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

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.

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

Mustang Spotlight: Isabel Costian (’21)

Photo of Isabel Costian standing in front of a colorful brick wall. She is looking at the camera, smiling, and is wearing a black and white floral shirt.


Isabel Costian (’21) is not lacking for ways to be involved on the Hilltop. She is a Hunt Scholar, Undergraduate Admissions Ambassador, a Stampede Orientation Guide, and holds numerous other leadership roles and memberships in communities all over campus. Of particular note, Isabel is also a profound contributor to SMU’s Residential Commons. She recently took a moment to reflect on her experiences within Residence Life and Student Housing.

In Boaz, I served as Vice President and currently serve as the Commuter Ambassador, a position I created because I felt that commuter students (who are automatically affiliated with Boaz) needed more opportunities for community. In Program Council, I’ve done everything from Internal Development Chair (running weekly meetings) to Programming Chair (planning everything from a Bob Ross painting event to a pool party) to Digital Communications Chair (currently running social media). Through these and other leadership opportunities on campus, I’ve learned that it’s never too late to try something out of your comfort zone, which is why I just joined Mustang11 and am excited to revive it for this upcoming year! I’ll also be interning in the Marketing department at Southwest Airlines this summer.

I’ve always been involved and active in whatever I participate in, but I feel like I’ve had unique experiences at SMU that have allowed me to go deeper and accomplish more than I ever could have imagined. When I was selected to be Vice President of Boaz, I was a second-semester freshman who had never even lived in the building, as a commuter affiliate. I doubted myself and my abilities, but instead of letting that hold me back, I threw myself completely into it and revamped the process of submitting fund requests within Boaz, making it a more interactive experience where everyone’s voices could be heard. I was forced to make a lot of tough decisions alongside my President, but we ended up leading our commons to victory by winning the Commons Cup both years that we served on Exec. That initial experience showed me that I could do whatever I put my mind to, which has propelled me forward both here at SMU and off-campus with amazing internship opportunities where I’ve learned more than I’d ever expect to as a student. My main takeaway is to dream big, but don’t stop there: actually take the steps toward achieving it, because you might get farther than you’d thought.

Isabel Costian (’21) is a Marketing Major with Minors in Advertising, Arts Management, Psychology, and History. She is from Richardson, Texas and her Residential Commons affiliation is Boaz Commons.

Wren Lee Selected for NASPA Undergraduate Fellows (NUFP) Program

SMU junior Wren Lee has been selected as a NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP) fellow.

The NUFP is a program that allows students to “increase the number of historically disenfranchised and underrepresented professionals in student affairs and higher education” and “have opportunities for scholarships, on-campus mentorship, and professional development events.” Fellows and mentors apply to the program as a pair. Residence Life & Student Housing (RLSH) Director of Academic Initiatives, Dr. Dustin Grabsch, will be Wren’s mentor for the program. 

Wren looks forward to being a part of the NUFP, and setting the foundation for making an impact on college campuses – starting here, at SMU. 

“I’m most excited about working with my mentor Dustin Grabsch to learn more about working in student affairs,” Lee said. “It’s a career you don’t learn about until you’re in college, so I have a lot I want to learn about.”

Congratulations to Wren Lee for becoming a NUFP Fellow! 

To learn more about Residence Life and Student Housing, visit or the RLSH blog.


Navigating the Road as a Hegi Career Leader

by Alex Brody (’22)

I will admit the beginning of my Hegi journey was not the smoothest… I had no concept of what a resume, cover letter, or even what an internship truly was. Entering into the Hegi Career Leaders Program, I was unsure of the level of commitment that was expected of me and signed up for multiple events of which I did not attend.

But let’s back up for a moment—I originally applied to participate in this program the summer before my first year of college when I saw an informational email about the Hegi Career Leadership program. The email caught my interest because I was involved with a similar program at my high school called the Green Key Ambassador program where I toured prospective families around my high school as well as organizing prospective student events. I also knew coming into college that I wanted to be more involved and grow my leadership qualities. So I applied and was inducted into the program.

After a few bumps in the road initially, I was fortunate to be able to sit down with some of the career counselors involved in the program and explain my position on the issues at hand and articulate my interest to stay in the program. This meeting was a turning point for me not just as a Hegi Career Leader, but as a student in general. I learned to prioritize my schedule and how to be responsible for knowing when certain events were occurring and when assignments for classes were due. This allowed me to prepare for these further in advance and be ready for the challenges ahead. At the end of my freshman year, I won the most improved Hegi Career Leader for being able to attend every event I signed up for following the meeting I had in September. I currently work as a Hegi Peer Mentor where I aid SMU students and critique their resumes, cover letters, and CVs as well as helping them find internships and set up their Linkedin and Handshake accounts. Hegi has not only taught me what a proper resume and cover letter look like, but intangible lifelong skills such as accountability and prioritization that will serve me well for the rest of my life.

