April 28, 2009

SMU students are proving that service and civic involvement are essential to learning, whether across town or around the globe.

Throughout this semester, students have traveled to urban centers, mountain trails, international courts and historic sites to serve and to study. During Alternative Spring Break, students volunteered at the Cherokee Nation in rural Tennessee. In Laredo, Texas, and Taos, New Mexico, they built houses with Habitat for Humanity. They restored wildlife habitats in Moab, Utah, and prepared meals for the needy in New York City and St. Louis.

Also during spring break, students made a civil rights pilgrimage, visiting historic sites in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Another group studied the immigrant experience in New York City, with trips to Ellis Island and ethnic neighborhoods.

As part of the Human Rights Education Program in Dedman College, others visited former Nazi concentration camps in Europe.

Several students have won prestigious competitions. Junior Warren Seay has been named a Truman Scholar, one of 60 students selected from more than 600 candidates nationwide to receive the prestigious fellowship, supporting preparation for service in government or the non-profit sector. An SMU Hunt Leadership Scholar, Seay also is among only 24 students nationwide selected for the Washington program of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship.

Another student learning in Washington has been senior Rachael Morgan, one of 85 students nationally to receive a yearlong fellowship with the Center for the Study of the Presidency. Junior Cody Meador has the honor for next year.

Global diplomacy has been the focus for Nicola Muchnikoff, the lead delegate of the SMU Model United Nations Team of 10 students. In March the team traveled to The Hague, Netherlands, for the World Model UN Conference, where they represented Vatican City.
Students also travel to conduct research. Lindsey Perkins is traveling to Romania to document the conditions of orphanages there through photojournalism. She received financial support from a Meadows Exploration Award for undergraduate research.

Using her Spanish language skills as a volunteer translator for Engineers Without Borders, Allison Griffin has helped SMU students investigate sustainable water sources in a Mexican village. A senior majoring in engineering management science and Spanish, Griffin is an Embrey Scholar in the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Other students are making an impact on the community closer to home through the Big iDeas project, sponsored by the Office of the Provost. Ten student teams have received grants to research local challenges, ranging from the environment to education and health care. Student Andres Ruzo is looking for a source of energy in his own back yard — he is analyzing possible geothermal resources under the campus. A senior majoring in geology and finance, he has made field trips to the Grand Canyon, Australia and Hawaii through SMU’s Office of Education Abroad and the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College.
Students such as these are taking
their education in new directions, mining SMU’s offerings with initiative and
imagination. They reflect a positive light on SMU through service, civic involvement and academic achievement.

R. Gerald Turner