2020 Alumni December 2020 News

Remembering Edwin L. Cox, Sr. ’42

SMU mourns the loss of renowned Dallas business leader, entrepreneur, public servant, educational pioneer and longtime University supporter and trustee emeritus Edwin L. Cox Sr. ’42, who died Thursday, November 5, 2020. He had celebrated his 99th birthday on October 20, and remained active and engaged with family and friends until his passing.
“Edwin Cox’s contributions to and enthusiasm for this University and the Cox School of Business are invaluable. He was a tremendous presence and an inspiring influence for every person who crossed his path, and his work with and for his community has reached across generations and over great distances,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He will remain an example of tireless drive, selfless spirit and boundless energy to the students of Cox and of SMU for generations to come. He is missed, not only because of his determination to make the Cox School a globally recognized institution, but also because of his character and his unwavering commitment to the students of SMU and to the people of Dallas.”
Read more.

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.”

2019 Alumni February 2019 Main News

Latest Hart gift amplifies SMU’s impact on regional economic growth

SMU’s ability to cultivate and launch entrepreneurs for North Texas and beyond received a major boost with a significant new gift from prominent Dallas business leaders and major SMU supporters Linda Wertheimer Hart ’65 and Milledge (Mitch) A. Hart, III. The Harts now are among SMU’s most generous donors.
The Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at SMU will combine the innovative forces of SMU’s Cox School of Business and Lyle School of Engineering. The two schools will integrate their expertise, resources and guidance to develop technology prototypes and create viable business plans.
“SMU will play a major role in the formation of new enterprises and cross-disciplinary ventures thanks to the Harts’ generosity and vision,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The Hart Institute will stand as a pioneering and lasting example to future SMU donors, reinforcing our role as an engine of regional economic development and job creation.”
Linda Hart said SMU’s focus on creating new knowledge inspired the gift.
“I was inspired to support this institute because I have seen first-hand how technology and innovation have been crucial to my own business endeavors, and they are critical elements needed in solving the world’s challenges,” she said.
“With a new institute dedicated to guiding and promoting entrepreneurial work, the University will continue its march forward as an innovation leader,” Mitch Hart said.
“Providing exposure to forward-thinking mindsets and feeding the enterprising spirit in an academic setting means there is no limit to what can be done,” he said. “I look forward to the exciting work that will be produced here.”
Read more at SMU News.

2017 Fall 2017 News

To Our Readers: A Great Time To Be On The Hilltop

As the University makes final preparations for the arrival of new students and the start of fall classes August 21, I am more excited than ever about the opportunities ahead – for the Class of 2021 and for the University as a whole.
We invite you to be a critical part of all the great things that will happen on the Hilltop in the months ahead.
Our new students join peers from every U.S. state and more than 90 countries around the world. On the Hilltop, new first-year students will immediately find a home away from home in their Residential Commons. Read “Uncommon Life” to see what that experience will be like as they interact with peers who represent a cross-section of the student body and with Faculty in Residence who take an interest in their well-being, academically and socially.
The new students will be joined by new faculty members and administrators: new deans for the Cox School of Business and Simmons School of Education and Human Development, the University’s first-ever associate provost for continuing education, and new leaders for student affairs and information technology.
These outstanding leaders and their peers across SMU will enhance the abilities of our students and faculty to work together across disciplines to create new fields of knowledge and address tough problems. For examples of ways in which they change the world, read about the groundbreaking community partnerships forged by Meadows School of the Arts and the entrepreneurial alumnae who created an innovative all-girls school in Dallas.
The unique opportunities SMU offers students, faculty and alumni are only possible because of the ever-increasing generosity of donors. That is why we started the exciting three-year initiative called Pony Power: Strengthening the Stampede to inspire more people to give every year to support current initiatives.
Your annual gift to the SMU Fund – which you can direct to broad areas such as the University’s greatest needs, scholarships or faculty, or to the highest priorities of a school, the libraries, Athletics or Student Affairs – enables you to be a critical part of all the great things that will happen on the Hilltop in the months ahead.
I hope you can see for yourself the incredible things happening at the University – by coming to campus for Homecoming November 2–4 or Family Weekend September 22–24; by attending an event across the U.S. for alumni, family and friends; by seeing a game or performance on campus; or by reading the stories SMU shares online through-out the year.
It is going to be a fantastic year, and we want you to be a part of it.
R. Gerald Turner

Fall 2017

Welcoming SMU’s Olamaie Curtiss Graney Design Lab

The Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development dedicated in March the Olamaie Curtiss Graney Design Lab in Harold Simmons Hall. Olamaie G. Fojtasek and Randall S. Fojtasek ’85, ’90 (center) made a $1 million pledge to SMU, with $500,000 directed to the Design Lab and $500,000 for M.B.A. scholarships in Cox School of Business. Also at the ceremony were (from left) SMU Provost Steve Currall, President R. Gerald Turner and Simmons Interim Dean Paige Ware. Graney, Mrs. Fojtasek’s mother, was a public school teacher in Tennessee and Mississippi. In the lab, education students use technology to develop unit and lesson plans and technology applications to support student learning.

2017 Alumni News

Ana Rodriguez ’03 named director of Cox’s Latino Leadership Initiative

SMU Cox Executive Education welcomes a new director to take its four-year-old Latino Leadership Initiative to the next level. Ana Rodriguez, an alumna of SMU Cox, brings nearly twenty years of experience in higher education, not for profit and corporate work.
Launched in November 2013, the LLI is a national center of excellence at the Cox School of Business designed to help meet the nation’s growing need for corporate leaders as the economy grows and national demographics evolve. The LLI grew out of research that shows a gap in talent at the country’s executive leadership level.
Rodriguez will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for the LLI, which works with the university and the business community to access an important talent resource and marketplace. The LLI operates to deliver management education programs, organization development services, new research-based insights and community engagement activities.
“I am honored and overjoyed to return to my alma mater as the director of the Latino Leadership Initiative,” said Rodriguez. “While Latinos make up nearly 18 percent of the total U.S. population, only two percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are of Hispanic origin. I am humbled by the opportunity to build upon the LLI’s proven success and to work with companies to recruit, retain and develop top Latino talent.”
“The LLI is of utmost importance to SMU Cox Executive Education in our mission to serve the business community,” said Frank Lloyd, associate dean of Executive Education at SMU Cox. “Ana Rodriguez brings solid experience in establishing mutually beneficial relationships between universities and business organizations. She will strengthen the LLI’s efforts to expand the corporate leadership pipeline and accelerate top Latino talent to management and executive level positions. This will benefit our community, our country, and so SMU.”
Rodriguez will begin her new role August 1. She has held leadership positions in corporate partnerships, development, alumni relations, university advancement, and external affairs at UTD’s Naveen Jindal School of Management and UNT Dallas. In those roles, she coordinated corporate relations strategies, public relations, fund raising, and community engagement. Ana also served as the executive director for the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, a non-profit arts organization and resident company of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and she worked for Bank of America in its Global Wealth and Investments division.

