Two SMU students listed among nation’s “best and brightest business majors”

Poets & Quants, an online publication that covers American business schools, honored SMU students Sabrina Janski and Myles Lee as two of “The Best and Brightest Business Majors – class of 2016” in a story published on Dec. 8.

“They are two of our best leaders in the Cox corps,” says Cox School of Business Associate Dean Jim Bryan. “They exemplify everything we want in a student. Each is humble, poised, confident, successful and ambitious with integrity.”

“As someone who works at Cox, it’s incredible to see them recognized and given the forum to tell their stories to the world,” Bryan adds.

Lee and Janski, who are set to graduate in spring 2016, have impressive resumes crowded with internships, leadership roles and examples of community service. Both look to build on their SMU educations with ambitious career goals.

Janski, an accounting major from Centennial Colorado, has been an SMU resident assistant for three years and held leadership roles in several student organizations

“It was really cool seeing all the hard work I’ve put in be recognized,” says Janski. “I’m waiting to hear back to see if I’m in the Masters of Science in Accounting program, and then I’ll study for the CPA exam next year. I have an internship with Price Waterhouse Coopers this upcoming spring, and I’m hoping that will turn into a full time job offer.”

Lee, an accounting major from Lafayette Louisiana, was a member of SMU’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl 2012 championship football team and launched two startup companies during his time at SMU.

“It feels humbling to represent a place like Cox Business School on a national stage,” says Lee. “I really like working with startups, so I think I’d love to be a venture capitalist one day. Whatever field I go into, I want to become an expert in that field.”

The full Poets & Quants story can be found online here.

SMU senior invents asthma-detecting smartphone accessory

SMU senior Eddie Allegra and his company BioLum Sciences recently beat out four Dallas-area competitors to win a Global Student Entrepreneur award for his smartphone-based imaging system that can detect asthma. The award, granted by Entrepreneurs Organization, brings with it a number of prizes valued at more than $7,000. Allegra will next present his project at the national EO competition in Miami in February.

“I want to go in a store and be able to purchase my product,” Allegra says. “I want to be able to see someone use my product, I want someone to come up to me and tell me how much better their life is because of what I’ve done.”
“Winning money is nice and winning competitions, its nice, but at this point I really need to make this a reality and change the world with this,” Allegra says.

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Honoring donors of SMU student support

As part of the Year of the Student commemoration, SMU salutes the vital role students have played in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the studio, on the stage and in the community throughout the University’s first 100 years.

Scholarships, fellowships and other types of student support from farsighted and generous donors have remained crucial in helping SMU attract top students. At a luncheon on November 17, 2015, SMU honored those who have supported SMU students and the impact those students make while at the Hilltop and as alumni.

  • See the student support donor event program, which includes more information about the importance of student support and a commemorative list of student support endowments at SMU.
  • Read more about the luncheon honoring donors of student support.
  • Watch the video about the ways donors change the lives of people who receive scholarships and other student support at SMU:

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One day’s TEDx talk is the next day’s great invention

SMU student used groundswell of feedback and support to launch green-energy turbine company

Last spring, senior mechanical engineering major Jonah Kirby was standing on a stage, delivering a TEDx talk at Inside SMU about his plan for wind turbines designed to power the houses they sit on.
Six months later, he’s turning that dream into a reality.

After receiving positive feedback on his plan after the talk, Kirby launched Fiddler, which he describes as, “a company focused on making the right choices for the environment.”
Progress has been speedy.

“We are excited for rapid development over the next few months,” Kirby says. “We’re hoping to see our smart-connected turbine become the next home appliance.”

None of it would have been possible if not for scholarships Kirby received through the SMU Provost’s Office and the Lyle School of Engineering, he says. “They allowed me to attend SMU instead of the University of Texas, and I couldn’t be happier about that,” Kirby says.

“The opportunities I have had at Lyle are unparalleled,” Kirby says. “I’ve done everything I can to explore my interests in design thinking, innovation and prototyping outside the traditional curriculum.”

On Oct. 21, Kirby won an all expense paid trip to the RECESS Pitch Finals in January in Las Angeles, where he’ll have a chance to earn prizes that will support his dreams for Fiddler.

Learning to serve his community

SMU student gets rare opportunity to learn leadership from WHO?

A member of the SMU student senate, President’s scholar Garrett C. Fisher is big on community. Specifically, he’s big on representing and helping his community.

This summer, Fisher got a crash course in just that when he became one of 11 scholars from across the country to attend the Institute for Responsible Citizenship in Washington D.C.. The program provides an intensive leadership development program for African-American men focused on citizenship and service.

