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RSVP TODAY! Dedman College Community Mixer: Friday, November 5th

Dedman College Community Mixer

Date: Nov. 5, 2021
Time: 3-5 p.m.
Location: Dallas Hall Rotunda and Dallas Hall Front Steps

All Dedman College faculty, staff and students welcome.

Please RSVP by October 29, 2021:

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Advocating For Conservation in Marseille

Tower Center Blog

Originally Posted: October 10, 2021

This post was written by Isabelle Galko ’22, a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar. She is majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. She is also a President’s Scholar, a member of the University Honors Program and assistant editor of SMU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a global organization that works on nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Every four years, IUCN convenes a World Conservation Congress—a global meeting that serves as an assembly of leaders and decision-makers from government, academia, society, indigenous cultures, and industry working towards conserving the environment at a global level. After completing a project on marine pollution and coral reefs, I proposed a session at the Congress in 2019 about understanding how individuals interpret and respond to environmental communication as a predictor of future sustainable action. By showcasing community-based conservation projects, the session would present a model of practices that could be used to establish action plans for other communities, catalyze action, and build momentum for activating young female leaders. My proposal was accepted and I was invited to present at the 2020 IUCN World Conservation Congress. Due to COVID-19, traveling to Marseille became impossible in 2020 and the conference was rescheduled twice. I was overjoyed when I was able to attend the conference in person in September 2021!

My presentation for the forum at IUCN was converted into a virtual poster titled, “Preparing Families to Act as Stewards to Combat Climate Change and Restore Ocean Health.” The poster showcases three projects (including my own) that offer suggestions for activities designed to increase individual stewardship and mitigate climate change risks in local communities. The presentation specifically focused on young, female leadership in conservation and I spoke about the importance of mentorship networks and using the featured projects as models for future female- and youth-led community-based initiatives. While attending the conference in person, I was also able to present my project and work with the IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication over 10 days.

IUCN has six commissions: I am a member of the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC). The CEC has over 2,000 members, which include conservation organizations and educators across the globe. The Commission’s current focus is an initiative called #NatureForAll, which promotes equitable access to nature in order to cultivate love and appreciation for nature, with the goal to increase conservation of nature. The CEC has a specific focus on youth movements for nature and climate. When I arrived in Marseille, I immediately got to work setting up the CEC’s “Youth Oasis,” where I would be connecting with other young conservation leaders from around the world, helping put on interactive programs for the conference and sharing information about #NatureForAll.

The highlights of attending the IUCN conference were getting to attend sessions and even sit in on the Member’s Assembly. The first night, I got to see French President Macron and the actor Harrison Ford speak at the opening ceremony! All week, when I wasn’t at the Youth Oasis, I attended sessions on many different topics, including the blue economy, environmental law, sports and biodiversity, and amplifying indigenous voices in conservation. I had the opportunity to hear and learn from amazing experts, including the Prince of Monaco, environmental law professors, the United Nations Special Envoy for the Ocean, and National Geographic explorers. The conference ran from early morning to late at night. In the evenings, I talked and networked with CEC members, IUCN commissioners, and other university students about their work in conservation.

I learned so much in Marseille, but my biggest takeaway from IUCN is that future approaches to address environmental challenges must be transgenerational, intersectional, and inclusive. Ultimately, conservation must be recentered around people. That means putting local communities at the heart of nature and working towards greater collaboration with indigenous groups, the private sector, and young people. READ MORE

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Dedman College D&I Newsletter, Fall 2021

Read the latest Dedman College D&I Newsletter

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Temporary mask requirement effective Aug 12

SMU News

Effective August 12, SMU is temporarily requiring masks (two or more layers covering the nose and mouth) in indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms, event and meeting spaces, and common areas in all buildings and residential halls regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not required in private spaces such as residence hall rooms for students with roommates.

All events, such as Convocation and orientation, should continue as planned with masks being used indoors. This requirement is a temporary precaution during the Delta variant surge to supplement our other pandemic protocols. We will continue to monitor and review industry-specific guidance and recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health authorities in order to make the best decisions for our community.

