2019 February 2019 News

Breaking ground on a new home for digital explorers

The University community is invited to attend the groundbreaking for the Gerald J. Ford Hall for Research and Innovation at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, February 22, at the site of the new facility on the corner of McFarlin Boulevard and Airline Road.
The new facility will serve as the home to SMU’s AT&T Center for Virtualization, the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, high-performance computing and data science, the new innovative Visualization Lab and SMU Guildhall, the Hart eCenter’s top-ranked digital game design program.

2019 Alumni February 2019

Alumna begins historic bar association presidency

Trial attorney Laura Benitez Geisler ’97 made history on January 12 when she was sworn in as the 110th Dallas Bar Association president, becoming the first Hispanic member to lead the organization.

Laura Benitez Geisler ’97

“The Dallas Bar Association is among the strongest and most active in the country, and I’m looking forward to the year ahead,” Geisler says. “I’ve been an active member of the Dallas Bar my entire career, having served on the board of directors since 2006. I am eager to get to work in this new and challenging role.”
Among her goals as president is to highlight the importance of protecting the independence of the judiciary through a series of programs on the history and challenges facing an independent judiciary, the development of a “Life Skills for Lawyers” series and a “Legal Incubator” program designed to help young attorneys become successful practitioners.
Geisler has served as president of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. She was elected to chair the Dallas Bar board in 2015 and served as president of the Dallas Women Lawyers Association in 2003. As the co-chair of the 2014–15 Equal Access to Justice Campaign benefitting the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, she helped raise more than $1.1 million for pro bono legal services for low-income Dallas County residents.
She received her J.D. from SMU’s Dedman School of Law and has 21 years of experience representing clients in personal injury and wrongful death cases. She has achieved multimillion-dollar jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of her clients.
Geisler has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America and Texas Super Lawyers and has earned a National Diversity Council listing among the Top 50 Multicultural Lawyers in Dallas and Top 50 Women Lawyers. The Hispanic National Bar Association also honored her with its Top Lawyer Under 40 award in 2011. She recently merged her firm to form Sommerman, McCaffity, Quesada & Geisler.
The Dallas Bar Association is a 145-year-old professional, voluntary body of more than 11,000 Dallas-area lawyers.

2019 February 2019 News

Teasing out history’s big picture with digital tools

SMU history professor Jo Guldi’s book, The History Manifesto (Cambridge University Press, 2014), recently was named one of the most influential books of the past 20 years by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Writing with Harvard’s David Armitage, she argues that historians need to shed their enthusiasm for micro-history and return to examining history’s big picture to better influence the future.Guldi and Armitage propose that historians embrace new technology as the key to analyzing the grand scope of history in ways that were not possible before. Supercomputing capable of sorting daunting amounts of data encourages scholars to synthesize information in new ways, seeing things that do not emerge in the close examination of single decades.
“Applying computer technology to research empowers historians to step back, analyze longer periods of time and search for trends and patterns that might otherwise remain hidden,” Guldi says. “It revolutionizes how we work.”
Algorithms, big data and data text mining are key to the historian’s new digital toolbox, she says Using these tools, and at SMU, the University’s supercomputer, ManeFrame,  researchers can now interpret long-term historical trends and giant topics like inequality, capitalism and climate change in ways that were impossible before the emergence of search technology.
Read more at SMU News.

2019 February 2019 News

Register for the SMU-in-Taos Cultural Institute, July 18–21

Take a deep dive into presidential history, innovation in the digital age and other fascinating topics while enjoying the beauty and serenity of SMU’s distinctive mountain campus in New Mexico.
The 15th anniversary of the SMU-in-Taos Cultural Institute will be celebrated this year with courses that offer something for everyone. Whether you choose an engaging class for the joy of learning or one that expands your knowledge of the world, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in a unique setting that inspires intellectual discovery and lasting friendships. The SMU-in-Taos Cultural Institute provides in-depth, hands-on explorations that are designed to broaden your outlook, teach new skills or simply celebrate the cultural richness of Northern New Mexico and beyond. Field trips enable you to experience topics even more vividly, and there’s always time to discover the uniqueness of Taos on your own.
Read more and register today.

2019 February 2019 News

Jim Lehrer to receive Literati Award on March 30

The distinguished  journalist and author will receive the prestigious award from SMU at Tables of Content, presented by Friends of the SMU Libraries in support of its annual grants program.