“I hope to take what I learned from my leadership experiences and apply it to the communities I would like to work in one day,” says Fisher, a senior who is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in business administration in the Cox School of Business and public policy in the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

While in Washington, Fisher also served as a finance intern for Capital Impact Partners, a non-profit community development financial institution. As an intern he worked on financial modeling and attended discussions about the company’s business strategy for 2020 and its public policy of the future.

“I think it was particularly valuable to observe the practices that work in organizations and those that don’t,” Fisher says. “My plan is to take that knowledge and apply it on a larger scale with respect to public policy and economic development in urban communities.”

SMU students invent a new kind of Sidekick

Irisa Ona and Austin Wells invent an app that provides quick help with acts of kindness

Everybody’s been there: A clear day turns to rain when they’ve forgotten their umbrella, or their phone battery is low and they’ve misplaced their charger. Thanks to a pair of Mustangs, help in those situations is just a click away.

Sidekick, a new app from recent graduate Irisa Ona and senior Austin Wells, promises to connect folks who need a hand with those willing to provide one.

“If our app determines it’s about to start raining and you need to walk to class in 10 minutes, we’ll offer to dispatch someone with an umbrella immediately,” says Wells, a computer science major in the Lyle School of Engineering. “Or if we see it’s exam weekend and you’re still up at 2 a.m., we might offer a cup of coffee.”

The pair met in an interdisciplinary engineering class, “Building Creative Confidence,” in fall 2014. They came up with Sidekick while collaborating on SMU’s Big iDeas project in January 2015. Ona says the biggest challenge to creating Sidekick was learning to efficiently work together.

“(We) think differently, speak different languages when it comes to talking about work, we prioritize tasks differently, and overall, we work differently,” says Ona, who earned a B.A. degree in advertising and communications from Meadows School of the Arts in May. “The more we worked together, the more we learned and began to understand each other’s disciplines. When we go out in the real world, work is interdisciplinary, so we’re really glad to have gotten a little bit of that while in school.”

SMU undergrad’s microfinance miracle

Rahfin Faruk took micro-loan lessons learned in Bangladesh and applied them to West Dallas.

As an SMU undergraduate, Rahfin Faruk learned how the lessons of impoverished villages in Bangladesh could bring change to an underserved community in Dallas.

The summer before his sophomore year at SMU, Faruk worked for a bank in his native Bangladesh, conducting surveys in the field with agricultural cooperatives and developing criteria for micro-loans. Challenged at first by the lack of sanitation resources in the villages he visited, he realized after a few days that “I had been given an opportunity to grow.”

When he returned to Dallas, he used what he had learned to found Green Riba, a micro-lending organization that provides low- or zero-interest loans to budding entrepreneurs in West Dallas using proceeds from a store front selling T-shirts and other products.

“Microfinance has changed the world,” Faruk says. “Whether it is the lives of millions of women in rural Bangladesh or an artist in West Dallas, small loans can have huge impacts.”

Faruk has drawn from his multiple academic majors to give him broad-based perspectives. A recipient of SMU’s highest merit scholarship, he majored in economics, political science, public policy and religious studies, with a minor in mathematics. He started Green Riba with a grant from SMU’s Big iDeas program, which supports student research and initiatives with a community impact. For his academic achievements and commitment to public service, Faruk was named a national Truman Scholar and was a Rhodes and Marshall Scholarship finalist. He was one of only eight students nationally to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative America. At SMU he also was the voting student representative to the SMU Board of Trustees. Currently a Truman-Albright Scholar at the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., he has been appointed an adviser to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Faruk advises students to “think about the need for what we learn here to matter out there.”

Changing the world with music

When harpist Sarah Israel graduates from SMU next year, she will have honed not only her talent in musical performance, but also her abilities to empathize through majors in music and human rights, along with studies in nonprofit organizational management.

She will enter the nonprofit sector after graduation, but she is not waiting until then to make an impact.

A member of the SMU Meadows Symphony Orchestra, she serves as president and executive director of Bridge the Gap Chamber Players, SMU students who provide free performances to Dallas area schools and diverse local establishments. Bridge the Gap also provides training and performance opportunities for elementary and middle school students through the South Dallas Strings project.

In addition to offering cultural enrichment, Israel helps direct fundraising efforts to provide food for the children who participate. “Since our target population is considered food insecure, when devising a budget, our top priority is ensuring that we provide substantial food for the participants.”

Helping Dallas children learn to read

SMU senior Sha’ron White spent her summer with 18 Dallas children who were struggling with reading. By telling the children about her own experiences of overcoming educational challenges, she inspired them to realize drastic improvements in their reading levels.

