Taking Advantage of Winter Break

By Laura Spitler

“One of the perks of being a college student is getting 5-6 weeks off for winter break.  It’s substantially longer than any time off you had in high school, in fact, it’s long enough to take a whole class!  SMU has a program called J Term where you can get credit for taking a class in only 10 days.  This is similar to summer school only it happens in January before normal classes resume.  This year, 40 different courses are being offered.  Each school (Meadows School of the Arts, Cox School of Business, etc.) is teaching some classes, so no matter what your major is you can take advantage of J Term.  Taking a class in January enables students to double major or add a minor with more ease.  Some of the classes even have a travel element to them.  I know one girl who is spending J Term in Jamaica with her class to assess geological hazards.  Sounds like an interesting (and warm!) way to spend part of January!”


Forging Relationships with Professors

By Daniel Brock

I will never forget my first summer school accounting class that I took as a freshman. Never had I imagined that I would actually want to take summer school, but it was a great way to get into the business school early, so it seemed like a no brainer.

As soon as I walked into the classroom, there stood my accounting professor that gave off the vibe of a Russian drill sergeant. Then she spoke with her European accent and with almost no introduction began teaching. I remember almost feeling overwhelmed by her intense passion for accounting and spouting off her future famous phrase “Scholar of mine!”

I was always to afraid to ask her questions or go to her office hours. I felt that she would be mad at me for not following exactly what she did in the classroom. However, it was not until after my first exam, which I didn’t do so hot on, that I actually went to see her for help.

She sat down with me and went over the entire first test. She even bought me a bagel because it was lunch time. She had gone out of her way to make sure that I understood everything on that test. Her name was Lilliana Hickmann-Riggs and she would soon become my favorite professor ever.

By going to her office hours, I had the chance to actually get to know her and understand how simple her teaching style was. One time I even went to office hours and she told me her whole life story, which went on to inspire me to be an accounting major. Her stories always filled me with motivation and made me psyched to be an accounting major.

Professor Hickman-Riggs and I still keep in touch and I always try to see her at least twice a semester.  Anytime I see her in the business school’s bagel shop, she sits me down and buys me a bagel so we can catch up. She has been an invaluable asset to me over my college career, giving me much needed advice and writing me over a dozen recommendation letters.

I guess the moral of the story is always be open minded about the professors you get in college. You never know if they might become your favorite professor so far.


Powerful Resources: Utilizing Office Hours

I believe office hours are the most underutilized resource on campus. Office hours not only help a student’s understanding of course material, they provide students with the opportunity to build relationships with their professors. I make an effort to visit each of my professors in office hours at least once during the semester. My most memorable office hour experience happened the fall semester of my first year. After my professor answered my questions about course content and clarified the material I was having trouble understanding, she stopped and said, “Enough about my class; how are you doing?” While it seems like a simple question, it spoke volumes to me. Here was a high profile professor with a multitude of tasks to accomplish and she was interested is how I was doing. SMU sets itself apart from other universities because of professor quality; our professors are not only interested in their subject but their students as well. My experience is not isolated. By and large, our professors are interested in helping students succeed, find internships, writing letters of recommendation, and career counseling. Professors are integral to a student’s university experience.


Senior Moment: Top 5 Favorites

By Anne Parker

As a senior, I have accumulated many amazing memories at SMU! I have loved every single second I have spent here. It is hard to pick what my favorite things are, but I have five that definitely top the list.

1. Boulevarding. This is what our version of tailgating is before our football games. It is SO much fun and the one time when everyone in the SMU community is all together for one purpose: to support our Mustangs!!

2. Homecoming week. I love everything about homecoming and especially the week spent building up to it. All of the different organizations come together to support their candidate. I made so many new friends and created so many memories during this time.

3. My major. Although I sometimes feel like I never leave the journalism department, or the J school as we like to call it, it has been the best experience of my life. I have friends I will keep in touch with for a lifetime and professors that have continued to push me to be the best I can be. I am leaving with as much knowledge about my career field as I feel I could have possibly learned as a student and I am prepared to face the real world.

4. Being involved. If I have one piece of advice to anyone that is a freshman it is to get as involved as SOON as possible. I have friends all over campus and I have had experiences I would not have been able to have if I had not jumped in full force to all that SMU has to offer!

5. Being an SMU ambassador. I get to talk about SMU all day everyday to prospective students! What better job could you ask for?

