2018 Alumni Fall 2018 Features

Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11: Empowering women to make the first move

Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11, founder and CEO of Bumble Inc., became the youngest woman in the U.S. to take a company public when she celebrated the initial offering of her dating app shares in February 2021. In May 2021, the 31-year-old entrepreneur returned to the Hilltop as the featured speaker at SMU’s May Commencement Convocation. In the following profile of Wolfe Herd, which was published in the fall 2018 issue of SMU Magazine, she traces her evolution as a tech powerhouse and talks about her time on the Hilltop as an SMU student. “I think SMU has a remarkable way for charting students on the right course.”
Take a look behind the scenes at Bumble in this profile of Wolfe Herd that first appeared in the fall 2018 issue of SMU Magazine.

By Meredith McBee ’19
Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11 is inside her second-floor office at the Bumble headquarters in Austin, Texas, pacing back and forth. One hand clutches her phone, while her free hand slices the air. She buzzes around the room, navigating her way through the plush pink chairs as if she is running an obstacle course.
Herd is the founder and CEO of Bumble, a social connection app that empowers women to make the first move. In just four years, her female-centric business has grown to more than 35 million users in 160 countries.
In tech speak, her company is a unicorn, a startup valued at a billion dollars or more. Wolfe Herd is something of a mythological creature herself as one of the creative disruptors behind the digital romance revolution. She is a co-founder of the Tinder dating app and the visionary force behind Bumble, America’s fastest-growing dating app.
Drawing on her own experience as the target of cyberbullying, Wolfe Herd reinvented the dating space with Bumble. She shaped an environment where users were required to mind their manners and women felt safe, respected and in control. The app’s basic interface is familiar. Users swipe right on the profiles of potential dates in whom they are interested, and left on those they’re not. Bumble upends the archaic tradition of men making the initial contact; instead, in heterosexual matches, women must start a chat within 24 hours or the match expires.
Two vertical expansions of the original platform connect other aspects of womanhood. There is Bumble BFF for those seeking a friendly connection and Bumble Bizz for those looking for a business connection.
The young entrepreneur’s achievements have earned major accolades. In December, she appeared on the cover of Forbes’ 30 under 30 issue, after making the list for the second consecutive year. She also was named to the TIME 100, Time magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people of 2018. In July, she was tapped for the board of Imagine Entertainment, the film and television production company founded by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.
Despite her success, Wolfe Herd remains humble.
“It’s not that I’m some rare breed of human,” she says. “Everybody has the ingredients to achieve what I’ve achieved.”
Her efforts are all linked to her desire to end abusive and misogynistic behavior.
“I get out of bed to reverse engineer that every day,” she says.

WATCH: ‘For any young woman, or girl, out there who has ambitions or dreams, just remember that anything is possible.’

Wolfe Herd moves fast, both in person and in her work, jumping from one conversation to another, one potential idea to another.
Back in her office, she is still pacing. The nerve center of the Bumble hive overlooks the sunny workspace below, decorated with hexagonal cushions and a fluorescent “Bee Kind” sign. The apiary theme is carried throughout the interior, from the honeycomb motif accents to the bright yellow walls. The warm, fun and feminine vibe may not be the norm for a tech company, but it intentionally reflects Bumble’s celebration of female kindness, creativity and collaboration.
Members of her core team, some of whom have been with her from the beginning, are usually nearby. They’re accustomed to reacting at lightning speed to keep up with their CEO.
“If an opportunity comes to further our mission, Whitney’s going to have it done by the time she’s off the phone,” says Samantha Fulgham, director of field marketing who has been with Bumble from the start.
Wolfe Herd reached back to her SMU roots when creating a team to launch her startup. She recruited Alex Williamson ’10, her Kappa Kappa Gamma Big Sister who now serves as Bumble’s chief brand officer, and Caroline Ellis Roche ’14, Wolfe Herd’s chief of staff.
“She was always entrepreneurial,” says Williamson. “She could figure out how to make things happen.”

SMU NETWORK Writer Meredith McBee ’19 (left), an SMU senior from Atlanta, Georgia, interviewed Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11 at Bumble headquarters.

As Wolfe Herd has demonstrated throughout her career, life’s lemons become a valuable commodity in her hands.
She arrived on the Hilltop in 2007 from Salt Lake City, Utah, intending to major in advertising, but she didn’t make the cut for admission to the Temerlin Advertising Institute for Education and Research in Meadows School of the Arts.
“Maybe the reason I failed that test is because that wasn’t the right place for me,” Wolfe Herd says.
Instead, she majored in international studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, which she says provided a solid marketing foundation that has been pivotal to her career.
“I think SMU has this remarkable way for charting students on the right course,” she says. “People will work with you to make sure you’re taking the right classes to achieve your ‘big picture’ dreams.”
While at SMU, Wolfe Herd founded two companies, each in response to a problem she saw in the world. Tender Heart was a clothing line that brought a message of fair trade. The Help Us Project was a line of grocery bags that benefited the Oceans Future Project, which was a direct response to the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
After graduating, she served as a volunteer at orphanages overseas. She returned to the U.S. determined to do something creative and philanthropic, but she wasn’t sure what that was. At the time, she had no employment possibilities lined up. She was living at home, an arrangement her parents told her had an expiration date.
So, she found a job at Cardify, a customer rewards app. During her brief tenure, she had no idea that her next career move would turn the dating world upside down and change her life forever.

BUMBLE HQ Bumble’s Austin, Texas, headquarters – affectionately known as “the hive” – exudes a warm, fun and feminine vibe that may not be the norm in the tech industry, but it intentionally reflects the company’s celebration of female creativity and collaboration.

