Counting Our Breakthroughs

October is over and November is upon us. Our team at the Hunt Institute continues to push through the normal stress of a college semester, project delays, and constant challenges that seem to pop up out of nowhere – not to mention a historic presidential election and the news of surges in COVID-19 globally.

We choose to count our breakthroughs.

Most students at SMU have completed their midterms, officially marking our halfway point for the semester. With approximately seven weeks to go in this semester, here are some of our breakthroughs. In the Global Development Lab, we have seen projects take off and pick up momentum while others stalled and have been put on hold. Through it all, we have been able to produce several deliverables including The Resilient Shelter Project finalizing their report Seeking Low-Cost Seismic Protection for Urban Masonry in an Unstable Terrain, the Moments that Matter project continuing to host Virtual National Focus Groups in partnership with the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center over the Fall semester, and The Kijiji Project producing their report Building Bridges to Build Connections. 

More deliverables are in the making right now, as we continue to find creative ways to work around delays and learn as we go. The Institute’s Assistant Director says about the strength of the team members, “Even more than the pride I feel in our finished work, I have so much pride in our team members. It is hard enough to navigate college, then add working for an Institute that is producing work that is impactful in people’s lives — that is a different level of strength of character. I am very proud of our team, watching them set aside fear and embrace potential.” One example is Sam Borton who is a third-year student. He joined the Institute in January of 2020. He quickly rose to a leadership position, as he naturally reached out to help his teammates over the adjustment period. He co-leads the researcher team and consistently supports the communications team with editing. Borton says, “The research team has faced numerous challenges due to the pandemic —stalled lab research, cancelled travel plans, and staying connected while virtual— but I am proud of each researcher’s resilience to stay productive even while facing challenges out of our control.”

One team has risen to the challenge to keep everyone connected both internally and externally, the communications team. Cullen Blanchfield is the communications team lead and a senior student with a passion for videography. He has been with the Institute since he was a freshman, filming and editing visual content. He was in his study abroad semester when the pandemic hit, resulting in his return to the states, after which he immediately jumped back into working with the Institute to further our mission. He has driven the team to new consistency over the summer months, working with and celebrating the contributions of each team member along with working towards including more visual content via social media and our weekly update. He speaks to the challenges his team continues to push through, “The communications team has had to pivot our internal workflow and adjust our content due to the pandemic, but we’ve stayed very productive and grown tremendously.”

Rachel Levitt is an MBA candidate in marketing at the Cox School of Business. She is the lead for the Social Enterprise and has helped three social entrepreneurs with their business plans by developing business models depending on each person’s need and value proposition. Levitt has written nineteen blog posts during her time at the Institute that started in May 2020. Rachel speaks to her challenges in running the social enterprise, “The social enterprise team has had to postpone on-boarding a new cohort of social entrepreneurs. However, it has given us the opportunity to focus on educating the public about the importance of social entrepreneurship, especially during these trying times.”

To read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing

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