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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

It was a sunny September Thursday on the Hilltop, and Hispanic Heritage Month had just begun.  From September 15th to October 15th, Lauren Searle—SMU’s Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement Coordinator—independently directed six on-campus events for Hispanic students. 

Lauren, who began her planning in June, made it her mission to enhance the Hispanic Heritage Month programs after the pandemic.  Her favorite part of the job is using her creativity to inspire positive change on campus. 

Beginning on September 15th with a screening of the popular Disney animated film Encanto, which features a Colombian family and their community, the month was off to a great start.  From there, Lauren put on another movie screening, a silent disco, a faculty-led discussion, an alumni panel, and a visit from a content creator. 

Every detail was coordinated with careful intention.  Whenever possible, Searle sourced food for her events from local businesses across Dallas, whose cuisine was in line with the cultures being represented.  She collaborated with on-campus organizations, from the Hegi Career and Development Center to the College Hispanic American Students organization.

Searle wanted the events to be both fun and educational, highlighting intersectionality whenever possible.  This was especially present during the October 5th screening of Real Women Have Curves.  Put on in collaboration with the Women and LGBT Center, this film promoted positive body image among Hispanic women. 

Perhaps the most impactful event, Searle feels, was the silent disco.  Organized with the help of Mary Hay, Peyton, and Shuttles Commons, the silent disco brought students together to have fun while listening to Latin-American music.  Many came in to escape the stress of college life. 

Another successful event was the Lunchtime Lecture with Dr. Alberto Pastor. Students across campus originally came for extra credit opportunities, but ended up sparking an incredible discussion with thoughtful questions.

Ultimately, it meant a lot for Searle to put this on.  As a Hispanic woman, she doesn’t always feel represented in Dallas.  She hoped to embody that representation for students across the Hilltop who may not have grown up in communities like SMU. “Everyone is welcome and accepted on this campus, and everyone is supported on this campus,” says Lauren, “it really was important for me to showcase that any way I could.”