In 2012, she co-founded the game-changing dating app Tinder. She marketed the platform at SMU and on other college campuses. That early success – with all its thrilling highs – also led to a life and career crisis. She left in 2014 and filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
She was bullied online by complete strangers during this period. While she had once viewed social networking as a conduit for connecting people and building community, she watched as online interactions became weaponized, and she became the target of misogynistic and hate-filled attacks collapsing on me,” she says.
At the time, she thought her career was over.
“It is unbelievable how that negativity can completely control your life,” she says. “There were moments when I let that fear engulf me to the core.”
The experience gave Wolfe Herd a new perspective on social media. She wondered what it looked like for younger people and what it would turn into for future generations. She soon had a new mission: to reinvent the Internet for women.
In her entrepreneurial fashion, she developed the framework for a female-only social network called Merci. On this platform, women could only give each other compliments.
This idea morphed into a dating app after her investor and business partner, Andrey Andrev, encouraged her to transfer her passion for a kind social network into the dating sphere.
“I said no, I’m never going back into the dating world, absolutely not,” Wolfe Herd says. “With a lot of convincing, we agreed to start this company together.”
Snippets of Merci remain in the Bumble DNA.
“When you think about it, women are making the first move, which is empowering,” Wolfe Herd says. “We tolerate zero abusive behavior, so that kindness piece is there, too.”
Wolfe Herd returned to her alma mater with her new idea. She bought dozens of cookies at JD’s Chippery in Snider Plaza, plastered each box with Bumble stickers and passed out the sweet rewards to students who downloaded the app.
To help spread the word, she created a network of Bumble Ambassadors, college women who live the brand’s core message of being kind and embody its stylish coolness and cheeky attitude.
A week before the woman-first app launched, Wolfe Herd called her team and told them to book a flight to Austin the next day. When they arrived, she announced they would be filming a promotional video of them skydiving. None of her colleagues questioned the idea.
“The whole point of it was that if we can jump out of an airplane, we can message a guy first,” Fulgham says.

MUSTANGS IN THE HIVE Proud SMU alumnae members of the Bumble team are (from left) Chelsea Cain Maclin ’12, Alex Williamson ’10, Caroline Ellis Roche ’14 and Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11.

Nearly four years and 500 million first moves later, Wolfe Herd is never short of new ideas.
“I think that’s part of her genius, not only coming up with ideas that resonate on a personal level and have empathy and kindness at their core, but also the ability to get everybody in the room excited and passionate about the same project” says SMU alumna Cain Maclin ’12, Bumble’s vice president of marketing.
Wolfe Herd’s genuine commitment to female empowerment has made her a role model for young women, as illustrated during a recent encounter on the streets of Austin during a company field day.
Dressed in Bumble gear, the team chalked sidewalks with “Download Bumble” and posted yellow fliers advertising the app around the downtown area. They happened upon a bachelorette party, and the honoree told Wolfe Herd that one of her dreams was to meet the Bumble founder. She had no idea that the woman standing next to her was, indeed, the “queen bee.”
When she found out, she burst into tears.
“I don’t think Whitney had ever seen a fan like that,” Fulgham says. “She has no idea how many women look up to her across the world.”
Last fall, her admirers everywhere swooned over photos of her storybook wedding in Positano, Italy, to businessman Michael Herd. They met through friends several years ago. Although she didn’t know it when they met, he is the son of one of her favorite SMU professors, Kelly Herd, a filmmaker and former lecturer in the Meadows School.
“That just goes to show the serendipitous nature of an SMU education,” Wolfe Herd says. “I looked up to her for her caring, articulate and creative abilities as a professor. She’s proof that you meet professors who will have a lifelong impact on you and stay with you long after your graduation date.
“I always say I would trade almost anything to just go back to SMU for a day,” she adds.
Wolfe Herd believes her SMU experience helped her become strong and confident enough to change the dating world.
“SMU gave me the foundation to become an adult and evolve into the woman I am today,” she says.
Today, Wolfe Herd is a very busy executive. She finally puts down her phone and collapses on a plush chair for a few seconds. Then, she gets up, arms moving as she talks to a colleague. Back to work she goes.

2018 Fall 2018 Features October 2018

Growing green, sowing hope in Dallas’ food desert

By Susan White ’05

Owen Lynch harbors a “crazy” idea – one that just might help eliminate the food deserts scattered throughout South Dallas. Driving through the impoverished area surrounding the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, Lynch points out abandoned lots and vacant dirt areas under nearby freeways that hold possibilities as future community gardens.

“One of the unexpected assets of a food desert is the large availability of property or lots for farming and food system development,” Lynch says. “These properties are at best eyesores detracting from their neighborhood’s home values, but at worst they are a breeding ground for vermin, wild dogs and other negative neighborhood effects.”
Lynch is associate professor of corporate communication and public affairs in Meadows School of the Arts and a senior research fellow in SMU’s Hunt Institute for Humanity and Engineering. But he and his Hunt Institute colleagues are looking at a bigger picture for South Dallas, advocating for something more sustainable than community gardens through an extensive food production system.
“Each lot could become part of a functioning food system by providing the city with a local, sustainable food source and creating jobs for the immediate community,” he says. “There is a large amount of unemployed or underemployed people and youth in these local communities who could gain employment and training within these urban farms.”
South Dallas is one of the largest food deserts in the country, Lynch says. Urban food deserts are short on fresh food providers, especially fruits and vegetables; instead they are rife with quick marts selling processed foods heavy in sugar and filled with fats. In South Dallas many residents live at least a mile from a grocery store and don’t always have access to ready transportation to drive farther.


Lynch, who also serves as president of the nonprofit, urban farm consulting agency Get Healthy Dallas, and the Hunt Institute took the first step toward reducing the gap in available healthy food sources by establishing the Seedling Farm, dedicated at the MLK Freedom Garden last November, in collaboration with numerous local urban farm organizations. The Seedling Farm aims to overcome some of the barriers to successful local agricultural production and help improve the health of South Dallas residents.

