2017 News Spring 2017

Hal Brierley Helps Prepare The Next Generation Of Business Leaders

In late September, the Cox School of Business M.B.A. class on customer engagement taught by professor Marci Armstrong met for a guest lecture. The speaker related stories about working in the trenches of customer engagement for 30 years, consulting with such clients as American Airlines, Pan Am, Blockbuster and Borders. Although most of the students were too young to know many of those companies by name, they listened attentively because they knew they were hearing from a top expert in the field.
Hal Brierley has come a long way from starting a database marketing firm in 1969 in the basement of Dillon Hall at Harvard Business School. Brierley became well known as the only external consultant involved in the launch of American Airlines AAdvantage, the nation’s first frequent traveler program. He grew his firm Epsilon into an industry leader, and then spent 30 years building Brierley + Partners into a global leader in the design and management of customer loyalty programs.
After selling Brierley + Partners in 2015 to Nomura Research Institute, a leading Japanese technology services firm, the executive considered the “Father of Customer Engagement” is making a late-career segue. He recently moved his office from the Legacy area in Plano to an airy suite atop Parkland Hall on the old Parkland Hospital campus, only a few minutes away from his home in Highland Park – and from his latest venture in customer engagement at SMU’s Cox School of Business

Hal Brierley, who will serve as an executive-in-residence in Cox’s new customer engagement institute, spoke to MBA marketing students in September.
Photo by Hillsman S. Jackson.

Hal Brierley, who will serve as an executive-in-residence in Cox’s new customer engagement institute, spoke to MBA marketing students in September. Brierley first guest lectured in Armstrong’s class several years ago. From the beginning, he was particularly impressed to learn that American Airlines – extremely protective of its customer data – had given the students access to data from 10,000 anonymous AAdvantage members. As he interacted with the next generation of customer engagement marketers, Brierley wanted to ensure they were properly trained and educated in the ever-evolving field.
The seed of this hope grew into the $10 million gift that Brierley and his wife, Diane, gave to SMU in September to create the Brierley Institute for Customer Engagement in Cox, the nation’s first academic institute devoted to study of the field. The gift – among the largest in the history of the Cox School – will help students and businesses address a critical and growing business need: capturing customer attention in what Brierley describes as “a time-starved, social media-obsessed environment.” Armstrong will serve as the Harold M. Brierley Endowed Professor and Brierley himself will be an executive-in-residence.

Not what he planned

Brierley didn’t set out to become the guru of customer engagement. “Most of us who’ve been involved in direct marketing backed into it. Very few people of my generation sat down in college and said, ‘I think I’ll go into direct marketing,’” he recalls.
During his college years at the University of Maryland, he had the opportunity to work part time as a math aide at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center programming the early mega IBM computers. After earning a B.S. in chemical engineering, he was accepted at Harvard Business School, but decided to work for a year at IBM as a sales trainee. After getting his M.B.A. in 1968, he stayed on at the business school serving as a research assistant, with some outside consulting for The Boston Consulting Group and the Rand Corporation.
While working as a research assistant, Brierley’s college fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, recognizing his computer background asked him to help automate its membership records. “I naturally looked for a data processing firm that specialized in maintaining membership organizations.” Not finding one, he and a business school classmate offered to serve as consultants to automate SAE’s membership records.
They quickly realized that most other fraternities were also not yet computer savvy, and after a year, they were maintaining the membership records for 16 of the 18 national fraternity offices. “But,” Brierley adds, “we also found that our clients needed advice on how to use the computer to communicate with members, especially for fundraising, and we backed into becoming a direct marketing agency.” Over the next 10 years, Epsilon grew to work with more than 400 nonprofit organizations.

Gaining the advantage

After helping his fraternity automate its membership records, Brierley and a classmate established the Epsilon direct marketing agency.

Brierley’s collection of memorabilia includes an early American Airlines AAdvantage pass.

