Featured Stories

Peer Chaplains in the Commons

Written by: Kaleb Loomis, Assistant Chaplain in the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life

In 2021, the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life launched the Peer Chaplain Program as a new Peer Leader Position within the Residential Commons. This year, four student leaders worked within the 11 Residential Commons to help create spaces for students to reflect on their spirituality and explore their religious lives. Through programming and one on one conversations, Peer Chaplains cared for students, offered opportunities for belonging, and encouraged students to grow in their understandings of themselves and the world around them.

Serving and Learning

Throughout the entire 2021-22 Academic Year, Peer Chaplains had the opportunity to provide unique programs and events for students that centered around their spiritual lives, mental wellbeing, and community building. From ice cream socials to arts and crafts nights, Peer Chaplains hosted 24 distinct events within the Commons. Additionally, they started initiatives such as the weekly Peer Chaplain Monday Message and the Candy Basket Program to provide encouragement and raise awareness of on-campus resources for their students. The Peer Chaplains immersed themselves within their Commons community by participating in Commons Leadership, attending signature events, and investing in the lives of students and staff through intentional relationship building. The Peer Chaplains Program serves as a model for providing spiritual care to the Commons. In fact, Kathy Crow Commons honored their Peer Chaplain, Stella Cho, with their Community Engagement Award at the end of the Year Banquet.

“As a Peer Chaplain, I loved meeting students and planning fun programs for their spiritual life. As I met students in the Commons, it was meaningful to show that there is always a presence who can communicate and help them, and provide the religious resources they might need.”

Master of Divinity
Peer Chaplain for Kathy Crow, Loyd, and Ware Commons

Though they provided community service to their respective Commons, the Peer Chaplains also reflected on the value of serving in the position for their personal growth and learning. They gained skills in event planning, teamwork, and community organizing by hosting programs. Working with a variety of students from diverse backgrounds challenged them to think creatively about inclusive programming. They valued the opportunity to adapt their unique skill sets to different communities in order to offer care to students and unique programming efforts. Through this experience, the Peer Chaplains were able to connect their interests in offering care with their vocational aspirations.

Growing and Expanding the Program

This year’s cohort of Peer Chaplains demonstrated the potential for the program, and provided valuable feedback for how to build upon their work. The Peer Chaplains highlighted the value of being involved in the regular life of the Commons and engaging with students in a residential context. They see opportunities for further collaboration not only with other Peer Leaders but also among Peer Chaplains. Amidst these successes, the Peer Chaplains recognized some of the difficulties of helping to launch a new program. Providing adequate attention to 11 different Commons with only 4 Peer Chaplains proved challenging. Because the position was so new, other students weren’t always quite sure the role or purpose of having a Peer Chaplain. Despite these circumstances, the Peer Chaplains saw these challenges as an occasion for continued creativity and enhancement of the program.

“Providing care to students as a Peer Chaplain involves being active in your designated community and the community, knowing why you’re there and spreading awareness about the resources that the Office of the Chaplain Provides. It also involves sitting and listening to students about the issues that they face and helping guide them in a positive direction or getting them the help they need from other resources that are on campus.

I love getting to hear students talk and work towards their future, watching them mature and accomplish more as they learn to navigate the academic environment. Also, I value getting to hear their struggles and supporting them to move in the direction of a healthier and happier life.”

Hunter Barnett, ‘23
Master of Divinity
Peer Chaplain for Mary Hey/Peyton/Shuttles, Boaz, and Virginia-Snider Commons

As a result of what we learned this year, the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life is excited about changes and updates for next year. In order to better define the purpose and role of the position, we have changed the name from Peer Chaplains to Spiritual Life Mentors. We made a concerted recruitment effort in order to expand our team from four students to nine students so that more time and attention can be given to each Commons. Finally, we outlined guiding values to help lead the program forward: Care, Belong, and Grow. The work of the Peer Chaplains this year laid the groundwork for the Spiritual Life Mentors to offer intentional care to students, create spaces of belonging, and offer opportunities for students to grow in their spiritual and religious lives.

