News Archive 2012

A selection of articles, op-eds, TV segments, and other media featuring Center staff.

'E-democracy' the new 'grassroots'


President Barack Obama’s victories securing the White House in 2008 and 2012, guest speakers at the University of Wyoming said this week, can be partially attributed to his campaign’s strategic use of social media, a critical tool for candidates to reach voters.

"If you think about what he’s done, he’s targeted his voters by using the medium they would normally go to and they like and trust," Rita Kirk, a researcher in political campaign communication, said.


SMU Hosts Luncheon Honoring Military Veterans


SMU military veterans were honored at a Nov. 7 luncheon featuring keynote speaker Patrick Walsh, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and senior fellow in SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. The university currently has 170 veterans enrolled.





Margin of Error, Two candidates, two journeys, one race of lost dreams


When the race is done, the balloons have wilted, and the confetti has been swept up, Campaign 2012 may be marked more by its failures than its triumphs.

But here’s the starkest failure in these final days before the vote: Neither candidate has made a convincing enough argument for his presidency to break free of the margin of error in the polls.

No matter who is elected, close to as many Americans will have voted against him as for him.


Using Social Media to Tell Sandy's Story


Sandy may prove to be the first big weather event where so many people turned to social media to get a message across. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were the go-to sites even when the lights went out. Experts said that 62 percent of everyone online uses social media now.

When Sandy barreled onto the scene, social media users greeted her with open arms. "You know, social media has really just come into its own, where people are really comfortable using it, kind of know what it can and can’t do," said Dr. Rita Kirk, a social media expert at SMU. She says one draw is the story of survival. "We want to identify with the person on the street. Maybe it’s somebody who’s decided to ride out the storm and they thought they were in a safe place."


SMU honors distinguished alumni and emerging leader


Philanthropic, civic and business leaders will receive the Southern Methodist University Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor the University bestows upon its graduates.

The 2012 Distinguished Alumni are philanthropic leader Jeanne Tower Cox (’78), former University Park Mayor James H. "Blackie" Holmes III (’57,’59), and entrepreneur Paul B. Loyd, Jr. (‘68). Medical physicist Alonso N. Gutiérrez (’03) will receive the University’s Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes an outstanding alumnus or alumna for achievements within the last 15 years.



KRLD Interviews Two SMU Professors About Thier Dial Testing Technology


Emily Trube of KRLD interviewed two SMU professors on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. The professors, Rita Kirk and Dan Schill, were working in tandem with CNN to gauge undecided voter’s reactions during the Presidential and Vice- Presidential debates.

Dr. Dan Schill was quick to mention that although "zingers" were what the media often looks at during the debate, the voters usually shy away from attacks. He then claimed that the best moments in last week’s VP Debate were the more positive moments.


Dennis Simon speaks on civil rights movement's 50th anniversary


Maguire Public Scholar and SMU Professor of Political Science Dennis Simon will give a lecture on the 50th anniversary of several landmark events in the civil rights movement and the present-day role of race in American politics on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012.

"The Politics of Memory and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement" begins with hors d’oeuvres at 11:30 a.m. and the lecture following at 12 p.m. The event will be held in the second floor mezzanine of McFarlin Auditorium and is open to the public free of charge.



SMU experts, organizations teach an electoral college in 2012


A host of Election 2012 events at SMU will offer opportunities for enlightenment, discussion and debate as election day approaches. Understand what makes presidents tick, analyze election issues and discuss the presidential debates at SMU events open to the community as well as students, faculty and staff.




Distinguished Professor Dennis Simon presents 'Politics of Memory and Legacy of Civil Rights' on Oct. 1 


Acclaimed SMU political science professor Dennis Simon discussed “The Politics of Memory and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement: Reflections from the 50th Anniversary Season” for the fall 2012 Maguire Public Scholar Lecture on Oct. 1.

 The free public event was sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility and included a Q&A session with Simon, an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences.




Voter Registration Rally to be Part of SMU's Constitution Day 2012


SMU will celebrate a day devoted to good citizenship with an event designed to help students exercise their voting rights.

A voter registration drive is the centerpiece of the University’s 2012 Constitution Day observance 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Commons.

The event is cosponsored by the Office of the Provost, Central University Libraries, Hughes-Trigg Student Center and Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.


The Big Short disscussion continues with expert panel 


SMU continues its conversation about the 2012 Common Reading with a panel discussion on issues raised in Michael Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.

The discussion, featuring both campus and business leaders, begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13 in SMU’s DeGolyer Library. A reception precedes it at 6:30 p.m.


What connects with political convention viewers?


The Pony Express is powering one of the signature elements of CNN’s convention coverage: the "dial test" that measures undecided voters’ reactions to the political spectacle.

Southern Methodist University professors Rita Kirk and Dan Schill head the instant feedback effort, employing a simple but illuminating rating system to evaluate speakers’ performances and understand what resonates.



Mustangs Jump into DNC Politics


The Democratic Party took its turn in the political spotlight at this week’s national convention. And once again, members of the SMU community were right in the middle of it.“This is the major leagues,” communication studies professor Rita Kirk said.

