Four student projects win recognition (and $5,000) in SMU’s 2015 Big iDeas Business Plan Competition

Four student teams combined winning pitches with solid business plans to earn $5,000 startup grants for their projects through SMU’s Big iDeas program on Jan. 30, 2015.

The four winning teams were chosen from a business plan competition featuring the winners of the Big iDeas Pitch Competition, which took place in October.

Beyond US logoThe projects were judged by a panel of volunteers from Executives in Action, a Dallas-area organization that helps strengthen North Texas nonprofits by matching them with senior-level executives for pro bono consulting services. The winners:

Beyond US Clothing (Hunter Rice and J.P. Buxbaum) – a for-profit clothing company that partners with charities to help underprivileged children in the United States by offering unique T-shirt designs for each partnership and donating a portion of the sales to charities with a focus on children and education.

Biolum Sciences logoBiolum Sciences (Edward Allegra, Miguel Quimbar and Jack Reynolds) – A smartphone-based imaging system that can detect the presence of asthma and reduce the current 40% misdiagnosis of asthma in the United States.

Helpple logoHelpple (Austin Wells and Irisa Ona) – an app that connects people who need help with people who are offering to help, ranging from tutoring to moving furniture to getting volunteers.

Out & About (Renita Thapa, Sam Hubbard and Raz Friman) – an app that promotes local businesses and organizations by showing its users what is going on in the community for easy planning, exploring and getting to know the area.

Out and About logo“The world needs big thinkers to address global challenges. It needs innovators to create solutions. It needs risk-takers to turn solutions into sustainable businesses. And at SMU, Big iDeas makes this happen,” said Engaged Learning Director Susan Kress, whose office also oversees Big iDeas.

The students will spend the next nine months developing their projects. They will present results in October 2015 at Big iDeas Demo Day for a chance to win another $5,000 to continue their work.

Visit SMU’s Big iDeas website at

SMU’s 2014 Engaged Learning Expo connects students with opportunities on Wednesday, Aug. 27

SMU Engaged Learning group photo, 2014-15Community agencies and campus organizations are looking for highly motivated SMU students who want to learn outside the classroom, tackle real world issues and explore potential careers. They’ll have an ideal opportunity to get to know each other at the 2014 Engaged Learning Expo.

This year’s Expo takes place 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, in the Miller Event Center, Moody Coliseum.

Read about 2014-15 Engaged Learning student projects

The event is a valuable networking opportunity for faculty members who want to develop courses with community components, as well as staff members who want to expand their programs, says Susan Kress, director of Engaged Learning.

The following campus programs and community partners have confirmed their attendance at the 2014 Expo:

Campus programs

  • Big iDeas
  • Budd Center: Involving Communities in Education
  • Caswell Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program
  • Center for Global Health Impact
  • Clinton Global Initiative University
  • Community Engagement and Leadership
  • Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute
  • Embrey Human Rights Program
  • Hamilton Scholars
  • Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity
  • Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility
  • McNair Scholars
  • TEDxSMU – Young Fellows
  • Tower Center for Political Studies
  • Undergraduate Research

Community partners

  • Brother Bill’s Helping Hand
  • Buckner International
  • Dallas Holocaust Museum
  • Group Excellence
  • Interfaith Housing Coalition
  • Kids-U
  • Nexus Recovery Center
  • Reading Partners
  • Texas Discovery Gardens
  • Trinity River Audubon Center
  • Unite/Initiative
  • United Way Dallas
  • Uplift Education
  • Workers Defense Project

More about events and exhibits scheduled for the Expo

The Expo also celebrates 69 undergraduate Engaged Learning Fellows who are working on significant projects this academic year, and will provide opportunities to mix and match interested students with campus programs as well as DFW-area community partners.

Visit SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning online

SMU students have Jan. 17 deadline to apply for CGI U 2014

SMU students at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in St. Louis
SMU students (L to R) Chibundu Nnake, Ashley Wali, William (Timm) Wooten, Joshua Bakarich, Rahfin Faruk and Daisuke (Dennis) Takeda at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in St. Louis. Applications are now being accepted for CGI U 2014 in Phoenix; the deadline is Friday, Jan. 17.

SMU has renewed its membership in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Network, and students have until Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 to submit plans of action for potential funding.

The CGI University Network includes almost 40 colleges and universities that support, mentor and provide seed funding to student leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs who are developing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The University provides $10,000 in funding to be divided among SMU students who are selected to pursue their Commitments to Action at CGI U 2014, to be held March 21-23 at Arizona State University.

Commitments to Action, a unique feature of the CGI U model, are specific and measurable initiatives that address global challenges across CGI U’s five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health. Director of Engaged Learning Susan Kress mentors student commitment-makers.

“Six of the 1,200 students from 80 countries who attended the CGI U 2013 meeting were SMU students. They were able to network with their global peers and hear from thought leaders, politicians, academics and other experts in the fields of their projects. Today their projects continue on campus, in Dallas and in Bangladesh,” says Kress.

Since its inaugural meeting in 2008, CGI U has brought together more than 5,500 student leaders from 135 countries and more than 800 schools. Past speakers include Madeleine Albright, Jack Dorsey, Muhammad Yunus, Hawa Abdi Diblawe, and Jon Stewart.

Students can apply online at and learn more about the University’s involvement at the SMU Engaged Learning homepage.

In addition, SMU’s CGI U representatives, Josh Bakarich and Lauren Castle, will conduct two information sessions for fellow students: noon-1 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 in G11 Clements Hall; and an informal drop-in session Tuesday, Dec. 10 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Commons.

For more information, contact Meleah Chriss, 214-768-3223.

Susan Kress becomes SMU Director of Engaged Learning Oct. 1, 2011

Susan Kress, SMU Director of Engaged LearningSusan Kress of the SMU International Center will become the University’s new Director of Engaged Learning effective Oct. 1, 2011. Her office is in the General Education suite in the lower level of Clements Hall, adjacent to the Scholars’ Den honors community commons. She reports to James Quick, Associate Vice President for Research.

Kress has been with SMU since 2008 in her role as Director of Education Abroad. She received her B.F.A. degree from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, and her M.F.A. degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Prior to accepting her position at SMU, she was assistant director of The International Center and coordinator of study abroad and national student exchange at Winthrop University.

Her new position was created to provide institutional support for the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), created as part of SMU’s reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). “Unbridled Learning: Engaged Learning Beyond the Classroom” will allow all SMU undergraduate students to participate in at least one extensive experiential learning activity prior to graduation, according to the plan set forth by SMU’s QEP Committee in January 2011.

The oversight infrastructure will include the Engaged Learning Advisory Committee, as well as community partners and mentors, and a new website to keep track of experiential learning opportunities for students.

> Learn more about the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan

Kress will start by working with Quick to assemble an advisory committee of SMU campus community members, she says. By spring 2012, they hope to have an external advisory committee of community and national leaders and friends of SMU, she adds.

The committees’ advice will help establish priorities for the program, Kress says. “We will focus on bringing together different constituencies and talking to students to find out what they want.”

Kress sees the Office of Engaged Learning as serving as “an umbrella that will bring together the people behind the myriad experiential learning activities already happening on campus, making it easy for students to know where to go to practice the knowledge and skills they are learning in the classroom in a real-world context,” she says. “Students, based on their needs and interests, are already asking for it. A big part of my job is to establish the business practices needed for a coordinated and exciting program that underscores the value of active learning as a distinctive component of a SMU education.

“The University is looking at the next 100 years. As we go forward, this engaged learning will be part and parcel of the academic experience, not something separate.”

> Visit SMU’s “Unbridled Learning” homepage