2022 August 2022

Get ready for game day fun at home and on the road

Plan to meet up with fellow Mustangs at away-game tailgates throughout the football season, beginning September 3, when we play UNT in Denton. At home, check out the SMU Alumni tent on the Boulevard, beginning September 10. And stay tuned for details about a big pep rally for the SMU-TCU game September 24.
It’s time to Boulevard!
When our Mustangs play at home, gather at the SMU Alumni tent near Clements Hall for a pre-game “pop up” experience featuring snacks and drinks from partner purveyors. A cash bar will also be offered. The fun begins two hours before kickoff. Click for information and registration.
Away-game tailgates
SMU football is hitting the road for some great games this season. If you find yourself in “enemy” territory, don’t worry; you’re not alone. SMU Alumni Relations and the Mustang Club will bring a taste of the Hilltop to road games. Enjoy food and beverages with fellow Mustangs at tailgates starting two hours before kickoff at these games:
September 3: University of North Texas, Denton, Texas
September 17: University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
October 1: University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
November 17: Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Find information and registration here.

2022 Alumni August 2022

Drumming up support for the Mustang Band

Meet Diamond M Club President Kellie Prinz Johnson ’96, whose connection to the Hilltop seems to grow stronger each year. In fact, she named her son after her best band friend and her favorite SMU professor, and she’s now a proud SMU parent.

What do you do for work?

I am the director of operations at Retro Studios, which is a video game developer and subsidiary of Nintendo. Some of the games we’ve made are the Metroid Prime series, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I manage everything that is not involved with making the games or IT. I’ve been there for 19 years.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Basically, driving up and down I-35 coming to SMU events. *Laughs.* I’m also an avid baseball fan, so when SMU isn’t having sporting activities, I fill the void with Major League Baseball. I just got back from Chicago where I saw the Cubs, my favorite team, play five games in four days. But I love going to SMU games; I have season tickets to football and men’s and women’s basketball so I’m here as often as possible.

What is your favorite Diamond M Club memory?

My favorite memory is how I get to do cool things, meet people and represent the club. A few years ago, at Pigskin Revue, we gave Paul Layne ‘76, who is SMU’s superfan, a beanie and he was really honored by that, so it was special for me to be the one to give him something the Mustang Band doesn’t take lightly or give to many who were not in the band.

Read more.

2022 August 2022 News

Turning plain paper into artful research

Art and science intersect in the hands of SMU junior Travis Nolan ’24. He’s an international origami champion whose fascination with dinosaurs and paper folding come together as a study of the biomechanics of prehistoric creatures.

2022 August 2022 News

Thinking inside the box

Students tackled the ultimate DIY challenge by building a “baby supercomputer” that not only deepens their understanding of networking and parallel computing, but also shows big potential for their artificial intelligence research.
As SMU’s powerful new NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD supercomputer research system launched on campus, students assembled their own “baby supercomputer.” Small but mighty, it’s capable of running and training artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models with the potential to make an array of modern conveniences even better at what they do.
“Our student team already has access to a really powerful supercomputer on campus, but having this miniature version gives them a chance to administer their own supercomputer, which is a novel experience,” explains physicist Eric Godat ’18. He’s the team lead for SMU’s Office of Information Technology Research and Data Sciences Services and director of its Student Technology Assistant in Residence (STAR) Program.
Read more.

2022 Alumni August 2022 News

Working, growing and ‘just trying things’

In a July 3 interview with ESPN staff writer Harry Lyles, Jr., former SMU football safety Ra Kazadi ’22 talks about how the loosening of name, image and likeness (NIL) restrictions on college athletes and the financial freedom it generated gave him the wings to explore and grow as an artist.

SMU safety Ra’Sun Kazadi is a unique talent among college football players.
You might see that he’s appeared in 10 games over the past two seasons and registered two tackles and say that’s a stretch, but it’s not. Ra – as he’s often referred to by his teammates, friends and family – has talents that go beyond the football field.
He’s a gifted artist, and last July 1 – with the loosening of restrictions on college athletes making money through their name, image and likeness – Kazadi’s world as an artist opened up considerably.
“I’m able to do more of the work that I want to do because of NIL,” he said. “I can sell my pieces for more, and therefore, I don’t have to do, like, 100 pieces a month.
“It’s funny because it’s been less about money now. It’s been more about just working and growing, and just trying things.”
Kazadi sold his work before NIL restrictions were lifted, but couldn’t put his name on it, have shows or promote his art on his Instagram or website.
“It was just basically relying on people to know that I was an artist and then doing stuff for super cheap,” Kazadi said. Because of these limitations, he said he wasn’t able to sell pieces for much – $30 for a sketch, and maybe around $100 for a painting if he was lucky.
“It wasn’t at the scale, even close to what it was now,” he said.
Kazadi said he’s able to get higher prices for his work now because people know it is his and he’s able to promote it. The greater financial freedom has given him more time to experiment with his art and continue to improve at his craft.
Read the full story.

2022 Alumni August 2022 News

Active duty and military veterans are allies for the Cox School

During the 2021–22 academic year, 69 Cox School of Business graduate students were currently active duty in, or veterans of, the U.S. Armed Forces. Cox Today magazine profiled a cross-section of the students about what they would like all of us to know about their time in military service. Here’s a sampling of their responses:

Corbin C. Anderson

Former Captain, Aviation Officer and UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter Pilot in the U.S. Army
Full-time two-year MBA in finance
Anticipated graduation in 2023
Originally from Westlake, Texas
“I had the honor of serving with amazing leaders, soldiers and aviators who came from all different walks of life. Those individuals I served with helped mold me to become a successful officer and junior leader in the Army. People are the Army’s most important asset. I was blessed to serve with leaders of character who were incredibly smart, tough and diverse, and who had the ability to solve incredibly complex and time-sensitive problems. I will forever be grateful for the individuals with whom I had the privilege to serve and who continue to serve our country.”

Destiny Perez

Former E-6 Aircraft Maintenance Technician and Instructor for the Air Education and Training Command in the U.S. Air Force
M.A./MBA in arts management and arts entrepreneurship
Anticipated graduation in 2023
Originally from San Marcos, Texas
“Military service afforded me time to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. A mentor once asked, ‘If you could only do one thing the rest of your life and you never got paid for it, yet you’d still be happy, what would that be?’ Thanks to that question, I changed my undergraduate degree to focus on my passion for dance. Later in my service, as an instructor, I learned I love teaching as much as I love learning. If I could share one thing with you, it’s to ask yourself the same question. Find your passion.”

Drewnard “D” Woods

Current Combat Airlifter, E6 rank, in the U.S. Air Force Reserve
Professional MBA (PMBA) in real estate/finance
Anticipated graduation in 2023
Originally from Chicago, Illinois
“Coming from the South Side of Chicago, it’s a war zone in itself. I chose to join the Air Force because I knew it would challenge me mentally and would propel me forward in other ways, such as being able to pursue a career in business, to look sharp, give attention to detail and be willing to show up early even if that means waiting around a bit. I’ve gained other great attributes, too. Most importantly, I knew I was joining something that I would be proud of the rest of my life, and that maybe one day, I would be able to tell my story to encourage others to join the ranks of the world’s greatest Air Force.”
Read the full story.

2022 August 2022 News

SMU, AT&T collaboration opens doors to data science careers

A groundbreaking new collaboration between telecommunications giant AT&T and SMU will deliver high-level training, practical experience and a potential employment offer in the field of data science for a group of University students spending the summer together in the classroom and on the job.
AT&T is covering the cost of the training for the students and for the overlapping on-site internship. After the program ends, each participant who earns an SMU certificate for completing the on-campus boot camp and the internship will receive interviews for permanent positions with AT&T after graduation.
“We’ve had interns for years, but we’ve never really done a boot camp where we actually have the formal training using the Artificial Intelligence tools we use here internally at AT&T and then collaborate on projects, too,” says Mark Austin, AT&T’s vice president for data science. “So, this is unique, and we’re excited about it.”
The nine students selected for the program are spending half of the summer in an SMU classroom led by Bivin Sadler, technical assistant professor and course lead faculty for SMU’s online Master of Science in Data Science program. Part of that “boot camp” experience includes a competition between the students, divided into teams, working to solve problems presented by their AT&T mentors. Following the SMU instruction, the group will head to AT&T offices for the second half of the summer to work with the massive data sets and corporate-level challenges that are bread-and-butter to the communication company’s own data science group.
The Data Science Scholars are a mix of undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in various STEM fields – data science, statistics, math and engineering.
Demand for data scientists is expected to increase by 22 percent over the next decade, according to estimates by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, Black and Hispanic workers remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Women, who now earn the majority of undergraduate and advanced degrees, are significantly underrepresented in computer science fields.
Read more.

2022 Alumni August 2022 Spring 2022

Celebrating the Mustang mystique

Curtis has been a creative director for more than 25 years with Wieden+Kennedy, a global agency headquartered in Portland, Oregon. He’s a legend in the field with three Emmy wins for best commercial, and seven Emmy nominations to his credit. In Advertising Age’s 20th anniversary edition of Creativity Magazine, Curtis was named one of the 50 most influential creative leaders of the past 20 years.

His wide-ranging portfolio for Nike, ESPN and other high-profile brands includes an acclaimed commercial featuring Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons fighting over a Coke. In 2010, Adweek named It’s Mine the Super Bowl spot of the decade.

The SMU collaboration took flight during a conversation with SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves.

“Brad and I were talking about all the amazing individuals who have come through SMU over the years. It’s an impressive list,” Curtis says. “We both thought it would be something interesting to – in a broadcast spot – remind folks of.”

After getting the greenlight, Curtis and his production team faced the challenge of tracking down archival video and images. They worked with Laura Graham ’16, director of photography and video in SMU Marketing and Communications, to locate assets and secure licensing approvals. Curtis supplied his expertise to the project at no charge.

The commercial encapsulates the breadth and achievements of our Mustang family and the reputation for excellence that draws the best and brightest to the Hilltop. (Play the video above to see for yourself.)

It was a labor of love for Mustangs with star power like Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates ’69, whose distinctive voice provides the narration, and fan favorite Brian Baumgartner ’95, who submitted his own video when the cost of licensing footage of him as Kevin in The Office TV series was prohibitive.

Other notable alumni featured include NFL star and sports commentator “Dandy” Don Meredith ’60, real estate titan Trammel Crow ’39 and Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11.

Also shown are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on campus in 1966 and former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and the late George H.W. Bush on campus in 2013 to celebrate the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center with former President Bush.

The ad ends with an intriguing question for the future Mustangs viewing it: What will you do?

The commercial premiered during the TCU game September 25, 2021, where SMU retained the Iron Skillet with a 42–34 win.

“Maybe the spot helped us beat the Horned Frogs, who knows,” Curtis says. “What I do know is it reminds us that we’re all a part of something pretty special around here. That’s inspiring, and worth celebrating.”
– From SMU Magazine, spring 2022

2022 Alumni August 2022 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out these quick links to great stories featuring the people, programs, events and more making news on the Hilltop.