2020 Fall 2020 Features

Rising to the challenge

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

Mustangs meet the pandemic head on

Meeting Growing Needs

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

Making Math Easier

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

President Turner Zooms In

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

Musem Crafternoons

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

Free telehealth counseling

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

Striking the right chord

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

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

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


SMU Alumna Kamica King ’13 Offers Help And Hope To Homeless

By Nancy George

Music therapist Kamica King ’13
Music therapist Kamica King ’13
A circle of 12 men and women shake tambourines, beat drums and rattle shakers in a corner of the cafeteria at Dallas’ The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center. They are accompanying the Otis Redding classic, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” Music therapist Kamica King ’13 slowly dials down the volume of the audio system until just the percussion instruments fill the cafeteria, becoming their own unique rhythm. The performance ends with a flourish of drumbeats.
“We made music,“ King says.
A graduate of SMU’s music therapy program, King uses music as a tool to help individuals work on nonmusical goals. Guests at this music therapy session say it helps them deal with stress, connect with one another and feel accepted for who they are.
She created the music therapy program at The Bridge, a center designed to connect homeless individuals with resources to help them recover from homelessness. Care managers help connect homeless individuals with on-site health, mental health, veteran, substance abuse and job hunting resources. Music therapy is offered once a week as an additional resource for Bridge guests. Guests take part in the afternoon Bridge Beats program as well as morning music studio, where King gives music lessons and offers independent music making opportunities.
“We see 600 to 800 individuals each day who may be at the absolute lowest point of their life,” says David Woody, chief services officer at The Bridge. “Art and music may be a constructive part of their history that can be the beginning of a conversation about their struggle. The music in the corner of the cafeteria could be the beginning of their connectedness.”
King chose “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” for its words as well as its beat. She leads Bridge guests in a discussion of Redding’s lyrics.

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

“It’s all of our song, sitting around doing nothing,” says Susan, who attends the music therapy sessions regularly.
“Is he wasting time?” King asks.
“Maybe he’s cooling off, taking time for himself,” says Richard, another Bridge Beats regular.
King was selected in 2014 by Bridge advisors, including SMU music therapy faculty members and alumni, to create the Bridge program. Her internship practicing music therapy with the homeless and those in recovery at San Diego’s Rescue Mission, YMCA and Scripps Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program coupled with her program development background and entrepreneurial spirit prepared her well for the position. King interned with with MusicWorx, Inc. and Resounding Joy, Inc. in San Diego.
A singer-songwriter and arts entrepreneur, she is founder of King Creative Arts Expressions, a music therapy and arts consulting and direct service company. She provides music therapy for cancer patients at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, performs at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the George W. Bush Presidential Center and composes music for special events. She wrote and performed “Live, Love, Dream” featured in “Signs of Humanity,” a documentary about SMU advertising professor Willie Baronet and his work to raise awareness about homelessness. King graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 2009 with a degree in music and minors in psychology and communications and is a 2013 graduate of SMU’s music therapy program.
“My mission is to help others,” King says. “I’m drawn to the overlooked and the underserved. The music and experiences I share can be a spark that helps someone else make a positive impact on the world, too.”
King is not the only SMU graduate associated with The Bridge, a national model for homeless recovery. Jay Dunn, Bridge president and CEO, is a 2000 SMU Perkins School of Theology graduate along with Sam Merten, chief operating officer and a 2007 SMU Meadows School of Arts journalism graduate. SMU students regularly volunteer at The Bridge on SMU’s Community Service Day and to fulfill service requirements for human rights and other classes. Music therapy students at SMU also complete practicums in music therapy with King. In addition to her music therapy sessions, King has launched other programs for The Bridge including the bi-monthly karaoke night. Last spring she helped Mustang Heroes, an SMU student organization devoted to community service, donate their time, talent, refreshments and door prizes to help pilot the program. Karaoke night has drawn increasingly larger crowds over the summer, attracting as many as 70 guests a night.
As the music therapy session ends, guests gather the percussion instruments and return them to King’s rolling music therapy cart. She serves them a snack, then they gather things and leave for appointments with Bridge resource staff, return to The Bridge’s shaded courtyard or go outside. King sends them off with a smile.
“Music therapy is literally the bridge for some people that propels them to seek help,” King says. “I count it as a blessing to work with them.”