Check the Mustang Strong website for the latest updates and answers to questions about our campus response to COVID-19. Also, watch for upcoming Mustang Strong newsletters for quick reminders. READ MORE

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SMU’s Austin Hickle sees the road to change through public policy

SMU News

Originally Posted: June 5, 2021

Receiving a prestigious Truman Scholarship will help SMU student body president fuel the journey

Austin Hickle had something of an epiphany last summer: If college campuses like SMU were going to successfully return to on-campus learning in fall 2020, student engagement would be key to compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols.  Within three months, he organized the College Health Alliance of Texas, which conducted student opinion research and became a conduit to Congress for student pandemic concerns. 

Now, Austin’s leadership skills and proven ability to create change has earned the senior economics and public policy major a Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship for future public servants. 

“For many people, the pandemic encouraged an important and renewed focus on self-care and mental health,” says Paige Ware, SMU associate provost for faculty success and one of Austin’s mentors. “Austin channeled his energy to action.” 

In April of 2020, soon after SMU and other universities converted to virtual classes because of the pandemic, Austin was asked to serve as student representative to a team of 25 SMU administrators and faculty members charged with advising the University through the pandemic. 

“The crowning moment in this period of time was Austin’s insertion of a key solution to a problem that had the larger group twisted in knots,” Ware said. “He offered a rotation schedule that helped facilitate in-person instruction, which became a critical component of our back-to-school plan.” 

Austin’s work on the committee inspired him to create the College Health Alliance of Texas and recruit 54 student leaders from 27 Texas universities to represent the student voice in fighting the pandemic.

Austin worked with these student leaders to design, administer and interpret a student opinion survey. Anxiety, isolation and decreased availability of mental health resources emerged as key student issues during the pandemic. In response, the alliance partnered with the Meadows Public Policy Institute’s Okay to Say and the Grant Halliburton Foundation to create a mental health hotline for college students. Austin led briefings with elected officials in the U.S. Congress after organizing two roundtable discussions with nine members of the Texas delegation. Austin received a Congressional Tribute from the U.S. House of Representatives for his work on COVID-19 safety.

This systematic approach to a problem is typical for Austin, said Stephanie Amsel, Austin’s first-year writing professor and mentor.

“He does the groundwork, sets realistic goals and methodically gets to work,” she says. “It is wonderful to watch him in action, and to see how he is thinking as we talk through a problem.”

Austin’s COVID-19 work on behalf of fellow college students fits into his most ambitious goal –to become a policy leader focused on improving education in Texas and in the U.S. With the help of the $30,000 annual Truman Scholarship for graduate studies (awarded to only 62 students this year), he plans to earn both a law degree and a Master’s degree in education after completing his undergraduate studies in May 2022. 

At SMU, Austin is a Hunt Leadership Scholar, a member of the University Honors Program and one of eight students in his class selected for membership in the Tower Center Scholars Program, a selective minor in public policy and international affairs.


Austin benefited from a wide range of educational resources when he was a first-grader in Lubbock, Texas. He was held back because he couldn’t read but, thanks to a “full-on effort” from his parents, teachers and specialists, the SMU honor student caught up.

However, his sister, Emma – adopted from a China orphanage when she was eight – has had a greater struggle, Austin says.

 “She had never been to school when she joined our family,” he says. “Seeing what she has gone through opened my eyes to the importance of education.”

Emma’s struggles also opened Austin’s eyes to education needs in undeveloped countries. The summer after his sophomore year at SMU, he taught math and reading to gifted high school students in Kenya through the KenSAP program. All 25 of his students are now attending college in the United States.

Austin next turned his attention to war-torn Cameroon, inspired by A Father’s Gift, a book written by Cameroon native and fellow Lubbock resident, Sixtus Atabong. He used a Richter Independent Research Fellowship and an SMU Engaged Learning Fellowship to conduct a needs assessment of Cameroon education with two Cameroonian doctoral candidates after learning through Atabong’s book of the 695,000 students unable to attend school due to the country’s 10-year civil war. In response, he created a foundation, the Global Education Mission, to develop a plan with Cameroon teachers to provide equitable education to children in Cameroon. 

Their first step was to implement a pilot teaching project to present in Cameroon the summer of 2020. Despite COVID-19 grounding Austin’s travel plans, foundation workers found classroom space in Cameroon and hired two teachers. Austin joined them to teach five students virtually from his home in Lubbock.

