Residence Life and Student Housing

The Residential Commons: Leading the Pack

By Tammy Winter

I’ll admit, when I joined the Residential Commons Leadership Corps last year in the hopes of getting to be involved in the creation and implementation of the Res Commons here at SMU, didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into, a feeling that I’m sure was shared by everyone in the Corps. The Corps consisted of eleven distinct groups, one for each of the Commons with three students, a Residential Community a Director (RCD) and a Faculty-in-Residence (FIR) and we were basically tasked with the assignment of making the Commons come to life. Each team selected Commons colors, designed a crest, and decided on traditions in the hopes that their Commons would carry them into SMU’s second century proudly. And while it’s been an adjustment and has certainly come with a bit of a learning curve, it’s hard to see the a Commons as angry thing but a success.

The objective of the Residential Commons was to create a sense of community for all students at SMU, and as I look around daily at all of the activity in my own hall, Armstrong Commons, I know it’s done just that. Conventional wisdom tells us that throwing literature majors with engineers and athletes with artists might not be the best recipe for cohesion, but what I’ve seen in my own hall is that people are loving getting to interact with and learn from people who think just a little bit differently from the way they do. As an RA it’s my job to be a “friend-plus” to my residents, and help them get to know each other. My residents haven’t really needed my help, though. It’s not uncommon to for me to come outside of my room and see a group of my freshman boys planning a trip to one of their houses, or playing video games. Other times I’ve walked out and seen my sophomore girls giving advice to my freshman girls, about rush or homework, or anything and everything in between. This is how I know the Commons system is doing what it’s supposed to; I’m right in the middle of it.

To the casual observer the Residential Commons system might seem silly or perhaps too expansive to actually accomplish properly, but I see it differently. I see it as SMU making good on its promise to ensure that our campus is a space where you can connect with people you might have never gotten to interact with otherwise, a space where truly ever mustang is valued. And for that, I’m grateful.

Campus Life

A cappella: Not Just for the Movies

By Anna Scott Phillips

After seeing Pitch Perfect, I had always been infatuated with a cappella groups, but not talented enough to be in one. I admire girls in my grade who can belt a tune to my favorite pop songs. After our monthly meetings as ambassadors, I met a girl named Nadine Kakish. She is an ambassador from the Dallas area. We became fast friends. Unbeknownst to myself, she was in one of these a cappella groups. Nadine is an Alto for the all-girls on campus a cappella group named the SMU Belle Tones. She had talked about the many concerts they do throughout the year and various other performances they get the opportunity to perform at, like Celebration of Lights, our school’s Christmas production, to the Pigskin Revue, and more informal concerts for SMU students. She told me that they arrange and choreograph their own musical pieces. After spending long hours with her in the car and hearing her sing, I knew that I had to check out the Belle Tones. I went to their fall concert where they sang classic songs like “You’re So Vain” and more modern songs like “Skyfall” by Adele. I had always wondered if college would be like Pitch Perfect, the movie. I can’t say it’s exactly like the movie, but what I can say is that I do get to experience some of the same interests without myself having to be involved in them. That’s one of my favorite things about the SMU experience—the ability to see other people pursuing their passions while they simultaneously support my own.


Throwback Thursday: G.W. Bush Visits Class

By Austin Brown

Last semester SMU was lucky enough to have President George Bush on campus to speak about his new book 41: A Portrait Of My Father. It always strikes me how lucky we are as a student body to consistently have opportunities to attend speeches by the former president. Reflecting on this reminded me of my own experience with President Bush that I will share for you in my “Throwback Thursday” blog post. (This post was originally written in the fall of my sophomore year).

