Featured Stories

Careers in Student Affairs Month #CSAM22

Careers in Student Affairs (CSAM) is a month-long initiative each October developed by a number of professional associations related to Student Affairs. CSAM is dedicated to the celebration of a career in student affairs, education and awareness in the profession, and engagement with professional associations and peers in the field. More directly, the goals of Careers in Student Affairs Month are to:

  • Celebrate the field of student affairs through opportunities to reflect on individual journeys and experiences
  • Provide professional development for student affairs administrators in higher education
  • Encourage and promote the profession in order to grow the field of student affairs
  • Cultivate spaces for dialogue related to pertinent topics within student affairs

Throughout the month, Student Affairs at SMU will be sharing reflections from functional leaders within the Division highlighting various career pathways and advice for those seeking to obtain those roles in the future. We will also host pop-up brown bag lunches for current staff and graduate students to have a more intimate conversation with functional leaders.

We are also hosting two open activities for graduate assistants within the Division of Student Affairs.

Thursday, October 13, 2022
Lunch and Learn: Professional Paths in Student Affairs
12-1, HTSC 226 – Lunch will be provided

Thursday, October 25, 2022
Resume and Job Search Workshop in connection with the Hegi Family Career Center
11:30am-1:00pm, HTSC 226 – Lunch with be provided


There are also a variety of resources available from professional associations during October.

ACPA – College Student Educators International

ACPA is offering a series of webinars throughout the month as well as discounts for Graduate students on membership and the Annual Conference.

Check out more information on their CSAM website.

NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

During Careers in Student Affairs Month, NASPA and NASPA Constituent Groups sponsor educational sessions for students and professionals of all levels. Unless noted otherwise, 2022 NASPA Careers in Student Affairs Month webinars are free for members and non-members. Check out the schedule online. Additionally, they are offering a discount on select books related to career trajectory.

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

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

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

Featured Stories

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.

Featured Stories

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

Featured Stories

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.

Featured Stories

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.


Featured Stories

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

Featured Stories

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.