SMU Abroad

SMU Abroad: Learning in London

By Claire Piepenburg

Studying abroad is one of the best experiences I’ve had as a student at SMU.  I spent the fall semester of my junior year attending King’s College, an academically notable university located right in the heart of London. I had a wonderful time, met some new friends and visited some amazing places. My faculty advisor and the staff in the SMU Study Abroad office helped me design my own program at a partner school, King’s, and worked with me to make sure all the credits would transfer for my History and Anthropology majors. I took phenomenal classes on ancient Greece, the life and times of Augustus Caesar, and early European history.  I lived in a flat with five other UK students who showed me where the best place to buy groceries was, how to figure out my bus routes and when to avoid the Tube. They came from different places across the country and shared with me their traditions, phrases, food, politics and culture. And in return, I did the same.

  In my spare time, I explored London and its wealth of museums and sights – from the world famous British Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery and more – you could spend years sightseeing in the city alone! I also had the opportunity to travel with other students studying abroad from various U.S. colleges, which was a fun way to meet American students. I made some great friends that I still keep in contact with now, a year later. We traveled to Paris, Dover, Kent, Bath, Oxford and several other UK sites and did everything from sightseeing tours to hiking, canoeing, beer tasting and yes, shopping!

Even though I missed a lot of things about SMU while I was away – the friendly community, the beautiful tree-lined campus and of course, Mustang football – I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel abroad. Whenever anyone asks me about my experience, the first thing I do is recommend that they travel abroad – whether for the summer, a semester or a whole year. It’s a wonderful learning experience. Even now, it’s hard to fully imagine all of the history, culture and beauty that exists in virtually every single corner in Europe. Be careful – if you spend time abroad, you will want to go back!


Happy Thanksgiving from the Hilltop!

By Ryan Herrscher

With Christmas break looming on the Horizon, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to look back and take some time to be thankful for all that we have.  I, for one, am extremely thankful for the opportunity to be at SMU and to be a part of the vibrant community that gives our campus life. 

We won’t have any posts for a few days as we will all be celebrating the holidays, but we will be back next Monday with more exciting stories from the Hilltop.  Have a great Thanksgiving and we hope to see on campus soon!

Life Around Dallas

Life Around Dallas: Uptown

By Philip Kilgore

One of my favorite SMU traditions comes every Sunday; my friends and I go to this restaurant called Gui and enjoy their “all you can eat sushi” special. So every Sunday, we take the trip a few miles down the road to McKinney Avenue, otherwise known as Uptown. Uptown is an area centered on the historic McKinney avenue trolley line that visitors can use to enjoy quick transit throughout the area. The area is known for the many different types of original restaurants and shops, as well as some of the most popular apartments in Dallas. Uptown is only one of the many districts located within the Dallas area. From the Arts District to Highland Park, there is so much culture and excitement to keep anyone entertained. My personal favorite is the Knox-Henderson area. Best known for the Katy trail, a 5.5 mile running trail spanning from Highland Park to the American Airlines Center, this area combines the traditional neighborhood feel with a modern metropolitan area. This area has so many great restaurants, shops, and patio bars that make for an excellent spot to hang out on a great day. Luckily for SMU students, all of these districts are only a short drive or even a short walk away. Being in a city as great as Dallas can have so many benefits, taking advantage of the many districts within Dallas is only one of them!

SMU Abroad

SMU Abroad: Europe as a Classroom

By Liz O’Neill

I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad for the fall semester of my junior year at SMU in Copenhagen, Denmark with the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.  Studying abroad was probably my most amazing experience at SMU thus far.  I learned so much about myself while living abroad, it was a completely new and different experience.  SMU has so many amazing options for studying abroad, and students can build their own program to fit their degree needs.  I chose to study in Copenhagen because DIS offers science classes, which are difficult to find in study abroad programs, especially for chemistry majors like me.  I traveled with my classes all over Denmark and Europe, and I really used Europe as my classroom.  I studied the various health care systems in Denmark, Austria, and Hungary, and I learned so much about European health care and hospital systems in both Western Europe and post-Communism central/eastern Europe while in Hungary.  Going abroad facilitated my wanting to attend medical school, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having gone abroad, and SMU’s amazing study abroad advisors made that dream come true!

Life Around Dallas

Life Around Dallas: Bieber Fever

By Lauren Lyngstad

This past Monday, a group of three friends and myself decided to buy tickets for the Justin Bieber concert about four hours before it started. Being that tickets had been sold out for a while, we decided to visit a ticket resale site in an attempt to get some good tickets for lower than face value. Once we located four tickets in a relatively good position we contacted the seller and transferred the money.

LEFT: One of my best friends, Olivia, and I after getting our tickets!