Featured Stories

Answering the Call for Mental Health Needs

Written by Dr. Randy Jones, Associate Dean of Students and Executive Director of Health Services

At peak levels last year, the demand for mental health services exceeded the existing capacity of the Health Center. Our system was operating at maximum efficiency caring for as many students as possible, but was unable to readily accommodate a higher influx of patients. This resulted in longer wait times for appointments, a doubling of students calling our after hours on-call counseling service, and a greater number of students voicing frustration over limited access to these much sought after resources.

In efforts to meet the growing demand for mental health services, the Health Center has partnered with Academic Live Care (ALC) to expand counseling services to students. Our students now have access to ALC’s large network of tele-mental health providers as another avenue for obtaining counseling and ongoing therapy. This partnership provides students with greater flexibility in appointment times and they can select providers based on preferences such as gender, cultural and ethnic background, language spoken, and specialties. It also offers a venue of support to our students who for various reasons cannot or prefer not to present in-person to the Health Center. All counseling sessions are made available at no expense to students.

The Health Center also added a new resource called Togetherall designed to provide our students with 24/7 access to a large peer-to-peer mental health support community. This new web-based platform and media-style mental health app gives students a safe place to connect with other students experiencing similar feelings. Students log in and make a post (anonymously)…then someone responds to their post, often to validate how they are feeling or to give advice. The online community supports over 250 colleges and universities with over two million registered users and is monitored at all times by trained clinicians. This tool is an excellent low-acuity mental health intervention and offers a supplemental venue of support for the students we may be missing through our existing conventional approaches to care.

Onsite SANE Service

In response to requests from our students, provisions were put in place in late this spring 2022 to offer SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exams 24/7 at the Health Center for victims of sexual assault. Through a partnership negotiated with The Turning Point Rape Crisis Center, a SANE nurse and advocate will be dispatched on demand to the Health Center for SMU students who have experienced sexual assault and request emergency examination. Previously, access to such services was only available to students off-campus.

To learn more about the mental health resources mentioned in this article, visit

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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!

Featured Stories

ACPA 2022: Right Where I Was Supposed to Be

Emily Rasch, GA for Research, Assessment, and Strategic Initiatives, reflects back on her experience as a Convention Intern for ACPA 2022 in St. Louis.

One of the highlights of my graduate school tenure has been my involvement with the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to serve as an Intern for ACPA at our first in person Convention since the pandemic. 

I started graduate school amidst a global pandemic, which came with a good bit of uncertainty. I wondered if it was possible to connect with others in higher education outside my program. The ACPA Ambassador Program was the answer to that dilemma. I was first involved with ACPA as part of the Ambassador program, where I learned the history, mission, and values of our organization. After my Ambassador year, I served as the Coordinator of Socials on the Grad Student and New Professional Community of Practice Directorate. When the opportunity arose to serve as a Convention Intern, I jumped at it, as I knew that this experience was a way for me to give back to an organization that had already given me so much. On March 2nd, I began the nearly ten hour trek to St. Louis, MO. While I did not necessarily know what to expect, I was excited to see what the experience would hold. 

The first few days in St. Louis were a bit of a whirlwind as we set up the conference center, explored the city, and learned the ins and outs of everything ACPA. Once Convention started, it was all hands on deck for everyone involved. As interns, we got to assist with registration and help with some of the sessions. I was on my feet for much of the convention and remained energized and excited to help people and make connections. Through those long hours, we bonded as an intern team and brought our different strengths to the table. 

One of the most empowering aspects of the intern experience came from realizing that there are people with similar goals, research interests, and identities to mine. Going forward, I know that I have a sense of community beyond SMU’s campus and in the larger higher education sphere. Also, the opportunity to meet folx in person who I had only seen on a computer screen over the last two years showed me the value of authentic, in-person conversations that were not feasible in a virtual format. While Zoom was an amazing tool to connect us through the pandemic, there isn’t anything quite like an in-person conversation and fellowship. I am so happy that this convention was the first foray into in-person socialization since the pandemic began in 2020. 

