2021 Features News Spring 2021

Seismic-acoustic research awarded an earthshaking $18 million grant

SMU’s Brian Stump and his team will use the grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to continue their work of international nuclear disarmament and peacekeeping significance.
In 2008, when North Texas began experiencing strange underground rumblings in what historically has been a stable region of the country, curious reporters reached out to seismic detective Brian Stump, Albritton Professor of Earth Sciences at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, to explain what was going on.
Once again, Stump is the center of attention as he and his team have been named the recipients of the largest research grant in SMU history. With the funding, the researchers will use a combination of acoustic and seismic waves to better distinguish between human-made events, such as nuclear tests, and nature’s bumps and jolts, like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
SMU’s seismo-acoustic analysis team has been doing this kind of work for over a quarter century. The team boasts other noteworthy experts in the field, including Stephen Arrowsmith, associate professor and Hamilton Chair in Earth Sciences; Chris Hayward, senior scientist in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences; and Paul Golden, director of the geophysics laboratory in earth sciences.
Using data from two seismic arrays in the Big Bend area of Texas and in Mina, Nevada, SMU scientists analyze data resulting from the acoustic and seismic waves that occur when nuclear weapons are detonated anywhere in the world. These stations, both in extremely quiet areas, record signals accompanying earthquakes and sometimes volcanic eruptions as well. The new funding allows this work to continue.
“In the cases of earthquakes and volcanoes, the waves provide new insight into the physical processes that accompany these natural events,” said Stump. “For human-induced events, the waves similarly allow us to locate the sources as well as the processes that accompany the events. An example is mining explosions at the Earth’s surface, which generate both seismic and infrasound signals that can be used to identify these activities.”
SMU seismologist Brian Stump and his team were awarded the largest research grant in SMU’s history, $18 million, for their work on monitoring the Earth’s acoustic and seismic waves.

2020 Fall 2020 Features

Rising to the challenge

Unprecedented and uncertain: these are the well-worn descriptors of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, it has also given us opportunities to be our best selves. SMU has met the challenges introduced by COVID-19 with innovation, creativity and resilience. In the midst of the pandemic, here are some of the ways that SMU has continued to be Mustang Strong.

Mustangs meet the pandemic head on

Meeting Growing Needs

In 2017, Owen Lynch, an assistant professor in the Division of Corporate Communication, started Restorative Farms, a self-sustaining nonprofit farm that not only grows food, but also trains and nurtures local urban farming professionals. When the pandemic hit, Restorative Farms quickly transitioned to selling box gardens, dubbed GroBoxes, online with the help of 14 SMU communications students.
“Through working with Restorative Farms, I have learned more about the intersection of giving back to a community and capitalism, and how business and service do not have to be mutually exclusive,” says student Palmer Beldy ’22.

Making Math Easier

For many parents trying to help their children with remote learning during COVID-19, panic set in – especially when math instruction was involved. That’s when Candace Walkington came to the rescue.
Walkington, a math education associate professor in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development, produced a series of videos targeting grades 3-8. She used hand-washing, neighborhood walks and other timely topics to make math fun and accessible. She even calculated the number of rubber bands needed to craft a cord to give a beloved Barbie doll the best bungee jumping experience. Watch the video and try it yourself.

President Turner Zooms In

When COVID-19 forced SMU to move to remote learning in the spring, President R. Gerald Turner missed seeing students on campus and decided to drop in on classes via Zoom.
During his visit to an intro to modern physics class, he asked the students if they had any questions he could answer. One quickly replied, “Would you like to come solve the Schrödinger wave equation, President Turner?”
“You know, if I didn’t have an appointment right after this, I would,” Turner responded with a laugh.

Musem Crafternoons

Even while closed during the pandemic, the Meadows Museum continued to act as a leading center for education and exhibition in Spanish arts and culture through its “Museum From Home” webpage of digital resources for anyone to access.
Among the video offerings was the Crafternoon series of weekly at-home art activities for all ages; a Culture Corner revealing insights into various aspects of Spanish culture; and Tiny Tours featuring deep dives into works of art. In addition, the Poest Laureate program provided a platform for SMU students to voice connections between visual art and poetry.

Free telehealth counseling

When times get tough, SMU’s Center for Family Counseling is there to help. Mandatory social distancing forced the clinic to offer remote counseling when patients could not visit in person. As clinic staff began to work with established clients via Zoom, they also realized that many individuals were now dealing with coronavirus-induced isolation and additional stay-at-home issues. That’s when they came up with a plan.
The clinic began offering free telehealth counseling for those struggling during COVID-19. It’s been so successful that even when in-person visits can resume, the clinic will continue to offer remote appointments.

Striking the right chord

Music therapy students in the Meadows School of the Arts found new ways to stay in tune with those they serve. They connected with clients weekly through HIPAA-compliant Zoom accounts and used live music, talking, singing, playing instruments and therapeutic movement to improve physical and mental health.
This new reliance on telehealth methods meant that students had to get creative. When Malley Morales ’22 discovered that some people she works with didn’t have musical instruments at home, she looked to her kitchen for inspiration and found that pots and spoons can become a drum kit in a pinch.

Q&A with Leigh Ann Moffett, SMU Director of Emergency Management

Leigh Ann Moffett, Director of Emergency ManagementEven for someone as experienced as Leigh Ann Moffett, the challenges COVID-19 brings to her role as SMU’s director of emergency management are unique.
For over a decade she’s been preparing for – and managing – complex emergencies like fires and active shooter situations on college campuses. COVID-19, however, has proven to be as demanding as it is far-reaching.
Moffett is up to the task, with a little help. She leads SMU’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a cross section of campus departments that coordinates the University’s comprehensive response to the virus.
Moffett discussed how this group handled myriad issues created by the pandemic with SMU Magazine.
At what point did you realize COVID-19 was going to be consequential?
When cases first started to appear in the U.S. in January, that’s when we immedi-ately pulled together our team. We started reviewing our pandemic plan to ensure we had the capability and capacity to execute it. SMU’s decision not to resume on-campus instruction in the spring was significant. We had to further evaluate what resources we’d need and where to pull them from. That’s why it was critical for the EOC to meet regularly and form a united response.
How is this emergency different from anything else you’ve managed?
It’s challenging to target an end date. With any incident, there will always be unknowns. Not only is the timeline uncertain, but a pan-demic is not a scenario where the threat can be immediately neutralized. Because of that, starting the recovery process is uncertain. It’s quite different from a fire or an active shooter in that sense.
This seems like a stressful role. What keeps you going?
This is a good team and these are really good people in the EOC. Everyone is working just as hard and putting in as many long hours as I am. We all do it for the greater good of our students and the SMU community.

2020 Alumni Fall 2020 Features News

SMU history: Experiencing challenges and triumphs over more than a century

Today’s health crisis and human rights movement may differ from anything we’ve seen before, but Mustangs of every generation have faced challenges in their times. Sometimes we’ve stumbled. Sometimes we’ve triumphed. But for more than 100 years, we’ve been engaged.
World War I and the Roaring Twenties


A financial crisis and the collapse in cotton prices hurt Texas and the nation. SMU scales back its plans for dormitories in the fall, build-ing three temporary halls for under $40,000. (In 1926, all three still-standing dorms were destroyed in a fire.)


World War I dampens enrollment at SMU from 1,114 (1916-1917) to 1,012 (1917-1918). More than 250 students join the Student Army Training Corps through SMU, and 473 current or former students enter the armed forces. Of those students, 11 die in service. The depressed economy leads SMU into debt that will last years. President Robert Stewart Hyer borrows money to pay professors, using his personal possessions as collateral. Trustees put up their own collateral for loans to keep SMU afloat.


The influenza epidemic invades SMU at the opening of school in September. In October, University officials implement health precautions, including canceling all chapel and church services. Four members of the SMU community perish during the epidemic.


National economic boom and the rise of the oil industry in Texas put SMU on secure financial footing. Following the war, enrollment grows to 1,341 (1920-1921).
The Great Depression


The depression forces SMU to reduce salaries by 20% in 1932–1933, and then by 50% in April, May and June of 1934. Due to these financial challenges, SMU offers its first need-based scholarships to 60 incoming freshmen in 1934. Through it all, SMU students establish several traditions, including two that endure: the live mascot Peruna in 1932 and Pigskin Revue in 1933.


Student Council of Religious Activities and the Moorland branch of the YMCA for Negroes campaign to improve Dallas’ Black high school, Booker T. Washington. SMU students speak at several churches about “Our Responsibility for Negro Education in Dallas” and call for an end to prejudice.


The New Deal’s positive impact on college attendance causes SMU’s enrollment to explode – from 2,445 (1934-1935) to 3,831 (1937-1938).
World War II


Before President Umphrey Lee takes office, he tells the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, “There can be no future for our civilization except a future of tolerance.” During uncertain times, he urges SMU to “emphasize its college of liberal arts” and freedom of inquiry.


As the U.S. gets closer to entering WWII, SMU engineering school facilities are used to train military aviators and others. In 1942, male student enrollment drops from 2,308 to 1,886. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, SMU moves to a quarter system, enabling students to earn a degree in only three years. By November 1942, 27 faculty members have been called into military or government service. The Navy College Training Program (V-12) begins in July 1943 at SMU. By the end of the war, 450 men have participated and nearly 50 have earned SMU degrees. Female students form the College Organization for General Service to support the war effort and increasingly take leadership roles in student organizations. By the war’s end, 127 students and 137 alumni have lost their lives in the service of their country.


Trailerville at SMU during World War IIPresident Lee, anticipating the utilization of the GI Bill’s tuition benefits, establishes the General Co-ordinator of Veterans Education office. The School of Business Administration establishes rehabilitation certificate programs for returning veterans. In fall 1946, 6,780 students (nearly 4,000 of them veterans) enroll – 3,000 more than in any previous semester. Dozens of new faculty members are hired. From 1946 to 1953, many veterans with families live in “Trailerville,” a self-con-tained community including 108 trailer homes.
Post-war Years


Dallas and SMU remain strictly segregated. Beginning in 1946, a small number of Black graduate students begin studying in the Perkins School of Theology, though they do not earn any credits. The 1948 Cotton Bowl football game sees SMU face Penn State, which has its first Black players – establishing the first major southern sporting event with Black and white players competing. After the tied (13-13) game, both teams are honored with a joint dinner at the SMU student center. By 1949, a handful of Black students are attending regular theology classes, doing required coursework and taking exams – all unofficially, with grades being forwarded to the students’ chosen institutions. In November 1950, SMU trustees authorize enrolling Black students as regular degree-seeking students. In 1951, Merrimon Cuninggim, dean of the Perkins School, recruits at Black colleges and enrolls five students who become SMU’s first Black graduates in 1955: James Arthur Hawkins, John Wesley Elliott, Negail Rudolph Riley, Allen Cecil Williams and James Vernon Lyles. The students initially eat their meals only in the Perkins cafeteria and room only with one another. In spring 1953, the four unmarried Black students and four white students choose to become sets of roommates, sparking controversy.


Fall sees the departure of 120 male stu-dents for the military at the beginning of the Korean conflict.


The computing revolution enters its second decade, and the Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik. Remington Rand installs a UNIVAC 1103 computing system on SMU’s campus – the first of its kind on any college campus in the southern United States. SMU, the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and Texas Instruments form the Graduate Research Center, a nonprofit organization housed on the SMU campus and focused on research in the pure and applied sciences.
Civil Rights Era


Nationally, protestors challenge Jim Crow laws and the violence and discrimination against Black Americans. In January 1961, Perkins theology students and others commandeer a “white only” lunch counter at the nearby University Pharmacy until the Black protestor in their group is served. In September, after years of Dallas ISD resisting Brown v. Board of Education, 18 Black first-graders enter several Dallas public schools. In April 1962, SMU admits its first Black undergraduate student, Paula Elaine Jones, who graduates in 1966 with a B.A. in speech. By 1969, about 60 Black students – 40 undergraduate and 21 graduate – enroll at SMU, including Jerry LeVias, the first Black athlete in the Southwest Conference to win an athletic scholarship. LeVias later says, “I was a good teammate on the weekends. I got a good academic education, but I didn’t really have a social life.” During this time, SMU has only one Black faculty member: anthropology and sociology professor William S. Willis, Jr. Racist practices such as Old South Week continue throughout the era and beyond.
In March 1965, a contingent of SMU students and faculty participate in the “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery to champion voting rights for Black citizens. After police attack the demonstrators, eight SMU theology students travel to join the second Selma march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For the third march, 56 students and faculty members join 25,000 other protestors. On March 17, 1966, at the invitation of the Student Association, Dr. King becomes the first major civil rights leader to speak on campus.
In 1967, Black students at SMU create the Black League of Afro-American College Students (BLAACS). In April 1969, BLAACS delivers to President Willis M. Tate a 13-page list of demands; it includes the sentence, “We blacks demand an education which will be useful to us as black people, for black people.” One week later, 34 students negotiate with Tate and other administrators until several agreements are reached, including a goal to enroll 200 Black students and hire five Black faculty members by fall 1969. SMU soon hires its first Black administrator – Irving Baker, assistant to the president and head of the Afro-American studies program – and five additional Black faculty members. Hiring two Black students to help with student enrollment, SMU recruits 50 new Black students – a record number but still far short of its 200-student goal.

SMU student carrying protest sign1965–1975

Inspired by the civil rights moment, the U.S. women’s liberation movement grows. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 extends nondiscrimination protections to educational institutions. By 1965-1966, anachronistic dress codes for women are eliminated. As part of SMU’s 50th anniversary in 1966, the first Women’s Symposium is held, becoming an annual event. By 1970-1971, SMU relaxes or eliminates curfews at women’s residence halls. In 1970, the national Women’s Equity Action League files sex discrimination complaints against more than 300 institutions, including SMU. At this time, women account for only 16% of the faculty, with more than half only being instructors. In 1972, the 15-member Commission on the Status of Women is formed, and one year later, it delivers recommendations for reaching full compliance by 1976. President James


Across the nation, students protest the U.S. military presence in Vietnam. In April 1967, SMU students form a chapter of a national student antiwar group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In May 1972, more than 300 SMU students march to Willis Tate’s office in protest of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon’s extending the Vietnam War by mining the harbor of Haiphong, North Vietnam.
Late 20th Century
1972 Los Chicanos


In 1971, the approximately 50 Hispanic students on campus form the Chicano Association, which soon becomes Los Chicanos. Like BLAACS two years earlier, the group delivers a list of demands to President Paul Hardin III. In 1974, the University names a full-time advisor to Chicano students and establishes the Chicano Studies Council. In 1976, José Gonzalez, SMU’s first Chicano professor, helps establish the Chicano Studies program.


In 1975, four Black students are added to SMU’s cheerleading squad, joining nine white members and officially integrating the group, which is later named best varsity team at a major college campus in August. In 1976, students vote to eliminate quotas for the cheerleading team, which resulted in the team’s having only one Black cheerleader in 1977. SMU student sign: Senat, if you take our votes, you take our voices.In 1978-1979, 230 students are Black, and in an unprecedented write-in campaign, David Huntley is elected as the first Black student body president.


The gay liberation movement surfaces at SMU with the Perkins School admitting gay and lesbian students for theological studies. In 1975, the Student Senate rejects a student organization for gay students, who in 1980 form the Gay/Lesbian Student Support Organization. In 1983, the Student Senate again denies recognition. In response, 3,500 students sign a petition in opposition, and several alumni and faculty write letters of protest. Students on both sides appear on Phil Donahue’s national television program in December. Active debate continues until 1991, when the Student Senate charters the organization, officially renamed Spectrum in 2006.