During a visit to the Seedling Farm on a cool but sunny April morning, manager and horticulturalist Tyrone Day shows off the seedlings that have sprouted in the recently built greenhouse and soon will be transferred to local private and community gardens and farmers markets. The greenhouse packs in up to 4,000 4-inch plants started from seedlings that will grow into a variety of vegetables ranging from asparagus to zucchini, as well as herbs such as cilantro, basil and thyme.

Plans are to produce 20,000 seedlings each year through all four seasons to sell at a discount to area residents who grow their own produce. Providing seedlings is an important factor. “The process of going from a seed to a seedling is the most vulnerable stage in a plant’s life,” Day says. “At the farm, we raise them in controlled conditions with constant monitoring, and also prepare them for transportation to community and home gardens.” Jump-starting gardens by planting viable young seedlings means the plants are more likely to survive, mature faster and produce fruits or vegetables more quickly, he adds.


Lynch involved several of his corporate communication students in the development of the Seedling Farm. Caroline Davis, a senior majoring in corporate communication and public affairs and public relations and strategic communication, knew little about food deserts until taking several courses from Lynch. She helped plan and coordinate the launch of the Seedling Farm, and asked area residents about their food knowledge and access to various foods, particularly vegetables. “The Seedling Farm is about much more than food for these communities and farmers,” Davis says. “Community members have the chance to receive the necessary education and training to co-develop a self-sustaining resource.”
Sara Langone ’17, who received degrees in political science and corporate communication and public affairs from SMU, and DeAngelo Garner ’18, who graduated in May with degrees in organizational communications and public relations with a minor in Spanish, conducted a survey with the area residents on the need for the Seedling Farm. Garner, who will begin a master’s degree in business analytics in fall 2018 at Cox School of Business, says the experience helped drive him toward his interest in data analytics.
“It was eye opening seeing the human aspect of statistical information that I had previously studied,” he says. “Having the hands-on experience humanized the very real problems that residents of South and West Dallas experience.”
Lynch, who was designated a 2018 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Fellow, is moving to Rhode Island where his wife has a job, but will return weekly to Dallas to teach at SMU and continue to build on the Seedling Farm initiative. He emphasizes that a local food production system requires well-organized distribution systems, which includes support from community foundations, nonprofits and experts. And investment in local micro-urban farms requires upfront capital and experience to design, build and maintain, but the payoff is huge. Micro-food systems have the potential to provide innovative and economical solutions to reducing food poverty and unemployment, Lynch adds.
“Hundreds of micro-farms, community gardens, personal gardens, greenhouses or even small raised beds can be linked into a vibrant food chain providing sustainable fresh local produce to the DFW market.”
A “crazy” idea that is blooming where it’s planted.

2018 Fall 2018 Features

All in: How Candice Bledsoe ’07 shows students ‘no dream is out of reach’

A year ago, Brenda Carmona escaped an attempted assault. The experience left the Dallas high school junior determined to pursue a future in criminology or law “to fight for justice for all the people who aren’t as lucky as I was.” The teen admits she wasn’t sure about the steps she needed to take to realize her ambitions until she spent the day at the Cutting Edge Youth Summit at SMU.
“It gave me so much to think about, as far as considering which are the best colleges and programs to help me achieve my goals,” she says. “And it also made me think about the possibility of getting scholarships and what I need to do to qualify.”
Now in its seventh year, the summit brought nearly 300 students, parents and community leaders from historically underrepresented communities to campus on April 21 during SMU’s Founders’ Day Weekend. Conference sessions provided insights about college admission, scholarships, science and technology-focused careers, social entrepreneurship and more.
Candice Bledsoe ’07, founder and executive director of the Action Research Center, which conducts research in schools, communities and nonprofits to advance student and community leadership development, created the one-day event. The program is designed to help middle and high school students with big dreams visualize a future powered by higher education. Community college transfer students planning to continue their education at a four-year institution are also welcome.
During discussions and interactive programs, SMU professors, staff and alumni joined a host of community experts contributing their insights about exploring career paths, developing leadership skills and making the most of a university experience.
Students also learn about the avenues open to them for affording college. At SMU, for example, three out of four students receive scholarships and/or financial aid.
“Our message to students is that no dream is out of reach,” says Bledsoe, who teaches in SMU’s Master of Liberal Arts program in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “We give them advice on the college application process as well as tips for seeking out scholarships. We also talk to them about channeling their passions as social innovators and leaders in their schools and the community. Perhaps equally important, students are able to ‘see’ themselves on a college campus and realize they have a rightful place here.”
The information shared at the summit “fills in the gaps,” says Saella Ware, who graduated from Mansfield High School in May. “I wasn’t sure about all the steps before I came, but the speakers provided a sort of layout of when to take the SAT and ACT, finish your application, apply for scholarships and submit financial aid information. That helps for getting things done in a timely manner and establishing helpful habits prior to attending college.”
It’s a learning opportunity for parents, too, Bledsoe says. “Parents are often overwhelmed because their children are preparing for such a different experience than they’ve had. Those parents aren’t always sure how to navigate the complexities of the system, so they’re grateful to get information and connect with people who can help them.”
James Muhammad found the grant and scholarship information particularly useful as his son, Jamaal, begins his junior year at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas. Muhammad has always been actively involved in his son’s education, and when a teacher sent an email about the summit, he jumped at the chance to attend.
“The sessions helped clarify the steps he needs to take this year to prepare for the future,” he says.
According to the Action Research Center, the research arm of Bledsoe’s program, the Cutting Edge Youth Summit has helped 1,903 middle, high school and community college students since it was launched in 2011. Ninety-nine percent of student participants have earned a high school diploma, and 90 percent have gone on to college.
The University offers a portfolio of opportunities like the summit that show ambitious younger students from all walks of life that a college education is attainable.
Perhaps the best-known college access program is Upward Bound. This year, SMU celebrates 50 years of graduates of the program geared for high school students from low-income families or from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. As students build the academic credentials they’ll need to succeed in a college classroom, they also develop the confidence and resilience they’ll rely on to attain goals throughout their lives.
High school students from Dallas, Garland, Lancaster and Duncanville school districts participate in SMU’s year-round Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math Science programs. In-school tutoring, college visits, Saturday academies and regular mentoring are designed to amp up students’ precollege scholastic performance and prepare them for postsecondary pursuits.
The proof of success is in the numbers: 90 percent of participants attend college after high school graduation.
Even a campus visit can have a huge impact on young minds. “Just being on the SMU campus is exciting to so many students attending the summit,” Bledsoe says. “It can jumpstart the process of thinking about the future and saying, ‘Yes, I can see myself here.’”
SMU welcomes hundreds of youngsters from Dallas-area schools to campus each year so they can become acquainted with college life. One recent example is a special experience created by the University for about 200 eighth-graders and their teachers from Dallas’ Rusk Middle School. When the students dramatically improved their test scores, their teachers wanted to build on that academic momentum and reward their hard work with a trip to a college campus. But school district budget challenges stalled the plan.
That’s when SMU came to the rescue by arranging a campus visit like no other. The Rusk students participated in science and engineering demonstrations, visited with Head Football Coach Sonny Dykes and tossed some footballs in Ford Stadium, explored the campus during a scavenger hunt and learned about the importance of a college education from SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
At the end of the day, many of the youngsters vowed to return – as SMU students.

