Provost names Maria Dixon Hall to lead new campus-wide initiative on cultural intelligence

Maria Dixon HallSMU Provost Steve Currall has named Associate Professor of Organizational Communication and Director of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs Maria Dixon Hall as Provost’s Senior Advisor for Campus Cultural Intelligence Initiatives effective Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.

Professor Dixon Hall will have strategic oversight of an emerging initiative “designed to ensure that we are cultivating a campus culture involving faculty, staff and students that ensures our students are ready to effectively engage the complex world into which they will graduate,” said Currall, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“The question that guides me in this unique appointment is: Whether in Detroit or Dubai, South Wales or South Dallas, do our classrooms equip our students to effectively communicate and negotiate human difference?” Currall added. “I believe the faculty has an especially vital role in fostering contexts that teach our students how to successfully and respectfully work, collaborate and create solutions regardless of who their partners may be. Professor Dixon Hall is uniquely qualified to lead this exciting initiative.”

“Last year, I promised the SMU community that we would be bold in our efforts to ensure that our campus was welcoming, inclusive and thoughtful about matters of difference. Maria’s appointment allows us to tap into her internationally recognized expertise in cultural intelligence,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “In addition to being an outstanding faculty member in the classroom, she has earned a reputation, through her research and consulting, for moving organizations and institutions beyond the old frameworks of diversity training to intelligent, thoughtful ways of communicating effectively across cultural boundaries. Her work as an organizational scholar and theologian will help us formulate sustainable actions to position SMU as a strategic leader in inclusion and cultural intelligence in higher education by 2025.”

Recognized throughout her SMU career for her teaching and research, Dixon Hall has been honored with the 2005-06 Willis M. Tate award for service to the student body; the 2009 Golden Mustang Award for outstanding teaching and research by junior faculty; the 2010 Rotunda Award for Outstanding Teaching; and the 2011 “M” Award, SMU’s highest award for service to the University. In 2016, she was named an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor by SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence.

“I am deeply honored by this appointment,” Dixon Hall said. “The conversations I’ve had with my colleagues during the past year have demonstrated the commitment our faculty has to ensuring that we are shaping world changers in every sense of the term. The opportunity to lead those conversations in service of a University I love is deeply gratifying. Provost Currall’s innovative structuring of this appointment can only encourage others like myself, who love the classroom, to occasionally step out of it and engage in these types of transformative opportunities on behalf of the University.”

Dixon Hall will return to research and teaching once the initiative is complete, at which time the University leadership will unveil a long-term plan to sustain the cultural intelligence programs she will develop.

Professor Dixon Hall joined the SMU faculty in 2004. As Director of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs in the Meadows School of the Arts’ Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, she oversees curriculum and assessment for the Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication program.

She also serves as the director of Mustang Consulting, an in-house firm staffed by top communication students, whose global client list includes Southwest Airlines (Dallas), The Dance Theatre of Harlem (New York), the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (Kampala/Dallas), The Lydia Patterson Institute (El Paso), and Lifeworks (Austin). The firm’s research has been featured in The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, The Franchise Times, and Restaurant Nation.

Dixon Hall’s research and professional consulting is focused on the implications of identity, power and organizational culture on the strategic communication of religious and non-profit organizations. Dixon Hall serves on the editorial boards and as a reviewer for both her field’s national and international publication outlets, as well as their academic conferences. Her work appears in the discipline’s top journals, including Management Communication Quarterly, The Journal of Communication and Religion, Business Communication Quarterly and Southern Journal of Communication.

Dixon Hall maintains an active speaking schedule and is a frequent contributor to national media outlets such as TIME Magazine and CNN on issues of race and education. Her examination of the University of Oklahoma’s failures in dealing with race, “Transformation 101,” became one of 2015’s most viral blog posts. A probationary deacon in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, she is also a frequent contributor to the United Methodist Reporter and The Religious News Service.

A graduate of the Culverhouse School of Business at the University of Alabama, Dixon Hall earned a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from the Candler School of Theology of Emory University. She received her Ph.D. in organizational communication and religion from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2004.