Phillips Foundation funds new SMU Impact Lab

DALLAS (SMU) – Phillips Foundation has announced a $1.7 million multiyear grant to SMU (Southern Methodist University) to establish the SMU Impact Lab, a student-focused initiative to invest in commercial opportunities that produce substantial financial and social returns.

A collaboration between the University’s Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business, the new SMU Impact Lab will equip the next generation of Mustangs to understand impact investing through education and practice. The lab will also enrich the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in North Texas.

The SMU Impact Lab will provide students, faculty and alumni the opportunity to invest in solutions to complex community problems. It combines the social, creative and arts entrepreneurship programs of the Meadows School of the Arts and the traditional investing and financial expertise of the Cox School of Business. Through hands-on experiences, students across campus will evaluate investable opportunities for both measurable social impact and financial returns.

"The SMU Impact Lab is an exceptional resource center for our University that is designed for those interested in investing for the greater good,” said Samuel S. Holland, Algur H. Dean of SMU Meadows School of the Arts. “The gift from Phillips Foundation will be invaluable to the program and support our larger SMU community interested in positive impact alongside their passions and careers.” 

A portion of the Phillips Foundation’s grant will support SMU’s existing Real Estate Impact Investment Fund, a student-led fund recently created to spur innovative investment in underserved communities throughout North Texas. This experiential learning fund targets a blended investment approach that considers both financial and impact metrics, and focuses on real estate opportunities in overlooked neighborhoods. Profits are split equally between ongoing support of the fund’s diverse portfolio and a scholarship program to benefit real estate-focused students at SMU.

“This fund gives students practical learning experiences in the constantly shifting real estate markets of DFW and North Texas. It will also enable us to create opportunities for future generations of students by providing scholarships powered by the fund’s investments,” said Joseph Cahoon, director of the Cox School’s Folsom Institute for Real Estate and professor of practice in real estate.

The grant from Phillips Foundation adds to SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow, the University’s multiyear $1.5 billion campaign for impact. In particular, the grant furthers the campaign’s goals to enrich teaching and research and enhance our campus and community for future generations.

“We selected SMU as a collaborator on this initiative after identifying that this region needs an engine for social innovation and impact investing education in particular,” said Elizabeth Carlock Phillips ’09, executive director of Phillips Foundation. “As Phillips Foundation has learned in practice, it is possible to align profits and purpose. We are excited for the SMU Impact Lab to equip and inspire a new generation of impact investors and social entrepreneurs.”