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 June 2017 News

Cox recognizes outstanding alumni

The SMU Cox School of Business honored six alumni at the school’s annual Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni Awards Luncheon on Friday, May 19.
Three Distinguished Alumni Awards and three Outstanding Young Alumni Awards were presented at a luncheon ceremony in the Collins Executive Center on the SMU campus. Award nominations are submitted to the SMU Cox Alumni Association for consideration by a selection committee.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni honorees are, in alphabetical order: Peter T. Dameris, BBA ’82; Kirk L. Rimer, MBA ’89; and Liz Youngblood, MBA ’05. Outstanding Young Alumni honorees are: Amber Venz Box, BA ’09; Baxter Box, MBA ’11; and Vik Thapar, MBA ’09.
Read more at SMU News.

2017 Alumni June 2017

SMU alumnus Mark Lau ’06: Finding a perfect fit at Nike

By Karen Shoholm
“I met Michael Jordan during the first week of my internship,” says Mark Lau ’06. “Right then I knew that Nike was the place I wanted to work. Eleven years later, I haven’t looked back.”

Mark Lau ’06, global director of Nike’s EKIN Experience, sports some favorite kicks outside the Nike store in Portland, Oregon. “There’s no such thing as a typical day at Nike, and that’s why I love it,” he says.

Lau, who graduated with degrees in marketing from the Cox School of Business and in advertising design from Meadows School of the Arts, works at Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. As global director of the company’s EKIN Experience – named in 1981 for the Nike reps who “had to know the product backwards and forwards,” according to Nike – Lau leads the team responsible for curating Nike’s stories and delivering inspiration and innovation to athletes around the world through a grassroots approach.
“My internship played a huge part in getting a full-time job at Nike,” he says.
Lau also credits his SMU Abroad experiences studying in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Suzhou, China. “I believe that some of the best learning experiences take place outside the classroom. The study abroad programs provided the opportunity to interact with students from around the world and experience global cultures.”
Adapting to different kinds of people and cultures was good training for what Lau does at Nike. “There is no such thing as a typical day at Nike, and that’s why I love it. We are a consumer-driven company, and the consumer moves fast. We learn, adapt and evolve quickly to keep up with today’s fast-paced environment,” he says.
“We call Nike’s World Headquarters a campus because it is designed like a university and fosters an environment of learning and sharing. Our maxim, ‘Be a sponge,’ inspires us to constantly soak up and share information.”
From the SMU campus, Lau is grateful for what he learned in his marketing classes, especially those taught by Judy Foxman, senior lecturer of marketing at the Cox School. Lau says she made learning fun. “She merged the classroom with the real world, providing valuable insights and experiences.”
Foxman calls Lau “a fabulous student whose marketing and communication skills were enhanced in my Honors Marketing Practicum class. When you are relating academics to a real-world project, a company knows that you will be able to hit the ground running. You earn more than a marketing degree; you acquire a level of confidence and professionalism.”
Lau serves as the co-president of SMU’s Portland alumni chapter and helps organize events for fellow Mustangs who live in the area.
He adds that SMU’s location in Dallas gave him an ideal launch pad for getting to Nike and Portland. “Dallas is strategically located so it is attractive to companies. Whether you want to work for a big company or a small company – or start your own – Dallas and SMU can provide those opportunities.”


SMU alumni honored by Cox School of Business

2017 May 2017 May 2017 Main News

A slam dunk for literacy

He was seldom a starter on the SMU mens basketball team, but you’d never know it from his fans: Graduating senior guard Jonathan Wilfong made an impact every time he played at Moody Coliseum home games.
The crowd loved him, yelling out his name in overly long syllables (Wil-foooooong!) when he stepped onto the court. But as much as he’s been loved by the raucous crowds at Moody, and by the coaching staff  that admires his dedication, there’s another set of fans who mean even more to Wilfong – the kids he is helping through his “Coaching for Literacy” program.
Now that he’s graduating, he hopes to both continue his work with the program, as well as expand it to other colleges and universities.
Wilfong’s degree from the Cox School of Business helped give him the know-how to expand the charity. In fact, the degree is part of what brought Wilfong to SMU in the first place.
“I wanted to attend a school where I could play basketball and also get a business degree,” Wilfong said. “I could have gone to a smaller school and played more, but I knew what I wanted to study and I knew where my future was. SMU offered the best of both worlds.”
Read more at SMU News.

2017 Alumni May 2017

George Killebrew ’85: Helping SMU students break into the big time

Connor Kolodziej ’19 was so excited about his winter break externship that he was up by 5:30 a.m. so he would be early to the office of George Killebrew ’85, executive vice president with the Dallas Mavericks.

Kolodziej didn’t know what to expect going in. He just knew a chance to work in a sports organization was something he’d always dreamed about. Dallas’ five professional sports teams had attracted the Atlanta, Georgia, resident and lifelong sports lover to SMU, where he is majoring in applied physiology and sport management in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development. So it made perfect sense to pursue a one-day opportunity to get an inside look at the business operations of a legendary team.

Little did he know then that it would land him a three-month summer internship with the team.

SMU’s Hegi Family Career Development Center connected Kolodziej with Killebrew, who’d received his BBA from the Cox School of Business. “When I found out George was with the Mavericks, I was very excited,” says Kolodziej. “The day exceeded my expectations. I understood the daily operations. Everyone was friendly and happy, and that really encouraged me about my future.”