The theme of this year’s convention was “right where we’re supposed to be.” I know that I have found my professional home in ACPA. Next year, my professional home heads down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. I cannot wait for my professional home to come to my personal one, and I look forward to showing my colleagues my home. I am so grateful for my fellow interns, colleagues, and SMU support system who made this experience what it was. Over the last few months, I have pondered what life beyond SMU may look like after graduation. Because of my involvement in ACPA, I have connections wherever I end up, which excites me for my future beyond the Hilltop.

Featured Stories

Hughes-Trigg Student Center Renovation Project Receives CMAA Project Achievement Award

Last fall, students celebrated the opening of the renovated Hughes Trigg Student Center for its refreshed look, study nooks, and new food offerings–now, SMU and Hill & Wilkinson General Contractors celebrate the construction project for receiving the North Texas Chapter of the CMAA’s (Construction Management Association of America) Project Achievement Award. 

The 7th Annual Construction Management Project Achievement Awards program recognizes outstanding achievement in the practice of construction management. According to the CMAA’s website, “The awards program is designed to recognize and promote professionalism and excellence in the management of the construction process.”

Awards were presented to Texas-based construction management practitioners with projects, programs, or program phases that achieved substantial, final, or a major phase completion during January 2019–January 2021. Hill & Wilkinson submitted Phases 1 and 2 of the Hughes Trigg Student Center renovation, earning the Project Achievement Award for buildings in the $15M – $25M category.

Written by Saifiyah Zaki. Saifiyah is a sophomore from Plano, TX majoring in Marketing and Psychology with minors in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.

Featured Stories

Engage Dallas Announces Sixteen New Dallas Community Partnerships

In January 2022, Engage Dallas announced sixteen new partnerships with organizations in the Dallas community, with a continued focus on the South and West Dallas communities. Over the course of the fall semester, Engage Dallas committees recognized the need to expand their network of community partners to benefit both the community and SMU student needs. Work for the spring semester begins in February with group and solo service opportunities for students to get involved. Read the entire announcement and view the list of new community partnerships on the Engage Dallas blog site linked below.

Engage Dallas is a place-based community engagement initiative via SMU’s Residential Commons to address community needs focusing on South and West Dallas. The initiative is a long-term, university-wide commitment led by students to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to positively impact the community. There is equal emphasis on campus and community impact stemming from the initiative.

Photos from Fall 2021 Engage Dallas events

Featured Stories

Cultivate, A New Leadership Development Program

Cultivate is a new leadership development program for third-and fourth-year students. In this semester-long program, students meet weekly to discuss readings based on the SMU Leadership Framework. During these discussions, students gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their role as leaders in an individual, organizational, and community context. They bring their current experiences as campus leaders into the discussion as well as consider future leadership opportunities beyond graduation.

The idea for Cultivate came about during a discussion with Nick Fontela, graduate assistant for the Office of the Student Experience, where we were discussing the need for more leadership development programs on campus and a desire to be more immersed in leadership literature. After reflecting on the existing leadership program offerings, a gap in programs that serve third and fourth-year students was identified. Through a few more brainstorming conversations with students and staff, the idea of creating a leadership reading group for students was solidified.

Cultivate meets each Monday for an hour to discuss the weekly pre-assigned readings. The readings range from leadership textbooks to business journals and even some bestselling books. The selected readings are centered on leaders and leadership and connected to the SMU Leadership Framework. Through these readings and subsequent discussions, I hope students grow in their leadership identity. I also hope Cultivate fosters a community of collaboration amongst student leaders and that the ripples of this community are felt throughout the Hilltop as a force for positive change.

