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.

Stephanie Amsel, Director, Discernment and Discourse, SMU

Topic: I'm gonna get medieval on your a**: Medievalism in Pop Culture


Stephanie Amsel has been teaching at SMU since 2009. Before moving to Dallas, she taught in public and private schools in Italy, New York, and Texas. Stephanie is the director of the Discernment and Discourse Program. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at San Antonio and specializes in Italian and English medieval literature. Stephanie is the Chaucer bibliographer for the New Chaucer Society and publishes a yearly Chaucer bibliography report in Studies in the Age of Chaucer. She has received several writing awards for poetry and short fiction. Her poems have appeared in Fog City Review, Sagebrush Review, and Ilya’s Honey.

Ace Anderson, Actor, Graphic Designer & Photographer

Topic: What does it mean to live a good life, and how does Art play a role?


My name is Ace Anderson. I am a professional Actor, Graphic Designer & Photographer. I began a career as a full-time graphic designer in 2013 after I graduated from SMU with a BFA in Acting. Working full-time gave me the experience and clientele to start my own design company (The Striped Heart). I've studied acting since 2002 and am, now, proudly one of eight members of the Brierly Resident Acting Company at The Regional Tony Award® Winning Dallas Theater Center. I've been recognized across the country as a pioneer in the arts and a true Renaissance Man. Google 'Ace Anderson' and you'll find much of my work. In 2014, I won Best Actor in Dallas for my role in August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. I was also handpicked as one of 100 Top Creatives (No. 36).  As a designer and photographer, I love working with movement and exploring the human body as a work of art. I easily adapt to my environment and I am a very fast learner. People say I'm not funny... 

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Historian, Curator and Journalist

Topic: Fashion: The Fabric of History

Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is a fashion historian, curator, and journalist based in Los Angeles. She is the author of the award-winning book Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette (Yale, 2015) and a contributor to The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Ornament, and Politico. Her latest book is Worn On This Day: The Clothes That Made History (Running Press, 2019).

Jodi Cooley, Associate Professor of Physics and Ford Research Fellow, SMU

Topic: Fantastical Dark Matter and How We Find It


Jodi Cooley is an Associate Professor of Physics at SMU and an SMU Ford Research Fellow.  She has won numerous awards for her teaching and research.  Her most recent accomplishments include election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018 and becoming the 2019 recipient of the American Association of Physics Teachers Klopsteg Memorial Lecture Award.  Dr. Cooley’s research takes her to into deep underground mines in order to improve our understanding of the universe by deciphering the nature of dark matter.  The existence of this elusive matter was first postulated almost 90 years ago.   However, our only understanding of it comes from observing its gravitational interactions using telescopes.  Dr. Cooley and her colleagues operate sophisticated cryogenic detectors with the hope to be the first people to ever detect dark matter in a terrestrial detector and study its properties.

Fantastical Dark Matter and How We Find It

Looking up in the sky at night, have you ever wondered if there was anything between the stars you see?  Only a small fraction of the universe is made from ordinary, visible matter.   A much larger portion remains dark, its existence known to us only by its interactions through gravity.  The first evidence of this dark matter originates from studies of celestial bodies in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  Since that time, astrophysicists and astronomers have determined that it constitutes the bulk of matter in our universe.  Despite this fact, the composition still remains unknown.  Over the course of the night our table conversations will revolve around this fantastical matter and the novel experiments that scientists like Dr. Cooley and her colleagues conduct to try to find these elusive particles.

Christina Dandar, Teacher and Design Blogger

Topic: Trends vs. Tradition: Are the days of timeless design dwindling or reemerging?


The Potted Boxwood, founded by Christina Dandar, is an interior design, architecture, and lifestyle blog based in Dallas, Texas. It brings daily inspiration of chic design, creative ideas, along with showcasing the tremendous talent that exists in the world of interiors. Since launching her blog in 2014, her snaps of vibrant doors and ivy-covered exteriors have amassed over 100,000 Instagram followers, including Southern Living, Town & Country, and home brand Serena & Lily.

For more about Christina Dandar and The Potted Boxwood, check out this D Magazine article -

Jennifer Ebinger, Director, Office of Engaged Learning , SMU

Topic: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Learning Beyond the Classroom


Jennifer Ebinger is the director of SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning.  As part of the Provost’s team, her department supports university-wide research and entrepreneurship programs, including Engaged Learning Fellowships and Summer Research Assistantships that support undergraduate research; the Big iDeas program that seeds and mentors undergraduate, graduate, faculty and staff startups; Think-Play-Hack which provides a unique big-data experience; and the SMU Incubator, which collaborates with entrepreneurs and organizations to bring social and economic value to north Dallas.  Before coming to SMU, Director Ebinger served as a regional director for a non-profit education foundation out of John’s Hopkins where she led an interstate team to support school, teacher, leader, and student growth.