Alex Brody (’22) is double majoring in Applied Physiology and Sports Management and Public Relations and Strategic Communication. He is from Dallas, Texas and his commons affiliation is Morrison-McGinnis Commons.

To learn more about the Hegi Family Career Development Center, please visit

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. 

Roots of a Movement: Hair to be Heard

I have been involved in various organizations since being at SMU but Fro easily won my heart. I recall feeling lucky to be on a campus that had a group that catered to such a niche but important cause for people like me.

Fro is a natural hair organization that serves as a safe space for Black men and women to discuss the stigma, versatility, and prowess of Black hair. The org also serves as a catalyst to disrupt the reigning beauty standard.

As soon as the opportunity to join the executive team arose, I took it. I wanted to be as involved as possible in the org that relates so heavily to experiences that myself and so many Black people identify.  

For many, hair is just hair, but for us it is an integral part of our culture. Our hair is peculiar, with unique textures and growth patterns. Historically, Black features have been degraded and the onslaught has continued into the present through workplace hair discrimination policies, school dress codes that disproportionately target natural hair styles, and general respectability politics. The Natural Hair Movement, and subsequently, orgs like Fro, encourage Black men and women to love their natural hair as opposed to taking drastic measures to disguise their natural textures. Fro also creates a platform for us to share our experiences with our hair from unlearning stigma to trading tips with one another.   

My first position in Fro was serving as Community Service Chair. I was tasked with finding a way to intersect the purpose and values of our organization with service. Through this, I created Crown Class. Crown Class is essentially a crash course on natural hair. During this “class” our executive team would partner with local community organizations or churches to teach young girls how to love and care for their natural hair. I was motivated to create this program because I felt that Black girls have a unique relationship with their hair that is not a universal experience. From a young age, the world casually teaches us that if our hair is a certain texture, it is unacceptable to go out in public with it in its natural state. It teaches us that kinky hair is ugly, unkempt, unprofessional. It tells us that for our texture, the rules of presentability are different, and that we have very little wiggle room. It tells us that our curls need to be chemically relaxed, straightened, or tucked under a wig. Crown Class works to foster self-love and confidence within young girls who are silently learning to dislike the genuinely beautiful things about themselves. Even if it is in the form of a three-hour workshop on a Saturday, I wanted Fro to go out of our way to reverse these lessons and encourage those girls to appreciate their natural selves first.  

Curlchella 2019 Executive Board

From initially serving as Community Service Chair to leading the organization as President, Fro has had a tremendous impact on me. Through curating service projects and organizing Curlchella, a black culture festival that seeks to bridge the gap between SMU and local Dallas residents, Fro has served as a beacon of support, community, and understanding for me. 

Fro has created a space for us to engage in important cultural dialogue, to break down the barriers of hair discrimination, and to contribute to the prosperity of the younger generation in embracing their natural selves. Fro has given me more than I could ask for and was critical in molding my undergraduate experience. The org transformed my leadership skills, gave me community, and taught me how to give back and unify. 

Anaka Adams (’21) is a rising senior from Dallas, Texas. She is majoring in Political Science and French and is affiliated with Virginia-Snider Commons.

HUB Leaders | Leadership that unifies

The Housing Unification Board (HUB) is a group of nine undergraduate students who work to support and enhance the residential experience, and the Residential Commons system. Accomplishing their mission through advocacy, training and development, inclusivity, and programmatic opportunities, the HUB benefits and impacts all residents of SMU.

Photo of Stephanie DodgenOne of the first interactive experiences I had on campus was through Commons Cup. You might ask, “Well, what is Commons Cup?” It is opportunity on SMU’s campus wherein each Residential Commons comes together in a friendly competition throughout the year. There are four categories with multiple events and programs that count towards the Commons Cup. One of my favorite events is Battleship in the Pool, which involves three canoes with four team members in each who attempt to sink the other canoes. Through Commons Cup, we try to reach all students within the commons system by providing various types of programming. For example, we include intellectual opportunities like a trivia night in an event called QuizBowl, creative ones such as a Talent Show, service-oriented experiences including The Big Event, and physical activity-related competitions such as RC games and intramurals for athletics. Every event requires planning on our side but also the drive of each commons to show their spirit.

The Housing Unification Board (HUB) started my sophomore year at SMU and I was given the opportunity to be a part of its charter year. From these experiences, I’ve learned what it takes to make a successful program through meticulous planning and active marketing. This year is my second on the HUB, and as the Executive Director and the past Director of Community Collaborations, I’ve had many experiences and opportunities to learn how to program on a large scale.

I first joined HUB to become active on campus and to be able to make an impact on the residential experience for all students. This leadership position unites the different commons and fosters a culture on campus where students can participate in a safe campus life experience. Together with the other directors we worked to represent resident issues on campus and provide Hall Improvement Funds to build more community within each Residential Commons. One of our goals is to provide opportunities for each of the commons to continue to build community through Community Development Funds.

I’ve learned many things from this leadership experience, but the main one would be self-discipline. Although it takes time to set up the events, I’ve learned to plan ahead and schedule around classes to ensure that programs are successful. Serving as Executive Director on the Housing Unification Board has been a wonderful experience and a great opportunity for me to develop my interpersonal and leadership skills.

Written by Stephanie Dodgen, Executive Director of the Housing Unification Board

Photo of Madi Tedrow wearing a blue shirt, she has medium length brown hair and is smiling with her head slightly tiltedMy involvement with Student Affairs, specifically as HUB Director of Marketing, has pushed me outside my comfort zone in two main ways.

As an engineering major, I don’t often have the opportunity to flex my creative muscles, but the HUB has challenged me to think in different and out-of-the-box ways with graphic design and advertising. I try to incorporate this creativity into my work in ways that also allow me to learn new skills like stop-motion animation, PhotoShop, and various audiovisual editing platforms.

HUB has also made me incredibly passionate about building community—something I didn’t realize I cared so deeply about until I became more involved with Student Affairs. I think the HUB opened my eyes to the incredible spectrum of people on campus and how important it is that we are connected to one another. As a result, I’ve become very invested in listening to people’s stories, experiences, and ideas and making it a part of not only my position on the HUB, but my everyday life to make those things heard.

Written by Madi Tedrow, Director of Marketing for the Housing Unification Board

For more information about Residence Life and Student Housing, please visit

Training Student Leaders

In the fall of 2019, 95 Resident Assistants (RAs) and more than 100 student leaders from a variety of different Residential Commons leadership positions gathered before the semester began for student leadership training. I was one of those RAs this past year who, for the first time, attended student leadership training and I was excited to develop my skills as a leader in the SMU community. O. It was a lovely introduction to what would be the next five days of RA-specific training before the rest of the student leaders arrived.

The next few days consisted of enlightening presentations on a variety of topics: policy enforcement, community building, and how to develop a strategic plan for your individual Commons. A great thing about these days for me was that no two presentations were alike in the way they were actually presented to us. I remember distinctly loving the facilities policy presentation as it consisted of Faculty-in-Residence and Residential Community Directors (RCDs) acting out scenarios in skits. We were all laughing as Dr. Liljana Elverskog and Dr. Alice Kendrick dressed up in funny outfits and were caught by an RCD for having an animal in their room! The week continued on with detailed information regarding how to form an inclusive community (taught to us by SMU’s Hidden Scripts) and what to do in times of serious mental health trouble for our residents.

By the end of RA training, I felt like I had been given the knowledge to not only do my job to the best of my ability, but also to be the best resource and friend for my residents as possible.

The last remaining days of student leadership training consisted of not just the RAs, but the entire leadership team of each Commons. Commons Council members, Peer Academic Leaders, Peer Honors Mentors, Student Wellness Champions, and Housing Unification Board Directors were all a part of the same training session. The biggest thing I learned that came out of these next few days was how to effectively work together as a group to achieve the goals you set for yourselves. We were taught many skills and ways to work as a team through learning how to provide great programming, how to make connections with residents, and how to create a welcoming home for others. Outside of the time we were in the auditorium sitting with one another, we were back in our own individual communities bonding and getting to know one another.

My leadership team and I went out to eat with one another every night and by the end of the week we were all great friends with one another. Since this experience, I’ve come to find out that most schools don’t have a component of student leadership training that isn’t just limited to RAs which surprised me–this was one of the most invaluable aspects about my experience with student leadership training. It made everyone closer. In fact, I know I speak for the rest of the student leaders when I say that most of the time our roles never feel like work! Instead, we are able to see each other’s passion for providing a wonderful community for every resident, and that continually inspires me in my role as an RA.

If someone was to ask me what my favorite time of the school year is it would have to be the week or two right before classes start. There is something great about student leadership training where you are brought together with your peers and you’re able to discover a vision for your Commons and determine how that vision can be realized. I have regularly gone back to my time during training when confronting a variety of situations in the RA role. I was lucky enough this year to also have served on the Student Leadership Training Committee within Residence Life and Student Housing. I never realized until then the collective effort it takes from the entire unit to pull it all off. Looking forward to the future, I am excited for next fall’s leadership training as I’m sure it will prove to be just as great for others as it was for me.

Cole Fontenont (’22) is a History, Philosophy, and Economics major from Franklin, TN. His Commons affiliation is Morrison-McGinnis.

For more information about Residence Life and Student Housing, please visit