Kirk accompanied research partner professor Dan Schill and several undergrad students to Charlotte this week as a part of Hilltop on the Hill, a program for students interested in careers in politics. The students — interning with the same CNN programs as those at the Republican National Convention last week had the opportunity to see what Kirk calls a “rally of the faithful.” 


Ryan's Speech gives undecided voters mild nudge towards Romney


Just a few hundred yards from the podium where Paul Ryan spoke to the roaring Republican faithful, 27 undecided Florida voters listened intently to his words.

In their hands, they held electronic audience reaction dials, twisting them back and forth to record their approval or disapproval second by second, giving instant feedback and real-time ratings of the speech.


Giving Perspective to the GOP convention in Tampa Bay


Professor Rita Kirk, director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, and Dan Schill, assistant professor of communication studies, are conducting "Dial Test" research for CNN.

They not far from the GOP podium for Wednesday and Thursday night during key speeches.

Groups of undecided voters turn knobs on monitors to indicate what they think of what they are hearing. The results will be used to analyze how well the speakers did.


Irving, Rodriguez first in their families to attend college 


DeQuaylin Irving and Cristal Rodriguez, soon to be Conrad High School seniors, recently attended the Kiwanis Key Leadership Conference on the SMU campus thanks to the University’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility. Irving and Rodriguez also participated in the Eagle Scholars college-readiness summer program coordinated by SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development and Vickery Meadow Youth Development. The collaborative, tuition-free program is designed to help first-generation college students realize their potential.






PolicyPulse tests Web app aimed at giving citizens more political clout 


In the Mobile Age, people have become adept at using phones and other devices to search for information, reserve a lunch table or buy shoes.

Now, Dallas startup PolicyPulse aims to use its Web app to empower residents to participate in civic issues in their neighborhood, strengthen community ties and hold government more accountable.




The Future Of Education


Hour 2: Do we share an ethical responsibility to ensure that high quality education is available to all? We’ll explore the roles we can all play this hour with Regina Nippert, director of the Center on Communities and Education at SMU’s Simmons School of Education & Human Development, Professor Rita Kirk, director of SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, and Todd Williams, an education philanthropist and executive director of Commit! They all participated in the first of a series of “From Your Block to the Boardroom” conversations at SMU last week.



The Future of Education 

 (5/15/2012) - Audio

KrysBoyd of KERA radio's Think hosted a discussion May 15 on "The Future of Education" with guests Regina Nippert, director of the Center on Communities and Education at SMU’s Simmons School of Education & Human Development; Professor Rita Kirk, director of SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility; and Todd Williams, an education philanthropist and executive director of Commit!





Dallas mayor, community leaders meet at SMU to discuss education


Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will join North Texas leaders in a public discussion on the community’s ethical role in supporting public education May 7, 2012 at SMU.

As Mike Miles prepares to take over as DISD superintendent, “From Your Block to the Boardroom” is designed to begin a conversation about the community’s role in supporting excellence in education.
The panel discussion, including breakfast, is set for 7:30–9:30 a.m. at the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom on the third floor of SMU’s Umphrey Lee Center, 3300 Dyer St. Tickets are $50 for the public, $25 for SMU employees, and are available online at


80 years later, Peruna's still kickin' 


SMU students gathered on the Dallas Hall lawn for Student Foundation’s celebration of Peruna’s 80th birthday.

Colorful carnival tents, inflatable bounce houses and free food drew more than 550 students to the event.

"I think Peruna had a great time," Eric Sabandal, student foundation's campus events chair, said. "The 'ole 8-0 is an important birthday so we did our best to make it special."

And this year's carnival was special — and bigger than last years with a wider variety of food and attractions.


Medallion Awards Luncheon: Rita Kirk 


 Medallion Awards Luncheon: Rita Kirk Staying Charged and Moving Forward
Rita Kirk, PhD, SMU's Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility
Rita will keynote this session over lunch. We will then conduct our Medallion Awards with WHNT News 19's Greg Screws as emcee. We'll also announce Chapter of the Year and Professional Achievement Award winners, and honor our distinguished "Grovers."




7 Things happening today that you might care about


Walter J. Humann, a longtime Dallas business executive and civic leader, will be honored with the 2012 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from Southern Methodist University.

The award will be presented at a noon luncheon in the Belo Mansion.

Among many other achievements over his long career, Humann is credited with helping to create Dallas Area Rapid Transit and with playing a lead role in the desegregation of Dallas public schools.


Walt Humann to receive SMU's 2012 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award 


Businessman and public servant Walter J. Humann ’67 is chiefly recognized for creating the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system and helping desegregate Dallas schools. For these and other accomplishments he will receive the 2012 J. ErikJonsson Ethics Award from SMU at a noon luncheon at the Belo Mansion April 2.

Presented each year by SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award is given to individuals who exemplify the spirit of moral leadership and public virtue. In Humanns’s case, that involves his work in improving education, transportation, race relations, government organization, urban planning and infrastructure in North Texas. It also recognizes his time as a successful businessman: Humann leads his own firm, WJH Corporation, and has held top management positions in other major corporations, including Hunt Consolidated, Memorex-Telex and the LTV Corporation.