Untitled4Even though I am only a sophomore here at SMU I feel like I have already had the chance to do some pretty incredible things. This past Monday started off like all of my Mondays this semester until I got to my first class, Evolution of American Capitalism taught by Albert Niemi, Dean of the Cox School of Business. I first noticed that something was different about this class when a random photographer walked in to our class and took a few pictures. It was strange, but since it is such a cool class I thought maybe it was a picture for the school newspaper or something like that. Five seconds later my friend sitting next to me draws my attention to the door by blurting out “Dude look! It’s George Bush!” in a very excited tone.   To my surprise I see former President George W. Bush casually stroll down the stairs with a huge grin on his face.

After being greeted by a huge round of applause Bush proceeded to answer questions and talk to my class about: how much he loves the SMU student body, capitalism and the thought process behind his decisions during the 2008 Financial Crisis, current events, life lessons, and even his newfound hobby as a painter. I was also lucky enough to ask him a question. How many sophomores in college get to do that?

What really struck me about the whole experience was how George W. Bush was such a down to earth guy. He told us not to shy away from taking a few risks in your life and also not to be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Regardless of your political beliefs, the opportunity to listen to a former President of the United States in person, and even the chance to ask him a question, is something that I will never forget.

Spirit and Traditions

The Magic of Pony Ears

DSC_9664By Elishah Ramos

If you have had the opportunity to spend time on campus, you may or may not have experienced seeing pony ears. Like many other Texas schools, we too have a hand sign, and although it may not be a claw or some horns, we have pony ears. Essentially, to make pony ears, you simply make a peace sign with (commonly) your right hand, and then let your first and middle fingers relax just enough so they’re slightly bent – caution: you want them relaxed just enough so that it feels comfortable, otherwise, if you do too much, you may end up with a completely different mascot from across the metroplex!

Pony ears play a huge role in supporting the Mustangs in Moody Coliseum. This season has certainly challenged the Mustangs with strong opponents; however, the team always plays with so much heart and the players give it their best. The student section, too, gives huge support for the Mustangs as some may put on costumes, coordinate chants, or simply cheer on the guys on the court. The student section always seems synchronized, especially with free throws: everyone throws the pony ears up and keeps quiet and still as one of our guys steps up to shoot. Despite the fact that Moody gets packed full of spectators, it gets so quiet that you can even hear when someone coughs or sneezes once the pony ears go up. Then, once you here the ball gracefully go through the basket everything goes back to the way it was. Moody Coliseum gets loud, excited, and even emotionally invested for our basketball team, but if you leave your pony ears at home, you might feel out of place. Even at the end of the game we raise our pony ears one more time to sing our alma matter, for all sporting events, regardless if we win or lose. So make sure that if you find yourself on campus to bring your pony ears too – especially for sporting events!


Declaring a Major: It’s No Minor Decision

blog post imageBy Blake Ann Seeker

Declaring your college major is a big step in your academic life. Many students, myself among them, remain “undecided” for some time. It’s a good idea to take a variety of classes, weigh options with the help of advisors and professors, or even reach out to the Hegi Family Career Development Center before making the big decision. I was in this position of uncertainty for my first two years at SMU. Not to worry though, as pre-med student I had plenty of medical school prerequisite courses to keep me busy. When SMU’s Anthropology Department announced the creation of new Health and Society Major this past summer, I knew my search was over. The Health and Society Major uniquely takes an interdisciplinary approach to the practice and study of health in global and cultural contexts. It also offers two tracks—one physiological and the other social and cultural. Through this curriculum, I have enjoyed classes from genetics to bioethics to medical anthropology.

My favorite class of the semester was the capstone of the course, Health in Cross Cultural Perspectives taught by Dr. Nia Parson. I was one only of six students in this round-table style class and can honestly and emphatically say that I loved attending this class each week. After all that deliberation, I am truly very happy with my major decision. I am also now following the trend of most SMU students by adding another major and minor! I am thankful to attend a university where such a flexible and personalized degree plan is possible. Pony Up!




Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

celebration-of-lights-01-135x100ratioBy Ryan Herrscher

I think I speak for all of the ambassadors here in the Office of Admission at SMU when I say that we are looking forward to the break and time off from our normal responsibilities. No matter how you celebrate, enjoy the time with family and friends and have a fantastic holiday season. We will resume posting on this blog in the new year. Until then, Pony up!


