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A Lifetime of Service to SMU

Lydia Dale currently serves as the Assistant to the Chief of Staff and Assistant Vice President & Coordinator for Student Engagement within Student Affairs. Upon her retirement at the end of July 2022, she will have served the Hilltop for 40 years. She has spent the majority of that time, 39 years, within Student Affairs but initially came to us from the Dedman School of Law. She has also taken on additional duties administratively supporting the Human Rights Program during this time.

Lydia has had the unique experience of having served under multiple permanent and interim Vice Presidents for Student Affairs in various capacities. She currently has the longest tenure of any employee within the division. While she is currently situated on the leadership team within the Student Engagement and Success unit of Student Affairs, her work and dedication impact all areas of the division – well beyond the scope of what her formal title may imply. Often, position titles and levels determine the influence people have on colleagues, processes, and practices – with Lydia, her influence goes beyond what is typically attributed to a coordinator level. She has proven to the campus community that she is a fantastic resource, an outstanding colleague, and an essential asset to the institution.

In Student Affairs, our employees aim to embody our six commitment statements. No one exemplifies all of the commitment statements to Lydia’s extent during her time at SMU. Her accomplishments and qualities are outlined below through the lens of these commitments.

Breaking Down Barriers

Often, it is easy for staff to consider processes from the lens of how it makes their job easier, but Lydia frames decision-making and recommendations on how to make processes better for students. She is committed to helping students break down the social, physical, and emotional barriers that may inhibit their success. She has worked tirelessly across campus to improve institution-wide processes like Outdoor Event Requests, funding requests from special funds like the President’s Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention, and awards processes. She has made financial processes more seamless between SMU accounts and the Student Senate Comptroller’s office ensuring students and organizations have easier access to funds they receive and improving their experience when understanding the financial and contracting landscape on campus. She regularly advocates for making these processes easier for students, even if it makes her role a bit more challenging.

Modeling the Way

The “M” Award is the highest recognition bestowed upon students, faculty, staff, and administrators on the SMU Campus. The recipients’ efforts have been continuous during their years at the University and are not limited to a narrow, vested interest. The “M” Award honorees are an inspiration to others, giving unselfishly of their time and talents to make the University, and indeed the world, a better place. Lydia was the recipient of the ‘M’ Award in 2000; we frequently have to remind people that an individual cannot win the award more than once as members of the campus community want to nominate her every year. Not only was she a recipient, but for the last several years, she has served as the shepherd of the ‘M’ Award program. She serves as the ‘M’ committee chair and the chair for the Hilltop Excellence Program, SMU’s most prestigious awards ceremony, annually recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of students, staff, and faculty at SMU. She has provided much-needed structure and guidance to the award process and ensured it would be successful long beyond her tenure on the Hilltop. She has been committed to transforming this experience to match the stature of the awards being presented – one that is memorable to recipients and is implemented in a way that can adapt to our students and stakeholders in the future.

Acting Responsibly

One of Lydia’s duties is to manage the entire contracting process for the Division of Student Affairs. Each year, she single-handedly processes over 1,000 contracts and invoices on behalf of our departments and student organizations. Not only does she manage this process for the division, but she is also an exemplar across campus for the contracting process. This work is incredibly detail-oriented and carries a high level of risk and exposure for the UniversityUniversity – all of which she handles with thoroughness and diplomacy that is unmatched. As we think about replacing Lydia after retirement, we recognize the skills to navigate the processes and prioritization will be challenging. Through Lydia’s demonstration of competence and her commitment to keeping the interests of the University at the forefront of her work, she has a high degree of autonomy to support the complicated processes in which she works. 

Innovating Our Work

Many individuals would describe Lydia as the standard for efficiency. During her tenure, the division and University have undergone significant changes – both personnel and operationally. Post-Operational Excellence initiatives, she has been focused on ensuring we are modifying policies and practices to be more efficient while preserving their original integrity. In addition, she has been instrumental in implementing new technologies to help staff support students more efficiently and serves as the point person for a lot of technology across the division – from our project management software to our relationship with OIT for physical hardware. Staff at all levels often look up to her ability to manage competing priorities with speed and grace. She regularly trains new employees on how to incorporate technologies to manage their time better and understand processes.