Tables of Content opens with a cocktail reception featuring this year’s Top 10 Haute Young Authors at 6 p.m. and is followed by the award presentation and dinner with table hosts leading fascinating conversations on a variety of topics. Reservations and more information are available here.

The Literati Award honors individuals who have used the written word to advance the ideals of creativity, conviction, innovation and scholarship and who have had a significant impact on culture and the community through their work. This award was created by the Friends of the SMU Libraries/Colophon in 2010 and was established in honor of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the organization to celebrate the power of the written word and to recognize significant achievements in creativity.

Lehrer came to Washington with PBS in 1972, teaming with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to cover the Senate Watergate hearings. They began in 1975 what became The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, and, in 1983, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, the first 60-minute evening news program on television. When MacNeil retired in 1995, the program was renamed The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards for journalism, including a presidential National Humanities Medal in 1999, the News & Documentary Emmy’s Chairman’s Award in 2010 and in October 2011 he received the Fourth Estate Award from the National Press Club.

With proceeds from the evening, the Friends of the SMU Libraries’ grant program funds the purchase of books, periodicals, electronic resources and other much-needed equipment and materials for all SMU libraries.

Read more at SMU Libraries.

2019 February 2019 News

Programmed for the data-driven future

Vince Miller, a second-year graduate student, chose the Applied Statistics and Data Analytics (MASDA) program in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences because he was looking for “a top tier education.” After his first year at SMU, a data scientist internship at Capital One turned into a full-time career. He’ll be working for the bank after graduating in the fall. He recently shared some insights about his SMU student experience in the college’s newsletter, Inside Dedman College. EXCERPT:

What drew you to the MASDA program? With so many options within the field, what makes SMU’s MASDA program special?

While I was considering what graduate program I wanted to attend, I was able to speak with our advisor Dr. Robertson as well as then-current students. These conversations gave me the confidence that MASDA was exactly what I had been looking for: a top tier education that would allow me to develop applied statistics knowledge while gaining experience using industry standard as far as available technology for data science from insightful professors. In my second year, I have found that the insights given by my professors have been invaluable. The main insight I’ve taken away is that an understanding of applied statistics is the best background to have within this industry.

Can you share an experience or two that sums up your time in the program best? Is there a particular member of the faculty, project, or course that you would consider to be a defining moment for you?

The class that I enjoyed the most was “Intro to Data Science.” A defining moment was when the course began, and I did not expect such a mathematical approach to the subject. I expected the course to be similar to other data science tutorials or certifications I had completed, but after a short period, I realized that the professor understood how important a fundamental understanding of statistics was in the field. This course definitely gave me an upper hand when comparing myself to students from other programs.

Read more at Dedman College.

2019 Alumni February 2019 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy this roundup of interesting stories, podcasts and more that highlight some of the people and events making news on the Hilltop.

2019 Alumni February 2019 News

Critics applaud year’s best performances

“Defiantly smart” acting, “stunning original music” and “profound choreography” were just a few of the accolades Meadows alumni, students and faculty recently received from multiple critics in their “Best of 2018” roundups highlighting outstanding work by Dallas-area performing artists.

Chief dance critic Cheryl Callon’s list of top works of 2018 included Aladdin by alum Joshua Peugh ’06, created for his Dark Circles Contemporary Dance company, with music by alum Brandon Carson ’16. Callon said, “With its elaborate, thoughtfully designed narrative and stunning original music by Brandon Carson, the evening-length show provided an intimate, almost immersive experience for Joshua Peugh’s take on the tale and concept of the well-known character.” …

Critic Gregory Isaacs’ review of favorite classical music concerts of 2018 included Joel Estes Tate Chair Joaquín Achúcarro’s piano performance with the Fort Worth Symphony on an all-Spanish program; Isaacs wrote, “Achúcarro’s performance will always stick in my memory.” Isaacs also cited the “rare treat” of hearing the Diaz Trio, including cello professor Andres Diaz, in a concert presented by the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth.

Critic Martha Heimberg named alum and Kitchen Dog Theater co-director Tina Parker ’91 one of nine outstanding local female directors she would like to host at a dinner party, saying, “I can’t even imagine a party of theater women in this town, or anywhere, without Tina.” …

Read more at SMU Meadows.