“It’s actually a simple thing,” says Killebrew, who is also a member of the SMU Alumni Board. “Anytime someone comes in, whether it’s for a summerlong internship or a day’s externship, we want to make sure they get a full flavor of the organization and the different business roles within. A lot of people see the Mavericks and think about the basketball piece of it. But we’re over in a warehouse in Deep Ellum. We’re selling tickets and sponsorships and merchandise. Connor came in and spent pretty much the whole day with us. My whole staff took time with him. So everybody had 30 or 45 minutes with him. We’re always trying to help out – especially someone who wants to get into sports.”

Kolodziej values how the externship helped with his longer-term career aspirations. “I got to make new connections and meet new people who didn’t go to SMU. It also helped me see new aspects – so it broadened my horizon about where I’d like to go in the future.”

He parlayed his winter externship into a summer internship by “staying in contact with George and everyone else I talked to during my winter externship. You never know what is out there unless you ask.” In assisting the Mavs’ corporate sponsorship team this summer with promotions and programs, Kolodziej hopes to gain deeper insights into sports organizations and continue to “learn as much as possible.”

Killebrew, who grew up in Hawaii, credits his SMU education and SMU connections to getting him where he is now. “I was a bit sheltered growing up on an island. When I got to SMU, I met people from all different walks of life, all 50 states and a lot of foreign countries. That really helped prepare me for the real world.”

After graduation, Killebrew worked in the SMU Alumni association for two years, then “I got a job in the Athletics department at SMU. So I was working for the Mustang Club, which opened the door to get me here to the Mavericks – because the people at SMU were helping me take the next steps.”
Killebrew encourages others to take advantage of SMU alumni connections. “There are so many resources, in the city of Dallas and within the SMU alumni community, that you can pretty much accomplish anything you want, regardless of your field. Alumni are willing to help. They just need to be asked.”

Kolodziej appreciates how SMU is helping him pursue the career of his dreams and emphatically recommends the externship experience to other SMU students. “I loved the whole day. I learned so much. SMU has a great connection with alumni, and George pushed home the importance of networking and meeting new people, especially as a student in college. And the most important thing I learned is to find a good place not just to work, but also to enjoy what you do.”

2017 May 2017 News

Global marketing expert to lead Cox

Matthew B. Myers, a global marketing and strategy expert with special expertise in cross-border business relationships and Latin American economies, has been named dean of SMU’s Cox School of Business. He will assume his new duties on August 1, at which point Albert W. Niemi Jr., who has been dean of the school since 1997, will transition to full-time teaching.
As dean and Mitchell P. Rales Chair of Business Leadership of the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio, Myers manages an $80 million budget and recently launched the first independent fund-raising campaign for a college at Miami University. The $200 million effort includes a $40 million lead gift, the largest philanthropic gift in Miami history. The Farmer School of Business is a top-10 producer of Fortune 500 CEOs and maintains undergraduate, graduate and executive programs with a student body of approximately 4,300 and more than 250 faculty and staff members.
Read more at SMU News.


SMU’s Gabby Petrucelli ’16 Balances Grad School And Rowing

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hat’s the key to juggling the demands of graduate school and competitive rowing?
“I started drinking a lot of coffee, especially with early morning practices,” Gabrielle (Gabby) Petrucelli ’16 says. “Being able to balance both is a game in itself.”
Petrucelli, a four-year starter for the SMU women’s soccer team as an undergraduate, is working toward a master of science in accounting (MSA) at SMU’s Cox School of Business while testing the waters as a first-year member of the SMU rowing team.

Gabby Petrucelli ’16 played soccer for four years at SMU and is now a first-year member of the SMU rowing team and a graduate student in the Cox School of Business.

She and her teammates are at the boathouse on White Rock Lake by 5:30 a.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. on Saturdays. They start with a warm-up run before heading inside to practice on rowing machines. Before 7 a.m., they hit the water in racing shells, those long, narrow boats used in competitive rowing. For the next two hours, they glide back and forth across the lake as head coach Doug Wright and assistant coaches Jessie Hooper ’03 and Paige Love take note of performance strengths and weaknesses, offer suggestions, track times and check in with rowers to make sure they’re feeling 100 percent. It takes tremendous strength and stamina to make the sport look so graceful and effortless.
SMU rowing wrapped up its fall schedule on November 5 with several top-three finishes at the Tulsa Fall Invitational. In its season opener on March 11, the Mustangs host Creighton at White Rock Lake.
The team also finished the fall semester as one of nine SMU sports programs to set new academic records.
While the rigors of graduate school would be enough of a workout for most students, Petrucelli, a lifelong athlete, couldn’t pass up the chance to learn a new sport. Besides soccer, she played tennis in high school but had never tried rowing. The transition has been smooth, but she has had to make a few adjustments.
“In rowing you’re competing for a seat in the boat against your teammates, of course, but soccer is more of a contact sport and the competition is more physical,” she says. “I was used to the group dynamic of soccer practice, and I’ve had to get into the mindset of the individual challenge of the rowing workouts.”
She’s used to challenges. As an undergraduate, she played the trickiest soccer position – coach’s daughter. Her father is SMU women’s soccer head coach Chris Petrucelli. During her four years of eligibility, she and her father adhered to a strict rule: When at practice or during a game, they were “coach” and “player,” not “father” and “daughter.”
“To both my dad and me, it was about being members of a team,” says the former soccer mid-fielder. “I felt like I was treated the same by him and my teammates, which I’m grateful for.”
She says the discipline and time-management skills she developed as an undergraduate student-athlete serve her well in graduate school.
“Being an athlete teaches you to work hard and persevere. You learn that you have to keep going, whether you lose a game or have to stay up late to figure out an assignment you thought you’d never understand,” she says. “I have developed the mindset of ‘you can do this,’ no matter what, and that has helped me academically.”
The spring will be a whirlwind, as she finishes her master’s program, competes with the rowing team and prepares to sit for the CPA exam, beginning in May. All this will lead up to the launch of her professional career, when she joins the tax department of PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) in July.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to compete in two sports at the collegiate level while receiving a great education at SMU,” Petrucelli says. “I have learned a lot about competiveness, perseverance and teamwork that will be valuable in my career going forward.”
– Patricia Ward