“Our message to students is that no dream is out of reach. We give them advice on the college
application process as well as tips for seeking out scholarships. We also talk to them about
channeling their passions as social innovators and leaders in their schools and the community.
Perhaps equally important, students are able to ‘see’ themselves on a college campus
and realize they have a rightful place here.”

As the daughter of parents serving in the military, Bledsoe grew up primarily in Germany. She learned the language and took advantage of the European location to travel extensively on the continent. That early exposure to different cultures shaped her global perspective and belief that travel is an invaluable teaching tool. Today, family vacations with husband Horace and their children Jeremiah, 14, and Jasmine, 8, often include tours of historical sites. They’ve recently traveled the path of the civil rights movement and visited the Lincoln Home historic district in Springfield, Illinois.
Her worldview also informs an international component of each youth summit. This year the focus was on opportunities across the globe in engineering and technology fields.
Bledsoe’s aim with the summit is to get kids excited about college the way that passion was ignited in her as a youngster.
In a thought-provoking presentation at TEDxSMUWomen in 2016, Bledsoe said, “To know who I am, you must know my grandmother.” Women’s issues were the focus of the event. Bledsoe, founder of the Black Women’s Collective, a creative arts group devoted to sharing the stories of women of color, discussed the power of narrative to bring the experiences of the underrepresented to light, an academic passion inspired by the matriarch.
She describes her grandmother, Johnnie Mae “M’dear” Lucas, as “her first teacher.” Lucas grew up during segregation, with few higher education options open to her, but she never gave up on her dream of becoming a teacher. When she decided to pursue a master’s degree, her entire family relocated to Houston so that she could attend Texas Southern University, a historically black public university. The trailblazer who prized her degrees made sure her granddaughter always understood the value of an education.
When Bledsoe was living abroad, summer vacations were reserved for spending time with Lucas in Texas.
Thanks to her grandmother, she was steeped in great literature from an early age, especially the poetry of Langston Hughes. Bledsoe remembers hearing her friends playing outside while she was inside, following her grandmother’s “summer school” curriculum, which included a robust reading list and book reports. One of the books she was assigned to read was a biography of Mary McCloud Bethune, a story that became pivotal to her own story.
Bethune was “one of the most important black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials of the 20th century,” according to the National Women’s Museum. “The college she founded set educational standards for today’s black colleges, and her role as an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave African Americans an advocate in government.”
“I was blown away when I first read about her and how she used education to open doors of opportunity for others,” Bledsoe says. “Her commitment to education, access and the community has inspired my work to this day.”
Bledsoe’s grandmother died at 97, but she lived long enough to see her favorite pupil earn three degrees: Bledsoe received a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University, her MLS from SMU and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Southern California.

Candice Bledsoe and members of the SMU community shared their insights with students attending the Cutting Edge Youth Summit at SMU in April.

Her academic research explores the impact of race, gender and class in higher education contexts. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Humanities, New Leadership Academy, National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan and Boone Texas Project for Human Rights Education.
In 2013, she was honored with a Profiles of Community Leadership Award, presented by the SMU Women’s Symposium. The award celebrates the accomplishments of women who have made a significant impact on the city of Dallas and on the quality of life for women overall.
So much of what drives Bledsoe circles back to the example set by her grandmother and the wisdom she shared.
“She taught me that without a college education, my options would be limited, and that stuck with me,” she says.
It’s a message she stresses today when guiding aspiring college students.
The right mentor can make all the difference, says James Samuel ’19, a double major in political science and advertising at SMU. He’s in his thirties and met Bledsoe through her husband. Samuel had attended a Texas community college and was on the fence about pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
“I kept second-guessing myself and making excuses, like ‘I’m not ready’ or ‘I can’t afford it.’ Candice talked me through that. She told me I had to get out there and try.”
He did, and SMU has been a great fit for him.
“It’s like you become a member of the family at SMU. Everyone is so willing to help you succeed,” Samuel says. “When you show a passion for a subject, there is an army of people ready to help you pursue your goals. I never thought I’d have the opportunities I’ve had at SMU, and I’ll be forever grateful to Candice for her confidence in me.”