Giving Back through Service

UntitledBy Julius Henderson

One beautiful aspect of college is having the opportunity engage many interests at one time. This fall, I’ve been able to expand my college experience and find new ways to learn through peers and within the Dallas community. Just before Thanksgiving Break this year, I was asked to sit on a success panel for the Young Men’s Conference that was held at Balch Springs Middle School in Pleasant Grove, Dallas. This proved to be one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had this semester.

I spent the morning with 3 others talking to a group of 8th grade middle school students about topics ranging from how to handle money to how to manage the responsibilities that come with being successful. Talking with the students was rewarding for me because of the message that was being conveyed. It’s always good to help others, but it’s even more important to continue to reach back and guide others to be successful. I look forward to future opportunities to build relationships with these students and continue to be a positive role model in their lives.

Campus Life

Both Sides of the Boulevard

UntitledBy Liz Crowell

It’s easy to become comfortable and stuck with the same routine, the same buildings on campus and the same group of people once you get settled in college. At SMU we have two prominent sides of the boulevard; on the West side you have the renowned Meadows School of the Arts while on the East side the equally as renowned Cox School of Business. Sounds a little bit like the Sharks and the Jets from “West Side Story” if you will. Both schools demand a lot from its students especially outside of the classroom, so it’s sometimes hard to get the time to see the other side.

As an accounting major at SMU I find myself spending most of my days at either Einstein’s or in the Business Library. I’ve lost count of how many group projects I’ve had for classes and how many 10-Ks I’ve had to read as well. I love the Cox school of business; the people I’ve met in it, the opportunities it has afforded me and the necessary skills it has taught me to be able to enter the business world. But every now and then I like to dip my feet into unchartered waters, to come up from the Cox basement and see what’s going on with those Jets on the other side of the Boulevard. Thankfully, I’ve been able to do just that with the connections I’ve made at SMU and the events those individuals put on.

At SMU, the theatre department performs a couple of mainstage shows each semester that draw in audiences from all over. After I’ve finished reading a few 10-Ks, I’ve found my way at Meadows watching mainstage shows such as The Women, Black Snow, Middletown and countless others. Outside the mainstage selection of shows, students of the theatre department have made SMUST a force to be reckoned with. SMUST, or SMU Student Theatre, is an organization that puts on many shows throughout the semester that are written and directed by SMU students, starring SMU students. Personally, I think these shows are much more entertaining and memorable as they’re a bit of a grassroots movement. I see my friends writing and acting out the most amazing scripts and stories weekly and the best part, it’s free to attend. Past shows have included shows like “Am I Blue”, “Frack” and “Shakespeare’s Star Wars” just to name a few.  I love that SMU allows me to work at a Bloomberg Terminal for hours and then watch free theatre performances all in the same night.

I’ve seen both sides of the boulevard, I’ve been a Shark during the day and a Jet at night. As I finish up my first semester of senior year I encourage everyone entering college in the next year to see what the other side is like and leave that comfort zone you create for yourself at school from time to time. Thankfully at SMU, due to its size and driven student population it’s not hard to create both a comfort zone and get out of it whenever you want.

Life Around Dallas

Life Around Dallas: D-town Boogie

UntitledBy Austin Whittle

Dallas is no stranger to the music scene. Headline artists such as Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Drake and Lil Wayne have all made recent appearances in the Big D. Although not as well known as the artists I have previously mentioned, Echosmith, The Mowgli’s, and American Authors came to town as well, and my friends and I could not pass up the opportunity to see them. With Dallas being the affordable city that it is, tickets were less than $25! The bands played at the Granada—a small, local theatre less than a mile away from campus. All three acts were amazing and unforgettable.