Being a Positive Agent of Change

Throughout the amount of change Lydia has seen during her time on the Hilltop, she always approaches her work with a level of positivity and insight that is admirable. She has never been deterred by ambiguity or change; instead, she emerges as a leader in helping provide clarity and highlighting the potential for the future. She empowers others to help shape that future. She has watched as the needs of our students and staff have changed over the years and provided sage advice on how to best meet those needs. She recognizes and embraces the idea that as staff and faculty, we are forever getting older while our students stay the same age but want different things out of their college experience – often swinging back and forth like a pendulum. She approaches this challenge to address change with enthusiasm – nobody can ever describe Lydia as stuck in her ways. This positivity and flexibility have enabled her to develop strong relationships across campus, including partnerships with the Office of Information Technology, Facilities Planning and Management, and Academic Affairs.

Developing World Changers

Lydia is the mother of a Mustang, so she understands the experience of our students from multiple lenses. At the heart of Lydia’s work is the student. She has committed to purposefully engaging students as individuals and leaders, recognizing their unique skills, talents, and identities to help each develop as a world changer in their own right. Colleagues can regularly hear her emphasizing the reason why she is still doing this work is because of her commitment to the student experience. On the same day, Lydia may be working with senior administrators to finalize a six-figure contract and then meeting with student leaders on how to navigate university processes best to accomplish their goals. Lydia has supported students and organizations throughout her entire tenure and treats these encounters as growth opportunities for students, and isn’t afraid to help a student understand why the answer to a question may be “no.” This dedication to our students has not gone unnoticed. On April 19, 2022, Lydia was recognized through a proclamation from Student Senate celebrating her 40 years of service to SMU. It was the first time in Student Senate’s history that the legislation passed a proclamation on behalf of previous Senate Chambers – passing this on behalf of the 68th through 108th Student Senate Chambers.

Lydia’s impact is far-reaching across campus, and she will have forever changed the Hilltop and the people she has worked with, advised, and mentored – even in ways she may never know.

Thank you, Lydia, for your lifetime of service to SMU!


2022 Courageous Change Leader Awards Nominations Open

The Division of Student Affairs established six commitment statements identifying how we expect staff to approach their work holistically supporting students in the development of meaningful lives. These commitment statements are the overarching expectations for our work in this student-centered environment.

Award Criteria

  • Is actively employed by the Division of Student Affairs at the time of recognition.
  • Was marked as meets or exceeds overall on their last performance evaluation cycle.
  • Must not have been placed on any step of performance correction within the last year.
  • Must not have been a previous recipient of the award in which they’re nominated.


Courageous Change Leader
The Courageous Change Leader award is the highest honor bestowed on a staff member within the Division of Student Affairs. It was created to honor the individuals who have embodied the commitment statements outlined in our strategic plan. This recognition is awarded annually to one or two staff members within the division who have exemplified at least two of these commitments.Starting in the summer of 2022, we are adding two additional awards. Award recipients receive $1,000 honorarium and one additional day off and they are selected by VPLT.

Rising Star
This award recognizes a professional newer to the field (3 years or less) who shows strong potential for excelling in the field of student affairs. This employee is courageously engaged in their new role and provides strong demonstration of the student affairs commitments.Award recipients receive $500 honorarium and one additional day off and are selected by an ad-hoc committee.

Field Changer
This award recognizes a professional (3 years or more) who is a game-changer on campus and within the field. Whether they are a field-changer in their role on the Hilltop or within the professional associations they call home, this individual embodies the SMU spirit of world changers. They also provide strong demonstration of the student affairs commitments. Award recipients receive $500 honorarium and one additional day off ad-hoc committee.

Nomination Process

Through a 1-2 page letter of recommendation, please provide tangible examples of how this nominee demonstrated at least two of these commitments. You may submit individually or submit a collection of letters nominating the same individual. Nominations for different individuals should be submitted separately from each other.