2018 Fall 2018 Features

Navigating the intersection of commerce and compassion

Neha Husein ’19 turned Just Drive, her mobile app that rewards users who lock their phones while driving, into a full-time career. In the summer, she’ll participate in a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council program in Washington, D.C., then return to Dallas to focus on building app usage and expanding rewards partnerships.
By Nancy Lowell George ’79
Neha Husein ’19 gripped the steering wheel as her car jolted forward, hit from behind on one of Dallas’ busiest and most dangerous freeways. Shaken, but not injured, the high school senior surveyed the significant damage to her car. The cause of the crash? The driver behind her was texting while driving.
The SMU senior admits to being “a little paranoid” on the road since that 2014 collision. That unease eventually inspired her to develop Just Drive, a mobile app that awards points to drivers who lock their phones while driving. Users redeem points for coupons and gift cards for food, drinks and merchandise.
In less than a year, Husein piloted Just Drive from a class assignment into a viable startup. Along the way, SMU’s innovation ecosystem put her on track for success. Her venture won financial awards from SMU, and faculty mentors helped steer her in the right direction. She even tapped into the Mustang alumni network to bring her idea to life.
Her enterprising spirit also shines through in her academic passions. She’s a double major in marketing in the Cox School of Business and human rights in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. “People sometimes question my combination of majors,” Husein says. “When they do, I point out that so much of my campus involvement – everything from planning and organizing cultural awareness events to serving as the social media and marketing coordinator for the Embrey Human Rights Program – demonstrates how beautifully they mesh together.”
In fact, her mobile app started out as a paper for her “Ethics and Human Rights” class, taught by Brad Klein, associate director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights program. A requirement for human rights majors, the course examines ethics as part of everyday life, work and relationships. The final project challenges students to develop something that will benefit society and create a proposal for implementation.
“Neha came to class with an embryo of an idea based on an experience that touched her deeply,” Klein says. “I encourage students to develop projects that match their skills. As a marketing major, she brought the skills to develop and market an app. By the end of the class she had everything in place – goals, timeline, funding, partnerships.”
She also had a new identity as a social entrepreneur.
Husein aims to change drivers’ behavior through positive reinforcement. Just Drive users collect points that can be redeemed for products and services, so they are rewarding themselves for resisting the temptation to use their phones.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT), one in five car crashes in 2017 was attributable to people behind the wheel not paying attention while they were driving, and cellphone use was a top reason. Distracted driving resulted in 100,687 accidents, 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries.
It is now illegal for drivers to read, write or send a text and drive in Texas, but many can’t seem to break their bad habits. The state has issued hundreds of citations and thousands of warnings since the law went into effect last fall.
TXDoT statistics show that drivers ages 16 to 34 are most likely to text while driving, but Husein is betting the app will appeal to all ages. “Expecting incentives is a generational thing, but it’s a human thing, too,” she says. “People enjoy rewards.”
Her incentive-based approach struck a chord with judges at SMU’s Big Ideas pitch contest, where she won $1,000 for her 90-second elevator speech about her app. The multi-stage competition is part of SMU’s Engaged Learning program, a campus-wide experiential learning initiative that encourages students to turn their passions into signature projects.
Her project mentor, SMU law professor Keith Robinson, a specialist in patent, intellectual property (IP) and technology law, co-directs the Tsai Center for Law, Science and Innovation in SMU’s Dedman School of Law. He also teaches a class for law students on designing legal apps.
I like people who show initiative and are willing to bet on themselves,” says Robinson, who met weekly with Husein to discuss IP issues and trademark application. “Neha has developed an app for a relatable problem, one that can save lives.”

VIDEO – CBS DFW: SMU Launching Business Incubator To Support Big Ideas

Husein grew up with an entrepreneurial mindset. As a child, the Carrollton, Texas, native manned a toy cash register alongside her father at his convenience store. He was on hand to see his daughter present her business plan during the second stage of the Big iDdeas competition – and win $5,000 in seed funding.
“I had the biggest smile in the room,” says her father, Malik Husein. “I am so proud of her.”
Memories of her father pulling over to offer assistance whenever he saw someone on the roadside with car trouble influenced her desire to help others, she says. Husein counts herself fortunate to have grown up in a multigenerational household, with the support and guidance of her parents and two sets of grandparents.
Her SMU activities reflect her caring spirit and the examples of community engagement she grew up with. Husein begins her third year as a resident adviser at Kathy Crow Commons this fall. She was the president of Circle K International service organization and has performed community service as a Caswell Leadership Fellow and Human Rights Community Outreach Fellow. She is also a Hilltop Scholar, which recognizes academic achievement and commitment to service, and a McNair Scholar, a University undergraduate research program.

“People sometimes question my combination of majors. When they do, I point out that so much of
my campus involvement – everything from planning and organizing cultural awareness events to serving
as the social media and marketing coordinator for the Embrey Human Rights Program – demonstrates
how beautifully they mesh together.”

