Dedman College Scholars:
Building on Success In and Out of the Classroom 


Part One: Helping Exceptional Students Find Their Way

A hallmark of the Dedman College Scholars Program is helping students navigate the many options available to them on the Hilltop and beyond. 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 39 seconds


"I learned that I was capable of change, which is something I really did not think I could do before college. My close friends joked with me throughout my undergrad that I changed degree plans more than anyone else. I dabbled in music performance, music education, and biology before finally finding my niche in human rights and nonprofit organizational studies. I also learned that college is so much more than what I studied, but also about the infinite growth that took place from the choices and challenges that faced me,” Sarah Israel Whitling, Dedman College Scholar, Class of 2015.

Today, Whitling is a Special Projects Administrator for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, continuing to build on her passion for expanding access to music education. By her senior year, she rose from intern to President and CEO of the Bridge the Gap Chamber Players and founded the South Dallas Strings project, a partnership with the Latino Cultural Center to provide affordable music learning opportunities to the children of south Dallas.

Thinking back on her experience with the Dedman College (DC) Scholars Program, Whitling elaborated, “Being a DC Scholar really helped me explore what SMU had to offer. Throughout college, I began to accept my strengths and weaknesses and pursue studies that sparked passions that I did not even know I had before college. Sally Spaniolo and Dr. David Doyle were wonderful mentors and helped push me to continue exploring new outlets and opportunities. I am not sure if I would have found the right degree plan and future career path if it weren't for the DC Scholars Program.”

The DC Scholars Program started small, with just three students in its first class. Since its founding in 2009 and under the leadership of Dr. David Doyle and Sally Spaniolo, the program has grown into a vibrant, transformative experience for 52 current Scholars. The Class of 2020 marks the program’s largest cohort, with 19 new Scholars embarking on their undergraduate journeys as a part of the program.

The aim of the DC Scholars is to foster and nurture exceptional Dedman College students to help them discover and harness their academic passions, allowing them to contribute to the wider campus community as leaders in and out of the classroom and helping them connect with faculty, alumni, and the community at large.  

Dr. Doyle, Assistant Dean and Director of the program, explains, “Personal attention is a guiding principle of the program, which sets it apart. Throughout the Scholars’ undergraduate career, we aim to help them connect with faculty, alumni, and the larger community to help them gain as much from their time at SMU as possible. It’s more than scholarship funds; it’s a nurturing and diverse academic community that allows these exceptional students to pursue their dreams and realize their potential.”

Shaping these students and guiding them up a path to help them achieve more than they envisioned was possible at the start of their undergraduate career is a hallmark of the program. As these students graduate, they have traveled upward on a slope of success that has continued to enhance the academic and professional lives of program alumni. 

To read more, check out Part 2 and Part 3 of the series.