  1. Breaking Down Barriers– We commit to helping students break down the social, physical, and emotional barriers that may inhibit their success.
  2. Modeling the Way– We commit to modeling the way for our students by engaging them with respect and integrity, and by demonstrating congruence in expectation and action.
  3. Innovating Our Work– We commit to a culture of intellectual curiosity and innovation to develop, with student input, new strategies and implement new programs to more effectively serve our campus community.
  4. Acting Responsibly– We commit to being responsible stewards of our resources and influence, and promise to hold ourselves and each other accountable in our daily work.
  5. Being a Positive Agent of Change– We commit to being agents of positive change on our campus and in our communities, excited by what the future holds for SMU and empowered to help shape the future.
  6. Developing World Changers– We commit to purposefully engaging our students as individuals and leaders, to recognize their unique skills, talents, and identities and to help develop each one as a world changer in their own right.

Please submit your nominations for all awards to the Chief of Staff at by May 25th. Make sure to clearly identify the award in which you are nominating someone within your letter.

Announcements Featured Stories

Published!: Residence Life and Student Housing publishes study on Sense of Belonging to a Residential Community

How and why do students feel a sense of belonging to their residential community? What factors play a role in contributing to sense of belonging? These are some of the questions that guided members of the Residence Life and Student Housing Research Team to embark on a five-study research project that is ultimately yielding great insights for how the SMU Residential Commons Model can help shape this key student-level outcome. Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods, these studies collectively sought to define belonging to a residential community, track changes in sense of belonging over the two-year live-on requirement, and understand sense of belonging across each of the 11 Commons and the Upper Division Housing system. One component study entitled, “A Content Analysis of College Student-Proposed Definitions of Sense of Belonging to a Residential Community” was published in the Journal of College of and University Student Housing in October 2021.

Announcements Featured Stories

2020 Rotunda Yearbook Wins Coveted Pacemaker Award

Rotunda Yearbook Team Photo

The 2020 Rotunda yearbook won the coveted Pacemaker Award for the very first time in SMU history. The awards are considered to be the highest national honors in their field and are unofficially known as the “Pulitzer Prizes” of student journalism.

The Rotunda was the only 2020 collegiate yearbook to win both the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Gold Crown and the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) Pacemaker Award; therefore, unofficially holding the title of best college yearbook in the country.

Co-Editor-in-Chief, Simone Melvin said, “The 2020 Rotunda marked the beginning of the most rewarding experience of my college career. I am beyond proud of every late night and tears shed during the making of that beautiful book. It’s a privilege to help create something of the magnitude of a yearbook, and even more of an honor to have that privilege recognized.” Melvin is a Junior from the Colony, Texas, majoring in Philosophy and English with a Creative Writing Specialization.

Photo of Ash Thye

A junior from Euless, Texas, majoring in Human Rights and Anthropolgy, Co-Editor-in-Chief Ash Thye said, “It is incredibly rewarding to be recognized for all of the time and energy we’ve put into making this book happen! We really do try to expand what’s possible for a college yearbook, and this recognition is inspiring me to do the same again this year.”

For over 100 years, the Rotunda has chronicled the history of Southern Methodist University and serves as the school’s primary source of recorded history. Named in December 1915 after the architecture of Dallas Hall, the Executive Council of the Student Association voted for the annual’s name after seven different students suggested it.

The Division of Student Affairs took over production of the Rotunda in June 2018, working alongside students and alumni to keep the Rotunda alive and ensure the quality of future publications. To learn more about the Rotunda, apply to be on staff, or to order a copy, please visit their website.

Announcements Featured Stories

Hughes-Trigg Student Center Dedication Ceremony on Friday, October 1, 2021


The completion of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center renovation project was marked by an official dedication ceremony on the afternoon of Friday, October 1, 2021. A multitude of alumni, staff, and faculty were in attendance to celebrate the occasion, including several former student body officers who were influential in establishing the vision and paving the way for the project to become a reality.