In March, Husein was invited to share Just Drive on one of the world’s biggest stages for entrepreneurs, South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin. Red Bull selected Husein and seven other Texas college students to participate in its SXSW Launch Institute, a three-day workshop filled with one-on-one mentoring, idea pitching and media training.
“I was able to refine my pitch and iron out some of the details about Just Drive that I hadn’t even thought about,” she says.
She also experienced a game-changing transformation.
My mindset shifted from student to entrepreneur,” she says. “Instead of introducing myself as a college student and handing out my résumé, I began handing out my business card.”
In the spring, she focused on moving her concept into development. A mutual friend introduced her to Jayce Miller ’16, ’18, a software engineer at Toyota Connected by day and an app wizard by night. Miller, who earned undergraduate degrees in accounting and math as well as a master’s degree in computer science from SMU, has enjoyed the creative challenge.
“We’ve had to find the right balance between ease of use and control,” he explains. “Some similar apps go to the extreme, making it almost impossible to use your phone at all. Others basically give you points regardless, so that defeats the purpose. Our goal is to make something that people will use again and again, which also encourages the safe driving goal.”
He applauds Husein for laying the groundwork for a strong launch. “It could be the best piece of technology in the world, but it only matters if people know about it, and Neha has done a fine job of getting people interested.”
She credits her Cox affiliation with helping her stand out at networking events. “It’s so easy to connect with someone who has taken the same managerial accounting course, from the same professor, as you,” she says.
Over the summer, she pitched prospective restaurant and retail partners when she wasn’t working as a business systems analyst intern for global marketing giant Epsilon in Irving, Texas.
Her goal is to have a consumer-ready app before the end of the year and expand it beyond the Dallas area.
“After graduation, I hope to create an ambassadorship program at local high schools, colleges and driving schools to emphasize the importance of undistracted driving,” she says. “I also hope to continue to upgrade and promote Just Drive until distracted driving becomes a thing of the past.”

2018 Fall 2018 July 2018 Main News

Bringing ‘Sea Monsters’ to life in D.C.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will open a new exhibition November 9,  revealing how millions of years ago, large-scale natural forces created the conditions for real-life sea monsters to thrive in the South Atlantic Ocean basin shortly after it formed. Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas will offer visitors the opportunity to dive into Cretaceous Angola’s cool coastal waters, examine the fossils of striking marine reptiles that once lived there and learn about the forces that continue to mold life in the ocean and on land.
Over 134 million years ago, the South Atlantic Ocean basin did not yet exist. Africa and South America were one contiguous landmass on the verge of separating. As the two continents drifted apart, an entirely new marine environment — the South Atlantic — emerged in the vast space created between them. This newly formed ocean basin would soon be colonized by a dizzying array of ferocious predators and an abundance of other lifeforms seizing the opportunity presented by a new ocean habitat.
“Because of our planet’s ever-shifting geology, Angola’s coastal cliffs contain the fossil remains of marine creatures from the prehistoric South Atlantic,” said Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the museum. “We are honored by the generosity of the Angolan people for sharing a window into this part of the Earth’s unfolding story with our visitors.”
Read more at SMU Research

2018 Alumni Fall 2018 July 2018 News

Congratulations to the XPRIZE team!

A puzzle-solving smartphone game designed by SMU and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) experts to teach struggling adults to read was today named one of five finalists in an international competition. Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis is a finalist for the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
A recent pilot study at SMU found that low-literate, English-language learner adults who played the game for two or more hours a week significantly improved their literacy skills after eight weeks. Anecdotal evidence also shows their improved reading skills also have improved their lives, ranging from a grandmother who finally gained the confidence to speak with her granddaughter in English, to co-workers who praised a participant’s improved language skills.
“Clearly we are very proud to have advanced in this important competition,” says Stephanie Knight, dean of SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, which provided faculty expertise in the literacy and instructional design  of the game. “We are committed to finding a successful, accessible teaching tool for low-literacy adults. And we know we are on the right track when we hear that one of our study participants gets to hear her children clap every time her reading skills improve enough for her to advance in the game.”
Finalists were selected based on field-testing performance. The SMU-LIFT team will be recognized Saturday, June 23 at the American Library Association annual meeting in New Orleans, along with the other finalists. Each finalist will be awarded a $100,000 prize.
In January 2019, X-Prize will present the team with the most effective app with $3 million, plus $1 million apiece to the apps with the best performance among native English speakers and non-native speakers.
Read more about People ForWords in SMU Magazine.

2018 Alumni Fall 2018 July 2018

Plunging into green engineering

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2018 Fall 2018 June 2018 News

Preparing legal leaders for a changing world

Combined gifts of $4 million will create the new Robert B. Rowling Center for Business Law and Leadership in SMU’s Dedman School of Law to train the next generation of prominent legal and business leaders and influence national conversations surrounding business and corporate law.
At the request of an anonymous donor who made the lead gift, the center is being named in honor of Dallas businessman Robert B. Rowling, owner and Chairman of TRT Holdings, Inc., which is the holding company for the Omni Hotels and Resorts chain as well as Gold’s Gym International. He received an undergraduate degree in business before graduating from SMU’s Dedman School of Law in 1979.
The lead donor asked Mr. Rowling the favor of sharing his name with the new center to reflect that Mr. Rowling exemplifies the type of business achievement, community engagement and civic contribution that future participants in the center’s programs should strive to emulate.
“Bob Rowling is the perfect example of the combined skills that will be the focus of the new center,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Today’s law students will be navigating careers that we cannot even imagine at the moment. They need training in ethical leadership, business analytics and entrepreneurship to develop the skills they will need to be successful. The Rowling Center has a role to play in shaping the future of business and corporate law.”
The Rowling Center will enrich the School’s existing curriculum, and include new leadership training to highlight professionalism and “soft skills,” as well as empirical training to teach core business skills. The program will build on the legal and business acumen centered in Dallas, collaborating with SMU’s Cox School of Business to provide an interdisciplinary approach. The center also will enhance Dedman Law’s mentoring program and provide new opportunities for students to connect with SMU’s extensive network of highly successful alumni and supporters.
Read more at SMU News.

