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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

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Brock Rigsby Demonstrates Courageous Leadership while Learning to Focus on the Big Picture

Meet Brock Rigsby. He is a Psychology and French Studies Double Major from Hot Springs, Arkansas and a self-proclaimed convert from “somewhat of a control freak” to “less of a control freak.” Alexander Rentz, Residential Community Director for Virginia-Snider Commons, has watched and supported Brock as he has stepped up to serve his residential commons in various roles. Of Rigsby, Rentz told us:

Brock currently serves as the Chief of Staff for the Virginia-Snider Commons Council. Brock has been invaluable with the overall success for the council with overcoming any obstacles they have faced. In fact, Brock served in an interim role of President when the acting president had to take a leave of absence. Additionally, Brock has done a great job with responding to complaints from the residents of Virginia-Snider and making sure the concerns of the residents are being addressed in a timely manner. Simply put, Brock has been instrumental towards providing a quality residential experience in Virginia-Snider. In the future, Brock plans on obtaining a PhD with the hopes of serving as a child psychologist.

We asked Brock, “What have you learned (either about yourself or in terms of new knowledge/skills) and how have you changed/grown as a result of your involvement on Commons Council? Here is what he had to say:

During my time on Commons Council, I’ve been exposed to a variety of situations and issues that provided opportunities for learning and growing. I learned first and foremost that I have a tendency to over-extend myself and have to take a step back sometimes… and that that is okay! There is an entire team of qualified individuals on our council, and an entire building of eager residents that are ready to help them. Learning this about myself led to positive changes in my life as I have transitioned from somewhat of a control freak to less of a control freak. Everything takes time, right? In all seriousness, though, our programs have similar or even greater success when they are spontaneous as opposed to having months of planning, and that fact has helped me stop stressing over the little things and look more at the big picture.

Brock Rigsby (’20) is a Psychology and French Studies Double Major. He is from Hot Springs, Arkansas and his Residential Commons affiliation is Virginia-Snider.

To learn more about Residence Life and Student Housing, please visit

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Club Crawl – A Virtual Involvement Fair Series

The mission of Student Center and Activities (SCA) is to create experiences and spaces that encourage students to discover their interests and find a sense of belonging. One of the key ways that this happens is through involvement in a student organization and SMU has over 200 student organizations to choose from on campus. 

Traditionally, the SCA team has hosted a large event called “A Night at the Club” to facilitate this involvement. Over 100 student organizations would set up informational tables in the Indoor Performance Center, and over 1,000 new Mustangs attended, stopping by the tables of the organizations they wanted to learn more about. Given the large crowd in an indoor space, it was necessary to provide a virtual alternative for students to learn about involvement opportunities.

That virtual alternative was Club Crawl, which was developed as ten stand-along virtual involvement fairs, each about 30-45 minutes long. Taking place from 5-6pm over two weeks, each session was specific to a certain category of student organizations, like fraternities and sororities, community service, academic interest, or multicultural organizations, just to name just a few examples! A total of 87 student organizations were represented at Club Crawl.

In each session, about fifteen or so student organization representatives gave brief introductions of their organization, including information about how to join, the benefits of membership, and typical activities of the club. After the introductions, student attendees asked questions via the Zoom webinar Q&A feature, including questions like, “how do I join? Can remote-only students participate? And, how will your club offer activities and opportunities that are COVID-safe?” 

Club Crawl provided an opportunity for students to interact in real-time – an aspect that was important to students surveyed about possible A Night at the Club replacement strategies. Students value the opportunity to converse with each other, even when that conversation cannot take place in person. Over 650 students attended one or more Club Crawl sessions; the highest-attended sessions included those for Greek life and service and philanthropy.

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Cooper McElvaney Peace and Justice Fellows

On October 30th, 2020 the donors for the Cooper McElvaney Peace and Justice Fellowship and the larger SMU community hosted by the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life gathered virtually to listen and learn about the experiences of the 2020-21 Cooper McElvaney Fellows. Rhonda Hodge (2020) and Nia Kamau (2022) spoke to the group about their respective summer experiences conducting social justice research on Black Christian communities navigating Covid-19 within their congregation and community (Hodge) and completing an internship serving as the primary correspondent and instructor for the Dallas Champions Academy (Kamau). Read more about these exceptional students’ insights and reflections regarding their fellowship experiences.

What ideas, beliefs, or values stand out as a result of your Cooper McElvaney Fellowship experience?

Nia: Service and justice work never stops. Even during a pandemic, the Cooper McElvaney Fellowship provided me an opportunity to continue advocating for equity and youth empowerment through CHAMP. 

Rhonda:  As a result of my Cooper McElvaney Peace and Justice Fellowship experience, I am encouraged and inspired by the richness, resilience, resourcefulness, and responsiveness of Black Christian Congregations in continuing to address the needs of their communities – even in the era of a global health pandemic. Clearly, it is not enough to only recognize problems, but to be change agents in providing solutions to past, present, and future issues.

What faith perspective informed your fellowship study?

N: Champ is all about empowerment, and I feel like our walk with Christ, as a Christian myself, is all about being empowered by God, and encouraging us to empower others to affirm other people and help them find their identity in Him, and help them fulfill their purpose in life. Empowerment really is the work of Christ and is a big part of what it means to be a follower.

R: Faith is the center of everything I do in my life. The Bible even talks about how our bodies are the temple, and if we don’t take care of our bodies, it’s really hard to take care of our spirit. I just believe that when we take care of our bodies, it is in line with taking care of our spirit.