Jennifer's table discussion will be focused on enhanced academic learning experiences (beyond the classroom), undergraduate research, entrepreneurship, innovation and why these learning opportunities in higher-ed are important to SMU students and Dallas.

Clint Emerson, Retired U.S. Navy Seal

Topic: The Right Kind of Crazy: My Life as a Navy SEAL, Covert Operative, and Boy Scout from Hell


Clint Emerson is a retired Navy SEAL with more than 20 years of service. He continues to serve by empowering good people with safety and security skills at home, at work and abroad.

Emerson is the only SEAL ever inducted into the International Spy Museum. Operating from the shadows, with an instinct for running towards trouble, his unique skill set made him the perfect hybrid operator.

Emerson spent his career on the bleeding edge of intelligence and operations, often specializing in missions that took advantage of subterfuge, improvisation, the best in recon and surveillance tech to combat the changing global battlefield. MacGyvering everyday objects into working spyware was routine, and fellow SEALs referred to his activities simply as “special shit.” His parameters were: find, fix, and finish—and of course, leave no trace.

The Right Kind of Crazy is unlike any military memoir you’ve ever read because Emerson is upfront about the fact that what makes you a great soldier and sometimes hero doesn’t always make you the best guy—but it does make for damn good stories. In his latest book, Emerson presents an explosive, darkly funny, and often twisted account of being part of an elite team of operatives whose mission was to keep America safe by whatever means necessary.



Shawn Gensch, Brand guy and change agent

Topic: Reinventing your Brand


Shawn Gensch served as EVP, Chief Customer Officer at JCPenney from June 2019 through March 2020.  Gensch oversaw all aspects of the company’s marketing strategies and initiatives and was responsible for driving customer-centric strategies to grow traffic, engagement and customer retention. Additionally, he was responsible for revitalizing the Company’s brand, leading marketing initiatives across all channels, shaping the company’s messaging and delivering an outstanding digital experience to JCPenney customers. 

Prior to joining the company, Gensch was chief customer officer at Sprouts Farmers Market, overseeing their brand and category marketing strategy, national expansion, digital marketing, guest insights, customer relations, advertising, social media, private label brand strategy and public relations. Prior to Sprouts, Gensch co-founded and served as chief executive officer of iAMroyalist, Inc., a consumer driven loyalty platform, and spent 10 years at Target Corporation in positions of increasing responsibility. While at Target, he served as senior vice president of marketing where he led all media strategy, public relations, social media, strategic partnerships, and experiential and lifestyle marketing efforts. He also served as vice president, brand marketing, vice president, financial product design and development and president of Target Bank. Before joining Target Corporation in 2003, Gensch worked in various roles in the structured finance, insurance, banking and related consulting industries, and served as vice president and assistant treasurer of Green Tree Financial Corporation. He began his career at KPMG.

Gensch holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and since 2016, has served on the board for onenten, a Phoenix, AZ-based organization that envisions a world where all LGBTQ youth and young adults are embraced for who they are, actively engaged in their communities, and empowered to lead.



Norm Hitzges, Author and Sports Talk Radio Host

Topic: Sports and Travel


Norm Hitzges hosted the first full-time sports talk-show in morning drive time in the country right here in Dallas Ft Worth over 30 years ago. He has been on-air continuously for all those years in the DFW Market. Hitzges is known for his enthusiasm and knowledge of sports trivia and his penchant and success for handicapping all sports. But especially for his first love outside of broadcasting: horse racing. Hitzges has been honored by the Texas Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Dallas All of Sports Association and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. Norm also hosts the “Norm-A-Thon”, a yearly 18 hour marathon broadcast to raise money for the area’s homeless.