2016 Alumni Spring 2016

Cox School Of Business Honors Five SMU Alumni

Al Niemi, Dean of the Cox School of Business; Bryan Sheffield, BBA ’01 and 2016 SMU Cox Outstanding Young Alumnus; John Santa Maria Otazua, BBA ’79 , MBA ’81 and 2016 SMU Cox Distinguished Alumnus; Michael Merriman, BBA ’79 and 2016 SMU Cox Distinguished Alumnus; Jason Signor, MBA ’04 and 2016 SMU Cox Outstanding Young Alumnus; Billie Ida Williamson, BBA ’74 and 2016 SMU Cox Distinguished Alumna; and R. Gerald Turner, SMU President.
SMU’s Cox School of Business honored five alumni May 13. Pictured at the awards luncheon are (from left) Dean Al Niemi, Bryan Sheffield ’01, John Anthony Santa Maria Otazua ’79 , ’81, Michael Merriman ’79, Jason Signor ’04, Billie Ida Williamson ’74 and SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

The SMU Cox School of Business honored five alumni at the school’s annual Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni Awards Luncheon on May 13.
2016 Distinguished Alumni Honorees
Michael Merriman, BBA’79, is Chief Executive Officer of Financial Holding Corporation — FHC — a privately held financial services holding company in Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to serving on other corporate and civic boards, he is a member of the SMU Cox Executive Board. Mr. Merriman’s wife, Ellen, and their four children — Jack, Margaux, Edward and Mattie — are all SMU alumni.
John Anthony Santa Maria Otazua, BBA ’79 and MBA ’81, is the CEO of Coca-Cola FEMSA, the largest public bottler of Coca-Cola products in the world, encompassing franchise territories in 10 countries across Latin America and Asia, with over 100,000 associates operating 63 bottling plants and 327 distribution centers globally. He serves on other corporate boards and helps represent Mexico on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council. He and his family live in Mexico City.
Billie Ida Williamson, BBA ’74, served as a senior assurance partner and the Americas’ inclusiveness officer of Ernst & Young LLP until her retirement in 2011. She began her career at Ernst & Young in 1974 in the assurance practice. Ten years later, she became one of the firm’s first women partners. After 19 years with EY, she left to become chief financial officer of AMX Corp., led that company’s successful IPO, and became senior vice president of finance of Marriott International, Inc. In 1998, she rejoined Ernst & Young in its Center for Strategic Transactions and became a senior client-serving partner. Ms. Williamson serves on multiple corporate boards, is active on civic boards and is a member of the Cox Executive Board. Before earning a BBA in accounting in 1974, with highest honors, Ms. Williamson was SMU’s student body treasurer and Homecoming queen. She was honored by SMU with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015.
2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Honorees
Bryan Sheffield, BBA ’01, founded Parsley Energy in 2008 and serves as chairman, president and CEO. He led the company’s growth from a two-person contract operator to a publicly-traded company with more than 200 employees and more than 800 operated wells. In May 2014, he directed Parsley’s initial public offering — the second largest E&P IPO ever — after which the company has established a track record of drilling some of the basin’s most productive wells. Last fall, he presented SMU Cox with a gift to honor his father. The new Scott Sheffield Energy Investment lab bears the name of Bryan’s dad, the chairman and CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources.
Jason Signor, MBA ’04, is a partner and CEO of Caddis Healthcare Real Estate. He began his career designing hospitals in Nashville, Tennessee, then chose to pursue graduate school at SMU Cox, where he served as president of his MBA class. In graduate school, he co-founded the still thriving Real Estate Club at Cox with a fellow graduate student who would eventually become his business partner at Caddis. Modern Healthcare magazine named Caddis the ninth largest healthcare developer in the U.S. this year.
SMU Cox Distinguished Alumni must hold an undergraduate or graduate degree from SMU, a position of distinction in the business community; demonstrate outstanding career success, be active civic leaders and community partners, and be involved with SMU and the Cox School through activities and contributions. Those recognized as SMU Cox Outstanding Young Alumni must meet the same criteria, but can be no more than 40 years of age at the time of the awards luncheon. Nominations for either honor may be sent to Kevin Knox, assistant dean of external relations and executive director of the SMU Cox Alumni Association, at


Setting The Stage: Faculty Discuss Roots Of Their Current Research

Teaching children who were struggling to read launched Stephanie Al Otaiba on an investigation of early literacy intervention that continues almost two decades later as a professor in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
Delores Etter’s future path was not as clear. Etter, a professor in the Lyle School of Engineering, grappled with the relevance of her mathematical expertise outside the realm of higher education until she discovered the link through electrical engineering and digital signal processing research.
Robert Lawson, a professor in the Cox School of Business, recognized the value of computer muscle as he sought to move to a different plane the debate about the merits of free-market versus interventionist economic systems. The data-driven evaluations of international economies that Lawson has been instrumental in developing are intended to remove conjecture and rewire the discussion along empirical bases.
In contrast, subjective observations and human foibles lie at the heart of historian Sherry L. Smith’s inquiries. An early interest in Native American culture and treaty rights motivated Smith, a professor in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, to delve into the power of perception in shaping much of our nation’s history involving American Indians.
While their explorations may not intersect, these faculty members share intellectual curiosity, the courage to test the status quo and a desire to teach and guide students. Following, they trace the roots of their interests and discuss the defining experiences that inspired their research and eventually led them to SMU.
Opening a new chapter for struggling readers
Stephanie Al Otaiba folds her tall, graceful frame until she is eye-to-eye with the two young girls quietly poring over workbooks. She starts chatting with them about their reading assignments. Without prompting, one of the students says she is dyslexic, then asks, “Can you be a teacher if you’re dyslexic?”

Stephanie Al Otaiba, the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education, conducts reading intervention research involving fourth-grade students at Stevens Park Elementary School in Dallas.
Stephanie Al Otaiba, the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, conducts reading intervention research involving fourth-grade students at Stevens Park Elementary School in Dallas.