Just like that, we were off to the American Airlines center to see one of the biggest names in the business! Once we arrived, we dashed from the parking lot all the way to the box office. But, unfortunately, we quickly realized that the tickets we had bought were in fact fraudulent. Dismayed and discouraged, we sulked outside of the building while my best friend was on the phone with her bank trying to figure everything out. We decided that we might as well make the best of it and headed over to Bieber’s tour bus to take a picture.

After we snapped our photo, a man approached us and asked us to step away from the tour bus. We told him that we were on our way out, and he asked us why. Upon hearing our sad story, he asked us if four front row tickets would make up for it. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we were just like the girls in the movie. We screamed and jumped up and down and dashed all the way through the front doors, the ticket check, and then all the way to the front row. It was truly an out of body experience, and definitely one of the coolest things I have done while I have been a student at SMU.

This instance just demonstrates the fantastic opportunities that Dallas has to offer SMU students. We are so blessed with such an amazing and beautiful campus that is only ten minutes away from one of the most bustling downtowns in the nation. SMU not only offers students amazing opportunities on our campus directly, but Dallas has a great breadth and depth of opportunities for students to take advantage of. So while you may not necessarily have “Bieber Fever”, Dallas has the Mavericks, the Cowboys, the Stars, the Rangers, the most restaurants per capita, and phenomenal opportunities in concerts and performances. I am truly never bored in this city, and I couldn’t be more blessed to call Dallas my home.


Teach Me How to Study

By Lauren Lyngstad

The first round of exams in each of my classes is over, and I am proud to say that I successfully survived! Over the past seven days, I had three tests and three quizzes, in addition to balancing my SMU Ambassador duties and my obligations to the numerous other clubs on campus. While in high school I was that stereotypical overly involved, full-course load student, my first year at college really taught me how to balance my time properly.

Although in high school students normally spend about 40 hours in class per week, an average college course load is around 15 hours per week. Though this may seem like you would have copious amounts of extra time to enjoy daily naps and long, relaxing hours at the SMU tanning pool, it is extremely important to utilize your free hours to complete your assigned reading and homework assignments. Though most of my teachers do not collect the homework they assign, completion of this work is absolutely critical in ensuring success in your exams. For example, in the Accounting course I am currently enrolled in, we only have two mid-term exams and one final exam that account for our grade. While it may seem tempting to wait to cram all of the knowledge into your head the night before the exam in exchange for a Gossip Girl marathon, consistent working, re-working, and reading your course material helps warrant long-term retention of knowledge that will help you succeed on final exams!

Therefore, I thought I would share a couple of my personal study tips to help ease your mind:
-Utilize your daytime hours! Though you may have a two hour break between your classes, don’t use this time to browse Facebook! By taking the time during the day to do your assigned work, you can avoid staying up until 2 AM wondering if you are ever going to get to sleep.
-Use a planner. My planner is attached to me at the hip, filled with post-it notes of to-dos, campus events, and each of my assignments. By writing down all of my obligations, I can not only delegate the order of their importance, but also ensure that I tackle each item that I need to get accomplished for the next day.
-Remember that your teachers are your friends! My SMU professors have been extremely accessible to me throughout my time here. Each has office hours that they encourage students to attend, which are extremely helpful to not only get your questions answered, but also to get to know your professor on a more personal level. Some of my professors have offered their office hours at Starbucks or even over Skype!

The most important tip I can give you in succeeding in the classroom is being confident in your personal abilities. Learn your material, contribute in class discussions, and know that you have done all that you can to prepare yourself to the best of your abilities to rock your exams!


SMU Abroad: Expand Your Horizons

By Liz Dubret and Will Slack

How would you like to spend an entire semester studying advertising and art in India? Or live in Oxford, England and study politics at one of the oldest universities on earth during the summer? At SMU, study abroad programs like these are not only feasible but highly encouraged. One of my favorite aspects about SMU is their commitment to develop the whole student. Simply stated, SMU’s culture is designed create diverse, well-rounded students who are (and will continue to be) leaders across the globe. SMU’s study abroad programs are just one of the many ways you can become more well-rounded and improve your college experience. If you ever get the chance, check out and see which of the more than 100 programs peaks your interest. This website can help you find a program, determine its cost, and help you plan an unforgettable experience. The SMU Abroad Office also offers abroad internships in places like England and Australia.