Sam Holland, Algur H. Meadows Dean and Professor of Music, Meadows School of the Arts, SMU

Topic: Creativity in the Age of AI


Samuel S. Holland is the Algur H. Meadows Dean and an award-winning professor of music at the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University. A champion of the transformational power of arts and communication, Dr. Holland leads a team that is responsible for raising over $150M in new funding for the Meadows School. Under his leadership, the Division of Music at SMU was ranked #1 in the nation in 2015 by College Factual as reported in USA Today. In addition to artistic and programmatic excellence, the Meadows School is nationally recognized for innovative curricula, sustainable community engagement, and its entrepreneurial approach to arts education. Dr. Holland’s articles have appeared in every major English language professional keyboard journal and he is the author of over seventy critically acclaimed and innovative method books and recordings distributed internationally by Alfred Publishing Co. and the Frederick Harris Music Co. A performance student of John Perry and Abbey Simon, he earned a Ph.D. in music education with an emphasis in piano pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma. He has presented hundreds of lectures and recitals throughout North America, Europe, and Australia and has pioneered in the application of new technology to performance and pedagogy. Dr. Holland is a founding trustee of the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy, a not-for-profit educational institution in Princeton NJ that presents the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy and publishes Clavier Companion magazine. He is a co-founder of the Centre for Musical Minds (Frisco, TX).

Helen LaKelly Hunt, Author, activist and philantropist

Topic: Suffrage & Women's Empowerment


Helen LaKelly Hunt is one of a small army of women who helped to seed the women’s funding movement. She co-founded the Texas Women’s Foundation, The New York Women’s Foundation, Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions. Helen is the author of Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance. Her latest book, And the Spirit Moved Them, The Lost Radical History of America’s First Feminists, shares the inspiring story of the abolitionist feminists. Helen was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001. In addition, she has co-authored several books with her partner, Harville Hendrix, on Imago Therapy, which helps transforms relationships.  

Debora Hunter, Retired Professor of Photography, SMU

Topic: Stories Photographs Tell


Debora Hunter, educated at Northwestern University and Rhode Island School of Design, arrived in Dallas in 1976 to teach photography in the Division of Art at SMU. She retired three years ago after teaching forty years. Her lens-based art has been exhibited nationally at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Modern Art, Hirshhorn Museum, New Mexico History Museum and locally at the Dallas Museum of Art, Amon Carter Museum, Liliana Bloch, SP/Gallery and Texas Tech University. Her work can been seen at


Debora will be speaking about the Stories Photographs Tell. What makes a photograph significant, either culturally or personally? What images continue to stick in our mind and hearts? What do they have in common? Are they iconic photographs like Dorothea Lange’s 1936 “Migrant Mother,” or maybe a family photograph of a grandfather as a young man? Let’s explore how photographic meaning is created. Tablemates are invited to share examples on their phone of photographs that hold special importance for them. 

Shira Lander, Senior Lecturer and Director of Jewish Studies, SMU

Topic: Holy Land or Land of the Holy?: The Significance of Jerusalem to Jews, Christians, and Muslims


Dr. Shira L. Lander (B.A., Yale University, M.H.L., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Practice and Director of Jewish Studies specializing in late antique Judaism and Christianity. Her book, Ritual Spaces and Religious Rivalries in Late Roman North Africa (Cambridge, 2016), explores why religious groups competed over and destroyed sites considered holy. Lander previously was the Anna Smith Fine Senior Lecturer of Jewish Studies at Rice University, where she taught in the departments of Religious Studies and History. Before moving to Texas, she taught at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, St. Mary's Seminary and University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Delaware, and Princeton University. Her areas of interest include Jewish-Christian relations, sacred space, martyrdom, religious violence, and material culture. Her current research project explores images of synagogues in medieval manuscripts.

Russell Martin, Director, DeGolyer Library, SMU

Topic: Westward, Ho! Collecting the American West


The DeGolyer Library has one of the country’s finest collections of Western Americana. Russell Martin, the director, will trace the collection’s history and development, describe some of its many treasures (and surprises), and outline its usefulness for teaching, research, and historical understanding. He’ll also place the DeGolyer in the context of other collections devoted to the American West. Dr. Martin has been at the helm of the DeGolyer since 2001. Prior to returning to his roots in Texas, he held several positions at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, which, believe it or not, also has a very strong collection on the American West.

David Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory, Department of Anthropology, SMU

Topic: Archaeology, Ancient DNA and the Ice Age Peopling of the Americas


David J. Meltzer is the Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in the Department of Anthropology at SMU, and an Affiliate Professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His research focuses on the origins, antiquity, and adaptations of the very first Americans – the hunter-gatherers who colonized North America at the end of the Ice Age. His publications include a dozen books and nearly 190 articles. He’s been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998), a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2009), The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (2009), and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2013).


