Engage Dallas launched and begins important work in South and West Dallas

Engage Dallas launched for SMU students on October 2020. SMU students are now able to enroll in the initiative and complete tasks needed to prepare for direct-service experiences.

The Engage Dallas initiative is a long-term, place-based community engagement initiative where students residing in eleven Residential Commons have avenues for service in South and West Dallas. Through these experiences, students complete education and training, reflections, and share their talents with community partners from around the city of Dallas.

Engage Dallas is an interoffice SMU initiative dedicated to cultivating community vitality. Dr. Dustin Grabsch, director of Academic Initiatives at SMU and one the core team for Engage Dallas, said, “We are honored by the opportunity to serve Dallas through this new university commitment which animates our mission – World Changers are indeed shaped here. We’re excited to help build an initiative that will make our city proud, and that will build the belief that SMU is better because of the city we call home.”

Staphany Lopez-Coronado, assistant director of the office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement, said about the announcement, “Engage Dallas is an important program at SMU – our students continue to find ways to support our local community and community organizations in a way which best serves their needs and those of their constituents.” Lopez-Coronado explained the initiative launched in the fall semester with the necessary education and training students need to prepare for direct-service opportunities beginning later in the spring 2021 semester. Lopez-Coronado mentioned the education and training sessions available to students via Canvas include an overview of Engage Dallas, opportunities for reflections, an overview of the initiative, elements of personal reflection, and education on community needs in Dallas.

Engage Dallas was also awarded a $25,000 innovation grant from Division of Student Affairs. Grabsch reflected on the grant application stating, “We considered the proposal to be innovative, as only six institutions of higher learning currently employ place-based community engagement to our knowledge. Of these institutions, none operationalizes the model via a residential college system.” Engage Dallas offers a unique combination and timing of the initiative with University prioritization that made the proposal a promising contender for the grant. The grant funds student leadership positions, marketing and communication resources, and supports development of the education and training elements of Engage Dallas.

Melinda Carlson, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and dean of Residence Life and Student Housing, remarked at the incredible potential to solidify the connection between the campus and Dallas communities. “Engage Dallas brings high impact community engagement opportunities to our Residential Commons communities. Our residential student communities will be able to grow their sense of place in the larger Dallas community.” Carlson believes in the importance of students feeling a sense of connection and belonging to the neighborhood and community in which they live. “Students will learn and experience the importance of engagement with the broader community, a skill that is critical to being a World Changer”

A unique feature of Engage Dallas is SMU students are able to fulfill the Common Curriculum’s Community Engagement Proficiency and Experience requirement for graduation. Students can reach out to their Residential Commons’ Engage Dallas student director with questions or for assistance.

Check out the Engage Dallas website to connect with the initiative. Opportunities are available for students, faculty, staff, and community organizations.

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