I spent my summer in Oxford, England at SMU-in-Oxford. When I showed up at University College, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty and resemblance to Harry Potter. The program was amazing! I took one class from an SMU Professor and one from an Oxford Professor.  The SMU class was completely different than anything I had ever taken. I took class from Bonnie Wheeler who embodied the method of teaching and learning outside of the box. She engaged us for every second of the class, even though it was divided by a much needed tea break! Taking a class from an Oxford Professor was eye opening and intimidating because he taught in a completely different style. I took class Monday through Thursday, and the program traveled on Fridays. They took us all over England to help enhance our cultural experience. My favorite places they took us were the palaces and castles! I got to pretend for a little while that I lived there and that it was my home :). They also took us to London for three days on class – my favorite mini trip was to a London Reform Club. It was fancy and high society and we got to learn more about Medieval England from the members.  With the weekends free I traveled all over the British Isles! My favorite weekend trip was to Edinburgh. I went with my best friend and we spent the weekend soaking up the culture, beautiful weather, and making sure that we hit the café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. My Oxford experience was the best time I have had so far at SMU!

Academics General

Staying Motivated: The Power of Freedom

By Brie Strickland

I am by no means a morning person, so waking up before dawn three days a week is a daunting challenge. On mornings where my bed is extra snuggly I question why I signed up to take three back-to-back Communications clases so early in the day. As I climb up the stairs of the Umphrey Lee Center each morning, I remember why I choose to be a Communications major instead of getting an extra hour of sleep. Outide the Umphrey Lee Center, the powerful words that constitute our First Amendment are carefully carved into limestone.

Just as former presidential candidate Romney tapped his hand against his “Clear Eyes. Full Heart. Can’t Lose” sign above his door, I too graze my hand against the cold stone each time I enter the building. The building reminds me of the freedoms of this great nation. I am a Communications major because my voice means something in America. I realize that at SMU my world class professors are preparing me to use this voice to move our country forward. My inspiration comes from the First Amendment. It is a constant reminder of the freedoms I enjoy each day and my privledge to be able to speek on behalf of those who fail to have a voice. The SMU Communications department has made me a powerful voice and advocate, and I am so grateful to be able to freely excercise such rights.


Meadows Adds New PR Major, Expands Opportunities

Brie Strickland

In an effort to further expand the Meadows School of the Arts, SMU is proud to introduce and offer a new degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. The program aims to fuse advertising, journalism, communication and technology courses.

The new head of the department, Sandra Duhe, is the equivalent of a public relations rockstar. I’ve have the priveledge of being a part of two of her courses this semester- Crisis Managment and Intro to Public Relations. This semester has been an eye-opening experience and one that has changed my views on what public relations is really all about. Public relations is more than dealing with celebrities or planing events; it is an integral component of all companies and organizations. Dr. Duhe spent her professional career as a public relations director for Exxon Mobil – no one knows ‘crisis’ better than her. SMU professors like Duhe bring real world experience and couple it with textbook knowledge to give students a well-rounded and pratical education.

Spirit and Traditions

Celebrating the Season

By Liz Dubret and Billy Hightower

As we were on our way to work today, we noticed the Christmas lights were being put up for the Annual SMU Celebration of Lights! One of our most popular and well attended SMU traditions occurs at the beginning of December to kick off exams. At this function, everyone comes to the Dallas Hall Lawn with their friends and enjoys hot chocolate while singing Christmas Carols and listening to President Turner read us a Christmas story. This program, sponsored by Student Foundation, is not only an event focused on the students, but also on the community. Anyone can sponsor a child from Caesar Chavez and do activities like cookie decorating and holiday crafts and give them a gift from their wish list. The night ends with everyone lighting a candle and then all of the lights are turned on. The entire boulevard and the Dallas hall columns are covered in lights, and the campus becomes absolutely breathtaking!


Larry Brown’s Big Debut

By Liz Dubret and Phillip Kilgore

Hey y’all the Mustang Basketball team has their season opener this Sunday at 6pm! This game will be the introduction of Larry Brown and his amazing coaching staff! From the faculty, to the staff, to the students, everyone is chompin’ at the bit to finally see the Mustangs in action! There will be tons of programming hosted by the on campus organizations to help everyone get fired up prior to the game. SMU is debuting some new freshmen talent with Blaise Mbargorba, Brian Bernardi, Jordan Dickerson, Uche Ofoegbu, and Garrett Wilson. We look forward to entering into the Big East with this new freshmen class and can’t wait for our Hall of Fame Coach to get us to the Championship!

EDITOR UPDATE:  The Mustangs defeated Loyola Marymount 73-58 on Sunday, starting their season strong.  If you get a chance, we would love for you to come out and support the team!  Go Mustangs!