As a total foodie, the night was made complete by some amazing food as well. Before the concert, my friends and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in Dallas called The Old Monk. The food did not end at dinner though! After the concert and to end the night, we all childishly indulged in some popsicles from an ice cream truck just outside the theatre. Overall, it was another exciting night in Dallas.

Coming from a small town in Georgia where the only fun thing to do is go to the movies and the only restaurants are chain restaurants, I can easily say how thankful I am to go to school in a city with such an awesome and accessible entertainment and food scene.


On the Way Out: A Senior’s Perspective

By John Morrow

It’s a bittersweet place in which I find myself—two days away from my last undergraduate final exam. Although I won’t participate in graduation ceremonies until May due to a full-time internship next semester, my undergraduate education at SMU will effectively come to an end when I turn that last test on Wednesday morning. Now that I find myself at the end of my three-and-a-half years, I can honestly buy into the cliché. College goes by too quickly; so make sure you take advantage of every opportunity. It feels like just yesterday I was moving into Virginia-Snider to begin my freshman year with my parents before shipping off to Mustang Corral.

Fast forward to now, and I realize how much I’ve been able to do and what I’ve accomplished all because of the opportunities SMU provides its students. In three and a half years, I’ve studied abroad in England, joined two Greek organizations, worked four internships, been a student ambassador, forged lifelong friendships, and still had time to graduate with honors with a history minor and accounting major. None of these would have been possible had SMU not provided the requisite programs, support systems, and facilities for me to take advantage of each.

I am so thankful for all of my experiences during my time at SMU. So thankful in fact, that I decided I wanted a bit more. While my undergraduate career is coming to an end, this university isn’t rid of me yet. Sorry, but you’re all going to have to put up with me for one more year while I pursue my masters degree in accounting from the Cox School of Business. I just wasn’t quite ready for this good thing to end.

Campus Life

Taking a Study Break with Meadows Performances

Untitled5​By Katelyn Hall

I’m a journalism major in Meadows School of the Arts, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not artsy. I can’t draw, I’m tone deaf, and I trip on my own feet.

But my artistic deficiencies make me appreciate the work my peers in Meadows do even more. I have friends doing a gallery shows as senior art majors, Brown Bag performances in dance, and black box theater performances as theater and film majors. The best part about all this talent in Meadows is that I get to see all of it for free.

There are countless productions every week. I already have time carved out of my study schedule to see my friend perform in a theater production this evening and I can’t wait to get into the holiday spirit with the Belle Tones and Southern Gentlemen winter performance.

There’s something really magical about getting to experience amazing art on campus – especially when I’m cramming for my finals and writing Spanish research papers.

Campus Life

Pony Up, Mr. President

By Carissa Laughlin

I was very fortunate as a student at SMU to have the opportunity to attend a presentation from former President George W. Bush about his new book, 41: A Portrait of My Father. This opportunity was provided to me from the Hunt Leadership Scholars program and the generosity of the Hunt family.

Having the opportunity to attend such a prestigious event is something I will never forget. Hearing former President George W. Bush talk about his childhood and growing up with his father as President of the United States was a very unique experience. Former President George W. Bush was extremely candid and open with the crowd, which made everyone lean in to listen to the stories of exchanges between father and son, in and outside the White House.

Untitled2(Pictured (left to right): Carissa Laughlin, Emily Hegi, & Elizabeth Dubret at McFarlin Auditorium at SMU with signed copies of 41: A Portrait of My Father)

One of my favorite stories was when former President George W. Bush was very young, and stole a set of toy soldiers from a local shop in Midland, Texas. His father noticed the toy soldiers and asked where they came from, and former President George W. Bush not wanting to lie, proceeded to tell the truth. Admitting to the stolen items, former President George W. Bush was escorted by his father back to the store, and was told to apologize and return the items. Former President George W. Bush said this was how his father would discipline. It was much more about learning and growth from the experience, and making things right. Though it is easy to put leaders up on a pedestal and forget that they are normal people, hearing these stories really humanized two historical leaders of this country.