What have you learned about yourself as a result of participating in this fellowship experience?

N: The Cooper McElvaney fellowship has given me an opportunity to connect even more with the faith community at SMU. Because of the Cooper McElvaney fellowship, I was able to work and do what I was passionate about and still be equipped with the resources to attend school. Also, the Cooper McElvaney fellowship has provided us with readings, [and] opportunities to really reflect on what it means to be a “justice warrior for Jesus,” and that has really challenged me in my beliefs and forced me to think deeper; I have enjoyed that experience.

R: [The fellowship] really helped me develop more agency, even though I was supposed to be in South Africa for a study abroad trip. This [fellowship] has helped in the way that I have looked at the overall picture of my education, and my ability to speak with authenticity, but also with authority in terms of social justice and human rights

What was your most rewarding moment during the summer?

N: My most rewarding experience during the summer was interacting with mentees and empowering them with the resources to maintain academic and spiritual health during the COVID19 pandemic. For many of our students, the summer quarantine was a time of isolation, loneliness, and loss. When they needed support, I was grateful that the CHAMP mentors and I could be there as resources and listening ears. I was also grateful for the opportunity to continue providing volunteer opportunities for SMU students committed to service despite COVID19 regulations.

R: Aside from receiving the news of being awarded the fellowship, my most rewarding moment was seeing the testing data, outreach programs, and my personal interviews come together to show the value of partnerships in service to God and others for the greater good of communities disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

How do you expect this experience will inform your decisions and direction going forward?

N: I think through discipleship. As someone who follows the Christian faith tradition, I know that discipleship is one of the commands that Christ gave us. Through Champ, we seek to really do that, not just through telling students that there is this guy Jesus who loves you very much, but to actually walk with them through the process of being a follower of Christ and having a transformed lifestyle and maturity.

R: This [fellowship] will give me a higher platform because I am able to literally go out into the community and do something that will outcast and outlive me. I will be able to present information on a current event, and hopefully encourage people to be a participant in their community, to take better care of themselves from a health perspective, to literally go out and vote as we think of who we are going to elect and who will be in favor of our healthcare, a real issue from a social justice and human rights perspective

The Cooper McElvaney Peace and Justice Fellowship aims to provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of social justice work either through a Faith based organization or by delving into the religious dimensions of social justice. The fellows will have the opportunity to work closely with Sungman (Tyler) Kim in the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, in a summer long exploration of social justice through works of Rev. William B. McElvaney and constructive conversations.

To learn more about the Cooper McElvaney Faith and Justice Fellowship, and other initiatives in the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, please visit

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Creating a Sense of Community Wherever Students Are

Program Council at SMU is the major student-led programming organization on campus and is committed to providing free and fun events for all. Program Council’s goal is to unify and celebrate the SMU student body through fun, innovative programming that aims to enhance the individual experience of students, faculty, and the entire university community. By structuring themselves through committees, PC ensures a place for everyone to belong.

Although I am only halfway through my term as Program Council President (term spans January—December), I feel as though it’s already been a year. It’s been stressful, frustrating, and confusing, but I know that this experience is helping shape me to become a better leader.  

I started out the year nervous and unsure of myself. This position has been the biggest leadership role I’ve ever taken on, and I was initially scared of doing a bad jobMy main difficulty was understanding what the role of President was in Program Council. In other organizations, the president tends to have the loudest and most important voice in the room, but that has never been the case for Program Council. I have an extremely capable and high achieving executive board that is amazing at what they do. A good leader adapts to the needs of their team whether that means being a motivator, strategist, or comforter. I’m not the kind of leader to micromanage and want to call all the shots, and that’s not the kind of leader Program Council needs either. I want the exec and board members I oversee to have a voice and be able to take ownership for their accomplishments within Program Council.  

 The spring semester provided a lot of challenges, but I am very proud with what our organization was able to accomplish. Prior to spring break, we put on two amazing new events which had some of the best attendance numbers of this academic year. We had an amazing Sing Song production in the works and we also resolved a lot of organizational issues regarding 24 Hour Musical. It was devastating to cancel some of the most anticipated events of the semester, but I think it helped all of us learn how to be more flexible and prepared for change.  

After Spring Break, I faced my first big challenge as president. How can an event planning organization exist while in quarantine? I took a step back and reexamined our purpose as an organization. Program Council exists to unify and celebrate the SMU community through fun and innovative programming. Our purpose is not to put on movie nights, Sing Song, or 24 Hour Musical. We bring fun to students wherever they may be, even if that is away from campus. After a good brainstorming session, we came up with several digital “events” which provided students with opportunities to connect with each other while isolated. These new events presented our organization with obstacles we were not used to facing. It wasn’t easy, but I am so proud of what we were able to do. 

Going into the fall, there are a lot of uncertainties. But given the past semester we are better equipped to be innovative and flexible. We will continue to bring fun to SMU, even if it looks a little different. Additionally, I think this experience for all members of program council will be extremely invaluable to them long term. In an interview for a summer internship, I was able to talk about my response to COVID-19 as Program Council President. I ended up being offered the job and I know I will continue to talk about this experience with potential employers. This is why I think student leadership is so important in general. The lessons that I have learned as a leader within student organizations, the Residential Commons system, and Greek life are the ones that have best prepared me to be a world changer. Undoubtedly, student leaders across campus have been tasked with steering their organization and peers through unprecedented challenges, and it is making us better equipped for our futures 

Daniel Heard (’21) is double majoring in Creative Advertising and Marketing major from Dallas, Texas. His Residential Commons affiliation is Crum Commons.