His table talk will be on Archaeology, ancient DNA, and the Ice Age peopling of the Americas, and the sea change that’s come about in just the last decade in our understanding of who the first Americans were, where they came from, when and how they made their way to what was then a truly new world, and how these bygone Siberian hunter-gatherers met the challenges of adapting to a vast, utterly unknown, partly ice-shrouded and ecologically diverse landscape. It’s a sea change that’s directly resulted from a raft of newly-discovered (but old!) archaeological sites, and findings about human population history and past environments that have emerged thanks to revolutionary advances in the extraction of DNA from ancient bones, teeth and even sediments.

Pamela Nelson, Artist

Topic: Life/Art/ Dining/Hospitality


Pamela Nelson lives and works in Dallas, Texas. Over her lifetime, she has been committed to contributing to the good of Dallas. She founded the art program at the Stewpot, a center for homeless and at-risk individuals. She designed all the windows for Frank Welch Associates at First United Methodist Church of Richardson; she designed five Dart stations, created a mosaic floor medallion at Terminal D in DFW Airport, and served on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. from 2001-2011. Nelson has been an instructor for Dallas County Community Colleges, the Arlington Museum of Art, and the Gateway Gallery at the Dallas Museum of Art. She is currently working on a stained-glass commission and an installation, DINNER PARTY, for Fall of 2020 at Craighead Green Gallery.


For several years, Nelson , with Kaleta Doolin, has hosted THE CONVERSATION with a group of visual artists.  Her round table will focus on Life/Art/ Dining/Hospitality. There will be a bowl of questions.

Stephen Sekula, Associate Professor of Physics and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, SMU

Topic: Tiny Universes, Big Science


Stephen Sekula is an Associate Professor of Physics at SMU and an SMU Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor. He conducts research at the forefront of the field using a one-of-a-kind machine: the Large Hadron Collider located at the CERN Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Using this facility he and his colleagues are studying the recently discovered Higgs particle, the primogenitor of fundamental mass in the universe. He is also the co-author of a book for a general audience, "Reality in the Shadows (or) What the Heck's the Higgs?" Together with co-authors S. James Gates Jr. (theoretical physicist) and Frank Blitzer (aerospace engineer), they explore the history of science and physics and take the reader on a journey into what is known, what we wish were known, and how to bridge between the two. His research has been continuously supported by the U.S. Department of Energy since 2012 and he has earned numerous awards and recognition for his teaching and mentoring at SMU, including the HOPE Professor of the Year Award (2016),  Rotunda Outstanding Professor Award (2015), and the SMU Golden Mustang Award (2012).

The table topic will be centered on several key ideas about large-scale modern science including how you conceive of and then sustain large international projects like the Large Hadron Collider and how machines like this can recreate the universe in miniature, capturing a moment just after the universe came into existence, so that one can discern the laws of nature then and now to better understand the history of the whole universe.

Melvin Shaffer, U.S. Army Photographer

Topic: WWII Photographs


Melvin Shaffer, a U.S. Army photographer, accompanied soldiers across Africa, Italy, southern France, and on to Berlin. He was one of about one hundred photographers at Dachau and filmed Hitler’s bunker shortly after Hitler’s death. By the war’s end, he had taken half a million photographs and 200,000 feet of motion picture film. Post-war, he was sent to Japan to photograph the devastation wrought by the atomic bomb. His experience led to a distinguished career in visual education at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. Now retired and living in Arizona, he will talk about his war-time adventures, all captured in his new memoir, From Anderson’s Holler …, published by the DeGolyer Library, where his collection is housed and parts are on display in the current World War II exhibit.




Brett Shipp, Journalist and Media Consultant

Topic: War Stories From the Front Lines: 35 Years of TV News


After a 25-year career as an investigative reporter in the DFW market and a 35-year career in television news, Brett Shipp has embarked on a new voyage, taking his journalistic experience to a new level. He left WFAA-TV after 22 years in December 2017 to seek political office. After a brief run for Congress, he started his own consulting and media strategy business, Brett Shipp Media, LLC, focused on helping businesses and individuals gain an advantage, win an election or seek justice. His body of journalistic work speaks for itself. He has won every major award in broadcast news including three George Foster Peabody Awards, two duPont Silver Batons and Brett, along with his former colleague at WFAA, Byron Harris, are the only local tv-news reporters in the country to win the highly coveted Alfred I. duPont Gold Baton. Brett has covered and uncovered scandals and scoundrels, hurricanes and heart-warming adventures and was the first local reporter on the scene near Ground Zero during 9-11.




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