These types of opportunities are often made available to students at SMU through on-campus events, the Tate Lecture Series, and on-campus programming from student organizations.

Campus Life

Celebration of Lights: Behind the Scenes

SMU_celebration_of_Lights_CrowdBy Jack Murphy

Without a doubt, one of the most popular traditions SMU hosts in the winter is the famed “Celebration of Lights.”  Students since the 1970s will talk about their magical experience singing along to Christmas carols with their friends while sipping on hot chocolate on the steps of Dallas Hall.  I am proud to say Celebration of Lights is my favorite event not just because of the night’s magical allure, but because this December I was given the opportunity to plan all the festivities.


One thing that makes SMU so great is they treat their students with opportunities that other universities cannot offer.  Other schools only let the administration take part in organizing their Homecomings, Family Weekends, and big traditions on campus.  At SMU, it’s up to student organizations to plan the university’s largest events.  I was tasked with organizing Celebration of Lights (also known to our planning committee as “COL”) for 2014 and I was up for the challenge.  After putting together a committee of experienced and ambitious students, we started our planning process.  We chose that this year’s event would feature a live webcast for alumni and parents to watch from anywhere in the country.  This new addition was a huge step in COL history, and our team is very proud to be the first to bring SMU’s biggest tradition into everyone’s home and to their smartphones.


At the end of the day, we put up more than 140,000 Christmas lights and over 300 luminarias lining the sidewalks, set out 140 gallons of hot chocolate and apple cider and 40 dozen Tiff’s Treats cookies, sponsored 82 children from the Dallas CASA Angel Tree program who have been affected by domestic violence, listened to SMU’s talented students perform songs of the season, SMU President R. Gerald Turner read the Christmas story, and we lit up Dallas Hall the SMU Christmas tree as we celebrated the holiday season.


You can watch Celebration of Lights 2014 here at!


Campus Life

Celebration of Lights: A Senior’s Perspective

Untitled5By Taylor Thompson

With finals approaching (actually, they start in 3 days, yikes!) it’s always nice to take a break with friends to celebrate the holidays. My favorite tradition that we have on campus is Celebration of Lights. Students, faculty, staff, and families from about the Park Cities all come together on Dallas Hall Lawn to eat warm cookies, drink hot chocolate, and sing everyone’s favorite carols. The entire lawn is lit up by the most beautiful glow from all the lit candles as we stand together as a community. Now you must be wondering, if this event is called Celebration of Lights, where are all the lights?! The last song we all sing together is Silent Night. After the first verse, 138,000 white lights that are wrapped around Dallas Hall and all the trees on the Lawn are all turned on at once. It’s hands down the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen when it comes to Christmas lights. For me, this year was particularly special as it was my last Celebration of Lights as a student. Standing with all my friends, I was reminded at how many memories I have created and how many life-long friends I’ve made over my past 4 years at SMU. As the temperature keeps dropping, our planners become more filled with review sessions, and sweatpants are considered “getting dressed,” Celebration of Lights couldn’t be a better reminder what this time of hear is all about.

Campus Life

Celebration of Lights: A Holiday Tradition

By Melody Davis

It’s time for finals now for SMU students – which means late nights studying, extra coffee, stress to pull off those good grades; no surprise there. But finals time also means something else on campus for SMU: Celebration of Lights. This past Monday, I celebrated my fourth but hopefully not last Celebration of Lights ceremony at SMU. Coming back from Thanksgiving break to Celebration of Lights is the perfect transition into the Christmas spirit and semester wrap-up. Celebration of Lights is such a special time with holiday songs, the reading of the Christmas story by President Turner, and the lighting of our already spectacular campus with thousands of beautiful white lights. This year was especially bittersweet, watching the ceremony for my senior year, but also seeing special friends who came back to celebrate with us even after graduation. If I’m lucky enough to stay in Dallas next year, you can bet that I’ll be back to celebrate one of the most wonderful SMU traditions!