The Office of Admission hires staff focused on recruiting and retaining students from ethnic minorities. In 1987, President A. Kenneth Pye joins SMU and emphasizes the importance of attracting Black, Hispanic and Jewish students. The Campus Jewish Network is created. New faculty are hired to direct the Mexican American Studies and African American Studies programs, which are combined into the Ethnic Studies program. From 1987–1991, minority enrollment increases 40%. By 1993–1994, minority students comprise 22% of first-year undergraduates and 16% of the entire student body.SOURCES:
Darwin Payne, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop (2016)
SMU Archives/SMU Libraries

2020 Alumni Features News Spring 2020

Carolyn and David B. Miller ’72, ’73 make $50 million commitment to SMU and the Cox School of Business

When former Mustang basketball standout David B. Miller ’72, ’73 and his wife, Carolyn, made the largest single alumni gift in SMU history, the Hilltop milestone made headlines in Dallas. Longtime business columnist Cheryl Hall ’73, who earned her journalism degree from the University, wrote about the publicity-shy couple for The Dallas Morning News. In this excerpt of the newspaper profile, their generous spirit and their love for family, community and SMU shine through.
How does a guy who went to Southern Methodist University on a basketball scholarship strike it so rich that he can give his alma mater more than $100 million?
Carolyn and David B. MillerHe parlays the finance education that he earned at its Edwin L. Cox School of Business into co-founding one of the world’s largest private equity firms.
And just how David B. Miller came to do that is one of those under-the-radar success tales that Dallas is so famous for.
Miller and his wife, Carolyn, pictured at right, made headlines in October 2019 when they gave SMU $50 million — the biggest individual donation in the University’s 108-year history.
The Millers’ moment in the spotlight was unusual for this Highland Park couple who have quietly given tens of millions of philanthropic dollars since 2006.
The Miller name is already on the event center of Moody Coliseum and the floor of its basketball court, the campus student center at SMU-in-Taos and the ballroom of the new indoor training center.
The couple’s latest donation is intended to keep the Cox School competitive by modernizing and building facilities, hiring additional endowed faculty and expanding undergraduate and graduate scholarships to increase student diversity.
But frankly, a lot of people outside the SMU community don’t know who Carolyn and David are.

“He treats people with dignity and respect regardless of what their lot is in life.
He’s a believer in collective thinking from smart minds.”

– Kyle Miller ’01 speaking about his father, David Miller ’72, ’73

David was a three-year varsity standout center from 1968-72 and earned his undergraduate degree and M.B.A. in finance at Cox in the early 1970s.
Today Miller is a co-founder and managing partner of global private equity firm EnCap Investments LP, which completed its 21st fund last year with 350 institutional partners. That brought the total amount of funds under its management to nearly $40 billion since its inception in 1988.
Carolyn, a former elementary school teacher in Garland and social worker, closely guards her privacy while rolling up her sleeves to work for social causes such as aiding seniors, protecting battered women and sheltering the homeless.
But $50 million is hard to keep under wraps, especially when one intent of the Millers’ huge gift was to lead others to SMU’s next major fundraising campaign.
The Millers sat down for the first time ever as a couple to share how they came to spread such enormous largesse.
David Miller keeps a scrapbook close at hand in his home office. Its title: “A Dream Come True.”
“That dream was to play basketball at SMU,” he says, flipping through the worn pages of newsclips and mementos assembled by his mother.
As Miller was about to graduate from Richland High School, the team’s star center had nearly a dozen scholarship offers but not the one that really mattered to him – SMU.
“There was just nothing bigger in the southwestern part of the country than SMU basketball,” he recalls. “Doc Hayes was their legendary coach. My senior year, SMU beat Louisville, the No. 2 team in the country, in the NCAA regional tournament. I was a passionate fan.”
Two days after National Signing Day, the first day high school players can commit to a college, David told his mother at breakfast that he’d reconciled himself to becoming a Red Raider at Texas Tech University. But Fay Ann Miller, now a 92-year-old SMU alum, urged her son to hold out for one more day.

Celebrating the naming of Moody Coliseum’s David B. Miller Court in 2018.

“It was magical,” he recalls. “I show up at the high school the next day, and there is the legendary coach Doc Hayes and his replacement, Bob Prewitt, who was actually my coach, and they offer me a scholarship. And the rest is history. My dream came true.”
Miller earned his undergraduate degree on a basketball scholarship and his M.B.A. in finance on a teaching fellowship, so he never paid a dime in tuition. He says that as he crossed the stage to receive his M.B.A. diploma, he promised himself that he would give back if he ever could.
His first donation was a $25 gift to the Mustang Club and a $100 pledge to SMU’s general operational fund in 1979.
Little did he know just how much he’d be able to pay it forward.
He started his career in energy lending for Dallas’ Republic National Bank, which was one of the largest financial institutions in the Southwest.
In 1980, the 30-year-old and his buddy, Bob Zorich, left Republic to form an oil and gas company in Denver. Seven years later, when energy boom times went bust, the partners sold out and moved back to Texas.
That same year, Miller — backed by the late, legendary oilman L. Frank Pitts and his son-in-law, Bill Custard — formed PMC for Pitts, Miller and Custard, scraping together energy properties viewed as worthless by most investors.
“The major oil companies had all decided that domestic onshore opportunities wouldn’t move the needle,” Miller recalls. “So they had moved to the deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico and international exploration and were selling their domestic properties. There was a wealth of opportunity to buy. You just had to find the money.”
PMC’s first fund raised $20 million with three institutional investors: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a huge medical foundation in Washington, D.C., and two major insurance companies.
PMC eventually became part of EnCap (short for Energy Capital) Investments — co-founded by Miller, Zorich and three other friends from Republic Bank. Frank Pitts considered Miller his adopted son, says Linda Pitts Custard, Pitts’ daughter and wife of Bill.
“Daddy was a wildcatter, as you know, and he appreciated David’s entrepreneurship and his ethical approach to business,” she says. “David is a very personable, warm, affable man. None of his success has gone to his head. He remains just as down-to-earth as he was when I met him 30 years ago.
“The business partnership separated, but the deep friendship remained.”
David’s son, Kyle Miller, made headlines of his own three years ago.
In 2012, Kyle started Silver Hill Energy Partners LLC, an independent oil and gas company, with $12 million in seed money. He sold it four years later for $2.4 billion to Dallas-based RSP Permian Inc., a publicly held Permian producer. The Oil & Gas Journal called it the “2016 M&A Deal of the Year.”
Kyle says his father taught him and his sister, Meredith Miller Bebee, that their most valuable assets were their word and integrity.
“He treats people with dignity and respect regardless of what their lot in life is. He’s a believer in collective thinking from smart minds,” says the 40-year-old founder of Silver Hill Energy Holdings LLC, which he founded last year.
David and Carolyn married 19 years ago — the second marriage for each.
“I have massive respect for her and what she thinks,” David says, looking over at Carolyn on the couch. “And while I may not agree with some of her political leanings, I respect them. Frankly, if you think about the discord that’s going on in the country, that’s probably the solution.
“She’s softened me.”
Carolyn grew up in Magnolia, Arkansas, a town of about 12,000, before earning her degree in elementary education at Hendrix College in 1974. She also holds master’s degrees in elementary education and in gerontology.

“She’s an extraordinary person who has a great humanitarian persona.”

– SMU Trustee Caren Prothro speaking about Carolyn Miller

The causes closest to her heart are The Senior Source and Shelter Ministries of Dallas, parent of the Austin Street Center and Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.
“It’s so important for women to feel empowered to leave an abusive relationship,” Carolyn says. “Most abusers are controllers. So Genesis gives women a sense of control over their lives. And with the increase in homelessness in Dallas County, the need for the Austin Street Center is obvious.”
SMU trustee Caren Prothro says Carolyn is a story in her own right. “She’s an extraordinary person who has a great humanitarian persona. An example of that is her involvement with New Friends New Life, a program for trafficked girls,” Prothro says. “She and David are a wonderful duo. They both have their great strengths and passions. Carolyn holds her own and then some.”

Alumni Features News Spring 2020

Pastor Richie Butler ’93 creates opportunities for crucial conversations about race

Pastor Richie Butler ’93 remembers a particularly heated discussion during a town hall shortly after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, 2014. The conversation grew fiery among the many members of the community in attendance to speak with the leadership of the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and the Dallas County Sheriff’’s Office.
“I noticed every negative emotion and energy – division, anger, mistrust, frustration, hate,” and many in attendance felt that justice would not be served, he says.
But out of that meeting, Butler says, came a calling from God: to serve as an activist in Dallas race relations, to unite factions on both sides of a fractious issue and to build bridges among people of all colors. That’s where Project Unity was born.
Through Project Unity, Butler has galvanized the community around the idea that conversations, not confrontations, will create and sustain relationships among diverse groups. And he has brought the topic to a place where many avoid discussing the issues of politics and religion altogether – the dining table – as well as to a place where differences are put aside during the heat of athletic competition – the basketball court.
“What unites us is greater than what divides us,” Butler says.
This year, Butler took on a new post that positions him to build on the social movement he started. He left his pulpit at St. Paul United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1865 by enslaved people in Dallas, to become pastor of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, long considered a seat for social change in Texas. “This is a historical church, but we also want to make history here,” Butler says.
What unites us is greater than what divides us.
Project Unity has developed various events aimed at helping heal race relationships between law enforcement and Dallas citizens. One of the earliest, “Together We Ball,” is an annual day of family activities for the community culminating in a basketball game between pastors, police officers and community leaders held each August at the P.C. Cobb Stadium in Dallas. The event draws more than 1,500 participants.
“Together We Learn” is a partnership among the Dallas Police Department, the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, Dallas ISD, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and others to provide opportunities for teens to interact with law enforcement. Several hundred high school students have lunched with officers and received instructions on how to handle traffic or pedestrian stops.
However, Butler knew he needed broader engagement from the community after five police officers were ambushed and gunned down at a peaceful rally in downtown Dallas in July 2016. The gunman, killed in a standoff with police, was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran who was angry over police shootings of black citizens and stated that he wanted to kill white people, particularly police officers.
After multiple conversations with faith and community leaders across the city, Butler called for a Year of Unity in 2017. In partnership with white Dallas attorney Rob Crain, then-incoming Dallas Bar Association president, the pair engaged leaders statewide and from organizations, businesses and faith institutions, with former President George W. Bush serving as honorary chair.
Richie Butler: It's hard to demonize 'other' when you have a relationship with them.
Year of Unity rolled out more events with “Together We Heal,” a day of activities at the American Airlines Center that honored the fallen officers. A Year of Unity Choir was created with more than 100 diverse voices, and the group performed at the 2017 State Fair of Texas and at a benefit for Hurricane Harvey victims.
The signature event from Year of Unity, one that is close to Butler’s heart, is “Together We Dine.” The project is a series of safe conversations about race over dinner. At tables of six to eight diners and a facilitator, they answer questions about race while others at the table listen. After everyone answers the question, the table opens for discussion.
Highland Park United Methodist Church hosted a “Together We Dine” in December 2019. The event has been held by design several times at the church, in majority white and affluent University Park, to send a message, Butler says, because it is an area where people of color perceive they are not welcome.
Dozens of members from the church have participated in “Together We Dine,” which has provided “enlightening experiences for our congregation,” says the Rev. Paul Rasmussen ’04, HPUMC senior pastor and a member of SMU’s Board of Trustees. “Sharing a meal and being in conversation with people from different parts of Dallas, who had different experiences growing up around race and discrimination, was powerful. It reminded me that the more we understand what someone else has lived through, the greater the possibility for connection and relationship, even if opinions differ.”
Some of the diners have continued to participate in small, diverse groups around the topic after dining together to learn more “about the realities of racism in our community in a setting that allows for openness and honesty,” Rasmussen says. Others have taken “Together We Dine” back to their places of employment, where there were racial tensions that aren’t discussed openly.
Butler hopes that individuals at “Together We Dine,” who come from across racial, economic and social spectrums, experience an epiphanic moment when hearing stories of encounters with racism, just as he did.
Richie Butler: Activism is in my blood.
Butler was raised by a single mother in a low-income area of East Austin. He attended a Baptist church and excelled in athletics, which led to a scholarship to play football at SMU in 1989, when the football program was being revived after a two-year ban because of sanctions (known as the “death penalty) imposed by the NCAA for recruiting violations. He was recruited out of high school to play defensive back by the late SMU alumnus and pro football great Forrest Gregg ’55, whom Butler still considers a mentor.
“He was good man who modeled hard work, discipline and focus, and didn’t allow us to settle for second-rate,” Butler recalls. “Even though the odds were stacked against us (the team went 2-9 in 1989), win, lose or draw, we were to fight, to give our best effort and not back down.”
Other mentors for the double major in psychology and religious studies included Clarence Glover, who taught the course “Black and White”; history Professor Kenneth Hamilton; law Professor C. Paul Rogers III, who has served as the SMU faculty athletics representative since 1987; and religious studies Associate Professor Richard Cogley. He also interned with then-Congressman Martin Frost (D-Texas) in Washington, D.C. “I found people who saw potential and took an interest in my development,” Butler says. “They encouraged me to push forward, to be all that God wants me to be.”
As an undergraduate, Butler knew he had a calling to preach.
Butler says his SMU experience helped shape who he is today. “I learned how to think critically and reflect on the information I was receiving, rather than just memorize and regurgitate facts. At SMU I was exposed to a world different from my working-class upbringing in East Austin.”
While a member of the football team, Butler reached out to other student-athletes around the Southwest Conference (of which SMU was a member at the time) to launch initiatives to help improve opportunities for them, and he lobbied the SMU Student Senate to create a seat for a student-athlete representative. “Activism is in my blood, and SMU helps foster that by directing students’ energies in a productive way toward improving the community,” he says.
Butler continues that activism today, and gives back to his alma mater by serving on the SMU Board of Trustees and Dedman College Executive Board, as well as on the Communities Foundation of Texas board of trustees, the Dallas Assembly and the Real Estate Executive Council. He has received numerous awards for his efforts on behalf of racial reconciliation, including SMU’s Emerging Leader Award in 2008; the 2018 Silver Anniversary Mustang Award; the Dallas Bar Association 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award; Dallas Business Journal’s 2018 Minority Business Leader honoree; and the 2019 Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards Visionary recipient, among others.
Richie Butler and Dallas civic leaders and police.
While at SMU, Butler established lifelong relationships and networks among his classmates, including his wife, whom he met as a freshman. Neisha Strambler-Butler ’93, vice president of compensation and benefits at American Airlines, serves on the advisory board of directors for Project Unity. Butler credits her with keeping him balanced.
“God brings people into our lives for a reason. She recognizes my calling and cares deeply about social ills in society and how to make them right. She’s a brilliant woman, and I leverage her knowledge and experience with American Airlines for social good. We are partners in ministry together,” he says.
Former classmate Paige Dawson ’94, founder and president of MPD Ventures in Dallas, provides marketing and communications pro bono for Project Unity. She and Butler met while living across from each other in Shuttles Hall. When she read in the newspaper about Butler’s work with Project Unity, she reached out to reconnect.
“A great community builder and fundraiser, Richie has that rare ability to get people to say yes, so naturally my firm joined on to support the mission and raise awareness,” Dawson says. She also has served as a host for several “Together We Dine” tables. “At every one there has been some poignant statement or example from a minority attendee that has literally left me stunned at what people still experience.”
Butler knew he had a calling to preach as an undergraduate, even preaching on occasion while in school. He earned his Master of Theological Studies from Harvard in 1996. When he moved back to Dallas in 1998, he put together his first real estate development deal in South Dallas called Unity Estates, a planned community of 285 single-family homes sponsored by the 70-member African-American Pastors’ Coalition.
Solutions will have to come from the people.
Today, he chooses to go by “pastor” rather than the traditional “reverend” because the invocation of the shepherd brings him joy and affirmation, he says. “There’s a greater level of responsibility that goes along with being someone’s pastor.
He contends that solutions to issues of racism will have to come from the people, not the politicians. And he takes comfort in the knowledge that he is making a difference for his two children and their generation through his efforts to bring diverse groups together.
Charlene Edwards ’95, another classmate of Butler’s, holds out that hope for transformative relationships, as well. She became involved with Project Unity in 2017 when he was seeking program and event planning support to launch the Year of Unity, because she was compelled by Butler’s vision to bridge the divide between Dallas citizens and law enforcement.
Early on, she observed at “Together We Ball” events the “camaraderie among the different groups as they came together,” she says. “People’s lives, perceptions and actions are changed. They think before they say something that might be offen- sive, learn to become more compassion-ate about others.”
Adds Butler: “It’s hard to demonize the ‘other’ when you have a relationship with them, when you see them as a human being.”

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 Features News Spring 2018

SMU and LIFT team up to reduce adult illiteracy in Dallas

Game artist Jackie Gan-Glatz ’05 knows how confusing it can be to try to piece together unfamiliar words into an intelligible sentence. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she spoke only her parents’ native language until she started preschool. Although she mastered English quickly, she occasionally experiences linguistic hiccups. “I might use an English word a bit differently or think of a phrase in Chinese before it comes to me in English,” she explains.
She draws on her own language acquisition journey to understand the challenges faced by the adult learners testing Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis. Gan-Glatz and other SMU video game developers and education experts created the puzzle-solving app in collaboration with Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), a nonprofit service provider for low-literate adults in Dallas.
The engaging game with an educational mission earned the SMU/LIFT team, People ForWords, a place among the eight semifinalists chosen from 109 international teams competing for the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The People ForWords team includes (clockwise, from top left) Simmons Ph.D. candidate Dawn Woods ’09, ’18; Corey Clark, deputy director for research at SMU Guildhall and development lead for the project; Guildhall alumni Brian Rust ’15, Jackie Gan-Glatz ’05 and Victoria Rehfeld Smith ’14. Skyping in on the screen is Lauren Breeding ’18, Guildhall master’s candidate.

