Frequently-Asked Questions

We know, it's a lot. Engage Dallas is complex, even when we try to keep it simple.

Explore our frequently asked questions for self-help resources.

No. Service hours must be earned from monthly, individual (e.g., Solo Service, Individual Pathways, or Engage Dallas Internship Program), or annual (e.g., #1Day4Dallas, Alternative Breaks) service opportunities hosted or supported by Engage Dallas.

It is possible. While Engage Dallas is likely the most readily-available way for you to earn the Community Engagement Proficiency and Experience, other organizations such as Hilltop Scholars and Mustang Heroes offer ways to earn the proficiency.

With Engage Dallas, we have strived to make the process as straightforward and simple as possible. By following the Engage Dallas Canvas Course, you are completing the necessary academic work required for when you apply for the Community Engagement Proficiency and Experience. Then, Engage Dallas organizes the service events for you so you can volunteer with students in your Residential Commons. 

Yes, and you have a few options! Engage Dallas has three types of direct service that may be available to do on your own:

  • Solo Service. Short volunteer projects done on your own with one of your Residential Commons' Community Partner(s). 
    • Ex: pack food one Saturday, provide afterschool tutoring on Tuesday afternoons, staff a food pantry, answer phones on Tuesday mornings
  • Individual Pathways. Longer commitments, normally 5 - 20 hours, to volunteer with one of your Residential Commons Community Partners. 
    • Ex: redesigning a non-profit partners website, designing a marketing campaign for a large-scale fundraising event
  • Internships. Semester or year-long commitments to volunteer with one of your commons Community Partners. 
    • Ex: volunteering as a social media coordinator for a STEM education program

Talk to your Engage Dallas Director about opportunities that may be available with your community partners. We also publish some opportunities in the Engage Dallas Canvas Course under your Residential Commons group within the People module.

For general engagement hours, students can complete supplemental training in the Engage Dallas Canvas Course at any time.

Students are encouraged to volunteer within their Residential Commons. If you unable to attend the service events hosted within your Commons, talk to your Engage Dallas Director about opportunities available to complete service on your own or with another Commons.

Please note, while we do allow students to serve with another Commons, students that reside or are affiliated with the host commons will have priority if the service event is full.

Typically, yes. If the participant needs to arrive late or leave early, depending on the event, the student may be able to drive themselves, use a ride-sharing service, or take a DART train or bus. Talk to your Engage Dallas Director about your specific situation.

No. A student may participate in a general engagement opportunity at any time.

No. We prioritize direct service as being interactions with members of the South and West Dallas community. 

We've developed an hour-checker tool where you can request the number of direct and general engagement hours you've accrued at services events organized by Engage Dallas. Solo service, individual pathways, and internships are not reflected in the report. Request your report here.

If you are using these service hours for the Community Engagement Proficiency and Experience, be sure to use the Engagement Hours Log form (available in Canvas). You are responsible for tracking your service hours to submit when you apply for your degree requirement.

Service opportunities are published on your Residential Common’s SMU Connect webpage. You can find all Engage Dallas service events under the Connect.SMU Events tab and filter by the Engage Dallas category.

Individual service opportunities like Solo Service, Individual Pathways, and the Internship Program are shared through the Engage Dallas Canvas Course under your Residential Commons' homepage within the People module.

Community Partners were interviewed and selected based on several factors including:

  • The partner’s capacity for volunteer service
  • SMU’s ability to provide volunteer service to the partner
  • The partner’s alignment with one of the residential commons’ social problems
  • The geographic location in South and West Dallas that the partner serves

See a complete list of our Community Partners.

Every Residential Commons has its own social problem. Before the launch of Engage Dallas in Fall 2020, research and focus groups were conducted with students within each Residential Commons to understand which social problems were important to those students and which aligned best with their Residential Commons' identity.

Social problems were also selected with consideration to providing the greatest impact to Dallas (utilizing the Dallas’ Resilience Strategy), the community partners present in Dallas, and capacity for students to volunteer and serve.

Engage Dallas does not promote any specific political agenda. Students may encounter speakers, other volunteers, or neighbors that may share their opinions, including those of a political nature.

In these circumstances, it is important to recognize the value of having civil and constructive conversations, even those where differing opinions may be shared.

Before a student can participate in direct service, there are a few requirements that must be completed first:

  1. Login to Canvas: Don't see the course on your Canvas dashboard? Request the Engage Dallas Canvas course be added to your account.
    1. To begin, sign in to Canvas.
    2. Use your SMU ID and password as your login.
    3. Select the Engage Dallas Canvas Course on your dashboard.
  2. Watch The Basics Video: Mustangs that join Engage Dallas must understand the basics of the initiative and how we approach our work together.
  3. Complete the Groundwork Training: We want to be helpful and not harmful in your service to the West and South Dallas community. Once you complete the learning modules in Canvas, you will see a flashing banner. At this point you are eligible to participate in direct service.


The pre-flection paper and Engage Dallas Canvas Course are required before participating in direct service opportunities.

The pre-flection paper allows students to reflect on their past experience and volunteer interests before diving deeper into the social problems that exist in South and West Dallas. For those interested in completing the Community Engagement Proficiency and Experience, this paper can be re-uploaded when you go to complete the degree requirement. Additionally, the Common Curriculum specifically requires paper(s) to be completed prior to counting service hours toward the degree requirement.

The remaining modules in Canvas allow students to learn about some of the history in South and West Dallas, as well as learning about how to make service impactful and helpful to the community. These learning modules count toward general engagement hours too.

Each Residential Commons’ social problem is intended to be a long-term commitment to the community that grows stronger over time. Social problems are inherently designed to address systemic and chronic problems that our neighbors face in Dallas.

Many of these problems have been present for decades. By actively focusing on one social problem, each Commons is positioned to provide a greater impact to the community over time.

Engage Dallas focuses on serving the following zip codes: 

  • 75212 – West Dallas
  • 75215 – Cedars/South Blvd, Park Row/Wheatley Place
  • 75210 – Fair Park
  • 75227 – Riverway Estates/Bruton Terrace/Parkdale
  • 75217 – Pleasant Grove

When Engage Dallas was developed, extensive research was conducted into the areas of Dallas where the greatest impact could be made. We used city data and reports to identify communities with the greatest identified needs.

Focusing on an established geographic area can make it much easier to decide where to deploy resources and which partnerships to prioritize—and thus increase the ability to form strong and sustainable partnerships that are of greater value to all stakeholders.