Dr. Rita Kirk

Rita Kirk

Rita Kirk, Director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, holds the rank of Professor at SMU and is both an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and a Meadows Distinguished Professor. Kirk has been awarded both the prestigious “M” Award and the Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award by the SMU student body. As an academic, she is recognized for her analysis of political and persuasive campaigns. She is the author of several award-winning books and numerous articles, including Political Empiricism: Communications Strategies in State and Regional Elections; Hate Speech, a book analyzing implications for hate discourse in public communication, with coeditor David Slayden; and Soundbite Culture: The Death of Discourse in a Wired World. Specializing in communication strategy, she has more than 30 years of experience as a strategist for city council, mayoral, state, U.S. Representative, and gubernatorial races.

In addition to her political consulting, she has served as a communication consultant to several national and multinational corporations on public policy matters. Kirk and research colleague Dan Schill conducted dial tests for CNN and ABC-Hearst/Argyll during the 2008 Presidential primary and general elections debates and continue to work with them during Presidential State of the Union addresses. Kirk holds a bachelor's degree in Communication/Political Science and a master's degree in communications, both from the University of Arkansas. She received her Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Missouri.


Candy Crespo

Candy Crespo

Candy Crespo is the assistant director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at SMU and a guest lecturer at the Center for Nonprofit Management. She joined SMU direct from The Glover Park Group in Washington, D.C., where she worked in public affairs and served as special assistant to former White House Press Secretary and GPG Founding Partner Joe Lockhart. Specializing in crisis communications and reputation branding, Crespo provided strategic account support for Fortune 500 companies. Her brand portfolio includes Microsoft, Grocery Manufacturers Association, HBO, Hewlett Foundation, PhRMA, Pfizer and Univision.

Previous experience also includes extensive work in non-profit communications and communication research at various international non-governmental organizations including The Ormylia Center, Ormylia, Greece; The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, London, England; The Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM; and Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation, Dallas, TX. In addition, she has worked for CNN as a dial test and focus group facilitator for their live coverage of the Presidential Debates and State of the Union Addresses.

Red and blue, thru and thru, Crespo graduated from SMU with a B.A. in Corporate Communications & Public Affairs and a minor concentration in Spanish. She recently completed SMU’s Cox School of Business Graduate Marketing Certificate Program and is currently enrolled in the Masters in Higher Education Leadership.

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