The first-of-its-kind global competition aims to transform the lives of adult learners reading English at or below a third-grade level. Adult illiteracy has been described as a “crisis hiding in plain sight.” Low literacy is linked to high rates of poverty, high health care costs and low labor productivity. According to the American Journal of Public Health and the National Council for Adult Learning, low-literacy skills cost the United States an estimated $225 billion in lost productivity and tax revenue each year and add an estimated $230 billion to the country’s annual health care costs.
Near SMU, the number of adults needing intervention is staggering. “There are about 600,000 adults in Dallas County who have less than a third-grade reading level,” says Corey Clark, deputy director for research in the SMU Guildhall game development program and People ForWords development lead. “If we could help 10 percent of those people, that’s 60,000 people who could learn to read proficiently. That makes a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
SMU alumna Lisa Hembry ’75, LIFT president and CEO emerita, brought the idea of joining forces for the XPRIZE competition to SMU. Founded in 1961, LIFT spearheads the effort to mitigate the problem by delivering the educational resources, tools, teaching and support needed by struggling adults learning to read and write.
“Here we are, two years later, with a viable phonics-based app in a gamified solution that helps low-literate people learn to read the English language while having fun,” Hembry says. “In North Texas, where one in five adults cannot read, this is more than a competition,” she adds. “This is a dedicated effort by our team to tackle the growing issue of low literacy and poverty.”
SMU’s strong relationship with Dallas and the surrounding region offers myriad opportunities for students, faculty and alumni to gain meaningful experiences while strengthening the community and making a difference in the lives of others. The city provides a unique launch pad for realizing an ambition, making an impact or developing a revolutionary innovation.
“Working with LIFT and SMU Guildhall in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition highlights how communities and academia can collaborate to improve the public sphere,” says Paige Ware, the Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Endowed Professor in the Simmons School.
A national leader in K-12 literacy research, the Simmons School became involved with the initiative to expand its work on literacy issues. Diane Gifford, a clinical assistant professor, and Tony Cuevas, director of Instructional Design and clinical professor, both in the school’s Department of Teaching and Learning, oversee the instructional design and curriculum of the game, ensuring that it improves the literacy levels of users.
“I started my career teaching children to read, but low-literacy adults face different challenges. Just opening the door to walk into an adult literacy class can be challenging for them,” Gifford says. “We have the potential to touch millions of people who never walk through that door.”
Even though national studies show more than 36 million U.S. adults lack basic English literacy skills, “there hasn’t been as much significant research as you might expect, considering the magnitude of the problem, and there is almost no research on the use of video games to teach low-literacy adults,” Cuevas says.

“I started my career teaching children to read, but low-literacy adults face different challenges. Just opening the door to walk into an adult literacy class can be challenging for them. We have the potential to touch millions of people who never walk through that door.”

– Diane Gifford

Teaching and technology weave together throughout Cuevas’ career. He designed SMU Guildhall’s top-rated master of interactive technology degree program and served as the program’s academic director before joining the Simmons faculty. He specializes in integrating emerging technologies into teaching and learning and serves as director of Simmons’ Teacher Development Studio, where simulated pre-K-12 classroom environments and other leading-edge technologies are used to train SMU students to become effective teachers.
For Cuevas, the long-term goals at the heart of the project strike close to home. “I have two sons with special needs who have struggled to learn to read, so I understand how children can fall through the cracks easily into adult illiteracy,” he says. His sons, ages 13 and 18, have used the app and found it engaging and helpful. Both Cuevas and Gifford see future potential in modifying the game for use in a structured K-12 classroom setting.
While struggling children and adults share some learning weaknesses, the approach for ameliorating those deficits is very different, says Gifford, which is why the app development process started with focus group sessions with more than 20 LIFT adult students. “We heard firsthand about what interested, motivated and concerned them about using a mobile app to learn to read,” Cuevas says.
Those conversations and playtesting revealed that maintaining motivation is key, meaning harried adult learners have to feel that playing the game is worth their scant free time. “They need chunks of learning, instead of small pieces, so that they feel a more immediate benefit,” Gifford says.
Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis whisks participants to Egypt, where they play as enterprising archaeologists solving puzzles as they hunt for relics of the once-great civilization of Atlantis. Audible prompts for each letter and sound that appear on the screen teach the look and feel of written English. To minimize frustration, players learn to read very simple sentences from the beginning.
“We want them to have a sense of accomplishment immediately so they keep moving forward,” Gifford explains.
The 24/7 convenience of the app obliterates other obstacles, such as a lack of childcare, transportation and free time during the day. “Users can download it at home and play to their heart’s content when it’s most convenient for them, even if that’s at 3 a.m.,” Gifford explains.
Games also provide safe environments for learning, says the Guildhall’s Clark. “They allow you to fail in ways that aren’t overwhelming. They let you keep trying until you succeed.”
The XPRIZE project serves as one example of how research is incorporated into the curriculum at SMU Guildhall. Students explore a vast range of interests within video game development and its global implications and diverse uses. Both current students and alumni are able to apply their analytical and research skills by participating as funded research assistants on an array of Guildhall’s “games for good” projects.
LIFT adult learners tested the puzzle-solving app and provided feedback that helped the developers improve it. Gamers learn something new with every move they make. Take the app for a test drive:  Download the Codex: The Lost Words Of Atlantis app for Android at Google Play.
“All research is based on the idea that games have more purpose and value to society than just entertainment,” says Clark, whose expertise lies in finding solutions to large-scale problems by combining several areas of study, such as gaming, distributed computing, analytics and artificial intelligence. His recent work in reverse engineering gene regulatory networks and integrating gaming techniques into cancer research led to his appointment as adjunct research associate professor of biological sciences in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Out of the gate, the Guildhall team had to grapple with the vexing issues of designing an adventure for gamers who can barely read and write and have likely never touched a computer. “This was the first time some participants had used a desktop computer,” Clark says. “Registering was a challenge for them, clicking and dragging was a challenge. So we had to think about how to make a game that’s fun and interactive, yet simple and intuitive enough to be a first experience with technology.”
He and his colleagues collected and analyzed data on game elements such as the amount of time players stuck with a task, how many times they repeated moves, how quickly they progressed and whether performing the game actions translated into the desired learning outcomes.
“First, games have to be fun,” Clark says. “From story to characters, you want to engage people enough for them to play over and over again. And this is the same process that reinforces learning.” And at its core, every game is about learning. “You learn something new with every move you make,” Clark says.

Out of the gate, the Guildhall team had to grapple with the vexing issues of designing an adventure for gamers who can barely read and write and have likely never touched a computer.
People ForWords takes players from Egypt to Sydney, Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef for its next learn-as-you-go adventure. The Guildhall team includes Gan-Glatz, programmer Brian Rust ’15, artist Victoria Rehfeld Smith ’14 and research assistant Lauren Breeding ’18, a level designer working on her thesis for a Master of Interactive Technology degree from SMU Guildhall. They are joined by Dawn Woods ’09, ’18, a Simmons Ph.D. candidate, for weekly meetings where they dive into the nitty-gritty of development. Nuance matters for beauty, function and efficacy, so the conversation zigzags from topic to topic: Should an orb be recolored to look like an empty crystal? Where should punctuation marks appear? How should the capitalization of words be introduced?
They also discuss supplemental mini games that will synthesize skills and guide players to test themselves in real-life situations, such as reading street signs and a bus route map, within the safe haven of the app.
Meanwhile, Clark, Gifford and Cuevas meet periodically to deliberate progress and strategy. People ForWords has until April 2018 to complete additions and modifications.
Testing of the literacy software created by the semifinalists began in July 2017, with the participation of 12,000 adults who read English at a third-grade level or lower in Dallas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Postgame evaluation of the literacy gains among test subjects will help determine up to five finalists, to be announced in June 2018. The winner will be named in 2019.
Two years into the project, all involved admit that maintaining momentum over the protracted timeline has been a challenge, but they believe this critical experiment in improving adult literacy will be world-changing.
“I’ve volunteered with nonprofits that help people who have fallen on hard times for a number of reasons. I feel like this project would give some of them a second chance in life,” says Gan-Glatz. “Literacy would open doors of opportunity and allow them to contribute to society in ways they never thought possible.”

2018 Features May 2018 Main Spring 2018

Flipping a switch, igniting success: Aleena Taufiq ’18

Aleena Taufiq ’18 recently landed her dream job as a data engineer working in artificial intelligence at Verizon, a career she never imagined four years ago.
After her first semester at SMU, Taufiq knew the pre-med track she had chosen was not the right path. Now the senior majoring in mechanical engineering and math runs an afterschool enrichment program she developed to inspire middle-school students to pursue engineering, math and science in college. And none of it would have happened without people like Jim Caswell ’63, ’66, ’70 and Chuck Lingo ’90 – neither of them an engineer and neither of whom Taufiq met.
Taufiq found her major when she signed up for an immersive design challenge offered by the Lyle School of Engineering’s Deason Innovation Gym and joined a team assigned to remake the Slurpee experience for consumers.
The fusion of brainstorming, problem-solving, designing and building sparked an unexpected result. Instead of refreshing the frozen beverage industry, Taufiq reinvented her future.
“I learned my passion through the project,” she says. “I fell in love with engineering.”
To encourage the next generation of students to find the academic direction that’s right for them the way she did, Taufiq developed the afterschool program Geared Up. Her curriculum blends fun, hands-on projects with talks about engineering careers by fellow Lyle students and other guest speakers. While Taufiq hopes some youngsters follow her footsteps into engineering, she devised the educational series to catalyze unbridled learning in all areas.
She targets low-income middle-school students because “that’s an important age to engage their interest in engineering, math and science, and get them to start thinking about college.” Geared Up launched last year at Dallas’ Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and expanded this year to Life School Oak Cliff and Edward H. Cary Middle School in northwest Dallas.
“On the first day, the kids are always excited when I tell them I’m a mechanical engineer, and they get really excited when they hear I’m from SMU,” she says. “They may not know exactly what a mechanical engineer does, but they definitely know SMU.”
Support from SMU’s Caswell Leadership Development Program has been critical to her project’s success. Offered by SMU Student Affairs’ Community Engagement and Leadership Center, the Caswell Leaders program accelerates students’ leadership skills by enabling them to discover their gifts while combining their passions for academics and public service.
“I couldn’t do Geared Up without Caswell Leaders. The program provides so much – funding, mentorship and friendship. We have monthly meetings for reflections about our project, where we think of next steps and opportunities to move it forward,” she says. “We make really personal connections in the program. It feels like we’re a Caswell family.”
SMU created the Caswell Endowment for Leadership Development and Training in 2007 as a tribute to alumnus, educator and longtime administrator Jim Caswell ’63, ’66, ’70 while he was preparing to retire. The program seeks to extend his legacy of molding “reflective and authentic leaders dedicated to improving their local communities.”
SMU’s Caswell Leadership Development Program honors the late Jim Caswell.Ask anyone who knew Caswell at SMU, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you a story about a windmill. A four-foot version and assorted smaller models of the picturesque precursor of the wind turbine decorated his Perkins Administration Building office. Like the windmill’s agile gear system that converts a natural resource into energy to pump water or grind grain, Caswell guided students on a journey of self-discovering, harnessing their innate abilities and steering them toward successful careers and lives of purpose after graduation.
“He felt like students’ time at SMU was a unique opportunity for him to help them find their true direction and grow and develop into the people they wanted to be,” remembers his widow, Jackie Caswell Wallace.
Thomas Kincaid ’05 first got to know Caswell during his junior year when he served as student body president. He met weekly with Caswell, then vice president for student affairs but also an ordained Methodist minister, and continued to do so as a senior and student member of the SMU Board of Trustees. Then a finance major, Kincaid didn’t know that his true direction would become the ministry.
Now an Episcopalian priest and vice rector of Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, he keeps one of Caswell’s small windmills on his desk as a daily reminder to carry forward the example of a “person who really cared about others.”
“Dr. Caswell taught me what it was to never be too busy to care about someone,” Kincaid says. “He had plenty of demands on his time, but he was able to make time for a student or find a place where his support would be useful.
Roy Turner quotes lessons learned from Jim Caswell.Caswell’s wisdom continues to influence Roy Turner ’88 as well. When Turner was a junior accounting major and president of Kappa Sigma fraternity, Caswell – then dean of student life – tapped him as a member of a student leaders advisory forum convened to examine campus challenges and strategize solutions. As president of the SMU Interfraternity Council the following year, Turner relied on the high ethical standards set by Caswell when working through issues governed by the group.
“Lessons from Jim that I’ve carried forward are to do the right thing, stand up for what’s right and hold everyone accountable,” says Turner, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City and a loyal donor to the Caswell Endowment. “I’m almost 30 years away from that experience, but it still resonates with me.”
Caswell understood the SMU student experience so well because he had lived it. He first arrived on the Hilltop as an undergraduate in 1959. He was active in campus life and served as president of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in social science from Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences in 1963, he went on to earn a bachelor of divinity in 1966 and a master of sacred theology in 1970 from the Perkins School of Theology. He also received a master’s and Ph.D. in educational management from Columbia University.
His career in higher education began as a graduate residence hall director at SMU from 1964–66. A short time later, he was named an instructor in Dedman College. Over the next two decades, he held a number of pivotal administrative roles, including dean of men, dean of residential living and dean of student life. As vice president of student affairs from 1988 to 2007, he became an iconic campus leader known as a caring friend, reliable sounding board, chief cheerleader and beloved mentor. His door was always open, and one of his frequent visitors was Chuck Lingo ’90.
Lingo never really needed words to communicate his ardor for all things SMU. Although he suffered from a debilitating neurological disease that impeded his speech, he refused to allow his physical limitations to curb his enjoyment of life. His Highland Park High School friends cherish their memories of the “Super Scot” cheering on their team at football games and pep rallies.
An estate gift from Chuck Lingo helps support the Caswell Leaders program.He enrolled at SMU in 1986, determined to capture all that he could in the classroom and fully participate in the Hilltop experience. He took a job in the Student Activities Center during the summer months, helping with AARO (Academic Advising, Registration and Orientation) and other tasks to prepare new students.
Fellow students admired his enthusiasm and can-do attitude. The Student Foundation embraced Lingo, eventually honoring him with the Mike Miller Outstanding Service Award. He served as a Student Senate committee member and was recognized for outstanding service.
Often decked out in spirit gear, the “Super Mustang” became a familiar sight in Caswell’s office. The two never missed an opportunity for some friendly facetime. Their conversations hopscotched across topics, from personal news to sports to current events, and usually ended in a goodbye hug.
When the University created the Caswell Endowment for Leadership Development and Training, Lingo was among the first donors. The friends shared a huddle and hug at Caswell’s retirement dinner in May 2007.
In the following years, Lingo attended many SMU Centennial Celebration events, never missed Celebration of Lights, his favorite SMU tradition, and faithfully remembered Caswell, his dear friend who succumbed to cancer in October 2007, with an annual gift to the Caswell Endowment, hand-delivered to the Student Affairs office.
On May 24, 2016, Lingo lost his battle with the disease that had claimed his mother years earlier, but he had taken steps to ensure his connection to SMU and to Caswell would endure: He bequeathed a significant portion of his estate to the Caswell Endowment.
“The Chuck Lingo gift exponentially increases our future opportunities to support the development of student leaders at SMU and further the legacies of servant-leadership and involvement established by both Dr. Caswell and Mr. Lingo,” says Stephanie Howeth, director of SMU’s Community Engagement and Leadership Center. “Thanks to their example and foresight, students today will learn and experience the many benefits of discovering their purpose as well as develop a passion for creating a more positive global community and SMU campus.”
The influence of Caswell, Lingo and many other donors lives on through current Caswell Leaders whose projects advocate for abused women, alleviate poverty with microloans, bridge international divides through language acquisition and inspire middle-school students to pursue engineering and math.
On an October afternoon in Dallas’ Cary Middle School, 18 boys and girls seated at cafeteria tables chatter, giggle, nudge and generally act like typical seventh and eighth graders. They have no idea they are about to witness the Caswell Endowment in action.
Aleena Taufiq explains how they’ll use the tools spread out in front of them – wires, putty, tape and batteries – to craft a simple LED circuit to light up polystyrene Halloween pumpkins. They get to work, and the cacophony builds as she moves from group to group, fixing a few glitches and praising their efforts. Soon tiny candy-colored bulbs and 100-watt smiles light up the room.
John Everett, New York Life Insurance Company, and Aleena Taufiq.“When I started, I was terrified of working with kids because I hadn’t before, but once you build a small connection with them, they’re so much fun,” she says. “They are very creative and aren’t afraid to try out their ideas.”
After the buses arrive and the class breaks up, a student wanders from table to table, rescuing abandoned materials. “I want to make more lights at home to show my family,” he says proudly. Just two hours earlier, that boy had no idea he could complete a basic electrical engineering feat so easily.
Taufiq makes sure he has everything he needs to wow his audience the way he has just impressed her.
That’s the reaction she was aiming for when she started planning Geared Up. She remembered watching bright high school classmates flounder “because they didn’t really see a pathway to college. They didn’t have parents or siblings who went to college, so they didn’t have that exposure and weren’t encouraged to continue their education.”
Her parents were both born in Pakistan, but met, married and became naturalized citizens in the Dallas area. Although higher education wasn’t an option for them, “they made it clear they wanted us to go to college,” she says.
She considers herself lucky that her mother “pushed me to make the most of every opportunity available in school.” As a high school student in her hometown of Irving, Texas, she played on the tennis team, worked on the yearbook, competed in state math, science and literary criticism competitions, and joined the National Honor Society. Because she had always excelled in math and science, well-meaning high school teachers steered her toward a medical career without introducing her to the array of disciplines where her talents could flourish.
The youngest of four children, she already had two Mustangs in the family – sister Tasmia Taufiq Noorali ’10, ’11 and brother Khurram Taufiq ’12 – and knew “SMU was a great school.” After receiving several scholarships, including the University’s academic Founders’ Scholarship and a Discovery Scholarship for students focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines, she joined the class of 2018.
After her first semester, she knew she didn’t want to go to medical school, so she became a fearless explorer, diving into unfamiliar topics and developing new competencies.
Geared Up Goes NationalShe was selected for a multiyear research project led by SMU’s Wei Tong, a mechanical engineering professor specializing in biomechanics, in partnership with UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. They conducted tests on six taping methods commonly used in hospitals to secure intubation tubes, which keep airways open in acutely injured and sick patients. Preventing tube displacement can be a matter of life and death.
“There’s no standardized method, so we tested a lot of variables,” she explains. “We’re still working on the analysis, but so far, the easiest method seems to be the fastest and strongest as well.”
A Hamilton Research Scholarship allowed her to broaden the scope of her research last year through an ongoing project with mathematics professor Daniel Reynolds, whose scientific computation expertise encompasses biomedical applications. Among the skills she added to her portfolio was proficiency in a CAD (computer-aided design) program she used to create a three-dimensional rendering of a human lymph node for modeling the flow of lymphatic fluid.
“Both experiences taught me so much about different aspects of engineering, and it gave me such a good feeling to be part of research that can have real impact,” she says.
As she was in high school, Taufiq has continued to be actively engaged at SMU. She’s wrapping up her second term as a Lyle School senator in the Student Senate and participates in Theta Tau engineering fraternity and the Muslim Student Association.
Through Lyle’s “4+1” program, she will receive her bachelor’s degree in May and continue studying at SMU for another year before earning her master’s degree. She’s leaning toward a nontraditional trajectory for a mechanical engineer, “something more on the tech side of things, maybe in big data or tech consulting.”
Last summer, an internship she found through Handshake, SMU’s jobs and recruitment portal, took her to the Dallas office of New York Life Insurance Company for a taste of project management in the technology department.
After a few weeks, with a green light from her manager, she launched a weekly team-building activity dubbed “Fun Friday.” Little did her colleagues know that the gummy bear bridges they built and the edible cars they crafted with Rice Krispies treats and Life Savers candies were prototypes she was testing for Geared Up.
“It really broke the ice. People had fun and started talking to one another,” she says. “I think it created a friendlier work environment and much more of a community atmosphere.
She put those projects to good use when, in an unexpected turn, she teamed up with the STEAM Club at her alma mater, MacArthur High School in Irving, to launch a series of design challenges. Geared Up for high schoolers started before winter break and is continuing this spring. “It has been been amazing to go back to where it all started for me and inspire students who are where I was just four years ago,” she says.
Taufiq is also achieving her longstanding goal to expand Geared Up into a national program this spring. With funding from an SMU Engaged Learning Fellowship, she will travel to Harper McCaughan Elementary School in Long Beach, Mississippi, on February 16; Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, Washington, on March 2; and Shapleigh Middle School in Kittery, Maine, on March 30, where she will lead one-day, hands-on engineering extravaganzas for students and teachers.
“If the students step into the shoes of an engineer and get a taste of what it’s like to work together to create something or solve a problem, then they get excited and want to learn more,” Taufiq says. “I hope they become more excited about school, learning and challenging themselves.”
– Patricia Ward