Next, Austin co-authored with Norah Asung and Ngo Angeline a policy proposal, “Cameroon Education: Conflict Recovery Plan,” to present to Cameroon officials. Previous internships with the U.S. Department of Energy and with U.S. Congress representatives Jodey Arrington (R-TX) and Jenniffer González Colón (R-Puerto Rico) supported his ability to draft the proposal.

“Effective policy carves a more surefooted path to systematic change than any single nonprofit can offer,” Austin says. “In the long term, I’d like to serve as an elected leader with the influence to shape evidence-based policy that provides equitable education for all.” 

In the meantime, Austin is leading SMU students as their elected leader, 2021-2022 student body president. He is interested in increasing need-based aid for students to create a more diverse student body and advocating for more student mental health resources. 

“Austin is a force we want to join,” Ware says. “If an early sign of leadership ability presents itself in this way – as a wellspring of energy and hope – then Austin will continue to inspire others to engage with change.”

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Unexpected Change Brings Unexpected Rewards

Tower Center Blog

Originally Posted: October 8, 2020

Allison Schultz ’21, a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar and recipient of the Hamon Internship, quickly adapted her summer internship at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to an online-only format. Although she was not able to interact in person, her experience was no less diminished. Find out what Allison found to be rewarding in the post below.

As a summer college intern for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, I was prepared to attend trials, analyze legal documents, draft memos, and conduct research for one of the leading prosecutor’s offices in the nation. Weeks before the start of the program, with the outbreak of COVID-19 ravaging New York City and progressively spreading across the nation, the office transitioned the internship program to an online-only format, with interns, attorneys, and professional staff all working from home. While it was disappointing to forgo ten weeks in New York City, the ensuing program was one of the most informative and rewarding academic programs that I have had the pleasure to participate in.

The District Attorney’s Office of New York County (DANY) handles some of the most complex, challenging cases in the nation. DANY is tasked with law enforcement in the largest metropolitan area in the U.S., home to thriving businesses and financial markets. With cases ranging from violent assaults to white-collar fraud, DANY’s bureaus cover it all. Over the course of my virtual internship, I attended lectures, roundtables, and case studies designed to introduce interns to each of the major bureaus and highlight notable cases that DANY attorneys have prosecuted. Discussions were well-balanced to cover the legal arguments made, the criminal codes utilized, investigative techniques of interest, and also any ethical considerations. Altogether, each presentation emphasized the complexity involved in the practice of law, the importance of sound, ethical decision-making, and the necessity of citywide partnerships. I’ve left the internship with a better understanding of the role of a prosecutor, not to mention practice preparing and presenting arguments on behalf of the people in a mock appellate case.

Far from just the spectrum and complexity of DANY’s cases, the office is also notable for its role in leading the nation towards progressive criminal justice reform, under the leadership of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. The U.S. criminal justice system is currently being scrutinized and criticized for the flaws and biases that exist within the system. To be a public policy scholar and a DANY intern at this time, while there are so many cries for criminal justice reform, I was eager to learn more about DANY’s role within the system and the office’s ability to enact change. Leaving the program, it is now apparent to me that the office has a multifaceted role – both to enforce laws, but also to work with partners like NYPD and local/state/national legislators to determine how legislation should be enforced and to provide feedback when unforeseen problems arise. On a micro-level, prosecutors have the ability to change the lives of victims and witnesses impacted by crime. On a macro-level, the intersection between public policy and law allows prosecutor’s offices to aid entire populations at a time. For instance, DANY no longer prosecutes low-level, nonviolent offenses related to crimes such as marijuana possession and turnstile-jumping – crimes that impact certain populations at a disproportionately higher rate.

Reflecting on my experience in DANY’s summer college internship program, I am immensely grateful for the attorneys who took time out of their busy days to mentor and teach me, turning my theoretical and academic understanding of the criminal justice system into a much more nuanced, practical understanding of what it means to be a policy practitioner, attorney, and advocate for both victims and the people of the State of New York. Thank you to the SMU Tower Center for funding my experience and facilitating my pursuit of knowledge in this field – knowledge I know I will carry with me well into the future. READ MORE

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Help us shine a virtual spotlight on the #2020DedmanCollegeGrads!🎓

All you have to do is post to your favorite social network (FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube), tag us @SMUDedman and add the hashtag #2020DedmanCollegeGrads.