Award-winning student loves SMU traditions

Elishah Ramos ’15 (in foreground of photo at right) was one of 10 students who received the “M” award, SMU’s highest commendation, at the University’s 18th annual Honors Convocation, in April.

“I’m pretty excited about it. It was a surprise for me. I know so many other students who work so hard for the University and are equally deserving of this award. So it’s humbling for me to be acknowledged in this way,” says Elishah, who also has served as an SMU Ambassador and is the first in his family to go to college.

An esteemed University tradition, Honors Convocation is a celebration of academic excellence achieved by SMU students. And Elishah, a double major in markets and culture and Spanish and a human rights minor, loves traditions. He also served as a Peruna handler, in charge of the SMU mascot during athletic events.

“Going to the football games and Boulevarding, I see the traditions that continue Mustang Pride,” he says. It’s been a reminder that I made the right choice.”

The New York transplant is looking forward to helping prospective students consider how SMU can be the right choice for them in his new role as a full-time admission counselor for the SMU Office of Undergraduate Admission.

Elishah, who begins work in June, following graduation, is confident about tapping into his own experiences to help recruit students to his alma mater. When deciding where to go to college, he knew he wanted to be on a campus that felt like a community. He had great schools in mind – SMU was the only school on his list in Texas. Having been a member of a high school graduating class of 24 students, he knew he wanted a supportive environment, for both his social life and his academics.

Elishah had heard about the panoply of opportunities in Dallas. So when he attended Destination SMU as an admitted student and met other students and stayed in Dallas for the weekend, he knew he had found what he wanted. “It was just so welcoming and warm – I really felt that sense of community I was looking for. I got a glimpse of what an average student gets every day. SMU is large enough for you to not necessarily know everyone, but small enough for you to make friends easily. I was also looking for a campus that was close to a major city – that wasn’t in the middle of nowhere. Dallas has a lot to offer, and SMU was the school most willing to work with me on my financial aid package. It all just felt right somehow. Looking at all the schools, I really felt SMU was home.”

Designing the Future of Wind Energy

SMU student Jonah Kirby awarded national University Innovation Fellowship

Jonah Kirby ’16 is among 123 students from 52 U.S. higher education institutions who have been named University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). Read more.

Designing the Future of Wind Energy

Watch the extraordinary TEDxSMU talk by Jonah Kirby ’16 in which he reveals his revolutionary design for efficiently harnessing wind energy more efficiently.
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Remembering Selma

SMU trips follow 1965 legacy of 50 SMU student marchers in Alabama

When 50 SMU students climbed aboard a chartered bus and van on Friday, March 6, bound for Selma, Ala., they were following the legacy of 50 other SMU undergraduate and Perkins School of Theology students who rode through the night to meet Martin Luther King, Jr. and hundreds of civil rights marchers in Montgomery, Ala. March 25, 1965. Retired SMU English Professor Don Shields was on the 1965 trip and was also on hand to see the current students on their way.

One group of current students was enrolled in a unique political science class, which this year took part in SMU’s 11th eight-day Civil Rights Pilgrimage to civil rights landmarks across the South. Students took part in a series of activities and events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” attacks on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march and the subsequent passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“This experience transforms students regarding their faith, career plans and awareness of the plight of others,” says Betty McHone, SMU assistant chaplain and one of the founders of the pilgrimage.

The other students were traveling with SMU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs on a Student Senate-supported trip to the five-day Selma commemoration.

Retired SMU English professor Ken Shields, who traveled with the University’s students to Selma in 1965, saw the students off when they departed from the Dallas campus. When the SMU group arrived in Selma, Rev. Jack Singleton – an SMU Perkins School of Theology student who also traveled to Alabama for the 1965 march  – was waiting for them.

SMU-to-Selma: 1965

There were three voting rights marches scheduled from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in 1965.  The first ended in horrific violence March 7 when state troopers and a county posse attacked approximately 600 marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the way out of Selma, headed toward the state capital of Montgomery.  That incident became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Singleton and nine other Perkins School of Theology students answered Martin Luther King Jr.’s call on clergy nationwide to join him in completing the rescheduled march on March 9.  But King turned that group around just after crossing the bridge, waiting on federal court-ordered protection for the successful march that thousands would make March 21-25. That interrupted march is known as “Turnaround Tuesday,” but Singleton had no way of knowing he would not met with the violence that stopped the first marchers.

“I was terrified,” Singleton says, as he remembers the march.  “Two blocks out of the ghetto we moved up into ranks of four abreast and held hands tightly. The runners along the sides of the column worked to move women and children to the inside and the shouts from the bystanders grew and grew. As we were walking across the bridge, we could see that the head of the march had been blocked…nearly three-quarters of a mile away. The prayer service and freedom rally ended our planned march and we turned and walked away with a dignity which had not been allowed two days before.”