2018 Features March 2018 Main Spring 2018

An education mixologist’s bold blend of science and the arts

Sam Weber ’18 says he’s the “type of person who likes to stay busy.” That’s an understatement. As a student researcher, he trains others working on cell biology experiments and explores the use of the performing arts in public health education. And this spring he is directing his second 24-Hour Musical, Heathers the Musical. The Dedman College Scholar and University honors student will graduate in May with B.S. degrees in biological sciences, and health and society, and a B.A. in chemistry, with minors in Latin, classical studies, musical theatre, history and human rights. The senior dynamo is currently weighing several post-SMU academic opportunities that will lead to his ultimate goal: medical school.
Growing up in Overland Park, Kansas, Weber became fascinated with science by watching Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. The 2001 film, the first 3-D animated feature made outside Hollywood, was directed by SMU alumnus John Davis ’84. Weber, whose mother is a nurse, imagined being Jimmy while playing with his junior chemistry set. Later, when he stumbled upon the Harry Potter novels and films, he says his interest in science became intertwined with magic.
In seventh grade, after Weber heard a neurologist speak to his class about the wonders of the brain, he began to make the connection between science and medicine. While his fellow students were enthralled with the brain-shaped gummies she passed around the class, Weber locked onto the floating pink blob in a jar she had brought for show and tell. “She said the brain was ‘the last true frontier of science,’” he recalls.
In high school he straddled the two worlds of science and art – taking AP biology and chemistry courses and working downtown at a neurology lab, while participating in theatre, rehearsing for plays and musicals nightly. He thought that when he got to college he would have to keep his two loves – the sciences and the arts – separate.
But when he got to the Hilltop, he says he realized he could successfully combine those seemingly disparate worlds. As a University honors student in on the pre-med track and through numerous campus opportunities, SMU has enabled him to explore his interests in the performing arts. In his senior year, he has even found interesting ways to fuse his interests.
Patience With The Process
As a first-year student in his general chemistry course, Weber made such an impression that Associate Professor Brian Zoltowski considered him a natural to work in his lab.
Before enrolling at SMU, Weber had already gained lab experience at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Zoltowski says Weber “displayed a unique combination of creativity, passion and deductive reasoning that is, frankly, atypical anywhere. His ability to devote himself to any task, and complete it at the highest possible level, made me trust him right away.”
Nearly four years later, Weber runs the entire cell biology focus of Zoltowski’s lab, which conducts research on circadian clocks and the molecular mechanisms of blue-light photoreceptors. The senior trains graduate and undergraduate students who work with cell culture and drug discovery projects. He is instrumental to the research group’s mission as he leads and directs multiple projects, which has enabled Zoltowski to greatly expand their research scope.
On a Thursday afternoon in November, Weber is working in the tissue lab at Dedman Life Sciences Building on what he calls the “downstream biological application of manipulating proteins.” His project focuses on a protein complex that is responsive to light “much like the rest of our circadian biology; our rhythms are linked to the sun and the light we have available,” Weber says. During a process called transfection, he forces some human cells to take up and incorporate foreign DNA into their own. Once that DNA is incorporated, the cells start to express that altered form of the protein, “so we can see how the overall complex functions with these changes in response to light.”
The transfecting process is precise and time-intensive, requiring a lot of tedious work, Weber says while adding one of 2,112 pipette strokes to different wells. After this step, he puts the cells under a blue LED lamp to simulate an “awake” state. The next day he treats these cells with a solution that causes them to glow in varying intensities.
On this particular day, the experiment doesn’t generate any usable data. The blank wells show the same or higher luminescence than some samples, which shouldn’t be physically possible, he says. “This tells me something was wrong. In this case, one critical reagent, a substance or compound added to a system to cause a chemical reaction, was running low.” So he orders a new bottle and repeats the experiment, troubleshooting until it doesn’t have an error.
The setback doesn’t bother Weber. “So many things can go wrong in biochemistry – the temperature in the room, the humidity, how bright the room is, how much air the AC is moving, shelf life of reagents and more can all contribute, just like human error, to poor results. Things don’t work all the time; science is slow and crawling,” he adds.
Finding The Magic
“I’m the type of person who needs to stay busy and wants to be involved,” Weber says, adding that SMU enabled him to engage in many different activities, take on several majors and sample numerous minors because it accepted all 46 hours of his AP credits, allowing him to get ahead in his biology degree plan. “There are lots of opportunities to get involved at SMU,” pointing out that funding often is made available through Program Council or Student Senate for events like SMU’s 24-Hour Musical.
Outside his classroom and lab work, Weber joined the student-run Program Council, overseeing campus concerts and entertainment events and directing Sing Song, the annual competition among student organizations that perform musical revues. He also served as a resident assistant in Virginia-Snider Commons for two years, providing resources and programming on mental health, career planning and handling social stressors. And he’s president of Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honor Society and on the Embrey Human Rights Program Student Leadership Board, to name only a few of his numerous roles.
He’s studied abroad with SMU in Oxford, Rome and Paris, and went on SMU’s most recent human rights trip to Poland over the winter break. All the while, he also applied to medical schools, a time-consuming and demanding task in itself.
Scenes from Into the Woods
With the 24-Hour Musical, Weber is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Charlie Weber ’16, who along with Ally Van Deuren ’15 began the musical in spring 2015 to provide nontheatre majors an opportunity to perform on campus. The production is choreographed, blocked and rehearsed during 24 hours spread over three days. Last fall, Weber directed Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, staged on the quad in front of Dallas Hall in September during Family Weekend. This was his fifth 24-Hour Musical.
During the first year of the SMU 24-Hour Musical, Van Deuren recalls, “Sam, then a freshman, walked in the first day ready to work. He took partial or total lead in choreography, tech, production and costume design, graphic design and many more day-of tasks that no one else had the headspace to handle. He was a much-needed source of organization, whether he was lending a hand with heavy lifting, maintaining order with a cast of 40 students after a long day of rehearsing or finding quick solutions for any last-minute costume mishaps.”
Weber also is recognized for maintaining a cool head in the face of possible disaster. During rehearsal and the staging of Into the Woods, the sprinklers came on in the flowerbeds where the orchestra sat. Weber was unflappable.
Sam Weber says art is innate in all people.During the chaos that a tightly developed production engenders, Weber found time to mentor the next generation of 24-Hour Musical leaders. Sophomore theatre major Stevie Keese ’20 assisted Weber with Into the Woods and found him generous and approachable. “Sam helped me articulate my artistic thoughts through our late-night passionate debates on the future of theatre and the arts,” she says. He also taught her about ambition and “how to ask for exactly what you want with no apologies, while continuing to be gracious and grateful.”
Weber has found working on 24-Hour Musical to be invaluable in developing skills that will carry over into his post- SMU life. “It is some of the best training students can get working in professional environments. We hold the project to a very high standard, and I’d like to think that learning on the fly, making bold choices and the time management that are required for 24-Hour to be successful are the same kinds of skills professional theatre artists develop,” he says.
He’s also been grateful to his professors, who have given him leeway with his classes and studies to spend time cultivating and following his theatrical interests. Last year, Weber worked as a choreography fellow for the Public Works Dallas musical production of The Tempest, co-produced by Meadows School of the Arts and the Dallas Theater Center. The community outreach production used local community groups and 200 nonprofessionals to stage Shakespeare’s play. Weber found it “motivating to work with people who had never done performance art before, but still got it; they understood movement and narrative. It really reaffirms how art is truly innate in all people.”
Putting It All Together
As a capstone to his four years at SMU, Weber is merging his love of science and the arts through a research project that explores the relationship between performing arts and public health from a medical anthropology angle. He is studying how theatre performance can help engage the public in a discussion of mental illness, thereby reducing the stigma it often creates. His research is supported by a Mayer Interdisciplinary Research Fellowship.
Brian Zoltowski says creativy is a key part of the scientific process.Weber says that everything he’s done or achieved at SMU has helped prepare him for medical school and a life in the profession. As an undergraduate, he didn’t want to be what is called a “gunner,” a term applied to pre-med students who adhere solely to a regimen of science courses and, while making high GPAs, explore little else outside that regimen.
As his passions for pure science and performance have intersected, he’s come to understand that “medicine is an art. Physicians perform for and with their patients, seeking to achieve an honest and productive outcome,” Weber says.
Zoltowski, who has observed how Weber has grown in multiple ways, regards him more as a colleague than as a mentee. “Sam as a student is unique. In the sciences people often forget that you need to be extremely creative, have excellent abilities in deductive reasoning and be skilled in computational methods,” he says. “Creativity is a key part of the scientific process, as we have to find unique ways to combine disparate concepts or new approaches to tackle complex problems. Often young scientists will be unable to combine the deductive and computational approaches with creative insight. Sam is different – he excels in all three capacities, even in this early stage of his career. Most important, his strength is in creativity and thinking outside the box. That is why he will have tremendous success in anything he pursues.”
Susan White ’05

2018 Features Spring 2018

Army chaplain Jeff Matsler ’93 helps veterans work through ‘moral injury’

