We had the fortunate pleasure to meet and partner with a group of researchers at SMU focused on all aspects of Texas. From its history to its current economic boon, this group comes together to share ideas and better understand the unique distinctiveness that makes Texas what it is today.
We spoke with Bonnie Etter, one of the members of the group to learn more about their goals and what they hope to accomplish together.
Could you summarize what is the Texas Research Cluster at SMU?
The Texas Research Cluster at SMU is a forum for anyone researching aspects of Texas to meet, share ideas, collaborate, and find new resources. We are unified by the region in which we work, not a particular time or field of study. This is important because we believe that we can better understand events of today by placing them into context, whether it is historical, environmental, or cultural.
What motivated you to create it?
The creators of this research cluster are all graduate students (myself, Gwen Bakke, and Tim Seiter), and in the course of our own work we would come across the work of other graduate students and professors and organizations at SMU who were working on amazing research projects throughout, DFW and the broader Texas region. But there was no central place where these researchers could meet, share their ideas, and collaborate. There are so many cool projects, where people are applying the more abstract concepts of their work to on issues in their own backyard. And it is that collaboration with the community that makes the research so special.
You have a strong focus on education. Why do you believe that education is a crucial area that Texas needs to focus on?
Our focus on education really came from the passion of the members; we knew that we wanted to have an aspect of social outreach, but it has become this incredible effort really moved forward by the people who have committed their time to making it happen. I think a lot of this focus comes from a belief that we as researchers can gather information all day, but it is the sharing of that knowledge that makes our work valuable. We would like to tackle some of the subjects that we think are not being covered fully in K-12 classrooms or have been commonly misunderstood. And a lot of this comes from a lack of resources for teachers to really provide that information in fun and comprehensive ways. This year we have particularly focused on identifying groups whose history is rarely taught, or the lessons are outdated, particularly the Native American and African American communities of DFW. Texas is such a huge, complex state that has been shaped by all the groups who have lived here, and without that diversity we lose so much of what makes Texas special and we lose the ability or empathy to understand the issues that really matter to all the members of our community.
Is this effort open to collaborations beyond the SMU community or will it be in the future?
We would love to make connections beyond the SMU campus. We have already begun reaching out to various organizations who work on Texas based research or education in Texas classrooms, but there are so many groups in the DFW area and beyond, we know we have barely scratched the surface.
If people want to learn more or join our research cluster, contact Bonnie Etter at firstname.lastname@example.org.