The Hughes-Trigg Student Center is our hub on the hilltop and our headquarters for student leadership and engagement. It is home to SMU’s Student Foundation, Student Senate, Program Council, Greek Councils, and the Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement. It also provides a friendly and inclusive space for our Veterans Center, our Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, and the Women and LGBT Center. The building itself is a testament to SMU’s vibrant campus life.

The Hughes Trigg Student Center began with a love story.  Built on the site where alumni Kitty Hughes Trigg and Charles Trigg met nearly sixty years before it’s unveiling.  On homecoming day in 1987, Katie Hughes Trigg and Charles Trigg gifted this center to the SMU community, honoring the love of their student experience on the hilltop. Now after more than 30 years, the Hughes-Trigg Student Center has undergone a much-needed renovation and is once again the Hub on the Hilltop.

In May 2019, SMU launched a long-awaited multi-phase renovation of the Student Center. Open throughout construction, the phased project began with a full renovation of the Varsity and Mane Course. Students fell in love with spaces designed just for them featuring the Dallas-based Cinco Taco and a Chick-Fil-A expanded to provide full-service. The newly-imagined Varsity pairs a lower-level dining and hangout space with an elevated, fully-accessible gaming area featuring pool tables and shuffleboard. Eight big screen televisions and a SMU-centric design complete the modern and inviting space.

In 2020, the entire 2nd floor (L2) underwent renovation and now features a monumental staircase in the atrium, modern office suites, and inviting communal spaces. Design elements showcase Mustang spirit and pride with modern conference and meeting rooms outfitted with user-friendly technology. L2 also features new ablution rooms for our Muslim students’ prayer preparation. We’ve enhanced storage throughout the building, and visitors will find family restrooms on every floor. Level one’s (L1) open floor plan includes a new entrance on the east side to support the southeasterly growth of campus, a lactation room, and the wildly popular Panera Bread. The entire project enhanced building accessibility for all who utilize HTSC.

Explore more about the Hughes-Trigg Student Center at or give to the HTSC Renovation Project at


Announcements Featured Stories

2021 Courageous Change Leaders

Congratulations to the 2021 Student Affairs Courageous Change Leaders, Dr. Sidney Gardner and Staphany Lopez-Coronado!

The Courageous Change Leader Award is the highest honor bestowed on a staff member within the Division of Student Affairs. It was created to honor the individuals who have embodied the commitment statements outlined in our Strategic Plan. Any member of the campus community is welcome to nominate a staff member. This past year has been one of uncertainty, loss, triumph, and confusion. Yet, we all have persevered, not knowing what changes were on the horizon from day to day in our personal and our work lives. However, our staff rose to the occasion and continued to uphold and live out the commitment statements outlined in our strategic plan, Cultivating Courageous Change.

The recipients of this year’s Courageous Change Leader award were announced at the Student Affairs Impact Forum on Thursday, August 5, as well as in the 2020-21 Impact publication. Please check out this year’s publication for the full write-up on these two deserving staff members in the Division of Student Affairs!

Announcements Featured Stories

Hegi Family Career Development Center launches new strategic plan, “Cultivating Courageous Careers”

In summer of 2021, The Hegi Family Career Development Center fully launched its new strategic plan titled, Cultivating Courageous Careers. The plan features a revised mission, newly created foundational pillars for the Center, and goals based on the CAS (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education) review process.

We invite you to learn more about Cultivating Courageous Careers by clicking the image below. Learn more about the Hegi Family Career Development Center by visiting

Announcements Featured Stories

SMU Recognized for LGBTQ Inclusivity

SMU makes its debut as one of “10 Religious Schools Living Up to LGBTQ-Inclusive Values” in a new report from Campus Pride, a nonprofit working to make higher education more inclusive for LGBTQ students.

“These ten campuses are perfect examples of different religiously affiliated universities that are doing positive work for LGBTQ youth on their campus. Campus Pride highlights this positive LGBTQ inclusivity work in policy, program and practice to encourage more faith-based institutions to do the same,” the Campus Pride website says.