Near the military base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.ear the military base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina – the Army’s largest – there are several dozen Army-Navy stores. They sell the usual used military equipment and also T-shirts with the logos of the various forces. But to Perkins School of Theology alumnus and U.S. Army Major Jeff Matsler ’93, another shirt stands out. It’s popular with soldiers returning from deployment in Afghanistan. Black T-shirt. White Gothic letters. One word: “Guilty.”
Matsler says choosing the “Guilty” shirt reflects the shame and alienation many soldiers returning from combat areas bear because they took actions “that can violate their moral code, their paradigm of what is right.”
A chaplain and the Army’s Bioethicist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Matsler says, “It’s a volunteer Army. Most young soldiers in the infantry units and on the front lines will tell you they signed up to serve God and country. They are very patriotic.” But to succeed as soldiers, they are trained to follow orders, and that can mean taking lives, sometimes those of unintended targets such as civilians.
For more than a decade, Matsler has made it his mission to study “moral injury,” a condition associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in which combat soldiers understand themselves to be morally deficient. They return not only psychologically and emotionally battered but also spiritually injured.
Soldiers need forgiveness and redemption.
In light of the 2016 Veterans Affairs report that on average more than 20 veterans died daily from suicide in 2014, Matsler’s work is extremely important. In November 2017, the PBS series POV debuted “Almost Sunrise” focusing on the issue of “moral injury,” defining it as “a wound to the soul inflicted by violating one’s own ethical code.”
Matsler grew up working on his family’s farm in Floydada, a small rural community in West Texas. As a high school freshman, he attended a United Methodist Church summer camp where he first encountered Connie Nelson, then a youth counselor and now Perkins School director of public affairs and alumni/ae relations.
“I had the opportunity to watch Jeff grow in size, stature, maturity and faith,” Nelson says. “I remember particularly a workshop that I led one summer on discernment, listening for God’s voice and Christian vocation. At the conclusion of the workshop, Jeff came up to my co-leader and me to tell us he felt called to ministry. He was only 17 or 18, but it was clear that he had heard God’s ‘still small voice.’”
Jeff Matsler outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he serves a a chaplain and the Army’s bioethicist.He graduated from high school and set off for McMurry University, a Methodist institution in Abilene, Texas, where he was first exposed to the field of bioethics by his philosophy professor and mentor, Joseph Stamey, who received his Ph.D. in medical ethics. Matsler recalls thinking as an undergraduate, “What on earth would be debatable about medical ethics?!”
After earning a B.A. degree in history and religious studies with a minor in philosophy in 1989 from McMurry, Matsler attended Perkins Theology, where he encountered professors such as Joseph L. Allen, now professor emeritus of ethics, and the late Frederick S. Carney, professor emeritus of moral theology and Christian ethics whose background also was in medical ethics. “The theological training I received at Perkins has grounded me to this day,” he says.
Matsler represents the third generation of his family to graduate from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. His grandfathers, the late Dr. Charles E. Lutrick ’49 and Cyrus Barcus ’27, ’33 (also founding director of the Mustang Band), both attended Perkins and became Methodist ministers. His uncle, the Rev. Dr. Robert C. Monk ’54, is one of many SMU and Perkins alumni who taught at McMurry.
After graduating from Perkins in 1993, Matsler entered the ministry as an associate pastor at Polk Street United Methodist Church in Amarillo. During his three years there, he also served as a staff clinician for the substance abuse unit at the Amarillo Veterans Affairs Medical Center. His time at the VA convinced Matsler he could provide much-needed ministry in service to his country with the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps.
In 1995, while Matsler waited to go on active duty, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. Matsler went to participate in rescue efforts, provide stress debriefings and minister to victims of the tragedy and to teams searching for survivors. The emotional wreckage he encountered in Oklahoma sparked his interest in and thinking about how traumatic events can wreck the soul.
Matsler says there were two issues in Oklahoma City that made it a significant magnet for moral injury among those involved in the rescue effort: The first was the overwhelming sense of horror that accompanies any disaster relief effort – particularly if it is man-made. “My first day at OKC consisted of helping the team searching for survivors, realizing that we had entered the building’s nursery and debriefing the team afterward. No young soldier – not even a seasoned veteran – is ever emotionally prepared to deal with that type of carnage.”
One of the key elements of moral injury is a sense of betrayal felt by the individual or group members involved in such an event. “The significant issue at OKC became clear on day five when we learned that those responsible were not only Americans (Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier) but also veterans – a feeling of betrayal that grew as we also learned they were combat vets. Moral injury isn’t just over things done, but also things observed – things you didn’t or couldn’t prevent,” Matsler says.
He went on active duty in 1996 as a battalion chaplain with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and served until 2000, when an injury led to a medical discharge. After serving as Senior Chaplain at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch and then pastor at First United Methodist Church in Panhandle, Texas, Matsler returned to active duty in 2007.
During the past 10 years Matsler has served several tours of duty in Afghanistan as brigade chaplain. While one duty included presiding over liturgical services in Bagram (2008–09) and another in Kandahar (2013), the main effort of his ministry consisted of traveling around the country counseling with soldiers and providing mentoring and oversight for the battalion chaplains in his unit’s footprint. It was while ministering to soldiers in combat zones that Matsler began to understand what “moral injury” truly meant.
Doctors ask, “Soldiers on the front line need to hear the message of forgiveness and redemption,” he says. “More than anything, they need to hear that no matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, what you’ve done in the service of your country, whatever act you had to do – whether it was right or wrong – God still loves you. There is nothing we can do that can separate us from the love of Christ and restoring us to who he intended us to be.”
Between postings to Afghanistan, Matsler’s commander at Fort Bragg asked him to gain advanced education to support his chaplaincy duties. He enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies program at Duke University Divinity School in nearby Durham and focused on ethics. He continued to study combat trauma and its effect on rebuild-ing character when he earned a Master of Sacred Theology degree in bioethics in 2015 from Yale Divinity School.
His 2012 thesis, “Post Traumatic Saint,” looks at the life of Saint Francis of Assisi and his experiences as a combat veteran and prisoner of war during the early 13th century. Francesco Bernardone was born into a wealthy family in Assisi, and, as did so many of his childhood friends, he became a seasoned professional soldier and officer. By his 22nd birthday, he had gained over six years of grueling combat experience. In 1202, he helped lead a military expedition against the neighboring city-state of Perugia. One of only 12 survivors, he became a prisoner of war and spent a year in captivity. After his release, Francis had a spiritual conversion and began experiencing visions. He eventually rejected his wealthy family and embraced a life of poverty and isolation, and he made it his mission to restore the chapel at San Damiano, where the icon of the crucified Christ told him to repair the ruined church.
Matsler argues that Francis’ actions – hearing voices, seeing visions, isolating himself from family and avoiding community – constitute behaviors that when encountered today would be symptomatic of post-traumatic stress disorder. Looking for release from his pain, Francis eventually found it in the community of fellow veterans, he says.
Although his research on Francis informs Matsler’s approach to moral injury, it was his training at Perkins that taught Matsler to find in stories the truth being shared. “What does it mean when Jesus walked on water? I try to apply that same understanding when a veteran comes in and tells me something that sounds far-fetched. What do you do with that guy who claims that a cross came to life or that God spoke to him in the middle of the night? Initially I just listen and affirm what I hear them saying. It’s way too easy to discount their stories. My goal is to get nonveterans to take seriously what they hear veterans say,” Matsler adds.
Jeff Matsler teaching medical ethics at Walter Reed in 2016.Speaking to conferences throughout the country about aspects of moral injury and spiritual recovery, Matsler distinguishes between the standard approach to healing and the early Franciscan model he advocates. “The way we deal with PTSD now is through talk therapy and pharmacology. It can eliminate the physical pain but it cannot restore joy.”
In contrast, the early Franciscans sat in the community of other veterans and talked about their experiences and how their actions harmed others and them-selves. Matsler says of soldiers, “By owning their actions they can move to a stage of forgiveness, and restore joy.”
As the Army’s bioethicist, he works with Walter Reed’s medical personnel to help determine what decisions are best for a patient. He says, “Doctors ask, ‘What can we do?’ A bioethicist asks, ‘What should we do?’”
Matsler also provides insights on medical experimentation conducted by the Department of Defense involving human subjects, such as the testing of Ebola and Zika vaccines before any public use.
The medical center also works with amputees and researches new methods for improving prosthetics. “After soldiers have sustained injuries in service to their country, we want to ensure that they don’t just exist but have a quality of life,” Matsler says. “My job is to advise in such a way that we not do something that might cause undue harm now while trying to find a better way for them in the future.”
Matsler also teaches medical ethics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense’s medical school in Bethesda. He says this connects him back to his time at SMU: “I am now seeking to do for others what professors Allen and Carney did for me at Perkins.”
Susan White ’05 

2018 Features Spring 2018

Wearing many hats – and a crown

It’s hard to keep up with Averie Bishop ’19. The reigning Miss Asian American Texas and SMU junior has her hands full as a double major in human rights and political science, vice president of Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity and co-founder of a humanitarian charity. She segued from the Hilltop to Capitol Hill as a Congressional Fellow last summer and participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University annual meeting in October. Senior Alexis Kopp ’18, a double major in English and education with a journalism minor, recently convinced the dynamo to take five for a chat about her academic and philanthropic passions and her fairy tale Family Weekend.
Have you always done pageants?
No! It was the very first pageant I’d ever competed in. This pageant circuit is very different. Instead of a bathing suit competition, it had a cultural attire competition, where you wear clothing that represents your ethnicity; in my case, that’s Filipino on my mother’s side. It also emphasized the interview portion more than other pageants usually do.

Averie Bishop as Cinderella.
Averie Bishop played Cinderella in Into The Woods, the Family Weekend Musical presented in the fall.

What are some of your duties as Miss Asian American Texas?
I’ve been hosting community events, volunteering with many organizations and doing a lot of work with my nonprofit organization. I was also a part of the opening State Fair parade. That was a lot of fun!
What did you do as a Congressional Fellow, and what did you take away from the experience?
I worked in the U.S. House of Representatives, primarily with Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, organizing committee hearings and briefings and writing talking points. I also helped draft bills. I think a lot of people assume that the government is in shambles, and everything is chaotic and hectic and polarized. I found that people were willing to have candid conversations and listen to other opinions. That experience made me realize that I should listen more closely and think about what people are really saying.
What’s new with your nonprofit, The Tulong Foundation?
My mother, Marevi, grew up in a poverty-stricken community in the Philippines, where access to education was limited by your ability to pay for it. We started the foundation in 2015 as The Bishop Outreach Fund but have changed the name to better reflect our mission. “Tulong” means “help” in the Filipino language. We are currently helping impoverished children in the southern Philippines get an education. We also built a water well in the Banga, South Cotabato province – where my mother’s from – to provide easier access to clean water. I represented our organization at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, and I learned a lot. It made me rethink our efforts and expand our focus. We want to reach other countries in Southeast Asia and broaden our efforts to teach sustainable farming skills.
You transferred to SMU from Texas State. Describe that experience.
Both of my parents work two jobs, so it was very important that I received additional financial support. I was awarded an Honor Transfer Scholarship, which covers half of my tuition. Had I not received that assistance, I would not have been able to attend SMU, so I’m very grateful for that. Transferring here, finding a place to live and finding a good community and friends were much easier than I expected. I’m so glad I’m here!
Why did you choose your majors?
Prof. Rick Halperin, the compelling classes and my mother’s story. She struggled to get to the United States and become a citizen. I feel like the political science-human rights combination is good preparation for my future. I hope to become a lawyer with a focus on immi-gration or civil rights.
What was it like to play Cinderella in the Family Weekend Musical, Into the Woods?
It was hectic, to say the least, because we learned everything in 24 hours. Sam Weber was an incredible director!  I got to meet so many different people, and I think I really found a sort of family on campus. Before I transferred to SMU, I majored in acting, so it was great to get back into the arts. While academics are very important, I think it is important for people to have their niche or hobby, something they really enjoy doing, to go back to when they need a creative release.
What do you like best about SMU?
The community of students. The univer- sity I previously attended was very large. The classes averaged about 100 students, so people weren’t as motivated to speak to one another or contribute in class. But SMU is a good size – it’s not too big and not too small – and people are so willing to exchange ideas and listen to one another. The community is very understanding, open and accepting.

2017 Alumni Fall 2017 Features

How SMU Alumnae Built A School Culture To Change The Lives Of Girls

A bouncy tune booms in the background as little girls with hair adorned in bright bows, barrettes and beads swarm the elementary school gym. It’s time for Sisterhood Circle at Solar Preparatory School for Girls. For the next 15 minutes, a lively mash-up of movement, song, patriotism and affirmation kicks off the morning.
Students direct the all-school assembly, and on this April day, a kindergarten class runs the show. Each Wednesday is College Day, and the pint-size emcee polls her classmates about their aspirations: “I want to go to SMU and become a lawyer … doctor … archaeologist … teacher … coach.”
Beaming from the sidelines is Nancy Bernardino ’01, ’04, ’05. She’s the principal leading the new single-gender campus, a unique startup developed through the Dallas Independent School District’s Choice School program, a pitch contest of sorts for educators to sell the district on their plans for new public schools.
“Everything we do here is designed to prepare our students for life,” Bernardino says. “They’re learning to write code and problem-solve. They’re learning to express themselves and support one another. We’re seeing our students blossom and become confident young girls.”

HAIR BOWS, HUGS AND HAMMERS  It’s just another day in the life of Solar Preparatory School for Girls and Principal Nancy Bernardino as she makes her morning rounds, checking in on classrooms; pitching in as parents and students build lemonade stands, where students will learn about finance as they compete to sell the most beverages; and watching light bulbs flick on as students learn new concepts in the school’s makerspace. Pictured at the top of the page are the Simmons School alumnae leading Solar Prep: (from left) Olivia Santos ’05, ’16, instructional coach; Principal Bernardino; and Jennifer Turner ’16, assistant principal.

From the girl power celebration that jumpstarts each day to the fusion of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) curriculum with social and emotional learning (SEL), this model school equips girls with the academic abilities and daring they need to unlock their full potential.

GIRL CODE Students use Tinkercad to create basic 3D digital designs. Coding is part of the curriculum that builds tech literacy and nurtures STEAM interest.

Conversations about the “super school” started in 2014 when Bernardino, assistant principal Jennifer Turner ’16, teacher Cynthia Flores ’00, ’17 and instructional coach Ashley Toole ’16 worked together at John Quincy Adams Elementary School in Pleasant Grove, a modest neighborhood in southeast Dallas. Like any entrepreneurs seeking venture capital, the team had to formulate a viable idea, identify data to support their concept and devise a feasible plan that could withstand DISD’s rigorous vetting process.
“When we started looking at the greatest need at the elementary level, we found compelling research about girls losing their voice in the classroom by the time they reach fifth grade,” Bernardino explains. “I started thinking about my own experiences as a very shy student and how things changed for me.”
Bernardino was born in Mexico but has lived in Dallas since she was a year old. She grew up in East Dallas, not far from Solar Prep’s location on Henderson Avenue.
“Neither of my parents had a formal education,” she explains. “My mother wanted us to have career options that she never had.”
Even though they didn’t speak English, her parents regularly attended school functions – demonstrating to Bernardino the importance of parental engagement. Solar Prep sponsors both a parent-teacher association and a club for fathers and other important men in students’ lives.
Poised and self-assured with a quick wit and sunny smile, Bernardino admits she wasn’t always comfortable wearing a leadership mantle. Winning a scholarship to the The Hockaday School, the prestigious all-girls private school in Dallas, was “life-changing,” she says.
“I feel like I found my voice at Hockaday. It was an empowering environment. We learned to speak up for ourselves, and I became my own advocate.”
She used that voice as a “super involved” SMU student. She was active on the Program Council and with Mustang Corral, and she served as layout editor for The Daily Campus while studying public affairs and corporate communications at Meadows School of the Arts.
“It was a great program for me. I still rely on the research skills I developed and tools I learned to use,” she says. “Even graphic design skills, which I didn’t think I would use again, have come in really handy.”
In 2001 she became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, a milestone that thrilled her parents. While working in SMU Student Activities, she completed a graduate certificate in dispute resolution and a master of liberal arts degree, both offered by SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. She went on to earn a master of education degree from Texas A&M–Commerce before joining DISD in 2005, where she served as a teacher, academic coordinator and assistant principal before becoming an award-winning school principal.
Currently a candidate for the Ed.D. in educational leadership at Simmons, Bernardino says, “We learn practices in class that we can then apply immediately to improve our schools.” For example, a discussion about character-building and core values sparked the idea for the backbone of Solar Prep’s social- emotional learning component: the “Solar Six.” Students explore and discuss curiosity, self-awareness, empathy, humility, leadership and grit.
Simmons School programs also profoundly influenced Solar Prep’s assistant principal Turner and instructional coach Olivia Santos ’05, ’16. Both received master’s degrees in educational leadership with a specialization in urban school leadership.

MAKERSPACE A Lego wall sparks the imagination and encourages collaborative discovery in a space dedicated to hands-on creativity and interdisciplinary learning.

