Southern Methodist University
SMU (visited 3/2/15)
Contrary to what people may believe, “you don’t have to be either Southern or Methodist to go here.” The school is actively fighting the rich, white, preppy stereotype, and the student population is “relatively diverse” and improving every year. Although 40% of students are from Texas, “we make an effort to have students from everywhere,” said the director of admissions. They’re looking for a balance between in and out of state, not so easy with a state the size of Texas. Religiously, “we have all faiths (including Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist) and no faith.”
SMU is a much larger campus than many of us expected but still easily walkable. They’ve kept the same beautiful architecture as they’ve expanded. Although campus is 5 miles north of Downtown in a residential area, there’s quite a bit to do directly off of campus. Favorite places include Mustang Donuts and JD Cookies. Students can have a car but don’t need it; a DART pass costs $5 – which lasts all 4 years!
The students aren’t lacking for things to do on campus.
Sports are a huge deal.
- People tailgate on Bishop Boulevard (they call it Boulevarding, not Tailgating). Our tour guide is a little disappointed that more people tailgate than go to the game.
- Basketball tickets are in the highest demand. The school makes an effort to let students support the teams — they even got to go to the Final 4 for free.
- A lot of sports are not on campus which is something the tour guide said he’s like to change.
About 1/3 of students go Greek, pledging in the spring.
- SMU sponsors lots of concerts and speakers both on campus and in Dallas.
- The first Saturday on campus is “Night at the Club,” basically a huge club fair. “You can get the free t-shirt, cactus, goldfish, whatever they’re giving out.” The tour guide appreciated that the students have ownership.
SMU is in the middle of a massive expansion of their residential spaces. They’ve already added several new Residential Commons and are building more. Students are assigned to 1 of the 11 Commons as freshmen and will stay there through sophomore year. Each Common has faculty-in-residence.
“Aggressive students who are independent learners will do well here,” said the Director of Admissions. A faculty member added: students who want to learn to lead and aren’t afraid to take risks fit right in.” Students are in charge of planning a lot on campus. For example, they’re given the $250,000 budget for homecoming. Advisors help them frame the event (“How will you be inclusive?” etc), but ultimately, it’s in the students’ hands.
The 6000 undergrads have access to 100 majors and 75 minors.
Humanities and Sciences is the largest school.
- It’s the home to Pre-Health and Pre-Law tracks; the advice of the Dean is to “major in something you love and will do well in, and then go to them for advising.” Selected students are invited into the Scholars Program to participate in Seminars, work with faculty for the LSAT, etc.
- There are several new interdisciplinary programs such as Health and Society (either physiological or sociological) and minors in International Studies and Public Policy and Jewish Studies (what is it to be part of this culture across the globe and across time).
- Unusual majors include: Statistical Science, Geophysics, and Medieval Studies.
The Meadows School of the Arts is highly selective; one of the tour guides came here because she was sold by the great arts program. Dallas has one of the largest art complexes in the world so students can get quite a bit of experience. SMU’s program is entrepreneurial in nature; since 60% of artists are self-employed, they learn how to manage a website, develop a business plan, etc. The goal to get students to fluidly adapt to the changing arts landscape in order to make a living as an artist.
- Education and Human Development is the smallest school, home to Education (100% pass rate on national exams), Psychology/counseling, Applied Physiology, Sports Management, and Health Care Management.
- Lyle School of Engineering School: Interesting majors include Cyber Security and Video Design Engineering. Just over 1/3 of the students are female (twice the national average).
- In the first semester, students work in a group to do a project such as building a robot that can maneuver through a maze, find water, test to see if it’s potable, and if it’s not, remediate it. It’s a true group effort: the mechanical engineer needs to build it; the electrical needs to design the eyes, the environmental needs to design the test probe, the civil needs to make sure it isn’t collapsing under its own weight.
- Cox School of Business: Students can earn a BBA or minor in Business or Business Administration.
- Unusual majors include Financial Consulting, Real Estate Finance, and Risk Management and Insurance. Concentrations include Energy Management and Entrepreneurship.
- About 100 incoming freshmen are selected as BBA Scholars each year.
We asked the student panelists what they liked about SMU and why they chose to come here. It was refreshing to hear that one of them didn’t originally want to come! She didn’t get excited until week 2. “Once they see how inclusive people are and how excited they are to be here, they’ll want to come here too.” Other answers included:
Quality of the faculty and the program. The reputation of programs increase all the time.
- Access to the faculty
- Location: not just the city, but the attitude. “It’s a can-do place.” Many graduates take their first jobs here in town.
- The campus. Everyone helps take care of it. “Life is too short to go to college on an ugly campus!”
- “I like the other students. We go to school with really really really cool kids!”