Be creative and share your favorite SMU memories, give shoutouts to your favorite Dedman College professors and let us know your future career plans. Need some examples? Check out the social wall here:

Don’t forget the #2020DedmanCollegeGrads and keep coming back to visit the so you can see what your friends are posting.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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SMU Classes Move Online Through End of Spring Semester

SMU News

Originally Posted: March 20, 2020

Dear SMU Community,

Each day we evaluate the challenging issues created by COVID-19 and work diligently to make the best possible decisions for all of us. To align with declarations from federal, state and Dallas County health authorities, SMU is moving all classes online for the remainder of the spring semester.

We also are reducing even further the number of people working on campus. Effective Monday, March 23, the University moves to essential personnel only status until April 3.  Employees will be contacted directly by their appropriate vice president or athletics director with guidance on their individual units’ operating plans. All faculty and staff, whether salaried or hourly, will continue to be paid during this period. Please remember to report your time as you normally would.

Obviously, there will be multiple ripple effects from this decision, and they cannot all be addressed in this letter. Watch the COVID-19 blog for updates on this and other concerns. We also will continue to share important announcements via email.

Students who had planned to return to their residence halls by April 6 will now need to make arrangements for retrieving and/or storing their possessions. We must manage this check-out process very deliberately to comply with health restrictions. Students will receive detailed information from Residence Life and Student Housing by Friday, March 27. Please do not come to campus to retrieve your belongings until you receive guidance from RLSH.

SMU is currently determining the best approach for prorating refunds for certain charges such as residence halls and dining. The refund process is currently under development and will be resolved by no later than the end of the semester.

For those who left town, laws and ordinances have changed dramatically in Dallas County over Spring Break:

  • All restaurants and bars in Dallas are permitted to serve food only through take-out, delivery, or drive-through services.
  • All gyms are closed.
  • Community gatherings of 50 or more individuals (indoors or outdoors) are prohibited – which includes worship services, meetings and conferences.
  • Recreational gatherings (indoors or outdoors) of 10 or more individuals are also prohibited – which includes parties, backyard barbecues and sporting events.

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center will be open during normal business hours. Students who feel ill should contact the center by phone first at 214-768-2141.

The scheduled May 16 Commencement is very important to all of us. We are carefully weighing the options and will make a decision at a later date.

I ask for your continued patience and understanding as we work through the many details and questions that I know you need answered. Your health is of utmost importance during this time, so we all need to take seriously precautions about social distancing, hand washing and other preventive and protective measures. We must look out for each other – not just ourselves.

The campus has a very different look and feel right now, but this is still SMU and we are committed to continuing our mission. Let’s all look forward to the time when we can return to life as usual on our beautiful campus.

R. Gerald Turner



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Dr. Rachel Ball-Phillips credits SMU and Tower Center for enabling international opportunities

Tower Center Blog

Originally Posted: Jan 23, 2020


Former SMU Tower Center alumna, Dr. Rachel Ball-Phillips, is an adjunct lecturer in History and the Director of National Student Fellowships and the President’s Scholars at SMU. She credits SMU and the opportunities awarded through the Center with opening doors that enabled her to pursue her passion for Indian studies.

We spoke with her to learn more about her journey from a small town in Texas, to India, and now professor, writer and scholar at SMU. READ MORE

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Tower Center features SMU alumnus Denver Nicks

Tower Center blog

Originally Posted: November 2019

Denver Nicks, SMU ’07, a Hunt Leadership Scholars recipient and a Tower Center alumnus, is an award-winning journalist, former staff writer for TIME, and contributor to National Geographic Travel, Rolling Stone, Uproxx, and other publications. He is also the author of the books Hot Sauce Nation: America’s Burning ObsessionPRIVATE: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History, and CONVICTION about Lyons v. Oklahoma, a pivotal case in the career of Supreme Court justice and civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall.

Currently pursuing a Juris Doctor degree at Tulane Law School, Denver took a few moments to speak with us about his time at the Tower Center and how the professors and programming provided a solid, well-rounded foundation that has led to a multifaceted career. READ MORE