“It was career changing,” Turner says. “It opened my eyes to the pivotal role school leaders can play in creating a learning environment that supports student achievement across the board.”
“Before I completed my master’s, I thought education was mainly about curriculum,” Santos says. “Now I see the importance of implementing systems and practices that create a culture where all students feel welcomed and valued and that support students of all backgrounds, helping those who need it the most get up to speed. Addressing our students’ needs as an entire school has tremendous impact.”
Bernardino embraces the Simmons mission to find evidence-based solutions and to “roll out our successes to benefit other schools.”
Solar Prep made its debut in August 2016 with 199 students in kindergarten through second grade from neighborhoods across Dallas. The school will add one grade level per year until students can complete eighth grade at Solar Prep. They will have the option of continuing their public education in an all-girls setting at DISD’s nationally ranked Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy.
The new school exemplifies the district’s first attempt at a socioeconomically balanced campus, a decision informed by mounting evidence that achievement gaps can shrink when low-income children learn side-by-side with their affluent peers. By design, 50 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and the other half do not.
The student body is also racially diverse, comprising 51 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black, 22 percent white, 2 percent Asian and 3 percent other races.
Perhaps its most unusual pioneering step is a partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA. Solar Prep is the only public school in the nation to enroll all students in the organization. Once a week, as part of the regular school day, teachers become scout leaders as students focus on activities to earn badges in such areas as financial literacy, computers, inventing and making friends. The program ties to an extended day schedule adopted so that all students can benefit from enrichment activities.
Bernardino already sees signs that Solar Prep is living up to its ambition as an incubator for postmillennial trailblazers.
When an academically gifted student who is not athletically inclined joined the track team, Bernardino cheered. “We want students to push themselves because they know that even if something doesn’t work out, all of us – teachers and students – will help them push through it and figure it out.”
By the way, that little girl exceeded expectations.
“She didn’t do well in the 100-meter race, but she placed second in the 200 meters,” Bernardino recounts. “Afterward, she said, ‘See, I knew I just needed more time, and I would get there.’”
– Story by Patricia Ward and photography by Kim Leeson

2017 Fall 2017 Features September 2017 Main

SMU Helps Shape Pioneering Community Production

How many people does it take to stage a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest? When you’re using it as a way to forge new relationships across Dallas neighborhoods and community organizations, you’d have as many as 200 people, of whom only a handful were professional actors. And Meadows School of the Arts at SMU played a major role in bringing the event to fruition.
In late February, only one week before this musical version of The Tempest was scheduled to open, an evening rehearsal resembled controlled chaos. Director Kevin Moriarty, also Dallas Theater Center’s artistic director, raised his voice to be heard above the din coming from the rehearsal room on the ninth floor of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas. Children of all ages (the youngest at 4), who were playing island spirits, squirmed in the staging area while their parents, seated in chairs that lined the sides of the room, chatted with one another.
Other ensemble members were still arriving from work after slogging through Dallas commuter traffic. SMU theatre alumnus Ace Anderson ’13, a member of Dallas Theater Center’s Brierley Resident Acting Company and one of only five professional actors in the cast, rushed in and polished off a fast-food dinner he had picked up on his way in.
Moriarty told the company to start with a banquet in Scene Six. Sitting next to him was Maria Calderon Zavala ’20, a first-year SMU theatre major from Mexico City, who translated into Spanish his directions for many of the adults and children in the ensembles. When words failed him, Moriarty moved to the center of the room and pantomimed his desires for the scene, reminding everyone that time was precious and repetition was necessary to get the movement right.
Not in the room were members of seven local arts groups whose performances would be inserted into the action, including flamenco dancers, an elementary school choir, a high school drumline, a brass band, Aztec dancers, a church choir and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Company, founded by SMU alumnus Joshua Peugh ’06.
An observer couldn’t help but wonder: With only one week left, could this become a polished performance?
‘Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On’
Seeds for the project were planted in 2015, when SMU presented the Meadows Prize to Lear deBessonet, director of Public Works – an initiative of The Public Theater that engages the citizens of New York City as theater creators as well as spectators, blurring the line between professional artists and community members.
In 2013, Public Works staged in New York’s Central Park a contemporary adaptation of The Tempest by Todd Almond, who transformed it with music and lyrics.
The Tempest is a 400-year-old play about magic, vengeance, forgiveness and redemption.
On a remote island the sorcerer Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place. Through illusion, he conjures up a storm to shipwreck on the island his usurping brother, Antonio, and the complicit King Alonso of Naples. His manipulations reveal Antonio’s treachery, the King’s redemption and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.
For her Meadows Prize project, deBessonet spearheaded a new co-production of The Tempest between the Meadows School, which made a $200,000 commitment, and the Dallas Theater Center. Moriarty and Clyde Valentín – director of Meadows’ Ignite/Arts Dallas, an engagement initiative between SMU and the local arts community – had witnessed the New York performance. Moriarty said they wondered “if such a New York-specific idea could take root and flourish in Dallas.” Meadows School and SMU’s Ignite/Arts Dallas collaborated withDallas Theater Center to make Dallas the first city outside New York to develop its own version of Public Works.
Since 2015, SMU and Dallas Theater Center have built partnerships with five local organizations that support low-income and underserved populations in Dallas: Jubilee Park and Community Center, Vickery Meadow Learning Center, Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), Bachman Lake Together and City of Dallas Park and Recreation. Local actors, including SMU theatre alumna Lydia Mackay ’08, and SMU theatre artist-in-residence Will Power led workshops and classes for the last half of 2016 to transform the five organizations’ community members into stage-ready performers.
“I knew this would be a challenging proposition for our respective institutions because it would require us to collaborate more closely than maybe we have in the past,” Valentín said. “I knew it would be a challenging proposition for the actual participants because we were going to work with people who had no real relationship or history with the Dallas Theater Center or the Arts District in general. And it would be a challenge to get our theater students involved in engaging and meaningful ways beyond performing on stage.”
Both Public Works Dallas and Valentín were committed to paying the SMU students who served as teaching artist assistants at the community centers and as production assistants and volunteer coordinators at the Dallas Theater Center. Valentín set aside Ignite/Arts Dallas funds for such a purpose and actively pursued additional gifts from SMU donors through the Mustangs Give Back one-day giving challenge.

‘Be Not Afeard’

Eleven SMU undergraduates worked on The Tempest. Some served as teaching assistants in the workshops that led up to the auditions for the performance. Others assisted on set, costume, hair and makeup design, and with the run crew and dance ensemble. Still others were volunteer and community coordinators. James Michael Williams ’18, who is earning an MA/MBA in Meadows’ arts management program, served as assistant to Dayron Miles, director of Public Works Dallas.
Sophomore theatre major Kassy Amoi ’19 worked with Will Power as a teaching assistant in storytelling and movement workshops at Literacy Instruction for Texas, and during the performances led the sand spirits ensemble.
“Will and Kassy gently involved every single student to bring out hidden talents that even our students didn’t know they had,” said SMU alumna Lisa Hembry ’75, LIFT president and CEO. About 98 percent of LIFT’s students are adults who have learning differences such as dyslexia and ADHD and have never learned to read, or adults who never graduated from high school and are studying to obtain their high school equivalency certificates. As a result, Hembry says, “LIFT’s students are always wary when it comes to working with new people because generally they have suffered embarrassment, ridicule and bullying their entire lives.”
Amoi, who had previously worked on reading programs with children, discovered that working with adults who have literacy issues was very different. “Many were severely shy. I had to learn how to explain things a bit better, and in a more positive and reinforced way,” he said. “I found that while many of them weren’t experienced in school, a lot were experienced in life, with inspired, powerful stories.” Amoi took pride in the fact that one of his students, Felisha Blanton, was cast in the supporting role of Sebastia. “She’s a natural comedienne, and took on the role fully and openly. She went from being unsure in the room to being completely comfortable with what she had to say while on stage. It was nice to see her blossom.”
Volunteer coordinator Kaylyn Buckley ’17, who graduated in May with a degree in theatre studies with concentrations in stage management and directing, thought working with The Tempest in a managerial capacity would provide real-world applications to her studies. She began work in November and visited each of the centers during auditions, collaborated with all department heads to evaluate their volunteer needs, communicated with Public Works Dallas as she developed the architecture of the volunteer program and recruited volunteers from the SMU community.
“I’d never participated in anything like this – I’m not sure that anyone outside of Public Works has,” Buckley said. “It’s truly a beast unlike anything else.”
Dallas Theater Center resident company actor Liz Mikel performs the role of Ariel.
Members of the Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Company, founded by SMU alumnus Joshua Peugh ’06, perform during the wedding scene.
Alex Organ as the monster Caliban plots with clowns Ace Anderson (right) and Rodney Garza against Prospero.
“It’s not just managing 200 cast members, 50-plus crew members and 100-plus volunteers, but also being acutely sensitive to how you’re saying things, the experience you’re creating and navigating a language barrier,” she explains. “You want to cultivate a positive experience for cast members who have never been involved in the arts, many of whom have learning disabilities, are not native English speakers and who are living in poverty. I’d have to be very direct, forward and efficient with 28 Junior League members simultaneously looking to volunteer, then immediately modify my tone and delivery as soon as a cast member approached.”
Theatre/theatre studies major Christina Sittser ’17, who also graduated in May, gained performing experience in her native St. Louis before coming to SMU, attracted by numerous scholarships. For The Tempest, she served as a teaching assistant for acting classes at Bachman Lake Together and at Jubilee Park and Community Center, and during the performances was captain of the water spirits. “I really loved the work. I saw kids so shy at first that they would keep their faces down. It was beautiful to watch them grow as actors and open up more. I didn’t understand that at the end of the show I would leave pieces of my heart behind with these people. It made me think more about the role of community in theater. Listen to what people in the community want and need and then incorporate that into theater.”
‘Our Revels Now Are Ended’
SMU theatre alumnus Ace Anderson ’13 played the clown role of Trinculo.
When the opening performance on March 3 began, the Wyly had been transformed into a remote island, all the performances flowed seamlessly and the production worked like magic. Audiences were astounded by a type of community performance never seen before in Dallas. Theater Jones critic David Novinski described it as “the ‘you had to be there’ theatrical event of the year.”
Valentín said the success of the show was not just in what audiences saw but also what they couldn’t see: the interactions, bonding and trust-building at the community centers. “It shows what’s possible when you take this large-scale participatory theater approach, treating it as you would any other show in the Dallas Theater Center season that requires the same level of quality, rigor and diligence. We did it! We proved that we can create exceptional, high-quality art with nonprofessionals alongside professionals in a nurturing, safe environment for all those participants, so the space and work truly will begin to feel like it’s theirs. And, it was my hope that our students were transformed by this project as well. What we were able to create for those five weeks was truly exceptional.”
SMU and Dallas Theater Center will use the same model and continue the relationship with the community centers for the next Public Works Dallas production, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, to be staged in September 2018. At that time, Sam Weber ’18 – a Dedman College Scholar majoring in biological sciences, health and society, and chemistry – will be busy applying for medical school but hopes to return as a dance assistant fellow.
“Working with Public Works Dallas is one of the best experiences I’ve had in college,” Weber said. “I’d grown up doing theater and I’ve taught dance and choreography to non-dancers before, so that wasn’t a big shock. But meeting all the extraordinary people and hearing their stories was so special. It was really motivating to work with people who had never done performance art before, but got it; they understood movement and narrative. It really reaffirms how art is truly innate in all people.” Before the final production of The Tempest, director Kevin Moriarty stepped on stage to address the audience. He noted the monumental effort from numerous entities to bring the project to fruition and thanked SMU for its collaboration and support. He said, “Shakespeare belongs to all of us, not only a select few. Our city is at its best when all of us have the opportunity to create, and we are at our strongest and most joyful when we come together.”
– Story by Susan White ’05 with photography by Kim Leeson, unless otherwise credited

Public Works Dallas: A review and panel discussion of research findings from the pilot year

Read more:

2017 Fall 2017 Features

Inside the world of SMU’s Residential Commons

Life in the Residential Commons is never dull. Just ask David Son, professor of chemistry in Dedman College, and wife Heidi – or take a look at photos and memories from a year at Boaz Commons. In 2014, David Son was named Boaz FiR and the 61-year-old residence hall was retrofitted with an apartment that houses the couple and their children, Geoffrey, 14, and Kaylee, 11.
The Sons believe so strongly in the Residential Commons model for living and learning at SMU that they sold their home in Plano to move to campus. And they say they’ve never looked back.
Besides serving as guides to University life, the Sons have been called upon to: pull a splinter from a toe; help light the charcoal in a grill on the Boaz patio; iron a shirt for a tennis player; lend tools; and take a student with a split forehead to the emergency clinic. Basically, they serve as parental figures.
The Sons say Boaz community activities often revolve around food – from “Son-day” night snacks to weekly “family” dinners with students to Korean BBQ night and cookouts on the new Boaz patio.

Uncommon Life photos by Guy Rogers III and Hillsman S. Jackson

In The Thick Of Campus Activities

The Sons participate in many events outside of Boaz – from The Boulevard to Homecoming to intracommons competition. And they aren’t immune to visits from SMU’s famous squirrels.

Enjoying The Comforts Of Home
To help make students feel at home, the Sons host a family meal every Wednesday night in their Boaz apartment, in which a few residents are guests. David Son says that saying grace before each meal is part of the tradition. During the holidays, residents decorate with homey seasonal touches – and creative signage.
“B” Is For Boaz

Like all SMU Residential Commons, Boaz has its own crest. The stars represent the five founding Commons team members as well as the community’s five guiding values: mentorship, community, compassion, integrity and zeal. Each RC also has an official pin, which new residents receive at a special pinning ceremony. Boaz held its pinning ceremony in September.

Let The Games Begin!
With 184 residents, Boaz may be the smallest Residential Commons, but the Sons say it’s one of the tightest. To prove the point, Boaz students won the Commons Cup for 2017 by attending SMU athletic events, participating in community service and competing in the Residential Commons Olympics.

#Corral: The Res Commons Comes to Life

The new academic year is off to a great start! Watch the Hilltop spring to life as new students experience the excitement of move-in day, the tradition of Opening Convocation and all the merriment in between in this collection of videos and photos that capture the spirit of Mustang Corral, August 16–20.

SMU Campus Gets Ready!

Move In Day 2017

Discover Dallas 2017

A Night at the Club

SMU Class of 2021 Photo

SMU Rite of Passage

SMU Opening Convocation

Typewriter Poet

SMU Solar Eclipse

“Evicted” Author Visits SMU

Move In Day

Discover Dallas

Camp Corral

Rotunda Passage and Opening Convocation


Fall 2017 Features News

The Domino Effect: Creating A Chain Reaction Of Achievement

Annual gifts for current use power every part of the University. An investment in study-abroad programs combines with a scholarship gift and another for hands-on learning projects, and suddenly donors have given a world-class educational opportunity to students who might not otherwise afford them. Gifts to research labs link to investments in academic centers and community partnerships, and the combined impact can reveal new solutions to pressing problems. Take a look at how chains of gifts strengthen SMU, and read more about Pony Power – the SMU stampede for current-use gifts.
Real-World Research
Annual support for scholarships and undergraduate research creates unlimited possibilities. Patricia Nance ’17 discovered a mentor in Professor Patty Wisian-Neilson and a passion for research with life-changing potential. After graduation, it was on to a Ph.D. program in chemistry at Caltech. Read more.
Faculty Excellence
Novel Solutions
The SMU Fund propels academic centers and community engagement efforts that make possible hands-on projects such as Evie, an experimental mobile greenhouse developed by students at the Hunt Institute for Engineering to help low-income communities access fresh produce. Read more.
Academic Programs
Community Engagement
Hands-On Learning
Powerful Partners
University-led collaborations sustained by the SMU Fund uplift, inspire and improve communities. From Ignite/Arts Dallas’ free Shakespeare performances to The Budd Center’s research and resources for improving West Dallas’ neediest schools, SMU’s efforts transform lives every day.
Community Engagement
Hands-On Learning
Academic Programs
Living and Learning
A vibrant campus life fueled by annual gifts drives students’ growth and achievement. Their lasting friendships and lifelong memories start with the Residential Commons experience, while leading-edge facilities and services dedicated to health and academic fitness keep them on track for success. Read more.
Campus Communities
Facilities & Technology
Student Support Services
Global Approach
SMU Abroad and other programs funded by annual giving open up a world of learning opportunities for students like Sabrina Janski ’16, ’17. She completed an internship in Seville, Spain, before earning a master’s degree in accounting and landing a job with PwC. See video at
Global Perspectives
Hands-On Learning
Student Support Services

Fall 2017 Features

Meet The SMU Students Behind The Dallas Poke Craze

Credit SMU undergraduates Brandon Cohanim and Francois Reihani for importing Dallas’ latest food craze. Spurred by entrepreneurial cravings and an eye for trends, the California transplants opened Pōk the Raw Bar in January, the city’s first restaurant focused on poke (pronounced poh-kay), a raw fish salad with Hawaiian roots.
Located in the prime Uptown neighborhood, the sleek dining destination is more than just a business to Cohanim and Reihani. It’s also a platform for their “Imagine X Inspire” social impact project, which they launched through SMU’s Engaged Learning program.
Their idea for a job-training program for teens on the cusp of aging out of the foster care system won a $5,000 award at an international business plan competition in April.
“It’s not just about how many people we serve,” Cohanim says. “It’s also about how many people we help.”
Ready For A Big Night
The student restaurateurs welcomed SMU photographer Guy Rogers III behind the scenes shortly after the opening of their new hot spot in Uptown
While Dallas sushi legend Jimmy Park manned the raw bar, Brandon Cohanim and Francois Reihani prepped the staff on the details, including the fine art of matcha tea service.
Among their first guests was SMU Professor Simon Mak. Cohanim says Mak’s entrepreneurship class in the Cox School of Business “opened up our minds and helped us focus on our goals and strategy.”

2017 Features March 2017 March 2017 Main News Spring 2017

It’s Not Just Research. It’s Also Personal.

