Dallas & SMU: The Power of Partnership (2012)

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SMU Today: Public Service Programs

SMU's commitment to public service learning and engagement for its students is reflected in academic courses with a required service learning component and in the student volunteer projects of campus organizations. Service programs are an important dimension of SMU's mission to develop leadership and civic responsibility among students.

More than 2,500 students are engaged in community service each year, amounting to over 200,000 hours of public service, most of which benefits Dallas and the region. Through the University's new curriculum starting in fall 2012, service learning opportunities will be significantly increased.

Student Service Learning Programs

The University's service learning experiences include these kinds of programs:

Center for Academic-Community Engagement

As part of the curriculum of urban studies classes, students are required to provide service, such as tutoring disadvantaged school children in low-income areas of Dallas. Each year four students live in an SMU house located in one of these neighborhoods so they can be daily mentors for the neighborhood children.


  • Civil Clinic
  • Criminal Defense Clinic
  • Criminal Prosecution Clinic
  • Federal Taxpayers Clinic
  • Small Business Clinic
  • W. W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic

Legal Aid Clinics

Each year more than 170 law students provide low-cost legal aid to Dallas residents who cannot otherwise afford legal representation. These services involve six clinics in areas such as tax, small business and child advocacy. The clinics handle more than 360 cases each year.

Pro Bono Law Program

Through the Dedman School of Law's Public Service Program, law students must complete a minimum of 30 hours of law-related public service in Dallas and the region. From 1996-2011, more than 4,049 students have provided more than 161,000 volunteer hours through this program.

Ethics Internships

Maguire and Irby Foundation Family Public Service Internships provide service learning experiences for six graduate and undergraduate students through the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility. Each student completes 200 hours of public service.

Service to Churches

Perkins School of Theology students serve nine-month internships at more than 40 area churches and ministries.

Many other individual courses and programs throughout SMU's seven academic schools have a public service component. Among other examples, human rights courses include student service at Dallas shelters for victims of domestic violence as well as at the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

Student Volunteer Programs

Through student life programs and campus organizations, SMU students volunteer in a wide range of community service programs. Examples include:

Habitat for Humanity

SMU community service ranges from student volunteerism and programs advancing K-12 education to pro bono legal services and partnerships with area churches and arts organizations.

Alternative Spring Break

Established in 1987, this is the second oldest program of its kind in the United States. Students choose from among 20 social service projects located in DFW and other parts of the nation. Similar student service projects are undertaken during winter school breaks.

SMU Service House

This on-campus residence hall houses SMU students who will provide at least 30 hours of volunteer service each semester. The projects range from cleaning up the shores of White Rock Lake to assisting with after-school children's programs in the Dallas Independent School District.

Hunt Leadership Scholars

Students volunteer for service projects that benefit either the SMU campus or the broader DFW community, such as working with Girls Inc. and Heart House.

Big iDeas

This new program awards grants to interdisciplinary teams of students to research real-world problems facing DFW. One Big iDeas team recently investigated the ability of medical patients to understand and correctly use medical information. This led to the establishment of a not-for-profit organization, "Health Literacy Dallas," which focuses on improving communication between providers and patients.


SMU students receiving financial aid under this program are engaged in community service through 20 local social agencies.

K-12 Educational Initiatives for DFW Region

SMU Service House

Students living in the SMU Service House are committed to providing volunteer support on a regular basis, working with area agencies and organizations.

SMU shares in the commitment of major DFW civic organizations to help improve K-12 education in the region. This commitment was a major force behind SMU's establishment of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Today, the Simmons School has partnerships with DFW-area school districts to introduce research-based innovations into the classroom.

Simmons also serves as a resource for education programs of the George W. Bush Institute, such as the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership.

Simmons School examples include:

Reading Initiative

The Institute for Evidence-based Education provides reading interventions for at-risk children.

Children's Garden Program

The Simmons School is the University partner of the Rory Meyers Children's Discovery Garden at the Dallas Arboretum. Simmons faculty will evaluate its effectiveness on children's science learning.

Teach For America Program

Through a partnership with Teach For America (TFA), graduate-level coursework is provided to TFA teachers working in the Dallas Independent School District and other local districts.

Physics Program

The Physics Department offers the QuarkNet program, which brings together teachers for a one-week physics workshop. Assistant Professor Jodi Cooley, as part of a recent grant from the National Science Foundation, will host an area secondary school teacher in her laboratory. They will work on a project related to Cooley's research on the particles that make up dark matter, the mysterious "glue" that represents 80 percent of the matter in the Universe but which has never been seen.

West Dallas Program

The SMU Center for Communities and Education, in collaboration with the Dallas Faith Communities Coalition, promotes education reform in West Dallas, working with 10 public schools and 20 nonprofit agencies.

In addition, Meadows School of the Arts is active in West Dallas. Students mentor young people and have worked with neighborhood groups to help preserve the history of the barrios. SMU journalism students are exploring West Dallas as a focus of reporting to develop stories revealing key issues for the area. SMU sponsored several activities to engage young people in the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, including a hands-on exercise to help them understand bridge design and construction.

The Lyle School of Engineering has made a major commitment to improve K-12 math, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives. They include SMU's Infinity Project, a national award-winning curriculum for middle school, high school and early college students developed in partnership with Texas Instruments and school districts throughout the country.

SMU's partnerships with area educational organizations also include collaborations with local museums. For instance, SMU's Institute for the Study of Earth and Man works with the museums of nature and science in Dallas and Fort Worth on exhibits and educational programs. SMU will loan specimens of dinosaur and plant fossils for exhibits in the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

Meadows students with children

SMU's "Art as Social Practice" brings Meadows School undergraduates to West Dallas to work with school children and is one of several SMU initiatives in this area of the city.

Specialized Programs for Primary and Secondary School Students

SMU offers dozens of on-campus classes, summer camps and learning experiences for primary and secondary students and their teachers such as:

Physician Scientist Training Program

In partnership with UT Southwestern Medical Center, seventh- and eighth-graders from around the United States spend a summer at SMU studying chemistry, microbiology and anatomy. The program particularly focuses on increasing the number of minority students in biomedical research fields.

Beal Bank Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair

Headed by the Department of Physics, this event annually attracts nearly 900 middle school and high school students from the Dallas area and offers $100,000 in cash prizes and scholarships.

Creative Solutions for At-Risk Teens

This program provides training in the visual and performing arts to area at-risk students to give them a positive outlet for self-expression. It is sponsored by Big Thought and hosted by the Meadows School of the Arts, in partnership with the Dallas County Juvenile Department.

DISD American Indian Education Program

American Indian students in the 9th through 12th grades are mentored by SMU American Indian students, and the area's first Native American Youth Education Conference was held at SMU.

Upward Bound

SMU provides tutoring, test preparation classes, career workshops and cultural enrichment for high school students.

Lego Technology Camps

SMU-in-Plano offers Lego Technology camps to help K-12 students learn basic engineering skills, along with more than 60 other workshops in areas ranging from creative arts and literature to mathematics and CSI forensics.

Spirit Camps

Each summer more than 4,500 middle school and high school students from DFW and across the nation come to SMU for training in cheerleading, in collaboration with the National Cheerleaders Association.


Each year 1,000 DFW middle school students come to the SMU campus to learn about engineering from SMU students, working engineers and innovators in a variety of industries.