Walter J. Humann, creditied with modernizing Life in Dallas, to be honored with top ethics award April 2


Prominent businessman and public servant Walter J. Humann is chiefly recognized for creating the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system and helping desegregate Dallas schools with vision and skillful diplomacy. For these and other accomplishments he will receive the 2012 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU at a noon luncheon at the Belo Mansion April 2.

Tickets for the event are $50 for individuals; sponsorship tables for 10 also are available for $1,500. For ticket information, contact Erin Sutton at 214-768-4575 or



Humann to receive prestigious Erik Jonsson Ethics Award


Businessman and public servant Walter J. Humann will receive the 2012 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from Southern Methodist University at an April 2 luncheon at the Belo Mansion.

Presented each year by SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, the award is given for moral leadership and public virtue.



Website Created By Texas Agriculture Commissioner Raises Awareness About Border Security 


It is a website filled with testimonials of run-ins with drug cartels and border violence. The videos show farmers, ranchers, land owners and Texas Rangers discussing what they have seen and experienced living on the border with Mexico.

“It’s getting very, very dangerous,” said former farmer Joe Aguilar in one of the videos on the website.
“There is a problem,” said another farmer who wanted to remain anonymous.



Tables of Content Table Hosts - Rita Kirk 


Dr. Rita Kirk is the Director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility and a professor in the Division of Communication Studies at Southern Methodist University. Kirk is a member of the Altshuler Distinguished Faculty and a Meadow's Distinguished Teaching Professor. She also holds the "M Award" for teaching from the SMU student body. Her research is in the area of political campaign communication, focusing on emergent technologies, the development of public arguments, and hate speech. Kirk and research partner Dan Schill serve as dial test analysts for CNN during the 2008 and 2012 Presidential primaries. Kirk is also a consultant to several national and international businesses on issues relating to communication strategy.



SMU's Maguire Center helps students build better communities 


For most college students, deciding to volunteer and give back to the community can be overwhelming in the context of demanding student schedules. But, for many, the effort is worth the reward.

"I was surprised at how I too had grown," Kelly Vowell, a 2011 Maguire Center Intern and Meadows graduate student, said. "It gave me several opportunities to learn patience and versatility. They instilled in me a deeper sense of compassion for others."

How do students like Vowell find the time? And where do they learn where to volunteer?
They visit the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.


Dallas city officials acknowledge retirement party funds sought inappropriately 


At first glance, the retirement announcement posted inside Dallas City Hall on Friday morning looked like others that frequently adorn the bulletin boards there.
It heralded a coming retirement party for Rebecca Rasor, the city's managing director of the Trinity River Corridor Project.

But then the flier said this: "Special thanks to our contributing sponsors." It listed half a dozen companies, including key city contractors on the Trinity River project.



Komen Reverses Plan To Cut Planned Parenthood 


he Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The startling decision came after three days of virulent criticism that resounded across the Internet, jeopardizing Komen's iconic image.

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," a Komen statement said.


Douglas Bauer Incentive Scholarship 


The Division of Communication Studies is pleased to announce The Douglas Bauer Incentive Scholarship

Due to a gracious gift of alumnus Douglas Bauer, in honor of Dr. Rita Kirk, we are able to offer incentive scholarships for the 2012-2013 academic year.




SMU eyes bright future 


As SMU looks forward to the next century, its administrators are working hard to raise the university's reputation across the board.

A $750 million academic strategic plan is set to enhance academic quality through endowed faculty positions and student quality through merit-based and financial aid scholarships, adding uniqueness to an already diverse campus experience.

The eventual goal of the large project is to raise SMU's academic ranking.
"We want to be in the top 50 schools in the nation," Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for development and external affairs, said.


Report calls for prosecution of top government officials for acts of torture 


Today, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, people across the United States are standing in protest against the unlawful detention and torture of people presumed to be guilty in the “war on terror.” It is hard to believe that sites such as Guantánamo and Bagram are still open, and that the high-ranking US government officials that authorized detainment and torture at these centers have never been held accountable for their crimes.




Letters to the President #1086 Dial testing in South Carolina


I am in the lovely city of Charleston, South Carolina, awaiting the results from the New Hampshire primary. It has been a nice day here that steadily sped up as the hours passed. Now we are closing in on the first returns and everything is buzzing.





Oil Company and Houston Settle 20 years of Wrangling 


More than 20 years ago, Maguire Oil prepared to start drilling by the banks of Lake Houston. It finally got a payday last week.

The city of Houston sent Maguire a check for $4,285,812.07 on Dec. 29, to settle a lawsuit that spanned two trials, four appeals and the administrations of four mayors.

The story starts in 1991, when the city granted Maguire a drilling permit near the lake. A Maguire crew brought in a rig to within 300 feet of a lake that is one of the city's primary sources of drinking water. A city officer patrolling the lake ordered the crew to stop, citing an ordinance prohibiting drilling within 1,000 feet of the shore. The Maguire team countered with its permit.
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