To be highlighted in Campus Pride’s list, religious institutions needed to score a 3.5 or higher on a 5 point scale assessing LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices. This score comes from the Campus Pride Index, a self-assessment tool for universities to measure LGBTQ-friendliness in policy, academic and student life, housing, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment/retention efforts.

“We are honored to be recognized for the positive work our campus is doing to support our students, faculty, and staff and provide an inclusive campus experience,” Dr. K.C. Mmeje, SMU Vice President for Student Affairs, told NBC News. “We strive to be a welcoming community where ‘every Mustang is valued,’ as our students say.” 

The Women and LGBT Center led the charge in improving LGBTQ inclusivity on campus, offering resources and programs such as the LGBTQ Symposium, an LGBT mentorship program, and ally training.

“It was a huge honor that I was not expecting to see that we have been recognized with this award from Campus Pride. This is the culmination of years of work by so many and that has led to the ability for us as a center to do some exceptional programs for our students and our campus community. I do think that people see the work that we do and they see it as further testament to the fact that SMU genuinely cares about supporting our LGBTQ+ community,” Women and LGBT Center Director Dr. Sidney Gardner says.

Students also work to improve the campus culture through organizations like Spectrum, SMU’s only undergraduate organization targeted towards providing information, resources, and free space for self-expression for the LGBTQ+ community and any allies interested.

Visit for more information about resources, programs, and community for LGBTQ students at SMU.


Upcoming In-Person and Virtual Career Fairs through the Hegi Family Career Development Center

The Hegi Family Career Development Center is hosting ALL MAJORS Career Fairs in both in-person and virtual formats on Tuesday, September 14 and Tuesday, September 21, respectively. Students who are interested in exploring internship and job opportunities are encouraged to attend.

How to Register & Learn About Employers

In-Person Fair

Students can register and learn more about the employers attending the in-person fair through Handshake, SMU’s career services platform, by clicking on the link to our In Person Career Fair Preview Page. Pre-registration to the in-person career fair is strongly encouraged but not mandatory.

Virtual Fair

The Hegi Virtual All Majors Career Fair will take place Tuesday, September 21st, 3 – 6 PM on the Handshake Virtual Career Fair Platform. Students can register and learn more about the employers attending on our Handshake career services platform and by clicking on the link to our Virtual Career Fair Preview Page.

In the virtual career fair format, there are two ways students can engage with employers:

  • Employer hosted group sessions
  • 1-1 pre-scheduled meetings with employers in 10-minute time slots

In the virtual fair format, students must pre-register for the fair and employer sessions, as well as sign up for individual or group slots. All of this is easy and convenient to do on Handshake at Students can check out information on how they can succeed at a virtual fair by accessing this Handshake tip sheet and video. Also, check out information on representing strongly in the virtual career fair environment.

How To Prepare for the Fair

To further prepare students for upcoming fairs, the Hegi Family Career Development Center is offering a virtual Career Fair 101 Session on Thursday, September 16 at 4pm. Click the link below for more information.

Career Fair 101 (Virtual Career Fair Preparation): Thursday, September 16th at 4 PM

The Hegi team also provides in person drop-in appointments Monday – Thursday, 10 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 4 PM in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Suite 126.

For more information and to learn about the Hegi Family Career Development Center visit


Read and Sign the Pledge to Protect

Dear SMU community,

Please take a moment to read and sign the “Pledge to Protect” to help keep us all Mustang Strong. You may recall that last year, our campus community embraced the “Pledge to Protect” that was developed by a cross sectional group of students, faculty and staff called SMU Community Action Network (SMU CAN) to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We signed and followed it as a reminder of the healthy habits we needed to practice to keep our campus safe.

With the vaccine now available, SMU CAN is continuing its work and has updated the pledge with a focus on the personal responsibilities needed to meet this ongoing challenge.


Elizabeth Loboa, Ph.D.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

K.C. Mmeje, Ed.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs