Hunt Institute Senior Tribute Spring 2021

Hunt Institute Senior Tribute Spring 2021, Cullen Blanchfield, Harshada Pednekar, Liam Lowsley-Williams, Madison Rodriguez, Manuela Murillo Sanchez, Mohammed Njie, Rachel Levitt, Stephanie Rodriguez, Varsha Appaji, Corrie A. Harris
Last team photo prior to the global pandemic, March 2020.

Each year in the month of May, there is the bittersweet turnover that is a result of having a team of student workers. We cheer for students completing their education at Southern Methodist University and at the same time, wipe away a tear watching them leave.

I personally cannot help but reflect on each senior’s time at the Hunt Institute with nostalgia; I remember their training, watching each one grow in their own talents, and celebrating their breakthroughs in projects, processes, and academic challenges. At the same time, though, I am comforted by the introduction of new team members capable and ready to receive the baton and run the race.

As is tradition, we are thrilled to showcase some of our graduating team members through a Senior Tribute video. As we have done with many of our traditions, we have adapted this video to represent both our distance and in-person team members. We invite you to watch the video above to meet some of our graduating team members and hear their takeaways from their time at the Institute.

Impressively, most student workers in the Institute are leaders in student organizations, honors program members, recipients of scholarships with strict academic requirements, and/or volunteers in their community and on campus at SMU. Honestly, sometimes I do not know how they do all this while maintaining such good grades and producing such quality work in the Institute. They are ranked in the best of the best all-around students at SMU in my eyes.

In the almost five years I have run the Institute’s program, it has grown and improved because of the input and perspective of each team member. We are interdisciplinaryHunt Institute Interdisciplinary student workers Corrie A Harris Southern Methodist University in nature. 20% of our students have majors in Dedman, 30% in Lyle, 13% in Meadows, and 9% in Cox, while 28% have majors across multiple schools. In addition, 41% of our student workers have two or more majors. 22% of our students are masters level, while the remaining 78% are undergraduates. This combination creates a unique opportunity for growth in each student in their perspectives and interpersonal skills.

Over the years, we have tested many new ideas; some worked, and some did not. I always remind the over-achievers that failure is part of what innovation is all about. For most of us, that is hard to handle. You beta test things on a small scale and keep looking until you find the right solution to the given challenge. It very rarely is the first thing you try. Our successes are the result of all the failed attempts. Speaking of learning, I learn more from them than they do from me on many occasions. Reverse mentoring is a common practice in the Institute!

One of my favorite things is when seniors tell me they accepted an offer of employment. We jump up and down cheering, telling all the other team members the great news! Everyone joins in the celebration. We laugh, we cheer, we clap, and affirm them that this is the fruit of years of labor. I usually say, “Of course they chose you, you are exactly what they are looking for!” and I mean it. This does not just happen overnight, certainly not just because they got lucky. Each one earned their offer.

I end this note congratulating our seniors for finishing strong while facing many challenges along the way. Seniors, based on the legacy you leave behind in our Institute, you all are truly world changers. We are grateful for each of you and your contribution to the work of the Hunt Institute while you studied at SMU.

Congratulations and welcome to the alumni family! #PonyUp – Corrie A. Harris

JuliaGrace Walker contributed to the graphic.

Read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems hereWe invite you to listen Join us for ImpactNights® or listen to our podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the Institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our weekly update by emailing your contact information to

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