It’s a scorching July afternoon, a few weeks before summer term ends and fall classes begin. Strains of conversation, followed by a burst of laughter, waft through the hallway that leads to Patty Wisian-Neilson’s chemistry lab in Fondren Life Sciences Building. Inside, Patricia Nance ’17 checks a beaker filled halfway with a milky polymer as it gyrates on a magnetic stirrer. Everything is going smoothly today, but when she hits a snag in the lab, Nance has a tried-and-true formula for shaking off disappointment and moving forward.
“Thinking of my grandmother’s battle with breast cancer reminds me that my research has a real purpose: to benefit the millions of women around the world who might one day find themselves in her situation,” Nance says. “Looking at it from that perspective makes any setbacks seem minor.”
With help from “Dr. Patty,” as Nance calls her professor and mentor, the SMU senior shaped an Engaged Learning project inspired by her grandmother’s fight for good health and fueled by her passion for inorganic chemistry.
For the past two years, the chemistry and math major has been developing a new antibacterial polymer, or coating, for breast implants.
“Synthesizing antibacterial polymers has been a project in Dr. Patty’s laboratory for some time now. When I inherited the work, the results did not look very promising. Instead of attempting to fix the procedures, Dr. Patty and I designed a new method of synthesizing these polymers,” Nance explains. “This made me feel as if my project were contributing something original to the work of the group. I also shifted the focus of my project after reading about some of the issues encountered with reconstructive breast surgery for mastectomy patients.”
Post-mastectomy breast reconstruction using saline or silicone gel implants is part of the recovery process for many women. However, their bodies have a difficult time combating infection-causing bacteria because their immune systems have been weakened by radiation and chemotherapy.
“The infection rate at the implant site is about 30 percent in post-mastectomy patients, compared to about three percent in those undergoing a standard enhancement procedure,” Nance explains.
She’s on a mission to even out the equation for women like her 75-year-old grandmother, “who has officially beaten breast cancer twice.” The high-energy septuagenarian loves to hike in the mountains and travel, and her determination to maintain an active lifestyle influenced her decision more than a decade earlier to eschew reconstructive implants, her granddaughter says. “She read about the risks and didn’t feel it was safe enough.”
Personalizing her research is one of many examples of how Nance’s independent spirit infuses all aspects of her University experience. Always game to try a new challenge, she enrolled in an arts and culture course at SMU-in-London last summer. Participants were encouraged to “become Londoners” and put their own stamp on the five-week experience. Even though she had not traveled out of the United States before, she relished living on her own and exploring the rich history and cultural diversity of England’s capital.
The chance to make her mark on the world as a student, her way, is what drew her to SMU in the first place.
“When I visited SMU, it was immediately clear that the school would be a good fit for me. During my tour I learned about undergraduate research opportunities, which were very important to me as a future researcher,” she says. “SMU really excels at providing undergraduates with opportunities to work closely with professors on important research with real impact. You don’t get that at other universities.”

Mentors shape a star researcher

Nance attributes her academic drive to strong women mentors who “recognized something in me I didn’t recognize in myself.”
It’s almost impossible to picture now, but in middle school she was the poster child for academic underachievement. At 13, her stepfather’s job took the family from the only home she had known in Raleigh, North Carolina, to “the tiniest place I had ever seen,” Santo, Texas, population 315 – about a two-hour drive west of Dallas. She was not happy, and her low grades showed it.
Nance’s high school science teacher Rita Elizabeth Tallant remembers “a young girl who was exceptionally bright but trying to find who she was and where she fit in.”
When Nance was placed in Tallant’s biology class, part of the school’s distinguished achievement program, she thought it was a mistake and tried to switch. “In my mind, I definitely wasn’t going to college,” she remembers. “I planned to go to cosmetology school.”
Tallant had other plans for her reluctant student. She served as the science coach for state UIL and Science Olympiad competitions, and eventually persuaded Nance to participate in her sophomore year. She thrived, winning numerous ribbons and medals, and eventually asked Tallant to find a university professor who could tutor her for a complex chemistry event.
Nance graduated at the top of her class of 47 from Santo High School four years ago and chose SMU as the best path to pursue a degree in evolutionary biology.
On the Hilltop, she found another mentor in “Dr. Patty.”
Wisian-Neilson made an indelible impression on Nance on the first day of her General Chemistry I introductory class. “Dr. Patty is famous for her ‘Welcome to College’ speech, and I was really intimidated by it. She had office hours after class, and I went in immediately and introduced myself by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Patricia, and I’m really terrified by your class.’ We’ve been close ever since.”
The professor’s classroom lecture made it clear the subject wasn’t easy, but in private she assured the first-year student that if Nance knew enough to be worried, she probably didn’t need to be.
After more than 30 years as an educator and researcher at SMU, Wisian-Neilson knows a serious scholar when she meets one. She instantly recognized Patricia’s “unusually strong work ethic and superb determination and, of course, amazing intelligence.”
Since joining the University in 1984, the chemistry professor has earned numerous accolades, including the President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Award in 2013 and the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor designation in 2005.
Like Nance, she grew up in a small town with limited resources and opportunities for budding scientists, yet managed to flourish because of caring teachers who recognized her potential. In another parallel in their stories, Wisian-Neilson didn’t discover how much she enjoyed chemistry until she began working in a lab as an undergraduate at Texas Lutheran College. Her involvement in polymer research now predates the birth of most of her students.
“I was part of what I call the ‘Sputnik Generation,’ so there was a recognition that science would be important to the future,” she says.

In the chemistry lab, ‘a team of equals’

While Nance started out doing research in a biology lab, by the spring of her first year, she had fallen in love with chemistry and switched her major. The summer after her sophomore year, she joined Wisian-Neilson’s research team, and the professor moved back into the lab to train her.
Her professor characterizes the event a bit differently: “I moved back into the lab to work with her. Note the ‘with,’ because I felt like we were a team of equals,” Wisian-Neilson says. “Within a few weeks, she was making suggestions for the project and designing her own direction for making biomedical coatings. We had discussions, not lectures.”
The work was intense but exhilarating, Nance says.
“The precursor to the polymer is air sensitive, so it’s not something you necessarily learn in your class labs,” she explains. “I was working with new materials, glassware and techniques to make sure the product is never exposed to air. You learn about safety really quickly because the product is reactive to air.”
Nance’s research involves polyphosphazenes, a versatile class of hybrid inorganic polymers with a phosphorous-nitrogen backbone. Because of their structural diversity and biocompatibility, they may ultimately be deployed in a multitude of biomedical applications, from drug delivery systems to tissue engineering.
Her contribution to the field will be a coating that attaches directly to synthetic implants. The coating should thwart bacterial colonization that causes serious infections in women who have undergone breast cancer treatment.

Scholarships create a platform for success

While on her scientific quest, Nance receives crucial support from the Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholars Program in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and SMU Engaged Learning.
A gift from the late Jack and Jane Hamilton established the scholars program in 2008. The competitive funding opportunity allows promising students like Nance to collaborate with distinguished faculty members on significant research. The program has grown from nine students in its inaugural academic year to 31 today.
Dan Hamilton ’71, ’79 and Diane Hamilton Buford continue to fund the program to honor their parents. In March 2016, they and other family members attended the annual Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute celebration for undergraduate research scholars, where Nance and other students explained their work and talked about their progress.
“It has been exciting to see our father’s vision grow over the years,” Dan Hamilton says. “Education was his priority, and he would be so proud to see what these students are accomplishing. The level of their research is amazing.”
As a Hamilton Scholar, Nance is compensated for working up to 10 hours per week in the lab on her project.
“Getting paid to do research is still so amazing to me. Not only am I able to do what I love, but I’m also able to devote large amounts of time to it because I’m not having to work a second job for living expenses,” she says. “It’s not common for a student my age to really love his or her job, but I am so passionate about my work. That’s something I wouldn’t be able to say without the Hamilton Undergraduate Research Program.”
An Engaged Learning Fellowship supplies additional funding for her signature project. The program challenges students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to capstone-level research. The successful completion of a project is recorded on a student’s SMU transcript, a valuable distinction for those applying to graduate school or seeking a first job.
In August, Nance and another SMU student researcher, Shreya Patel ’17, presented posters and discussed their individual Engaged Learning projects at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Philadelphia.
“It was the first time I had been in such a large group of scientists, and it made me feel that I have so much still to learn, but I was also pleased by how much I understood,” she says. “Other scientists had great feedback about our work. It really helped to have new sets of eyes on the project. I also met research developers who expressed interest in perhaps working with us, so that was encouraging.”
The experience was so valuable that she plans to attend to the ACS spring meeting in San Francisco in April.
Nance also receives merit-based Harold Jeskey and Lazenby scholarships from the Department of Chemistry, a tuition scholarship from the Dedman College and Southwestern Medical Center Graduate School of Biomedical Science BRITE collaborative, and was one of the Texas students who received a STEM Columbia Crew Memorial Scholarship. Additionally, she was named a 2016-17 Barry Goldwater Scholar, a national scholarship presented to top science, mathematics and engineering students nominated by their universities.
“The chemistry department does so much for its students, from providing teaching assistant jobs to writing countless recommendation letters. They even provide departmental scholarships, which have significantly eased my own financial burden,” she says. “I am so lucky to be a part of such an amazing department that truly cares for each of its students.”
Her final semester in Dr. Patty’s lab has been bittersweet for both student and mentor.
“We really do become a family in the lab, so it’s hard to see students go,” Wisian-Neilson says. “But I really can’t be too sad because they are going on to what we’ve been preparing them for.
“I give her credit for putting the ‘oomph’ back into my research program,” she adds. “This semester there is a new graduate student and four undergraduates. I am not sure this would have happened without Patricia’s enthusiasm and passion.”
Nance has applied to top graduate schools, where she plans to continue inorganic chemistry and delve into nanoscience.
“I’m hoping to find a graduate program similar to the undergraduate chemistry program I’ve found here at SMU: a department full of amazing and personable chemists who value both teaching and research,” she says. “I am looking for another program that cherishes its students both as chemists and as people while pushing them to become better scientists.”
– By Patricia Ward

2017 Features March 2017 News Spring 2017

SMU Law Clinic Gives Fresh Start To Families In Distress

When third-year law student May Crockett ’17 entered the VanSickle Family Law Clinic program, she expected “to gain practical lawyering experience.” What she never anticipated was the life-altering impact her work would have – on her clients and her future.
The high point of her two semesters with the clinic in SMU’s Dedman School of Law was handling an adoption from the beginning to a happy ending. The action protected children from a perilous situation, driving home the magnitude of Crockett’s role as a legal advocate and emotional anchor.
“I didn’t realize I would become an integral part of my clients’ lives. Whether it is finalizing an adoption or helping them through a difficult divorce, my clients rely on me heavily,” Crockett says. “Without the clinic, these clients would have no one to turn to.”
SMU’s community clinics open doors to legal services for low-income North Texas residents unable to afford representation. One of the newest among 10 clinical programs and projects offered by the Dedman School of Law, the VanSickle Family Law Clinic launched in January 2016 under the direction of Chante Prox. Prior to joining SMU, Prox was managing attorney and mediator with Barnes Prox Law, PLLC.
“Having built my own practice, I was excited to take that experience and apply it to the challenge of shaping a clinical program from scratch,” she says.
Helping families heal lies at the heart of the clinic’s mission – and is a cause Prox has embraced throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and started out as a caseworker with Texas Child Protective Services (CPS). What she saw there was a revelation for someone who grew up in a stable home.
“Our family wasn’t perfect – no family is – but my parents always made sure I felt safe, secure and loved,” she remembers. “They were my first role models. Thanks to their example, I knew what it takes for a family to be strong and healthy.”
In contrast, many of her cases at CPS involved children whose parents were debilitated by drug abuse and whose grandparents were raising them. Prox later became a champion for those “second-time parents” while serving as a legislative aide for Texas State Senator Royce West. She recommended the “Grandparents Bill” West sponsored to provide financial assistance to grandparents raising their grandchildren to keep them out of the foster care system and preserve their family ties. Tenets of the bill have been adopted in federal kinship care legislation.
In a prophetic twist in Prox’s life, divorce pushed her to take a leap she had been considering for years, and she enrolled in The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. When she moved out of the classroom and into the courtroom as a student attorney, it reinforced her passion for the legal profession and family law. She has been an enthusiastic booster of clinical programs ever since.
Prox says it takes a special breed of attorney – part therapist, part legal ninja – to handle the emotional highs and lows involved with family law proceedings. Things get personal as attorneys navigate the choppy legal waters surrounding some of life’s most stressful changes.
“You are often more than a lawyer assessing and advising clients on their legal rights,” she explains. “Clients frequently come in with a lot of baggage and issues. Acting as an effective advocate for them requires listening, understanding and patience. It’s an area of law that you really have an affinity for or you don’t.”
Student attorneys see the full spectrum of the field when they work in the VanSickle Family Law Clinic, which functions much like a family law firm. The clinic handles divorce, child custody, visitation, paternity, child and spousal support, and adoption proceedings. Cases can include enforcement actions and modifications of previously issued court orders.
Each semester the case selection process starts with a call for applications, which is posted on the clinic’s website. In spring 2016, 150 Dallas-area residents contacted the clinic to inquire about services, and 12 applicants were accepted, with two cases assigned to each of six student attorneys.
While Prox is the attorney of record and sees the proceedings through to their conclusion, students are in the driver’s seat during their clinic commitment. They interview and counsel clients, conduct factual investigations and legal research, prepare court documents and negotiations – including property settlement and custody agreements for divorce actions – and represent clients in court.
Prox serves as a sounding board during weekly one-on-one meetings with students. She also accompanies them to major settlement negotiations and all appearances in the 17 different courts in Dallas County that handle family law issues.
Students embrace the high ethical and professional standards set by the clinic and emphasized by the director. “I’ve been so impressed with the students as they take ownership of their cases, apply my teaching and demonstrate exemplary lawyering,” Prox says. “Their professionalism in dealing with clients is particularly meaningful because our low-income clients often don’t expect to be treated with respect.”
In addition to the cases assigned through the clinic, student attorneys work with the courts and community legal clinics to provide some assistance to pro se litigants – individuals representing themselves in court. Through this work, they help keep minor policy and procedure issues from clogging courts already swamped with cases.
“Pro se litigants are offered advice on such things as how to dress and given information about where to file and how to conduct themselves in court,” Prox explains. “They won’t be as frustrated if they know what’s going on and what is expected of them in court.”
“Chiefs” serve as her proxies for addressing students’ day-to-day questions and concerns. In the fall, third-year students Crockett and Ashley Jones ’17 filled the roles. Both were in the first class to participate in the clinic and have completed family law internships.
After receiving her Juris Doctor (JD) in May, Crockett will join a family law firm in Houston. She’s looking forward to lending a legal hand in the Gulf Coast city.
“I will definitely continue doing pro bono work,” she says. “Almost half of the cases that come into the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, the pro bono legal aid arm of the Houston Bar Association, are family law related, so my clinic work has been great preparation.”
Jones also will earn her JD in May and praises the clinical program for adding an unmatched dimension to classroom training.
“The clinic offers a very special social component that is vital to being a successful attorney,” she says. “From day one, you are given real clients, with real problems, who depend on you to help them. No other internship or law school experience has provided me with this level of real-world client contact and responsibility.”
Giving families in distress a fresh start is the ultimate reward of family law practice, she says.
“I had the opportunity to finalize a client’s divorce in court. She was my first client, and I really got to know her and her story,” Jones recalls. “When we were walking out of the courtroom, she had the biggest smile on her face, and she kept thanking me. I realized that as a student attorney, I’m not just getting amazing experience that will prepare me for the rest of my career, but I’m also affecting and changing lives.”


Campaign Reshapes The University’s Profile

SMU officials and members of The Second Century Campaign Leadership Council gather for the announcement that the campaign reached its goal early. (Left to right) SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves; Richard Ware ’68; Gene C. Jones; Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48, co-chair; Linda Pitts Custard ’60, ’99; SMU President R. Gerald Turner; Robert H. Dedman, Jr. ’80, ’84; Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69, convening co-chair; Caren H. Prothro, co-chair; Michael M. Boone ’63, ’67, co-chair; Bobby B. Lyle, ’67; Carl Sewell ’66, co-chair.
SMU officials and members of The Second Century Campaign Leadership Council gather for the announcement that the campaign reached its goal early. (Left to right) SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves; Richard Ware ’68; Gene C. Jones; Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48, co-chair; Linda Pitts Custard ’60, ’99; SMU President R. Gerald Turner; Robert H. Dedman, Jr. ’80, ’84; Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69, convening co-chair; Caren H. Prothro, co-chair; Michael M. Boone ’63, ’67, co-chair; Bobby B. Lyle, ’67; Carl Sewell ’66, co-chair.