Living in Boston, with all of Epsilon’s clients in the Midwest, Brierley became an early frequent flyer. One day, he stopped by United Airlines’ Chicago offices to visit the executive running its club for frequent fliers to talk about its membership record keeping. “While he politely told me he didn’t need help, a month later he called to tell me that the government was going to make United charge for access to the Red Carpet Club and that he may need help.”
Over the next several years as Epsilon helped maintain the records for United’s Red Carpet Club, Brierley recalls, “I became intrigued with the concept of customer loyalty. As we served as the vendor maintaining the Club’s records, we started wondering if we could use the Red Carpet Club as the vehicle to motivate flyers to concentrate their flying with United, offering unanticipated rewards and more personalized communications.”
Later, United introduced them to Pan Am and Epsilon started maintaining Pan Am’s Clipper Club records. With the advent of airline deregulation, airlines were freed from pricing restrictions and allowed to become more creative, he says. “So, I proposed to Pan Am that Epsilon could develop and operate a turnkey program to reward passengers for flying its new transcontinental routes from New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Our proposed ‘multi-trip discount program’ would offer passengers who flew three round trips on Pan Am’s transcontinental flights a free coach trip to Europe. Pan Am said it would never work, that no one would ever go out of their way to fly one airline rather than another simply to earn a reward.”
Later, after he had left Epsilon, one of Brierley’s business school classmates became senior vice president of marketing for American Airlines. Brierley recalls, “When we met, I told him what I had proposed to do at Pan Am and he said, ‘We’ve got a secret program we’re thinking about that would reward passengers for flying on American.’ It ended up with me as the one outside adviser on the design and launch of the AAdvantage program.
“American wanted frequent travelers to give the airline their names and addresses so it could communicate directly with them and provide their member numbers when they flew, thus allowing American to accurately identify their best customers. By offering a small incentive for participation and working the database, American thought they could gain a larger share of the customer’s travel.”
A pioneer in database marketing and loyalty programs, Brierley has counseled scores of iconic brands.

He adds, “It’s important to remember that the original AAdvantage program had a one-year term – you had to fly 50,000 miles in one year to earn a free ticket.”
Brierley proposed several key innovations, including entry-level awards starting at 12,000 miles, an unanticipated gift (a bag tag) after a member’s first flight, a monthly mileage statement, and a Gold program for members flying at least 25,000 miles each year. While he is still proud of his contribution, he always likes to point out that the work was done “by a very talented team of AA employees, and Bob Crandall was the visionary who said they needed the program.”
Brierley laughs as he recalls that American thought it had a one year head start against its competitors when it launched AAdvantage, since the technology and planning had been a year in the making. To American’s surprise, United Airlines matched it “literally over the weekend, improvising the initial program support. Obviously when a big competitor launches a major initiative, you should respond. But United made one big change,” Brierley adds. “They said, ‘If it makes sense to give people miles when they fly, why not let them earn miles for more than just year-to-year?’ So, United made the term for earning miles open-ended, and eventually, millions of travelers would earn a free trip.
“That totally changed the economics of the program, and led to these programs becoming much bigger and more expensive than planned,” he says. “However, offsetting the added cost, no one anticipated that someone would decide that letting travelers earn miles for using a credit card could change the credit card industry. So today, billions of dollars are spent by credit card companies to reward their cardholders with airline miles, making the sale of airline miles a major profit center for the airlines.”

Retaining customer attention

Over the more than 30 years since the launch of the first airline loyalty program, Brierley has worked with clients “to define what behavior change they want their customers to make – such as to sign up for a program or purchase something they might not otherwise have bought – the economic value of the change, and how much they want to spend to motivate the behavior change. In addition to the tangible incentives, I’m convinced providing emotional benefits and understanding the psychology of loyalty have become critical in designing a successful program,” he says.

An ad featuring a Brierley + Partners brochure on “The Art of Relationship Management.”

Brierley believes that the next generation of loyalty programs will reward people for their time and attention. “We’re in a time-starved world today and the biggest problem for a brand is getting and keeping the consumer’s attention,” he says. “I think share of attention is going to be as important as share of wallet. And that’s where the focus on customer engagement becomes important.
“Talk about loyalty and a lot of CFOs think about a big, cumbersome reward program that offers trips to Hawaii. However, everyone has pretty well agreed that if we can get customers to engage more frequently with the brand, they will buy more.”
In Brierley’s view, customer engagement centers on having a conversation with customers and prospects. “Most marketers preach rather than converse. Conversation says I talk to you, I ask you a question, you tell me something.”
To emphasize this point, Brierley recalls when rental car company Hertz sat in focus groups with customers nearly 30 years ago and asked what kind of benefits Hertz could extend to them that would cause them to prefer Hertz. “What people said was, ‘I want a faster way to rent the car.’ They had their airline miles, and they didn’t want points or golf balls from Hertz, but they didn’t want to stand in line.” And, to Hertz’s credit, it listened and created the Hertz #1 Club Gold program.
The explosion of the internet and digital marketing has made it faster and cheaper to engage with customers. Brierley says that the idea of rewarding people for their time, for opening an email and for sharing their opinions by completing a survey, led him to launch e-Rewards, now known as Research Now, the world’s largest online market research panel. It monthly rewards over a million consumers for completing market opinion surveys for some 2,500 research firms.
“I’m firm believer that a well-crafted incentive can profitably change behavior. We’re an incentive-based society today.”

The next level of engagement

Cox faculty member Marci Armstrong will serve as the Harold M. Brierley Endowed Professor in the customer engagement institute.

Brierley sees SMU’s new institute as a way to move to the next level of customer engagement. “I would like to think we’ll have a generation who actually knows how to profitably drive consumer engagement,” he says. “Since it’s a bit of a science and a bit of an art, there are a lot of nuances that make programs successful.”
His relationship with SMU actually began with the arts, which he and Diane have supported generously across Dallas for decades. Having earlier served on the executive board of Meadows School of the Arts, he was attracted to the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) program in Meadows and Cox. “It struck me as a very innovative program; SMU was taking the initiative in a very entrepreneurial endeavor – building a database of best practices in the arts community. There was a fundraising opportunity to support NCAR that had a matching grant, and we gave $100,000.”
When it came time to make a major investment in developing the field of customer engagement, Brierley felt that SMU would be the best academic home.
“It could take years for Harvard to identify a professor interested in building a course around loyalty or engagement, much less establish an M.B.A. concentration,” he says. “SMU already had been teaching a class on customer loyalty, and working innovatively with American Airlines to let students work with real customer data and address loyalty issues. We have a professor who already had a love for customer engagement, we have an innovative school in Cox, and a superlative brand in SMU. I think we can make SMU and Dallas a center of excellence in this critical part of marketing. When you think of all the Fortune 500 corporate headquarters here, we have a tremendous laboratory for advancing loyalty.”

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.”

2017 News Spring 2017

Working Out With SMU Rowing

2017 News Spring 2017

SMU Entrepreneurs And Their Cheeky Card Games

What began as a class project has sparked a two-game winning streak for Tim Cassedy, assistant professor of English, and former students Chelsea Grogan ’15, Jenna Peck ’15 and Kate Petsche ’15.
They invented Dick: A Card Game Based on the Novel by Herman Melville and Bards Dispense Profanity. Patterned on the popular Cards Against Humanities games, their “fill-in-the-blank” challenges invite players to complete a phrase with language and imagery from Moby-Dick and Shakespeare’s plays for humorous, often ribald, results.
The team launched Why So Ever – their do-it-yourself enterprise – in online collaborative documents by drafting prompts like “I’m sorry, this table is reserved for _______” and mining the texts for such nuggets as “a robustious periwig-pated fellow” (Hamlet). They printed the cards themselves, cut them out on a hand-cranked device and stockpiled inventory in spare corners of their homes.
After selling several thousand copies, they’ve scaled up and invested in professional printing and rented a storage locker. The games are available at the Barnes & Noble SMU Bookstore, as well as from Uncommon GoodsAmazon and their company’s website,, where they also offer notecards, T-shirts and temporary tattoos.
“It might be fairly common for a professor in engineering or the sciences to take an idea to market, but it is absolutely not something I expected to happen from where I sit in the English Department,” Cassedy says.
Watch Cassedy and company playing around with language: