Tables of Content

Tables of Content events

Tables of Content

Table Hosts

Twenty table hosts will lead discussions on a variety of topics during the Tables of Content dinner. Table host information is still being updated so please check the website often for new hosts and topics.

Caroline Brettell, University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, SMU

Topic: So What Should We Do About Immigration Reform?


Caroline Brettell joined the faculty of SMU in 1988 and is currently University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Ruth Collins Altshuler Professor and Director of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute. She has a B.A. degree from Yale University and a Ph.D. degree from Brown University. She has spent her career studying immigrant populations in Europe, Canada, and the United States (most recently in the DFW area). Her particularinterests are in the gendered aspects of migration, issues of identity and citizenship, and the relationship between immigrants and cities. In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters she is the author, co-author or editor/co-editor of 17 books. Her most recent books are: Gender and Migration (2016); Identity and the Second Generation: How Children of Immigrants Find their Space (2016; co-edited with Faith Nibbs); Following Father Chiniquy: Immigration, Religious Schism and Social Change in Nineteenth Century Illinois (2015);  Anthropological Conversations: Talking Culture Across Disciplines (2015); Migration Theory: Talking Across Disciplines (3rd edition, co-edited with James F. Hollifield (2015); Civic Engagements: The Citizenship Practices of Indian and Vietnamese Immigrants (co-authored with Deborah Reed-Danahay; 2012); Citizenship, Immigration and Belonging: Immigrants in Europe and the United States (co-edited with Deborah Reed-Danahay; 2008); and Twenty-First Century Gateways:  Immigrant Incorporation in Suburbia (co-edited with Audrey Singer and Susan Hardwick; 2008). Brettell has served as Chair of the Department of Anthropology at SMU (1994-2004), Dean-ad-Interim of Dedman College (2006-2008) at SMU, President of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe (1996-1998), and President of the Social Science History Association (2000-2001). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.


Sam Childers, Author and Historian

Topic: The President's Workplace: A History of the Oval Office


A native of Tulsa, Sam Childers holds a B.S. in history from Texas Woman’s University. He has served on the staffs of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta and the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture. He is past president of the Friends of the SMU Libraries, is a trustee of Dallas Heritage Village, a board member of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, and is a member of the the Dallas Landmark Commission. The author of numerous periodical and journal articles, his book Historic Dallas Hotels was published in 2010. The White House Historical Association will release The President’s Workplace: A History of the Oval Office in the fall.

Michael Corris, Professor of Art, SMU

Topic: The Global Art World


Professor Michael Corris (Ph.D. History of Art, University College London; M.F.A. Painting/Media, MICA, Baltimore; B.A. Art with Honors, Brooklyn College/City University of New York) is an artist and writer on art whose work is most closely identified with the critical practices and attitudes of Conceptual art.

As a participant in the collective Art & Language in New York (1972-76), Corris exhibited and published internationally, was a founding editor of The Fox, engaged in the organization of artists, and contributed to the debate surrounding the conjunction of avant-garde art and political activism. Such issues and contingent practices — once contentious and divisive of the art world — have coalesced since the mid-1980s to form stable and manageable forms of art and social engagement. These attitudes and practices are familiar to us as “institutional critique,” “interventionist art” and “art & social practice,” among other terms. For Corris, these practices continue to function as cultural formations open to critical inquiry and productive destabilization.

Corris’s practice as an artist exemplifies versatility. His art utilizes a variety of discursive platforms — public exhibitions, essay writing, exhibition organizing, and historical research — that are essentially situational, self-managed and generated by collaborative and conversational encounters that take place within and outside the art world.

Corris’s work may be found in public and private collections internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Le Consortium (Dijon), Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Tate Britain (London), Staatsgaleri (Stuttgart), Le Musée des Beaux-Arts (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland), Progressive Art Collection (Cleveland and Tampa), Collection Ghislain Mollet-Viéville (Paris), Collection Phillippe Méaille/Château du Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art (Montsoreau), and the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles).

Corris’s research and artistic practice has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the British Academy, the Arts Council of England, the Sam Taylor Fellowship, the Gerald R. Ford Senior Research Fellowship, Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, and the University Research Council (SMU).

Will Evans, Founder and Publisher, Deep Vellum Publishing

Topic: The Mad Art of Literary Publishing in the 21st Century


Will Evans is the founder and publisher of Deep Vellum, a nonprofit literary publisher dedicated to bringing the world into conversation through literature. Evans is also the founder of Deep Vellum Books, an independent bookstore and cultural community center in Dallas’s historic Deep Ellum neighborhood. Evans graduated from Emory University with degrees in History and Russian Literature, and received a Master’s degree in Russian Culture from Duke University. His translation of Oleg Kashin’s political satire novel, Fardwor, Russia! A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin, was published by Restless Books in 2016, and working on this translation was the inspiration for founding Deep Vellum. A native of Wilmington, North Carolina, Evans wasn't born in Texas, but married a girl from Weatherford and got here as fast as he could.

Carmen Goldthwaite, Journalist and Syndicated Investigative Reporter

Topic: Shining the Light on the Long Forgotten


Carmen Goldthwaite, career journalist and syndicated investigative reporter, bent those skills into a spade to unearth stories of Texas women ranchers, lives and tales little known or long forgotten. She’s written their stories in Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie (2014) and Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History (2012).

She teaches creative writing, including narrative nonfiction, at SMU and serves as a director and vice president-elect of Archives of Women of the Southwest at SMU DeGolyer Library and as Writer-in-Residence, TCU Schieffer School of Community Journalism. In 2013 she won “Best in Short Fiction” in a national competition while her novel, Whispering Spirit, made its way to “Finalist” in two national contests. Her latest essay, “Night Bull,” appeared in Chicken Soup of the Soul: Miracles Happen that hit bookstores, Feb. 4 2014. In 2012, a story by Carmen about her mother, “Burgers and Butterflies,” appeared in Chicken Soup of the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.

Other publishing credits include Wild West, True West, American Cowboy, Fort Worth Texas Magazine, Persimmon Hill, and Latitudes & Attitudes. She also has written numerous “how to write” pieces for Writers Guide to 2010, 2011 and 2013 editions. She’s been published in The Way West and Wild Women of the Old West anthologies. Earlier, her investigative reporting led to statewide awards and syndication with Scripps-Howard News, topping off a 20-year newspaper career.

Drawing on years of experience, Carmen loves to pass on the tips—and excitement—to other writers as “writer-in-residence” at her alma mater, TCU’s Schieffer School of Texas Community Newspapers program; in SMU’s creative writing program; in her home with small groups, and at conferences and seminars. 

Joan Gosnell, University Archivist, SMU

Topic: Coursing through SMU History


Joan Gosnell has been fascinated by institutional history for most of her adult life. As a history graduate student at the College of William and Mary, her chosen topic was a sports scandal at that University.  Later as the archivist at JCPenney, she learned more than you could imagine about the life of Mr. Penney and his chain of stores. As the University Archivist at SMU, Joan is responsible for collecting, organizing, and making the more than 500 collections of SMU’s past available to students and scholars. Although Joan has been the Archivist since 2004 and a member of Friends of the SMU Libraries since 2005, this is her first time to host a table.

Sean Griffin, Professor, SMU Meadows Division of Film and Media Arts

Topic: What Is a Film Musical, and Who Gets to Decide?


Sean Griffin is a Professor of Film and Media Arts at Southern Methodist University. He is the author of "Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out" (1999). He is the editor of "Hetero: Queering Representations of Straightness" (2009) and "What Dreams Were Made Of: Movie Stars of the 1940s" (2011). With Harry M. Benshoff, he co-edited "Queer Cinema: The Film Reader" (2005) and co-authored "America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies" (2009) and "Queer Images: A History of Gay and Lesbian Film in America" (2006). He has published numerous articles on the musical genre, and can be followed on Twitter @SingingFilmProf

Rick Halperin, Director of SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program

Topic: No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland


Rick Halperin is a recognized international authority on the death penalty, genocide, slavery, human trafficking, torture and human rights.

He is a past Chair of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, USA. He served on the Board of Directors for several organizations, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Human Rights Initiative, Capital Punishment Investigation and Education Services, Jefferson-Titus Refugee Foundation, Center for Survivors of Torture and the International Rescue Committee. 

Don Hobbs, Collector

Topic: Collecting Sherlock Holmes


Don Hobbs is member of The Baker Street Irregulars, with the Investiture name of Inspector Lestrade. He collected Sherlock Holmes related books for more than 35 year, amassing the largest and most complete collection of foreign language translations in the world. His collection featured 106 of the 109 languages known to have at least one translation of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In October 2017, the entire Sherlock Holmes collection, over 12,000 volumes was donated to SMU. Mr. Hobbs is a lifelong resident of the Dallas area, currently residing in Flower Mound with his wife, Joyce and an empty upstairs library. When not collecting (now for SMU and not for himself), Mr. Hobbs works as a Clinical Consultant for a radiology software company. He and his wife enjoy good food, wine and traveling, especially to Italy and Spain. As empty nesters, with no pets, their suitcases are always packed and ready to go. They always travel with an extra, empty suitcase. This allow them to buy many books, mostly ones that they cannot read.


Stephanie Martin, Assistant Professor, SMU

Topic: Engaging the President During the Digital Age


Sam (Stephanie A.) Martin is a scholar of public address and political communication, with a particular interest in the public discourses of conservative social movements, especially evangelical voters. Martin argues that through understanding the stories these believers tell one another – especially in their churches – about American exceptionalism, traditionalism and the importance of hard work, we can come to understand something about their political priorities. That is, these Christians are not only, or even primarily, concerned about values questions like abortion, but instead share a worldview about who the country once was and so should be again. This, in turn, sheds some light on their relative lack of support for both the Obama presidency, as well as their surprising embrace of Donald Trump.

Martin has also written about the rights of citizens to protest and dissent, and questions of visual ethics and photography given the realities of digital journalism and the First Amendment.

Martin brings nearly 20 years of experience in corporate, media and political (campaign) work to bear in her research. She worked for her first political campaign in the summer between her senior year of high school and first year of college, when she volunteered at a phone bank for a candidate to the United States Senate from her home state of Idaho. Since that time, she has remained an active participant in and observer of the United States political process and has worked on both national and statewide campaigns. As a media practitioner, Martin served as a project coordinator and staff writer for a PBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., and has also written extensively for several business-to-business publications sponsored by General Motors. She began her career as a project manager and industrial engineer, first for the Boeing Company and then for Hewlett-Packard.

As a teacher, Martin is deeply committed to helping students learn to think critically and ask hard, yet often obvious questions, as well as find ways to make their classroom experiences apply to their everyday, practical (and professional) lives. She encourages her students to apply their education to questions of social justice wherever they can, and to believe in the always-revolutionary notion that one person can make a real difference in the world.

Dr. Martin frequently appears as an expert commentator and as a consultant for news stories.


Michael Meredith, Award-Winning Film and Television Director

Topic: Preserving The Pillars


Michael Meredith is an American independent filmmaker and photojournalist. He has written, directed and produced films such as; The Open Road, Three Days of Rain and Land of Plenty and worked with Jeff Bridges, Justin Timberlake, Kate Mara and Peter Falk. Michael recently produced and directed The Ice Bowl, a critically acclaimed documentary currently airing on NFL Network and Amazon. With his next project, First Cowboys, he explores the impact his father and the Cowboys had on the 1960s culture in Texas. Michael is Don Meredith’s son, SMU alumni and the first Dallas Cowboy in history.


Michael will discuss Preserving the Pillars, a campaign concept to help preserve Dallas culture, memorialize its icons and entertain a new generation of both local and national audience members.


Mike Merschel, Dallas Morning News, Assistant Arts & Life Editor

Topic: Both Sides Now: How Does a Books Editor Become an Author?


Michael Merschel is the author of the novel Revenge of the Star Survivors, which Holiday House published in 2017. For almost 25 years, he’s been an editor at The Dallas Morning News; since 2006, he has overseen books coverage. As a freelance humorist, he has contributed to public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion and had two short plays produced by Dallas’ Ground Zero Theater Company. He also composed an out-of-office reply that was mentioned in The New York Times and featured on NPR. Although he was once a Human of New York, he lives in suburban Dallas with his wife and three kids, who say he is not all that funny, usually. Learn more at


Photo credit:  Evans Caglage


K.C. Mmeje, SMU Vice President for Student Affairs

Topic: Mass Shootings: What Will It Take to Bring About Change?


Dr. Kenechukwu (K.C.) Mmeje is the Vice President for Student Affairs and oversees the Office of the Dean of Student Life; Residence Life; Student Activities, Conduct; Career Development; Campus Ministries and Health Programs, including the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center, Hughes-Trigg Student Center, and Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. If it involves students, K.C. has a hand in it.

K.C. comes to SMU after eight years at Loyola University Chicago, first as associate dean of student life and as assistant vice president and dean of students for the past three years. While there, he was responsible for Student Activities and Greek Affairs, Student Leadership Development, Multicultural Student Affairs, Conduct, Off-Campus Student Life, the Office of the Dean of Students, as well as Loyola’s Behavioral Concerns Team and Threat Assessment Team.

Prior to his time in Chicago, K.C. worked at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles from 2004-2010 working in student judicial affairs and leading the USC Scholars Program. K.C.’s career in student affairs began in 2003 at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

K.C. earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and black studies from the University of California-Santa Barbara and master of education in higher education student affairs administration from Vermont. He completed his studies with a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from USC.

K.C. is married to Natasha Mmeje and they have two daughters, Anaya and Savannah.

SMU students are and always will be the primary concern on the campus and K.C.’s career exemplifies commitment to student well-being.


Rena Pederson, Author and Journalist

Topic: The King of Diamonds


Ms. Rena Pederson, a trail blazer for women in journalist, is a faculty member at Southern Methodist University, where she teaches persuasive writing.  She previously was Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications at the U.S. Department of State, serving as a senior speechwriter. Ms. Pederson served on the Pulitzer Prize Board for nine years and received national recognition as Vice President and Editorial Page Editor at The Dallas Morning News for 16 years.  During her tenure at the newspaper, Texas Monthly named her as one of the most powerful women in Texas.  Pederson is the author of What’s Next? (featured on the Oprah Winfrey television show) and THE BURMA SPRING: Aung San Suu Kyi and the New Struggle for the Soul of a Nation. Her opinion pieces have appeared in The American Interest, The Weekly Standard, Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Post.


Pederson will discuss her forthcoming book, The King of Diamonds, which is due out in 2019 and tells the story of a famous jewel thief who stole jewels from some of Dallas’ wealthiest families from 1959-1970— was never caught and none of the gems recovered.  


Edward D. "Chip" Robertson, Jr., Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri

Topic: Life near Death — The Judiciary, Death Row and the Right to Die


Edward D. “Chip” Robertson, Jr. is a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri. Robertson was 33 years old when then-Governor John Ashcroft picked him to serve on the court. He served as a judge on Missouri’s highest court until 1998, and as chief justice of that court from 1991 to 1993. In 1998, he left the Supreme Court to join Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson, P.C., the Kansas City firm that led Missouri’s lawsuit against tobacco companies.


Robertson currently serves as Director of the Faith and Work Project at Highland Park United Methodist Church where he is charged with creating a faith/life/work integration program for laity in one of the United Methodist Church’s largest congregations.


Robertson received his B.A. from Westminster College. He received his J.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and his L.L.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law.


Robertson is married to Renee, his wife of 42 years and has three children and four grandchildren.


Clyde Valentin, Director of Ignite/Arts Dallas, SMU Meadows School of the Arts

Topic: What Makes Dallas Go? The Role of Art & Culture in Shaping Place


Clyde Valentín was born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He is the Co-founder and former Executive Director of Hi-ARTS (formerly known as the Hip-Hop Theater Festival). He is the inaugural Director of Ignite/Arts Dallas: A Center for People, Purpose + Place at SMU Meadows School of the Arts. The mission of Ignite/Arts Dallas is to challenge the imagination of students and citizens to foster more just and vibrant communities through art and culture. Clyde was a 2015 Community + Culture Fellow of the National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program.


Valentín has served as a consultant and panelist for Creative Capital, has worked with Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) on their leadership development programs, served as a consultant for the YouthSpeaks/Brave New Voices Leadership Cohort and is a Senior Advisor for the New England Foundation for the Arts, National Touring Project (NTP). He is also on the Advisory Board of the Latino Theater Commons and is serves on the Board of Theater Communications Group (TCG). He has presented at numerous conferences including the National Association of Latino Arts & Culture (NALAC), Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and the National Performance Network’s (NPN) Annual Meeting, the Alliance of Artists Communities (AAC) and for the Atlanta Regional Arts Fund. He is a member of AlternateROOTS, the regional service organization for Southern-based artists and organizations who focus on community engaged practices and social justice.


Bonnie Wheeler, Associate Professor and Director of Medieval Studies, SMU

Topic: Feminism and the #MeToo Moment


Bonnie Wheeler’s major interests are medieval romance (especially Arthurian), Chaucer, gender studies, and pedagogy. She taught at Columbia University and Case Western University before moving to SMU.  She is founding editor of Arthuriana, the quarterly journal of the International Arthurian Society/North American Branch (1994-2009). Professor Wheeler has edited, co-edited, or co-authored thirteen essay collections. She is series editor for two Palgrave Macmillan’s peer-reviewed series, The New Middle Ages and Arthurian and Courtly Cultures.


Dr. Wheeler has received SMU’s Outstanding Teacher Award six times, and she is a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Perrine Prize for excellence in scholarship and teaching. She was appointed by the Medieval Academy of America to found TEAMS (Committee on Teaching Medieval Studies) and has been elected to many professional leadership positions (Councillor of The Medieval Academy of America, President of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, Council Nominating Committee for the national Phi Beta Kappa Society, etc.) A frequent historical and literary consultant for the A&E, the History Channel, and BBC, she was also selected as a “Great Teacher” for the distinguished Teaching Company. An international committee of professional colleagues and friends founded the Bonnie Wheeler Fund (, which serves to support women faculty, in her honor in 2010. A festschrift in her honor—Magistra Doctissima: Essays in Honor of Bonnie Wheeler—was published in 2013.


Rusty Williams, Author and Historian

Topic: Red River Bridge War: A Texas Oklahoma Border Battle


In the summer of 1931, Texas and Oklahoma armed up and went to war with one another over a two-bit toll bridge across the Red River. Armed Texas Rangers guarded the south bank, Oklahoma National Guard patrolled the north bank, traffic backed up for miles, and travel between the two states was cut off for three weeks. (And it had nothing to do with football!) Red River Bridge War (Texas A&M University Press) was named “Outstanding Book on Oklahoma History” by the Oklahoma Historical Society. Rusty is also the author of My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans (University of Kentucky Press) and Historic Photos of Dallas in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (Turner Publishing)


Tom Williams, Author

Topic: Glory on the Hilltop


Tom Williams received both a B.B.A. and M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University. Mr. Williams has a love of history, an interest in math and statistical trends, and a life-long fascination of the elements of time and luck in the events of sports and life. Through his SMU connections, Williams met Joe Redwine Patterson, 1947 SMU Head Cheerleader, who was proclaimed by the SMU Daily Campus in 2016, as SMU’s biggest fan of the past century. Inspired by Patterson’s stories and tales of SMU, Williams was motivated to write, Glory on the Hilltop – The Story of the 1947 SMU Football SeasonWilliams resides in Dallas, Texas, where he has been an IT professional for 50 years.


Leanne Young, Executive Director, UTD Brain Performance Institute

Topic: Maintaining Brain Health Over Your Entire Life Span


After more than 20 years in engineering, Leanne Young joined the Center for BrainHealth to lead its Brain Performance Institute. Prior to joining the Brain Performance Institute, Leanne ran a division of Applied Research Associates, as a defense contractor, and helped establish human vulnerability as a core business area for that company.


Leanne is a nationally recognized expert in blast injury research and worked with the Department of Defense’s Combatting Terrorism Technology Support Office to obtain the first histological evidence of primary blast-induced brain injuries. She worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to lead the first clinical trials of blast-induced brain injuries and, working with the Office of Naval Research, she led development of a computer model for planning the medical response to a blast attack on a ship.


Leanne recently completed her doctoral degree in cognitive neuroscience. While studying under Dr. Daniel Krawczyk, Leanne combined her past career goals with a dual focus on social neuroscience and virtual reality-based characterization and treatment of functional impairment associated with traumatic brain injuries.