Southern Methodist University

Dallas Hall on the campus of Southern Methodist University in University Park, Texas.

Southern Methodist University (SMU) is a private research university based in University Park, Dallas County, Texas. The Dallas metroplex is recognized as one of the top places in the United States to live, work, learn, and play. It is the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, home to about 6.5 million people, and is one of the nation’s leading centers for business, innovation, culture and service.

Academics

Southern Methodist University is classified as “R-2: Doctoral Universities – High Research Activity.” SMU’s world-class faculty is comprised of professors who are some of the foremost experts and innovators in their fields, with a mission to expand knowledge through hands-on research.

A small student-to-faculty ratio and strong undergraduate, graduate and professional programs have led to SMU’s continuing rise in national rankings. Southern Methodist University focuses on academic excellence in each of its eight schools:

  • Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences
  • Cox School of Business
  • Meadows School of the Arts (performing, visual, and communication)
  • Lyle School of Engineering
  • Simmons School of Education and Human Development
  • Dedman School of Law
  • Perkins School of Theology
  • Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

SMU Guildhall, recognized as one of the best graduate schools for game design, is located in the brand new, state-of-the-art Gerald J. Ford Hall for Research and Innovation, which was specially designed to optimize SMU’s unique, proven curriculum and industry-driven pedagogy in an environment that mirrors a real game studio. The Dallas area has a vibrant game development community including over 50 game studios, app developers, and digital technology companies.

Campus

SMU’s main 234-acre campus is located near the urban center of Dallas, Texas. Outdoor activities are plentiful in Dallas, a vibrant city that boasts more than 400 parks and an average of 232 days of sunshine a year.

Dallas Hall, the centerpiece of the SMU campus, once housed the entire university along with a bank and a barbershop. The brick Classical Revival structure opened in 1915 and is a Texas Historic Landmark as well as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2008, the Professional Grounds Management Society recognized the landscaping and grounds maintenance of Southern Methodist University with an Honor Award in the Society’s Green Star Awards competition.

SMU is home to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which operates completely separate from the university on 23 acres of leased land on the east side of campus. The center comprises a Bush administration museum, presidential library, public policy institute, and the offices of the George W. Bush Foundation. The library and museum are privately administered by the National Archives and Records office.

Since 1973, the university has also owned a 423-acre campus located at historic Fort Burgwin, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just outside Taos, New Mexico. There, undergraduates can get a unique education during winter and summer sessions through the SMU-in-Taos program, with experiential learning in courses such as anthropology, botany, mountain sports, photography, Southwestern arts and culture.

Students

Southern Methodist University has a diverse student body consisting of over 12,000 students, with undergraduates numbering about 6,800. The university’s tuition and fees are approximately $60,000. Students are required to live on campus for their first two years at SMU, where they can enjoy a dynamic campus environment.

More than half of SMU undergraduates come from outside Texas, with students from all 50 states and 83 foreign countries. Males and females at SMU are pretty evenly balanced, and about 2,000 students are involved in SMU Greek life. The SMU Mustangs sports teams play in the Division I American Athletic Conference.

All students can participate in annual events such as the Festival of Lights, a candlelit assembly on the university’s Main Quad each December; and the Mane Event, a celebration of spring complete with bands and food. Students can also check out the Dallas International Film Festival, which draws 40,000 viewers annually.

Alumni

Southern Methodist University’s outstanding alumni have helped position SMU to play an increasingly important role in the community and world. Notable alumni include:

  • Laura Bush, former First Lady of Texas and the United States
  • Michael Bunnell, winner of 2010 Scientific and Engineering Academy Award
  • James Cronin, Nobel Prize-winning physicist
  • Aaron Spelling, Emmy Award-winning television producer
  • Nadja Swarovski Adams, chairwoman of Swarovski Entertainment
  • Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of Bumble and co-founder of Tinder
  • Ray L. Hunt, executive chair, Hunt Consolidated, Inc.
  • John Tyson, chair, Tyson Foods
  • David B. Dillon, president and chairman of the Kroger Co.
  • Hope Hicks, White House Communications Director and Press Secretary for President Donald Trump
  • Kourtney Kardashian attended SMU for two years but graduated from the University of Arizona.

Methodist in Name Only

SMU was founded in 1911 by the southern denomination of the Methodist Episcopal Church (now part of the United Methodist Church), in partnership with Dallas civic leaders. Classes were originally planned to begin in 1913, but construction delays on the university’s first building prevented classes from starting until 1915.

Highland Park United Methodist Church was erected on the campus in 1927, and is attended by former President George W. Bush. Despite its name, the university itself is nonsectarian and it is home to students of many religious affiliations. Currently, only 14% of SMU’s students are Methodist.

In fact, Southern Methodist University no longer abides by Methodist beliefs at all. In 2019, the university took the bold step of amending its governance documents to establish its independence from the Methodist church after the church strengthened its prohibitions against same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy.

The South Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church filed suit over SMU’s unilateral decision to separate itself from church control. However, in March 2021 the Dallas County District Court of Texas dismissed the legal action, claiming that the SMU Board of Trustees has the sole authority to govern the affairs of Southern Methodist University.

SMU president R. Gerald Turner said, “Through the continuation of our name, Southern Methodist University, the church’s continued relationship with Perkins, and Methodist representation on the board, the church will continue to be part of the university.”

Which means, basically, SMU is Methodist in name only. So don’t go there expecting conservative Christian viewpoints. Even the Perkins School of Theology has a liberal curriculum. For example, students in the divinity and theology programs may choose concentrations in African American Studies, Hispanic Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Social Innovation and Nonprofit Engagement.

Not to mention, Susanne Scholz is a professor of Old Testament at Perkins School of Theology – and yet she does not believe the Bible is historical fact. She says “the Bible is metaphorical language; it’s not historical language.” Scholz is a feminist who also teaches a course in Queer Bible Hermeneutics. She likes to tell people that “sacred texts are inherently ambiguous, flexible, and elastic,” encouraging everyone to create their own meanings.

“Perkins may seem very liberal because we are living in a state that’s still fairly conservative,” she explained. “But in terms of the progressive academic discourse, we are tame as a group.” Wow, that says a lot about Christianity in America today! The Perkins School of Theology at SMU describes itself as “United Methodist by affiliation, inclusive of diverse Christian expressions, and welcoming of all.”

Homeschool Applicants

As for homeschoolers, “SMU happily accepts and reviews applications from students attending non-traditional high schools, including homeschools and online high schools. A student who has been home-schooled is subject to the same review as a student applying from a traditional high school (please follow the application instructions). We ask that all home-schooled students complete the Homeschool Supplement.”

In welcoming homeschoolers, the SMU Admission Committee even goes out of its way to offer additional recommendations for homeschooled students with the goal to help them be as competitive as possible in the university admission process. Learn more here: https://www.smu.edu/Admission/Apply/FirstYear/HomeSchool

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