Women's Symposium

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History and Founder

The Women's Symposium was created in 1966 as a part of the University's Fiftieth Anniversary celebration by the late Emmie V. Baine, Dean of Women at SMU from 1962 to 1988. The Symposium is the longest continuously running program of its nature in the country and one of SMU's oldest and most distinguished traditions.

The Symposium was designed as a unique educational experience for SMU students. Students begin the year-long planning process for the Symposium each Spring. Working with SMU staff and faculty, the students define the topic and workshop content and then use the next semester and half to implement the design. After extensive training, students are paired with faculty members and community representatives to facilitate workshops and discussion sessions.

The annual forum brings together women and men of differing ages and multicultural backgrounds to examine and discuss topics of national interest. The Symposium is a product of a year's work by joint committees of students, faculty, and community leaders. The program features nationally recognized speakers as well as topical seminars and workshops conducted by students, community leaders, and SMU faculty and staff.

Within the historical formation of the Symposium lie several goals or assumptions of need. The Symposium's founders recognized:

  • That women students at SMU needed more opportunities to interact with professional and volunteer leaders in the community.
  • That the ability to develop leadership skills in a multigenerational, multicultural setting would provide important models for future community involvement.

The primary goals of the program are:

1.   To encourage women to assume roles of social and political 
        leadership within their communities;

2.   To provide a forum in which women and men may examine 
        the societal impact of the changing roles of women; and

3.   To provide an opportunity for female and male students to 
        develop leadership skills within a multigenerational, 
        multiethnic model.

Since 1966, over one hundred speakers have been brought to the campus by the Symposium, including:

  • Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
  • Wilma Mankiller, Tribal Leader
  • Maya Angelou, Author and Poet 
  • Naomi Wolf, Author    
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator & Former First Lady
  • Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Senator
  • Cokie Roberts, News Commentator
  • John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist
  • Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Leader
  • Alvin Toffler, Futurist
  • Ann Crittenden, Author
  • View complete list of past speakers

Approximately 500 community leaders, college students, and high school students register for the Symposium. One-third of the registrants are SMU students, with the remainder representing professional and volunteer community leaders, secondary school students, and faculty and students from other colleges and universities.

For the greater Dallas community, the Symposium is a vital event and, in fact, promoted the establishment of special programs for women on other university and college campuses.

Archived records of the Women's Symposium dating back to 1966