I would be working with RLSH staff, RAs, and other residents/students. However, I did not appreciate the intricate and many roles that all of us play in the life of the residential community. I continue to be humbled by the extraordinary efforts of all involved in the operation of our community this year, as well as those of us who will continue as a team when we add Shuttles Hall to our RC in August.

As an example, we had our weekly staff meeting last night around my FiR dining table that seats 10 – a good thing since we number 10 between our RCD, 7 RAs, and RCC (Residential Community Chaplain), and FiR. Each meeting offers opportunities for all to share updates on projects, programs, resident progress and concerns, and many other matters related to the ongoing life of the community. I come away from each meeting impressed with how much each team member does on a weekly and daily basis to provide a stimulating and supportive environment for our residents. I feel very privileged to be part of this team, and look forward to the rest of this semester, as well as working with my new team in our RC next year. This photo features members of both teams at the RC dinner held last month.

FAC Team

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August 2014 Can’t Come Soon Enough

An update from Miroslava Detcheva, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the McElvaney Residential Community:

The Residential Commons (RC) are opening their doors to all freshmen and sophomores for the first time in SMU history this August (2014). What once seemed like a distant dream, will now become reality in less than six months.

If you have been living under a rock and have not heard of the future RC model at SMU, it is going to be “an integrated academic and residential experience” with students welcomed into communities thriving on intellectual exchange and meaningful social engagement.

Currently, student leaders, residential staff and faculty have teamed up to create the identity of the eleven Residential Commons. Each community will be defined by its own unique traditions and meaningful activities. Visually, the commons will distinguish themselves through crests, colors, and their very own inspiring mottos!

Mira1The original RC system started at Cambridge and Oxford hundreds of years ago. While we do not have such a long-established RC history yet, Alex Hibbard, Carmen Minsal, John Ruggio, Jerry Staples, and I, aka the Dream Team, gather every Wednesday in a cozy little office on SMU’s campus to plan and establish what one day will become our very own traditions; I can assure you that the events and activities we have in mind are going to be as ambitious and inspiring as those of some of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world.

How did we get the “job”? Job Description – to dream and envision; Qualifications – to possess a lot of enthusiasm and creativity; Task – to help create a great community. So, now, the Dream Team meets every week, and we put our heads together to create the identity of our residential community, McElvaney.

According to the Oxford dictionary, “tradition” is “a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another.” As we plan, our goals are clear; we need to set the blueprints for a diverse, academically strong, socially exciting and inviting community where each student will contribute to the richness of the community with his or her uniqueness and will grow to love the community and regard it as an important part of his or her own identity. We are hopeful that the traditions we are creating now will be passed from one SMU generation to another. In our community, we will have it all: from glamorous nights out in town to rewarding service projects, and from informal gatherings in the Faculty Residence (my place!) to exciting and innovative academic adventures!

Each time the five of us meet, there are a lot of questions we have to answer, but one thing is certain: we realize that we are a part of a great initiative soon to transform the living and learning experience at SMU! We are making history!

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