2018 Fall 2018 June 2018 News

Powering achievement across the Hilltop

2018 Alumni Fall 2018 June 2018

Jasmine Liu ’18 discovers her future in the stars

Jasmine Liu ’18 came to the Hilltop from Fuzhou No. 5 High School in Fuzhou, China, to major in accounting and physics and intended to pursue a career in the corporate world. However, after joining physicist Robert Kehoe’s research team, she was star struck. Fueled by SMU’s high-performance computing power, her work helped reveal a variable star in the Pegasus constellation. Now she sees graduate school in either astrophysics or astronomy in her future.

Story by Kathleen Tibbetts
Invisible to the naked eye, the variable star ROTSE1 J000831.43+223154.8 flickers in the northern sky. It hides within an ancient star map formed, it was said, when the king of the gods transformed his most heroic steed into a constellation.
For Jasmine Liu ’18 – an SMU physics student and Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholar – it represents a crowning achievement in her University career.
As a student living in Dallas, it was fitting that her work helped unveil a variable star in the Pegasus constellation. The city of Dallas long ago adopted the winged horse of Greek song and story as its own – not as a myth but as a symbol of striving, of inspiration, of looking ever upward.
It seems especially appropriate for Liu, who found her calling in the night sky after arriving in Dallas to study business.
Liu came to the Hilltop from Fuzhou No. 5 High School in Fuzhou, China to major in accounting and physics. With a degree from SMU’s Cox School of Business in hand, she planned to return home after graduation and pursue a career in the corporate world, as both her parents had.
But Liu, a math lover, soon discovered that she didn’t find the arithmetic of accounting quite challenging enough. And she was questioning the wisdom of trying to manage double majors in business and one of the natural sciences. “It just left me a little too busy,” she says.
By her second summer in Dallas, she’d made her next big discovery: the opportunity to work with SMU physicist Robert Kehoe in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences as a 2016 Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholar. A long discussion with Dr. Kehoe about cosmology and astrophysics convinced her to take on work as his undergraduate research assistant.
“I really wanted to give it a shot,” she says. “I could have spent the summer doing nothing, but it seemed really meaningful to do this instead.”
Read more at SMU News.
2018 Fall 2018 June 2018 News

SMU names new Board officers and members

Three new officers and three new trustees were named to SMU’s Board of Trustees during the board’s spring meeting on May 4. The Board also passed a resolution to honor two former members as trustees emeriti.
Robert H. Dedman, Jr. ’80, ’84 has been elected as chair, David B. Miller ’72, ’73 was elected as vice-chair, and Kelly Hoglund Compton ’79 was elected as secretary. Officers are elected for one-year terms and are eligible for re-election up to four consecutive terms in any respective office.
The new officers will begin their one-year terms on June 1, and preside over the September 14 meeting of the Board of Trustees.
New trustee Bradley W. Brookshire ’76 will fill the vacancy left by the death of longtime SMU trustee Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48. The Board’s new ex officio faculty representative is Faculty Senate President Dayna Oscherwitz, French area chair in the Department of World Languages and Literatures, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Ben Manthey ’09, ’19 will serve as ex officio student trustee.
Concluding their board service are Paul Krueger, past-president of the SMU Faculty Senate and professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; and student trustee Andrew B. Udofa ’18.
The SMU Board of Trustees also passed a resolution naming Linda Pitts Custard ’60, ’99 and Alan D. Feld ’57, ’60 as trustees emeriti.
Read more at SMU News.

2018 Fall 2018 June 2018 News

Understanding modern research libraries from the ground up

University of Connecticut Associate Dean of Libraries Holly Jeffcoat, a leader in the use of technology in instruction and library services, has been selected as the next dean of SMU Libraries. She will assume her new duties August 1, 2018.
“Holly Jeffcoat has deep leadership skills, as well as broad administrative experience in the library system of a highly ranked research institution,” said SMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven C. Currall. “She will lead SMU Libraries in forging a collective vision in line with SMU’s goals for even greater academic quality.”
SMU President R. Gerald Turner lauded Jeffcoat’s strategic vision.
“Holly is wonderfully forward thinking in her understanding of the role of technology in libraries now and in the future,” Turner said.
Read more at SMU News.

2018 Alumni Fall 2018 June 2018

Art in high gear: Julia Jalowiec ‘18

2018 Fall 2018 May 2018 News

Rising to the challenge and exceeding expectations

A $400,000 challenge from longtime SMU supporters Carl Sewell ’66 and Peggy Higgins Sewell ’72 has generated more than $834,000 in gifts and pledges for merit-based scholarships combined with unique programming for academically gifted students in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Dedman College Scholars are chosen to inspire their peers, challenge their professors and contribute to the university’s academic reputation. The new funding will allow SMU to offer 20 new four-year scholarships, effectively doubling the number available in past years.
“The Sewells’ call to action, and the response of 17 new donors and donor families who met their challenge, is giving us the opportunity to offer admission in fall 2018 to the largest group of Dedman Scholars in SMU history,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “These scholarships are a great opportunity for the recipients, but our Dedman Scholars also enrich the University as a whole.”
Carl Sewell, an SMU trustee, issued the challenge November 27, 2017, after the summer launch of the Pony Power initiative to raise more current-use funds for initiatives such as scholarships, faculty research and rewarding student experiences. The Sewells vowed to match every dollar in gifts and pledges up to $400,000 made by new donors to the Dedman College Scholars program by September 1; however new donors stepped up to meet the challenge and committed $434,614 before April 1.
Read more at SMU News.