Meet the Cultivate Students

Written By: Meghan Perez, Assistant Director, Leadership Programs for Office of the Student Experience

Featured Stories

Fall 2021 Emerging Leaders Cohort Graduates

The Emerging Leaders Program successfully graduated 26 students in Fall 2021. Throughout the semester, these first-year students learned about the SMU Leadership Framework and how to apply it to on-campus leadership roles. Through hearing from guest speakers, hands-on activities, and discussions, they learned about how their campus leadership experiences can prepare them to be world changers. A few students from each cohort return the following year as student facilitators, guiding that year’s emerging leaders throughout their activities. 

Hear what a student, a facilitator, and the director of the program have to say about their experience:

Hayley Hudgens
Emerging Leader

How do you think the Emerging Leaders program will contribute to your experience at SMU going forward?

Emerging Leaders has given me the resources to network across many different fields of people and has introduced thought-provoking knowledge that allows me to grow as a person and a leader at SMU. I can use all that I learned in future leadership positions on campus with the end goal of creating better organizations that contribute to SMU.

How has the program helped you develop as a person and as a leader?

This program has opened my eyes to what it means to be a good leader and how to practice that in my daily life outside of a typical leadership position. The skills that come with being a leader like being inherently ethical, relational, and courageously inclusive are not limited to being labeled as a “leader;” these skills are accessible to everyone. Now, I actively think of how to be a better leader and person in social settings and make sure to hold myself to a high standard so others may be inspired to do the same. The leadership framework has changed my way of thinking about how to actively improve my personal character because we were also taught that propelling a vision into action is part of developing ourselves and the people around us into better leaders. 

What is the most impactful lesson you have taken away from the program?

The lesson I learned the most from was when we talked about “what is power” and “what do different types of power look like.” The activity was to have volunteers go up and take a physical stance that they believed to hold the most power within a scene of others taking similar positions with the same mindset. Afterward, each volunteer had a chance to explain their reasoning for taking their position and explanations ranged from that they felt being the man behind the desk was the most powerful to putting a hand on another person to support them was the most powerful. It was extremely thought-provoking to understand that the definition of power is circumstantial and can vary according to each individual. We then applied this to leadership by realizing that anyone can be a leader even by using different types of power.

What was your favorite part of the program?

Out of all of the wonderful opportunities and lessons learned from Emerging Leaders, my favorite part of the program was learning more about the psychology behind being a good leader and how to implement this on SMU’s campus. Going into depth about what really makes a good leader and the growth that is involved with that was very beneficial to my personal development and to others as well. Having a support group of other like-minded individuals was also a major factor in contributing to each other’s growth and those connections will remain strong far into the future. 

What would you want to tell incoming students about the program?

I would tell every incoming student to take advantage of every opportunity they are given and especially try out emerging leaders. Whatever they put into Emerging Leaders is what they will get from it and with a good attitude and open mind, this short program will give them knowledge that will last them throughout college and into their future careers. The leadership framework curriculum will change you in ways you did not realize you could change. 

Willy MacCluskey
Student Facilitator

Why did you apply to become a facilitator for this year’s cohort?

I applied to become a student facilitator because I wanted to make the same impact on the freshman that Emerging Leaders had on me last year. It is difficult to come into college not knowing anybody and having to figure out your place; especially during the times we live in. EL always gave me something I could depend on last year. It gave me a reason to look forward to Mondays because I could count on doing something fun. I wanted to give this year’s freshman the same experience I had in EL, and I really feel like we succeeded in doing that.

How has your experience this year differed from last year?

This year’s experience is entirely different from last year. We completed the entire program over zoom when I was a freshman. This year, however, EL was fully in person, and I am so glad that I had the chance to experience it again because we did a lot of fun activities that we couldn’t do over zoom. I always joked with the Emerging Leaders that Colby and I were experiencing EL at the same time they were, but it was true because EL in person gave me an entirely new appreciation for the program.

What did you most enjoy about your role?

