Senior Spotlight: Sparrow Caldwell ’23

Each year, we spotlight our NexPoint Tower Scholar Seniors. We enjoy hearing about their journey through the program and how their perspective on the importance of public policy evolved when combined with their own academic interests. This year, we asked our incoming and current scholars to interview the seniors and were delighted by the conversations captured.

Anish Senthilkumar ’25 interviewed Sparrow Caldwell ’23 to learn more about her time as a NexPoint Scholar.

How has the Tower Scholars Program shaped your experience at SMU?

When you sit on this campus, you often feel isolated and don’t get to see any perspectives besides the ones presented to you. Through the Towers Scholars Program, I’ve learned that there are different approaches to solving a problem. This has been one of the main things I’ve loved, and it has shaped my career. Now, I’m in various leadership positions for Boards and organizations, and I can talk about experiences I’ve learned through either the Tower Scholars classroom or the various opportunities provided by the program. For example, at the Medal of Freedom ceremony, we get to be in an environment that other students don’t get to be in. This allows us to form meaningful connections and capitalize on those relationships. 

Are there specific opportunities or experiences from the Tower Scholars Program that have had a big impact on you?

The class we had with Dr. Leong that we took the first semester of our junior year was a deep dive into how policy is really made from all levels and the institutional hurdles that people go through. It talked about how people’s psychology influences the decisions that leaders make, and I think that really influenced my perspective on solving issues because you must think of all these different variables that I wasn’t aware of until taking this class. Academically, that class had a big impact on my experience. Socially, I’d say the Towers Scholars Program opened many doors for me through networking opportunities and exposure. For example, the DC trip exposed me to new career opportunities. Also, the program provides me with different perspectives and approaches to life. Being able to be around alumni and other successful people involved with the program taught me how to be comfortable talking to older people and asking for what I want. I was no longer afraid of what they were going to say because the Tower Scholar Program prepared me, credibility wise I learned that I belonged in that room with them, and opportunity speaking, I had something to provide. That really shaped how I approached networking. Now, networking feels like second nature because I’ve practiced so much through the Tower Scholars Program.

What issues are you passionate about, and how has the Tower Scholars Program allowed you to explore your policy interest?

I’m interested in going into environmental law. So, when we talk about policies and procedures, my main interest is in water, specifically the pollution of water in low income minority communities. That’s the main focus that I’ve studied through my majors and experiences. Last semester, the task we had for our clients was providing them with environmentally friendly carbon net zero options for their business. Honestly, they really trusted us. They gave us a bunch of information to apply and creative control to go in any direction we thought provided them with the best answers. Working with a team of Tower Scholars came with different perspectives and different approaches, and really good collaboration on a central issue of which I already had a lot of environmental knowledge. But the other Tower Scholars came in with a lot of other perspectives and other additional information we needed to include to successfully help our client. Being surrounded by the other Tower Scholars and people in the program has really influenced me to pursue my own passions. For example, connecting with Isabelle Galko, a Tower Scholar from the year above me, who is also very passionate about pursuing environmental justice, has had a big influence on my future plans.

 Looking back, is there anything you would do differently as a Tower Scholar or is there any advice you have for the sophomores starting the program?

 Take advantage of more opportunities: attend the talks in the Tower Center boardroom, get your work published in the Tower Center journal because it is very important for getting to the next level, and get to know higher-level people in the program. Forming a bond with Professor Newton has been one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Having a one on one connection with her allows for her to look out for you in many ways.

What do you enjoy the most about the Tower Scholar classes?

I love that we dig deeper than the surface level of things. While there is a curriculum, the experience is truly driven by the people in my cohort. There is no bad question, and there is no bad topic. If we want to talk about something that might not be directly related to the topic, we still get the opportunity to discuss it and our professors usually tie it back into what we are talking about. The small class size does wonders, you’re not overlooked, and you are encouraged to participate.

Has the TS Program made you change your mind or interests?

Coming into college, I wanted to be a U.S. Senator, and through the class, I’ve been exposed to different opportunities and thought processes. I’ve learned through these that I can create a greater impact than I would as a Senator. I used to want to write laws, but as I learned more about how the system works, I’ve decided I want to open up my nonprofit, so I can directly impact communities in need. Through the program, I’ve learned about compromise. I always knew about compromise, but the program showed me the extent to which it influences our governmental system. What I want to do to impact communities directly is to find a different route where compromise won’t get in the way of helping people.

What do you think the Tower Scholars can do to make an impact on this campus and their communities?

Talk to each other; this is one of the few opportunities where you are around people with completely different interests than you but share one common interest. If you learn to talk to each other, you’ll see that your issues and concerns overlap and because you come from different areas, you can work together and bring different perspectives to solve important issues.