By Patricia Ann LaSalle ’05
SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign has lived up to its name. It reached its $1 billion goal ahead of schedule, raising unprecedented funding for scholarships, academic positions and programs, facilities and other enhancements to campus life. The campaign’s official completion date is December 31, 2015.
The campaign announcement was made September 24 at a gathering of volunteers, donors, alumni, civic leaders and other members of the campus and Dallas communities. The event in McFarlin Auditorium was the official celebration of the 100th anniversary of SMU’s opening on September 24, 1915 – and a rally for its future. The centennial was celebrated during a weekend of Homecoming and other special events.
“This is a doubly historic day for us,” said President R. Gerald Turner. “As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of SMU’s opening, we are pleased to announce unprecedented new support for our future. Our founders were forward-looking leaders, and they’d be pleased to see that today’s supporters are generously investing in our next century of achievement. These donors are truly the founders of our second century.”
SMU joins 33 other private universities nationwide in conducting a campaign at the $1 billion level or above. The institutions range from Columbia University and the University of Notre Dame to Emory and Vanderbilt universities.
“SMU joins distinguished company within the higher education community,” said Gerald J. Ford, SMU trustee and convening co-chair of the campaign. “This stature underscores the reality of our growth in quality and reputation.”


Among academic programs, campaign resources have enabled SMU to endow the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering and SMU’s newest and seventh degree-granting school – the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, established at the request of area school officials.
The campaign has raised support for 582 new student scholarships; 49 new endowed faculty positions, now reaching a total of 111; 66 academic programs and initiatives; and 18 substantially funded capital projects, including new facilities for academic programs, student housing and athletics. Other gifts for campus enhancements support expanded career services and leadership programs.
“The campaign’s many successes reflect great confidence in SMU’s progress under the leadership of President Turner,” said Michael M. Boone, chair of the SMU Board of Trustees and a campaign co-chair. “This investment in our people and programs also will strengthen Dallas as our home city. And it will elevate the contributions of both Dallas and SMU to our nation and our global society.”
New campaign-funded facilities include buildings for the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Perkins School of Theology and Lyle School of Engineering, as well as a new Mustang Band Hall, new tennis complex and renovation and expansion of Moody Coliseum for athletics and academic ceremonies. Under construction are the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center and Fondren Library Center renovation; upcoming construction projects include the Gerald J. Ford Research Center and an aquatics center. At SMU-in-Taos, new facilities include a campus center, new or renovated housing and a chapel.
CampaignGraphicAmong the most visible campaign projects is the addition of five new residence halls and a dining center as part of SMU’s new Residential Commons system, including on-site classes and faculty in residence. Six other halls have been renovated as Commons, enabling all first- and second-year students to live on campus.


The 582 scholarships created include support for undergraduates and graduate students in all seven schools of the University. Among them are Cox School of Business M.B.A. scholarships for veterans and active military students and additional scholarships for transfer students. New support also is being provided for SMU’s top two merit scholarship programs – the Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt Leadership Scholars and the SMU President’s Scholars.
New academic centers reflect increasingly important fields requiring interdisciplinary approaches. These include the Tsai Center for Law, Science and Innovation in Dedman School of Law; the Dedman Interdisciplinary Institute and the Embrey Human Rights Program, both in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security in the Lyle School of Engineering, which is collaborating with academic areas throughout the University. New endowed professorships address these areas as well as topics such as global entrepreneurship, art history, education, engineering innovation and economic freedom.
The largest single gift to the campaign, and the largest in SMU history, was $45 million, made in March 2015 by The Meadows Foundation to support the Meadows Museum and the Meadows School of the Arts. This gift, the largest ever given by The Meadows Foundation, came during the 50th anniversary year of the Museum.


SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign has made SMU fundraising history in several ways. The campaign:

  • Gained support from the largest number of donors – more than 62,000 from throughout the world.
  • Received gifts from nearly 23,000 donors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
  • Received the largest number of gifts of $1 million or more – 171.
  • Exceeded its goal to receive gifts from 50 percent of alumni over the course of the campaign, achieving 56.9 percent.
  • Surpassed its goal to achieve 25 percent of undergraduate alumni giving in a single year, reaching 26 percent for 2014-2015. (This measurement is used by some ranking organizations to gauge the level of alumni satisfaction with their alma mater.)
  • Attained the highest level of giving by faculty and staff, at 68 percent.
  • Received gifts from 18 percent of the student body in 2015 from campus leaders promoting a “Join the Stampede” drive.

Campaign volunteers applaud as they are showered by confetti at the volunteer summit September 25 celebrating SMU’s $1 billion campaign achievement.
Campaign volunteers applaud as they are showered by confetti at the volunteer summit September 25 celebrating SMU’s $1 billion campaign achievement.

Construction funded by the campaign is a major contributor to the Dallas economy. Since 2011, SMU has spent $390 million on renovation and construction projects, which are employing about 270 service providers, including architects, engineers, landscapers, contractors and suppliers.


“Absolutely essential to our success has been the leadership of our co-chairs and the entire Board of Trustees,” said Brad E. Cheves, vice president for development and external affairs. “As they met with campaign volunteers throughout this campaign, they galvanized a new level of enthusiasm and optimism and a shared vision of what SMU can be for new generations of students.”
The campaign has been served by more than 400 volunteers from throughout the world led by six co-chairs, all SMU trustees: convening co-chair Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69, Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48, Michael M. Boone ’63, ’67, Ray L. Hunt ’65, Caren Prothro and Carl Sewell ’66.
The Second Century Campaign was publicly launched in 2008 with a goal of $750 million. Rapid progress toward that goal and opportunities for further advancements led SMU leaders in 2013 to increase the goal to $1 billion and extend its timeline to 2015. The last four years of the campaign, 2011-2015, have coincided with SMU’s centennial era, marking the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and opening in 1915.
Ending in 2002, SMU’s previous major gifts campaign was the University’s first successful campaign since the drive funding its opening. A Time to Lead: The Campaign for SMU was launched in 1997 with an original goal of $300 million. The final amount raised was $542 million.
Combining both campaigns, in the past two decades SMU has raised a total of $1.5 billion for 753 new scholarships, 111 new academic positions, 146 academic programs and 32 capital projects.
Read more about SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign


What Do Students Like About SMU? Friends, Faculty & Much More

To celebrate the University’s centennial year, we asked students to tell us what they liked most about SMU. Here is the highly subjective, not-at-all comprehensive and totally fun list, in no particular order, of the people, places and more that earn a thumbs-up.


Do you have an SMU like to share?
Post it in our comments section, or tweet us @smumagazine.

Founders’ Day Weekend 2014: Salute To Faculty And SMU Progress

Faculty gathered for a group portrait in Moody Coliseum. See the photo with individual identifications here.

Founders’ Day Weekend, April 10-13, highlighted the Year of the Faculty, celebrating the centennial of the recruitment of SMU’s first professors.
President R. Gerald Turner honored SMU faculty during a reception April 11 at the Miller Event Center in Moody Coliseum. Preceding the reception, a group photo was taken of full-time and emeriti faculty who assembled in Moody Coliseum. In his president’s briefing, Turner highlighted the University’s accomplishments and provided a look ahead for the coming year.
Board of Trustees Chair Caren Prothro said that “one of the great benefits and rewards of service on the board is getting to know the faculty. Also, it is my pleasure to express the Board’s sincerest respect and greatest appreciation for all that the SMU faculty have done over the past century – to support students, to develop new knowledge through research, to shape community and national issues due to your expertise and to lead the development of SMU as a highly respected institution today in U.S. higher education.”
Golden Mustangs, alumni from classes of 1963 or earlier, participated in a reunion and luncheon and toured the Sorolla exhibit at the Meadows Museum on Thursday.
This year Founders’ Day Weekend added a new performance program on Friday, Inside SMU Powered by TEDxSMU. The program featured stories and demonstrations from 16 SMU faculty, staff, alumni and student speakers on topics ranging from NSA surveillance to SMU’s civil rights pilgrimage program to a whimsical demonstration using giant origami.
Founders’ Day Weekend expanded its annual Community Day activities this year, including family events at the George W. Bush Presidential Center as well as at the Meadows Museum.

Tom and Susan Downs Armstrong '59 reminisced while leafing through old Rotunda yearbooks at the Golden Mustangs reunion April 10.
Tom and Susan Downs Armstrong ’59 reminisced while leafing through old Rotunda yearbooks at the Golden Mustangs reunion April 10.

At the President's Briefing, SMU Board of Trustees Chair Caren Prothro honored the faculty with a proclamation held by Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios (left) and accepted by Faculty Senate President Santanu Roy.
At the President’s Briefing, SMU Board of Trustees Chair Caren Prothro honored the faculty with a proclamation held by Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios (left) and accepted by Faculty Senate President Santanu Roy.

President R. Gerald Turner highlighted a year of SMU achievements at a briefing in Moody Coliseum.
President R. Gerald Turner highlighted a year of SMU achievements at a briefing.

Parent Leadership Council Chair Jim Landon '82 spoke to the group at the Miller Event Center during Founders' Day Weekend.
Parent Leadership Council Chair Jim Landon ’82 spoke to the group at the Miller Event Center during Founders’ Day Weekend.

Fred Wendorf, professor emeritus and Henderson-Morrison Chair in Anthropology and wife Christy Bednar attended the reception for faculty at the Miller Event Center in Moody Coliseum.
Fred Wendorf, professor emeritus and Henderson-Morrison Chair in Anthropology, and wife Christy Bednar attended the reception for faculty at the Miller Event Center in Moody Coliseum.

Families participated in Community Day events at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the Meadows Museum.
Families enjoyed snacks and hands-on activities at the Bush Presidential Library and the Meadows Museum during Community Day April 12.

Children explored painting with watercolors at the Meadows Museum.
Children explored painting with watercolors at the Meadows Museum during Community Day.

Families enjoyed the bluebonnets at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum's Native Texas Park.
Families enjoyed the bluebonnets at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum’s Native Texas Park.


Making Moody Magic

Although the final result of the National Invitation Tournament – Minnesota 65, SMU 63 – was not the one that the Mustangs wanted, SMU fans never let the disappointment diminish their enthusiasm for the men’s basketball season. Brandishing the hashtag #FinishTheRightWay, the Twittersphere exploded with congratulations, attaboys, thank-yous and so-proud-of-you comments.

Buildings downtown and across Dallas – and as far away as Amarillo – lit up in red and blue lights after one of SMU’s home game wins.
Buildings downtown and across Dallas – and as far away as Amarillo – lit up in red and blue lights after SMU’s home game wins.

When the players and coaches returned to campus after the April 3 loss at Madison Square Garden, they were greeted by a crowd still showing the love for the resurgent team. In numerous interviews with the media during the season, Coach Larry Brown credited the home crowd for helping the team make it to New York City. “We have a program now that people don’t laugh at, and we’ve had unbelievable support. We’re going to win a national championship, or at least be competitive from now on out,” he said.
> Larry Brown and the Mustangs profiled in The New York Times
Brown and the players maintained all season that it was the atmosphere of a newly renovated and expanded Moody Coliseum – christened Moody Magic – that helped them achieve a 27-10 season. The Mustangs went 18-1 at home, setting a record for home victories, including 12-1 inside Moody Coliseum (the team played six home games at Curtis Culwell Center in Garland while Moody renovations were being completed). SMU also broke its season attendance record, setting the new mark at 107,412 (was 101,296 in 1984-85). The Mustangs sold out nine of 13 games in Moody Coliseum.
Former President George W. Bush attended several games at Moody Coliseum. With him at the game against Louisville on March 5 are daughter Jenna Bush Hager, former First Lady Laura Bush ’68, Gail Turner and SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
Former President George W. Bush attended several games at Moody Coliseum. With him at the game against Louisville on March 5 are daughter Jenna Bush Hager, former First Lady Laura Bush ’68, Gail Turner and SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

By the time Moody Coliseum re-opened January 4 to a sold-out game against the University of Connecticut, SMU had a 10-3 record. At the time, UConn (the eventual NCAA Tournament champion) was ranked No. 17. As the game progressed, excitement mounted in Moody. The crowd exploded in pure joy when it became clear in the final seconds that SMU would beat the Huskies 74-65.
> Read more about the new Moody Coliseum and Miller Events Center
When the men beat a No. 7-ranked Cincinnati team 76-55 on February 8, hundreds of students rushed the floor. Tickets to home games became more difficult to obtain, and students even camped overnight in extremely low temperatures to acquire their allotted tickets. The only game the men lost at home was on March 5 to an unranked Louisville 84-71. The sold-out crowd wore white T-shirts bearing the slogan “Moody Magic.”
The Mustang Band worked its magic at Moody Coliseum and the NIT Finals.
The Mustang Band worked its magic at Moody Coliseum and the NIT Finals.

Even the disappointment of SMU being overlooked by the NCAA Tourna­ment selection committee did not dampen Mustang spirits. After SMU was named a No. 1 seed by the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), tickets again were in high demand by fans seeking to support the team in its three-game home court advantage. The capper occurred in the third round when guard Nic Moore nailed a 3-pointer in the final six seconds to beat UC-Berkeley 67-65, sending SMU to the NIT Finals at Madison Square Garden. Students rushed the court, hoisting Moore on their shoulders.
See Dedication Ceremony and Moody-related videos
About 3,000 alumni and SMU supporters attended the NIT Final games. Those who couldn’t make the trek to New York City followed their beloved team on Facebook, Twitter and the SMU homepage before the game against Clemson aired on national television April 1. Watch parties occurred back home in Dallas and throughout the country, and those who couldn’t watch because of class or an event kept up through minute-by-minute updates on their cell phones. Down by 12 at halftime against Clemson, it appeared that the Mustangs’ NIT run might be over. But the Heart Attack Kids pulled it off in the second half, as they had in many previous games.
At every home game, SMU Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios donned a lobster suit and led a spirited student section, which often included students dressed up as characters, including the Mario Bros.
At every home game, SMU Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios donned a lobster suit and led a spirited student section, which often included students dressed up as characters, including the Mario Bros.

The Mustangs’ 65-59 win over Clemson sent them to the NIT Final against Minnesota, also a No. 1 seed. The back-and-forth contest ended when, in the final minute, Minnesota hit a 3-pointer to tie the score, and then eventually to win 65-63. The long season was over.
> Read a recap of the “magic” season from SMU Athletics
But the Mustang Nation can’t shake the feeling that something special happened this season. The 73-year-old Brown was supposed to be leading a rebuilding stage, but he did more than that. At the beginning of the season few expected the men’s basketball team to go as far as it did, to accomplish numerous firsts. Most importantly, however, the games became a rallying point for SMU fans, who bonded in Moody Coliseum over rowdy, raucous, rocking moments, and around the water cooler the next day to compare notes and relive highlights.
A pre-preseason poll has rated the Mustangs at No. 10 for 2014-15. See you next season for more magic at Moody Coliseum.

– Susan White

Participating in the ribbon cutting for a re-opened Moody Coliseum at the December 21 graduation ceremony were (from left) Provost Paul Ludden; student Morgan Rose Beckwith ’13; donors Frances Moody-Dahlberg ’92 and Carolyn Miller and SMU Trustee David Miller ’72, ’73; President R. Gerald Turner; Board of Trustees Chair Caren Prothro; Brad Cheves, vice president for Development and External Affairs; and Athletics Director Rick Hart.
Participating in the ribbon cutting for a re-opened Moody Coliseum at the December 21 graduation ceremony were (from left) Provost Paul Ludden; student Morgan Rose Beckwith ’13; donors Frances Moody-Dahlberg ’92 and Carolyn Miller and SMU Trustee David Miller ’72, ’73; President R. Gerald Turner; Board of Trustees Chair Caren Prothro; Brad Cheves, vice president for Development and External Affairs; and Athletics Director Rick Hart.

Coach Larry Brown strategizes with players during a break in the Cal game, which SMU won 67-65.
Coach Larry Brown strategizes with players during a break in the Cal game, which SMU won 67-65.

Students flashed signs indicating that SMU was on its way to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Finals after the UCBerkeley game.
Students flashed signs indicating that SMU was on its way to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Finals after the UCBerkeley

Mustang fans flash the pony ears in front of Madison Square Garden before the NIT Final game.
Mustang fans flash the pony ears in front of Madison Square Garden before the NIT Final game.

An SMU student raises a sign with the catchphrase the Mustangs used to end their season at home.
An SMU student raises a sign with the catchphrase the Mustangs used to end their season at home.

SMU Trustee Ray Hunt ’65 was the speaker for the December 21 graduation ceremony in Moody Coliseum.
SMU Trustee Ray Hunt ’65 was the speaker for the December 21 graduation ceremony in Moody Coliseum.

Keena Mays takes the ball down the court at Moody Coliseum for the SMU women in the game against the University of Connecticut on February 25 in front of a record crowd of 4,091 fans. The SMU women’s basketball team advanced to the second round of the WNIT.
Keena Mays takes the ball down the court at Moody Coliseum for the SMU women in the game against the University of Connecticut on February 25 in front of a record crowd of 4,091 fans. The SMU women’s basketball team advanced to the second round of the WNIT.