I enjoyed getting to know the Emerging Leaders most. They are the life of this program, and it is incredibly rewarding when they recognize and appreciate what EL offers them. Within the last few weeks of the program, they began applying for leadership positions they never thought of applying for at the beginning of the semester. They also got to know one another over the course of the program, and it was great watching them become great friends. Not only getting to know the Emerging Leaders but watching them grow over the semester was incredibly rewarding.

Meghan Perez
Assistant Director, Office of the Student Experience

What do you enjoy most about working with (both future and current) student leaders? 

I love working with Emerging Leaders because I get to know students as first-years and then watch them lead throughout their four years. It is really special to meet students in their first few weeks of college and then see how they learn, grow, and develop throughout their time on the Hilltop. 

How was the transition back to in-person programming, after being fully online last year? Were there any challenges and/or advantages?

It has been nice to go back to in-person programming. With the program being online last year, a lot of the curriculum had to be adapted to a virtual format which allowed us to get creative. We kept some of the activities from the virtual year and integrated them into an in-person experience. 

What is one thing you hope students in the program walk away with? 

I hope students know leadership is not a position or title, but rather a choice to care about the world around you. Leadership is not a point of arrival, but a process that, and if they choose, leadership can be a part of the rest of their life.

Written by Saifiyah Zaki. Saifiyah is a sophomore from Plano, TX majoring in Marketing and Psychology with minors in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.

Featured Stories

Top Nine of 2021

In 2021, SMU’s Student Affairs Instagram account had 27,000 total likes in 2021! Here are our top nine posts from 2021. 

Ninth most liked photo of 2021: Hilltop Excellence Awards
Total likes: 278
Eighth most liked photo of 2021: World Smile Day
Total likes: 295
Seventh most liked photo: Orientation
Total likes: 301
Sixth Most Liked Photo: Finals week
Total likes: 304
Fifth most liked photo of 2021: SCIE Graduation
Total likes: 309
Fourth most liked picture of 2021: SMU being recognized as an LGBT friendly campus
Total likes: 315
Third most liked photo of 2021: Grand opening of Hughes-Trigg
Total likes: 339
Second most liked picture of 2021: Hughes-Trigg reopening
Total likes: 378
Most liked picture of 2021: Orientation leader announcement
Total likes: 465


Featured Stories

Students Relax and Refresh at Indian Student Association’s “Kulture in Kerala” Event

SMU’s Indian Student Association hosted their “Kulture in Kerala” event on Wednesday, Oct. 20, giving students a chance to relax and de-stress halfway through the semester. Over 250 students attended, enjoying cultural food, guided yoga, and take-home bath salts. 

The state of Kerala runs along the southwest coastline of India and is an especially popular tourist location, boasting a plethora of scenic beauty. Particularly popular foods in the area include dosas, crepes made from rice and lentil batter, and appam, a type of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk. To represent these foods, ISA brought a live dosa station to the event, allowing students to watch as their food was prepared fresh. Students also enjoyed a selection of chicken and vegetarian curries. 

Across the Mary Hay, Peyton, Shuttles Commons (MHPS) lawn, students could engage in a guided yoga session. ISA President Surya Ramakrishnan emphasizes the importance of recognizing the origins of Western yoga practices, which can be traced to northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in ancient sacred texts called the Rig Veda, one of a set of four ancient sacred texts written in Sanskrit.

“Kulture in Kerala” is among one of the first events ISA put together with a new, more inclusive programming process. The organization’s executive board members pick a location, build a Pinterest board based on the location, and select food representative of that area. This is meant to represent diverse locations from both North and South India as well as South Asia as a whole, an attempt to “not make being South Asian a monolith,” as Ramakrishnan puts it.

“I know there’s a lot of students who feel underrepresented because when it comes to Indian culture, a lot of the time Bollywood caters to North Indian people, so it seems like South Indian people are just left in the dust,” Ramakrishnan said. “They were really excited their culture was being celebrated too.”

Written by Saifiyah Zaki. Saifiyah is a sophomore from Plano, TX majoring in Marketing and Psychology with minors in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.