In a soothing voice, Al Otaiba assures the student that people with dyslexia excel in many fields, and that with the skills she is developing now, she is on the right path to joining their ranks. Pleased by the answer, the girl goes back to her book.
“That’s why we teach,” says Al Otaiba, who was recently named the Patsy And Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning, the second Centennial chair in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
The exchange took place in a classroom at Stevens Park Elementary School in Dallas, where she was observing her team of research assistants involved in a school-based research project that examines the efficacy of the Voyager Passport reading intervention. The widely used program combines targeted instruction and progress monitoring for young students who need supplemental assistance. The children have or are at risk for reading disabilities, and in the fall, they scored in the bottom 30 percent in reading comprehension on standardized tests.
The research – the first of its kind performed with this intervention – involves fourth-grade students in West Dallas and Northern Florida schools. It started July 1, 2013, and will continue through June 30, 2017, and is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. Al Otaiba, who came to SMU in January 2012 from Florida State University, collaborates with FSU Professor Jeannie Wanzek, principal investigator, on the project.
Al Otaiba focuses on early literacy intervention for struggling students, understanding students’ response to intervention and training teachers how to use data to guide instructional decisions. Her current research portfolio extends to six other grant-funded projects.
“I’m fortunate to have a strong team of research assistants, including some current and former SMU graduate students, led by Brenna Rivas, an alumna of the doctoral program in the Simmons School,” she says.
Connecting research to the classroom completes the equation, she adds. “For any of us who do intervention research, what keeps us passionate is the feeling that we can impact the greater community through improving teachers’ practices and, in turn, improving outcomes for children.”
Her mission to aid children with learning difficulties began in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. While visiting family she met her late husband, a UAE citizen, and her temporary stay turned into a 16-year residency and an incubator for her future career in education.
“A friend was working with the United Nations to establish a special education program. At first I worked as a volunteer, then completed teacher training and started teaching in 1981,” she says. “The longer I taught, the more I wanted to learn about evidence-based practices that helped students learn.”
A decade later, she earned a master’s degree in special education and began to follow beginning reading and special education research. After her husband’s death in 1996, she returned to the United States and completed the Ph.D. program at the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University.
The global relevance of Al Otaiba’s research performed in the intervening years recently drew her back to the Arabian Peninsula, this time to Muscat, Oman. At the invitation of Mahmoud Emam, an assistant professor of special education at Sultan Qaboos University, she served as a guest lecturer at a two-day workshop about reading disabilities and interventions. She continues to consult on his grant to improve special educators’ ability to use data to guide their intervention.
“Since there are few measures available in Gulf Arabic, developing appropriate formative progress monitoring measures has been a challenge. Dr. Emam and his team have been adapting measures associated with response to intervention in English,” she explains. “It was wonderful to see how dedicated they are and motivated to helping change the face of special education and how developing countries are using U.S. research and making it their own.”
Closer to home, Al Otaiba is acting as an Engaged Learning project mentor to junior Stephanie Newland. Newland hopes to learn more about the impact of the Jesters Program, a musical theatre activity for people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities, on participants, parents and volunteers.
Eyeing The Future Of Engineering
The yellow-orange light emitted from the scanner casts an eerie glow in the darkened room. Delores Etter positions one of her student researchers in front of an apparatus that resembles a vision-testing machine in an optometrist’s office. As the student sits in a fixed position, visible and near-infrared light is used to take a clear, high-contrast picture of his irises.
Delores Etter and a student researcher demonstrate the scanner used to take iris images for biometric research they conduct at the Lyle School of Engineering.

A digital template of the image – a map of the naturally occurring random patterns that make each person’s iris unique – will be created and stored in a database. With this type of database, matcher engines sort through templates at lightning speed and make identifications with extreme accuracy.
This research at the vanguard of technology with wide-ranging applications is happening at the Lyle School of Engineering, where Etter leads SMU’s biometrics research program. Etter, who joined the SMU faculty in 2008, holds the TI Distinguished Chair for Engineering Education in the Lyle School of Engineering. She also serves as the first director of SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education.
In offering hands-on opportunities to undergraduates, she ties what they learn in the classroom to knowledge and skills that will fuel their careers after graduation. Her own college experience informs her belief that students should make those relevant connections early.
“I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics, and I could do all this wonderful math, but I didn’t see the applications,” Etter remembers. “I started questioning what good was it to know it if it didn’t seem useful.”
Major life events – she got married and had a child – took precedence over her academic career until she accepted a position at the University of New Mexico. Although she was teaching computer science, many of her students were electrical engineering (EE) majors.
“I didn’t have a clue about it, and I sat in on the first EE course so I could see how to tie in my classes to what they were doing,” she says. “It totally changed my life. I thought ‘Here’s the real-world application for all that math I know.’”
She went on to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UNM at a time when few women entered the field. Etter blazed trails across the technology spectrum, making significant contributions to the knowledge base on digital signal processing and the emerging specialty of biometrics. She also became an internationally recognized advocate for early STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
Her rising stature in academic and engineering research was noticed in Washington, D.C. She served as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of the Navy under two presidents. She also held the Office of Naval Research Distinguished Chair in electrical and computer engineering at the United States Naval Academy.
With her finger on the pulse of the international intelligence community, Etter brought biometrics research to SMU “because it has national significance in terms of security.”
Etter and former colleagues from the Naval Academy initiated a joint research project involving biometrics databases. At Lyle, students comb through the iris image data they have collected to “get rid of the noise” that could interfere with accuracy. In conjunction with the project, they will travel to Annapolis for a week this summer to interact with industry experts and government specialists working on real issues related to national security.
In the fall, she will take a group from SMU to the Biometric Consortium Conference in Tampa, Florida, where they will sit in on presentations and visit state-of-the-art exhibits. They will follow up by writing reports about what intrigued them and what they learned.
These experiences not only enhance their engineering toolkit, but also open their eyes to possibilities, Etter says.
“I want to develop a cadre of students who understand biometrics, find it fun and interesting, and want to go out into industry or government and add their innovations to the field.”
Measuring The Economic Might Of Freedom
In the film “Economic Freedom in Action: Changing Lives,” successful entrepreneurs in Chile, Slovakia, South Korea and Zambia describe how they mapped their personal routes to prosperity when unbounded by restrictive government policies and institutional structures. The documentary aired on 200 PBS stations nationwide from November 2013 through January 2014. The program was based on the findings of the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) report released in 2012.
The Cox School of Business' Robert Lawson travels the world lecturing about the Economic Freedom of the World annual report that he coauthors.
The Cox School of Business’ Robert Lawson travels the world lecturing about the Economic Freedom of the World annual report that he coauthors.

Economist Robert Lawson coauthors the yearly index that is produced by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian public policy think tank. Lawson holds the Jerome M. Fullinwider Endowed Centennial Chair in Economic Freedom in the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom in SMU’s Cox School of Business,
“If you boil it down, economic freedom is about people being free to make their own choices in their economic lives – government largely leaves them alone to buy and sell what they want at prices they have negotiated,” Lawson explains. “It’s analogous to freedom of speech and religion.”
First published in 1996, the study now covers 151 countries and territories. Using data collected from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum and other sources, researchers employ 42 distinct variables in ranking countries on a zero-to-10 scale, with 10 representing the highest level of economic freedom. Economic freedom is quantified using five different factors: size of government, legal structure and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation of credit, labor and business.
For Lawson, the report provides the data-driven clarity missing from the intellectual free-for-alls he participated in with fellow graduate students at Florida State University.
“In broad terms, they were Adam Smith versus Karl Marx debates, free market versus interventionism. They were great, but they were primarily theoretical and hotly ideological,” he says. “Those discussions basically took us nowhere, whereas using data advances the debate on empirical grounds.”
While earning a master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics at FSU, he served as a graduate assistant to economist James Gwartney, who became a mentor, friend and collaborator on the EFW report. Gwartney holds the Gus A. Stavros Eminent Scholar Chair and directs the Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education at FSU. It was Gwartney who took on the challenge of developing a scientific instrument that could be used to quantify economic freedom. He enlisted Lawson to add his data-mining expertise to the groundbreaking project.
“Kelvin said to measure is to know, and we wanted to know,” Lawson says. “We started collecting data and feeding it into the computer. It was a long process. It took seven or eight years to develop our first report.
“It was very important to us to use objective data to avoid subjective views influencing the ratings of any country,” he adds, “And transparency was key. We wanted to develop a research tool that others could replicate.”
A self-described “math guy,” Lawson says he was first drawn to economics by its demand for “analytical rigor.” Although he started his undergraduate education at Ohio University as a political science major, he changed his mind “within minutes of my first economics class.”
Lawson, who joined SMU in 2011 from Auburn University, teaches in the M.B.A. program at Cox. He also travels the world as a guest lecturer on the topic of economic freedom.
Because he misses teaching and mentoring undergraduates, he recently launched an interdisciplinary reading and discussion group for these students. The 12 participants had to apply for inclusion and commit to completing weekly reading assignments.
“The readings are eclectic and cover political science, philosophy and economics,” Lawson says. “I lead the group, but it’s not a lecture; it’s a forum for student discussion. They ask questions, but it’s really up to them to talk through the issues and draw their own conclusions.”
Documenting The Power Of Perception
A fascinating character from her childhood still looms prominently in the memory of historian Sherry L. Smith, University Distinguished Professor of History and assistant director of SMU’s William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies in Dedman College.
SMU History Professor Sherry L. Smith's award-winning research examines perceptions that have shaped national policy regarding Native Americans.
SMU History Professor Sherry L. Smith’s award-winning research examines perceptions that have shaped national policy regarding Native Americans.

The man she describes as “a sort of surrogate grandfather” lived in a rustic cabin near her family’s home at Indiana Dunes on Lake Michigan and was an Indian hobbyist.
“He had grown up in South Dakota, and his home was full of all sorts of Indian items. He would dress in full Native American regalia and tell stories. Of course, I was in awe,” she says.
Much like today’s Civil War re-enactors who bring battles back to life, hobbyists gathered in tribal clothing to recreate Native American ceremonies. While she leaves it to other scholars to dissect the hobbyists’ motivations and influence, Smith has documented a provocative perspective on Native American history.
“The central questions in my research are how have non-Indians perceived Native Americans and how did those ideas shape political action and our culture,” she explains.
Her interest in Native American issues first took a scholarly turn when she entered Purdue University. As she worked toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, she became particularly sympathetic to Indian demands for justice regarding sovereignty and treaties.
“As a member of the Baby Boom generation, I believed we could change the world,” she says. “At first I considered a path through law, with a specialization in Indian law, to make a more immediate impact.”
Instead, she elected to make a difference in academia, an option she had not seriously contemplated before a pivotal conversation with a professor.
“He asked if I had ever considered getting a Ph.D. No one had ever suggested that before,” she says. “I realized then how professors can open up a realm of possibility you’ve never considered and really make a huge difference in your life’s trajectory.”
She subsequently earned a doctorate at the University of Washington and launched a career in higher education that has spanned three decades.
Smith, who joined SMU in 1999, focuses on actors at the frontline of evolving attitudes and policies affecting Native Americans. She has documented the moral conflicts experienced by army officers involved in the Western expansion; the influential writings that helped change American opinions from 1880 to 1940; and the fight for Indian rights in the 1960s and ’70s.
She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters. She also has written four books, including two prize-winners. Reimagining Indians: Native Americans Through Anglo Eyes (Oxford University Press, 2000; paperback edition, 2001) received the 2001 James A. Rawley Prize of the Organization of American Historians and the SMU Godbey Author Award. Smith’s most recent work, Hippies, Indians and the Fight for Red Power (Oxford University Press, 2012), is the first book to examine the loose coalition that cut across racial, ethnic and class lines to push for political reforms that strengthened Native American sovereignty. The book garnered a 2014 Godbey Award.
While on leave from teaching in the spring, she is revisiting the life of Charles Erskine Scott Wood, an Army officer who figures in Reimagining Indians and earlier writings, from a very different angle. His complicated, 35-five-year relationship with Sara Bard Field, a married woman 30 years his junior who eventually became his wife, plays out against a backdrop of Progressive Era politics, Bohemianism and West Coast radicalism.
“It’s a fascinating story, but quite different from my previous research,” she says. “In this case, I’m letting their story take precedence over analysis, and as it unfolds, allow readers to decide how they feel about the couple.”


SMU Alumnus Helps Improve Economic Opportunities In Costa Rica

SMU alumnus Jonathan “Jonás” Lane ’09 calls his three years in the Peace Corps “an internship in life itself.”

Jonathan Lane (left) with children showing off their artwork created in conjunction with a river clean-up project.
Jonathan Lane (left) with children showing off their artwork created in conjunction with a river clean-up project.

Lane, who graduated from the Cox School of Business with a degree in finance, serves as a volunteer leader for community economic development in San José, Costa Rica. He says the Peace Corps may not be for everyone, but in his experience, it definitely lives up to its reputation as “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”
“If you are prepared for a challenge that is as personal as it is professional, and as globally meaningful as it is personally enriching, then brace yourself,” he says. “This is as real as it gets, in the best possible way, and I am assuredly all the better for it.”
His role in the Peace Corp’s central office in the capital city encompasses training, technical support, project strategy development and a multitude of other services for volunteers in the field.
In the previous two years, while fulfilling his regular term of service, Lane put his business and finance background to work as an economic development facilitator in a community of 4,800 people located almost two hours south of San José.
“I worked primarily on three tiers of economic development: first, preparing a qualified labor force and teaching skills to improve employability; second, stimulating entrepreneurship and better business practices; and finally, fomenting the development of and offering organizational consulting to economic associations and institutions, as well as national enterprise networking opportunities.”
A Peace Corps posting in Costa Rica has provided Jonathan Lane with an opportunity to travel in Central and South America. Here he is on a visit to Lake Nicaragua's Ometepe Island.
A Peace Corps posting in Costa Rica has provided Jonathan Lane with an opportunity to travel in Central and South America. Here he is on a visit to Lake Nicaragua’s Ometepe Island.

Under his guidance, the community formed a Chamber of Commerce and Tourism; created a community-owned and -operated Community Credit Union and a rural tourism cooperative; and organized a National Rural Tourism Symposium that included some 11 communities from across Costa Rica. He also served as an organizational and commercial development consultant for a women’s artisan group.
When his initial Peace Corps stint ended in December 2012, Lane signed up for an extra year, which has been extended to June 2014. “To be honest, I couldn’t be happier,” he says.
Lane’s path to service in Central America started at SMU.
While an undergraduate, he was a man for all seasons: a President’s Scholar, manager of the men’s swimming and diving teamStudent Senate Chief of Staff, a member of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity and a Hilltop Ambassador and campus tour guide, to name just a few of his affiliations and activities.
He spent the summer of 2007 at SMU-in-Oxford followed by a semester of study with SMU-in-Spain and a semester with SMU-in-Australia, opportunities that had a game-changing impact on his future. He credits a host of SMU staff and faculty supporters with helping him find the ideal intersection of his desire to use his academic foundation in a consequential way with living abroad and two mentors, in particular, for steering him toward the Peace Corps.
“When I was considering post-graduation options, Dr. Tom Tunks [professor of music], who was an assistant provost and director of the President’s Scholars at the time, told me a great deal about his experience serving in the Peace Corps with his wife in Colombia in the 1960s,” he recalls. “And, Susan Kress [director of Engaged Learning], then the director of SMU Abroad, talked to me about her service as a volunteer in Malaysia.
“While they both helped me distill my vision for my future ­– professionally, personally, spiritually – ­it was their strength of character, their emotional maturity and their global perspective that truly convinced me that the path to international service in the Peace Corps was exactly what I needed to fill the hole left by my profound experiences of living and studying abroad.”
– Patricia Ward


SMU Alumni’s Stylish Start-up Connects Content To Commerce


The following story about SMU alumna Amber Venz ’08 and Baxter Box ’11, who holds an M.B.A. from SMU’s Cox School of Business, is from the September 2, 2013, edition of The Dallas Morning News.

Dallas start-up puts together fashion bloggers, shoppers and retailers

By Hanah Cho

Personal stylist Amy Wells Havins dishes on her latest fashion picks and catalogs her outfits on her blog Dallas Wardrobe.
With a few clicks, her readers can purchase those Gap shorts or that Marc Jacobs bag featured on the blog. With every online sale, Havins gets a commission.
“Maybe someone doesn’t hire me to take them shopping. [But] they shop with me online,” said Havins, 27.
Driving the sales engine behind thousands of fashion and lifestyle bloggers like Havins is Dallas-based rewardStyle.
The 2-year-old start-up provides the back-end platform that not only helps bloggers make money from their content but also drives sales to retailers.

RewardStyle expects to drive nearly $150 million in sales to its retail partners by the end of the year, said Amber Venz, co-founder and president. The projection is two to three times the revenue its style publishers generated for retailers a year ago, Venz said.
“As the numbers show, these content creators are driving a lot of commerce,” said Venz, 26. “Retailers understand that. That’s why they’re willing to pay for it.”
The startup has attracted 2,500 U.S. and international retailers. They include well-known brands such as Neiman Marcus, Fossil and Shopbop. …
> Read the full story and see a related photo.
> Read an interview with Amber Venz from Meadows School of the Arts.


Reaching 100, Staying Young

“Universities do not grow old; but yearly they renew their
strength and live from age to age in immortal youth.”

With that statement in 1913, SMU’s first president, Robert Stewart Hyer, made a commitment for SMU in his time, but affirmed that we would be a university for all time.

President R. Gerald Turner
Reflecting that vision, SMU has built upon its initial offerings in the liberal arts as the core of the University along with programs in theology and music. We have remained young and nimble in developing professional education to serve a changing region, nation and world, adding programs in the sciences, business, engineering, law, communications and other applied areas of learning. Today, part of SMU’s uniqueness comes from the fusion of our liberal arts core with pre-professional and professional programs through our seven schools.
We celebrated this tradition of looking forward as we marked the 100th anniversary of SMU’s founding April 15. At a briefing that day, I shared a wealth of good news with our alumni and friends:

You’ll read in this magazine the many ways in which we are saying Happy Birthday, SMU. We pledge to remain “in eternal youth” as we move into our second century of achievement.
R. Gerald Turner

News Uncategorized

Programs, Professors Cultivate Next-Generation Entrepreneurs

A thread of entrepreneurship weaves through the history of SMU from the beginning. In asking “What is our duty to all the coming generations of Texans until the end of time? … ,” members of the Commission of Education, Methodist Episcopal Church, South of Texas demonstrated game-changing foresight in 1911. They spotted an opportunity in a growing city and joined forces with like-minded civic leaders to bring the University to life.

Jerry White, director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship in the Cox School of Business
Fast forward six decades: When the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship opened in August 1970, “we could identify only a handful of universities that even taught a course in entrepreneurship,” says Jerry White, director of the institute in the Cox School of Business. “Today, if you don’t have a substantial entrepreneurship education program, then you won’t have a business school.”
The institute was established with the support of W.W. Caruth Jr., son of W.W. Caruth Sr., who donated land to SMU in 1911. “W.W. Caruth Jr. felt that universities were training students to be employees of large organizations, and that’s not what he chose to be,” White says. “He was ahead of the curve in recognizing that business schools needed to address entrepreneurship education.”
While White says there’s no hard and fast definition of “entrepreneurship,” he boils it down to “building a business where none existed before and pursuing the opportunity without regard to resources you currently control.”
“Innovation is not entrepreneurship,” he adds. “Entrepreneurs take innovation and do something with it.”

Do You Fit The Profile?

Growing up in Carthage, Miss., Jerry White says he was “one of those kids who always had a business.” Among his most successful ventures was a snow cone stand. Within weeks of opening, his operation was doing such brisk business that his adult-run competition folded.
White seemed to know instinctively that by offering a superior product at the right price, he would thrive in the marketplace. So, are some people born entrepreneurs? While an actual gene linked to entrepreneurship has not been identified, people who bring their ideas to life do seem to share some attitudinal DNA, according to White.
Read more …

The Caruth Institute offers four undergraduate and 20 graduate courses – from venture financing to financial transactions law – to provide students with a solid foundation for launching and managing successful ventures. Through the institute students can pursue a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship, as well as a noncredit Starting A Business certificate.
Also within Cox, the Executive M.B.A. program was ranked by Financial Times as No. 6 in the world for entrepreneurship last fall.
 Andy Nguyen ’11 says the Master of Entrepreneurship program provided him with a solid handle on the mechanics of business ownership. Nguyen owns WSI Search, a North Dallas marketing firm that specializes in web development and Internet marketing strategies, and calls himself a “serial entrepreneur with a laundry list of ideas.” The nine-year Marine veteran, who has served in Afghanistan and Asia, is now mapping out “a nonprofit organization to help veterans transition into entrepreneurship.”
“The MSE program has given me the tools and resources to build, run and exit a business in the most effective and efficient manner,” says Nguyen.

‘Be Ready To Jump’

Engineer Bobby B. Lyle ’67 proves that inventive go-getters populate all disciplines. He served as a professor and administrator at the University before making his mark in the petroleum and natural gas industry. Lyle, an SMU trustee for more than 20 years, provided gifts that established the Bobby B. Lyle Chair in Entrepreneurship in Cox – held by Professor Maria Minniti – and laid the foundation for leadership and entrepreneurship education in the Lyle School of Engineering, which was named for him in 2008.
The school offers a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with an Engineering Management and Entrepreneurship Specialization. In addition courses such as “Technical Entrepreneurship” encapsulate the challenges of technology start-ups through “on-the-job learning,” says Professor Stephen A. Szygenda.

Brian Tannous (left) and Amir Ghadiry, creators of the SeekDroid smartphone app

Divided into company teams, students have to decide on a hypothetical venture and develop a five-year strategy. As the semester unfolds, Szygenda bombards the groups “with different situations, like an unanticipated natural disaster. They have to come up with solutions and document how they’ve redirected the company to successfully deal
with the issue.”
The course’s emphasis on team dynamics and innovative problem-solving complements initiatives of the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership, which was funded by a
gift from Linda ’65 and Mitch Hart and opened in October 2010.
In the lightning-fast technology sector, “there’s a very small window for success, so when it opens, you have to be ready to jump,” Szygenda says.
New engineering graduates Amir Ghadiry ’11 and Brian Tannous ’11 took a leap into the marketplace with SeekDroid, an application (“app”) for smartphones that run the Android mobile operating system. The multifunction app serves as a locator – through a secure website, a user can pinpoint the device’s location – as well as a security system.
“If your phone is stolen, you can lock and wipe it [erase data] remotely,” Ghadiry explains.
After five months on the market, the application has been downloaded more than 16,000 times from at a price of 99 cents per download.
They began tinkering with apps in an electrical engineering special topics course taught by Joseph Camp, the J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering. “For students with an entrepreneurial flair, the mobile phone applications market is an emerging avenue,” Camp says.

It’s Not Business As Usual

Some new SMU programs borrow from the B-school toolkit for courses tailored to a challenging climate.
In June the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development will launch a Master’s program with a specialization in urban school leadership. The 45-hour program was developed by the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy in concert with the school’s new Education Entrepreneur Center (EEC).
The EEC coalesces efforts of the Simmons School and the Teaching Trust, a nonprofit organization established by entrepreneurs Rosemary Perlmeter, founder of Uplift Education charter schools, and Ellen Wood, a financial and social investment consultant, to offer high-quality professional preparation for emerging school leaders as well as development opportunities for seasoned principals.
Lee Alvoid, clinical associate professor and department chair, believes some of the business approaches used to turn around ailing companies can be modified and applied to low-performing urban schools.
“Entrepreneurial educators can find and deploy resources in a creative and nontraditional manner,” she explains. “They are able to create an organizational culture focused on the students and have the ability to develop policies that support change that’s important in urban schools with low performance.”

Zannie Voss, chair of Meadows' Division of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship

Much like the Simmons program aims to prepare school leaders to achieve under difficult conditions, a new Meadows School of the Arts initiative merges a business perspective with classical training as an intellectual gyroscope for a shifting arts landscape.
“Our students are incredibly proficient and expert with their talent as performers and artists. We don’t want them to wait for the phone to ring; we want them to take a proactive role in sculpting their post-SMU futures now,” says Zannie Voss, chair of the Division of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship in Meadows and professor with a dual appointment in Meadows and Cox.
Beginning in the fall, Meadows will offer an undergraduate minor in arts entrepreneurship open to students from any major on campus who want to develop their ideas for new arts – or entertainment-related ventures. The six-course minor focuses on such skills as arts budgeting and financial management, attracting capital (donors, investors and public funds) and generating an arts venture plan.
As they home in on how to monetize their ideas, students may redefine success in terms of personal fulfillment rather than fame. And even those who have their sights set on stardom need to be able to interpret a financial statement.
“The reality is that it’s in our students’ best interests to not only create their own art and films but also to understand how to sustain themselves,” Voss says. “This initiative emphasizes Meadows’ encouragement of students to ‘start a movement.’”
Patricia Ward