The Perkins students called in reports to fellow students in Dallas, who taped them then shared the tapes with local radio stations. When Singleton returned to Dallas, he was fired from his job as youth pastor at a suburban church because of his activism.

On the SMU campus, students collected money to support the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, attended a Perkins Chapel memorial service for Rev. James Reeb, a Boston pastor murdered in Selma after the interrupted March 9 march, and participated in campus and Dallas protest marches. Letters to the editor in The Daily Campus both supported and condemned student participation in the Civil Rights movement.

SMU students joined the third (and ultimately successful) Selma-to-Montgomery march after Martin Luther King, Jr. sent a telegram to Perkins students Loy Williams and Joe Lovelady urging them to bring everyone they could. Overnight nearly $1,700 was raised to charter a bus and pay for traveling expenses to Selma for students traveling by bus and car. Fifty SMU students and faculty members traveled overnight to join the marchers in Montgomery March 25.

Perkins Theology student Williams had not told his parents he was treasurer of SMU’s Selma travel fund and did not tell them he was making the dangerous journey to Alabama to participate in the protest. However, he asked his sister, Ruth, an SMU undergraduate, to stay home.

“I didn’t want to take the chance my parents would lose both of us,” he said.

The SMU protestors joined a staging area in Montgomery, where they were serenaded by folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary as they waited to join the marchers.

“We didn’t know what would happen when we reached the Capitol,” Williams says. “We were singing the Civil Rights song, ‘I Am Not Afraid,’ but, yes, I was afraid.”

Williams snapped photographs when he reached the Alabama state capitol, capturing Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to the crowd from a flatbed sound truck. When the speeches ended peacefully, the SMU marchers re-boarded the bus to return to Dallas, opening box lunches ordered in advance from the bus company. But their lunches delivered an ugly message: The cardboard boxes were filled with garbage.

As students listened to pocket-sized transistor radios on the bus, they learned of the Klu Klux Klan murder of civil rights activist, Viola Liuzzo, as she drove marchers back to Selma.

“We were on high alert until we crossed the Alabama state line,” Williams says.

Retired English Professor Shields, a civil rights activist before he joined the SMU faculty in 1961, knew joining the Selma protest was “not a light-hearted adventure.”

“We were doing something right, but we underestimated the danger.”

As the marchers entered the Montgomery business district, workers leaned from office windows and shouted at the protesters. A businessman stepped from a doorway and swung a fist at Shields, but missed.

“I had never experienced that rage,” he says. A 13-year-old African-American girl, still bandaged from the March 7 march, linked arms with Shields as they continued marching toward the Capitol.

“How can you sing?” he asked. She looked at him and smiled, “Because Dr. King told me to.”

SMU to Selma: 2015

Travelers with SMU’s 2015 Civil Rights Pilgrimage journeyed back in time on a spring break, eight-day bus journey to meet those who participated in and witnessed the struggle for civil rights. They walked across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge with thousands of others to mark the 50th commemoration of Bloody Sunday and will visit Dexter Ave. Baptist Church, joining for dinner those who knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They visited the Jackson, Miss. home of murdered NAACP activist Medgar Evers, whose bloodstains can still be seen on the driveway where he was murdered. Turning toward Oxford, Miss., pilgrims remembered murdered civil rights workers Andy Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner and the experiences of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. Finally, in Memphis, they visited the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

“Leading this pilgrimage has been the highlight of my professional life,” said trip leader Ray Jordan, a pastor and professor who first completed the trip as a student. “It’s been incredible to see the faces of students, often with tears in their eyes, as they come to fully appreciate the great sacrifices of those who were a part of the Movement. This trip has lead many of them to commit their lives to social justice.”

Along the way pilgrims met with journalists, attorneys, former marchers and those who shared their homes with freedom riders and other civil rights workers.

“The experience joins the intellect and emotions,” says Dennis Simon, professor of political science and trip leader.  “The pilgrims see Brown Chapel, touch the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and listen to the foot soldiers of the movement  — the ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things.”

The travelers from SMU’s Multicultural Affairs Office framed their experiences in Selma and Birmingham from March 6-9, joining the other students in Selma.

The first Civil Rights Pilgrimage was organized in 2004 by SMU’s Chaplain’s Office, part of SMU’s Office of Student Affairs, as a spring break trip. In 2008, the pilgrimage became part of the political science class created by Dennis Simon, professor of political science. Now a joint collaboration, the class is a requirement for undergraduate human rights majors and also offered to graduate students in the Master of Liberal Studies program. Former SMU civil rights pilgrims have created scholarships to enable others to follow in their footsteps.