2018 Fall 2018 May 2018 News

A new campus drawing card begins to take shape

SMU celebrated the building of its new SMU Indoor Performance Center on April 14 during the annual Mustang spring football game. The 67,000-square-foot facility with its indoor practice field, training facilities and entertainment areas, slated to open in the spring of 2019, is a reflection of SMU’s commitment to a first-class and competitive athletic program.
“Opening onto Bishop Boulevard in the very heart of our campus, this facility will enhance the student-athlete experience, elevate our competitiveness and serve as an asset to the entire campus community,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
Located at the corner of Bishop Boulevard and Binkley Avenue, the new center will be built on a site long dedicated to SMU Athletics. A basketball pavilion built in 1926 was replaced by the 1942 construction of the Perkins Gymnasium. The gymnasium was converted in 1957 to the Perkins Natatorium, home of SMU Swimming and Diving, which moved in 2017 to the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center on SMU’s East Campus. The new facility will continue the site’s historic legacy.
“The SMU Indoor Performance Center represents a tangible, visible investment in our ongoing vision to establish SMU Athletics as the best overall program in the American Athletic Conference,” said Director of Athletics Rick Hart.
Read more at SMU News.

2018 Fall 2018 May 2018 News

Faculty gift creates endowed chair in Cox

Andrew H. Chen and Elaine T. Chen have made a $2 million gift to the SMU Edwin L. Cox School of Business to establish The Andrew H. Chen Endowed Chair in Financial Investments Fund.
Andrew Chen, who retired as Professor Emeritus of Finance at SMU in 2012, said he and his wife wanted to ensure that the Cox School will continue to attract outstanding finance faculty.
The gift will include $1.5 million for the endowment of the faculty chair and $500,000 for operational support, which will enable immediate use of the position while the endowment vests.
“As a faculty member in the Finance Department, I focused much of my research and teaching in the areas of option pricing and options-related investment strategies, ” Andrew Chen said. “After retiring from my faculty position, I decided to put into practice what I had taught in the classroom and was fortunate enough to meet with some success. Elaine and I now find ourselves in the position of being able to make a useful contribution to the Cox School by setting up an endowed chair in financial investment. We hope that this new finance chair will further enhance the Cox Finance Department’s reputation and enable its holder to enjoy an excellent career at SMU, just as I did when I was a member of the Finance Department.”
Read more at SMU News.

2018 April 2018 Fall 2018 News

A visionary approach to research and innovation

Dallas business leaders Linda Wertheimer Hart ’65 and Milledge (Mitch) A. Hart, III have committed a significant gift to the Gerald J. Ford Research and Innovation Building at SMU. The new facility will house the University’s Linda and Mitch Hart eCenter, which includes SMU Guildhall, the world’s top-ranked graduate game design program. The building will be located on SMU’s main campus at the corner of McFarlin Boulevard and Airline Road.
“Thanks to the Harts’ generosity, we are one step closer to creating a world-class center for research and innovation on our campus,” said R. Gerald Turner, president of SMU. “We are excited about the synergies we’ll derive from bringing advanced computer programs together under one roof.”
In 2000, the Harts made a generous gift to establish the Hart eCenter, currently located at SMU-in-Plano, as well as to endow the eCenter’s directorship. The Hart eCenter focuses on interdisciplinary research, education and innovation; it is the first university-wide initiative focused on interactive network technologies created at a major research university. Reporting directly to SMU’s provost, the Hart eCenter uses this freedom and flexibility to promote thought leadership at the intersections of multiple fields and disciplines.
The Hart eCenter’s most visible manifestation is SMU Guildhall. Since its founding in 2003, the program has graduated more than 700 students, who now work at more than 250 video game studios around the world. SMU Guildhall offers both a Master of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development degree and a Professional Certificate of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development, with specializations in Art, Design, Production and Programming. In 2017 and 2018, the Guildhall has been named the world’s “No. 1 Graduate Program for Game Design” by The Princeton Review, based on a survey of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada and abroad that offer game design coursework and/or degrees.
Read more at SMU News.

2018 Fall 2018 March 2018 News

Michael Bloomberg receives Medal of Freedom

Businessman, philanthropist, author and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg received on Jan. 29, 2018, the Tower Center Medal of Freedom from SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. The honor, presented every two years, recognizes “extraordinary contributions for the advancement of democratic ideals and to the security, prosperity and welfare of humanity.”
Bloomberg was elected the 108th mayor of New York City in 2001 and won re-election in 2005 and 2009. As the first New York mayor elected after the 9/11 attacks, he put emergency preparation, infrastructure issues, education, and environmental and health regulations at the center of his concerns. During his tenure, he balanced the city budget, raised New York teacher salaries; unveiled PlaNYC: A Greater, Greener New York to fight climate change and prepare for its impacts; and co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns (now Everytown for Gun Safety), a nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to reducing the number of illegal guns in U.S. cities.
“In the aftermath of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil, Michael Bloomberg led New York City out of mourning and back into its place as one of the most important cities in the world. He took the city’s public education system and poverty issues head on during his terms as mayor,” said SMU Trustee Jeanne Tower Cox ’78 in her introduction. She also lauded Bloomberg’s work with his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, which focuses on five areas that echo his priorities as mayor: public health, the arts, government innovation, the environment, and education.
Read more at SMU News.

2018 Fall 2018 January 2018 News

Economist wins prestigious award with bribery research

Guilt and shame play a role in reducing bribery, according to research by SMU economist Danila Serra.
As an economist who has studied bribery behavior extensively, Serra has discovered that bribery declines if potentially corrupt agents are made aware of the negative effects of corruption, and when victims can share specific information about bribe demands through online reporting systems.
An assistant professor in the SMU Department of Economics, Serra’s research methodology is unique – relying on lab experiments in which players gain and lose real money. Her work is frequently cited by other researchers studying the field of bribery.
In November the directors and officers of the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics honored Serra as the inaugural recipient of the $50,000 Vernon L. Smith Ascending Scholar Prize. The Smith Prize is described by the foundation as a “budding genius” award.
Read more at SMU News.