Advice for Students - Know yourself and find a good fit
This advice for new students is something that I have been trotting out in the last three years, that as Provost I have had the occasion to use with prospective students. Every year around admissions season, I will address groups of students, and I will talk to them about how to choose your university. Of course, I could stand there and say, of course, you have to choose SMU, but it wouldn’t be fair, nor would it be right. I speak to students about knowing yourself, knowing your learning style, what you are comfortable with, what you want out of life, what you want to do in life, not just as a career, but how you want to contribute and make your life meaningful, and finding that environment that supports you and develops you that way.
I have said to prospective students if you really believe in the power of the word, if you really believe that communication, persuasion of ideas is something that you have great strengths in and you would like to grow that, think about SMU, because we are that kind of place that focuses on that, develops that and so forth. But I have also said to students, if you think that is important but it is not your strength at all, think of coming here because we will help you develop that aspect of you. If you are looking for an environment where you want to be deeply interactive, you are the sort of individual who learns through the cut and thrust of debate and discussion in the classroom, outside of classroom, with your friends and so forth as opposed to sitting by yourself and reading the material, then SMU is the place for you. But if you are deeply uncomfortable with engagement, and you learn much better because you have the quiet of your own time going through the material again and again and again, and you think that that’s okay and what will stand you in good stead, then maybe a different environment works for you.
If you are interested in interdisciplinarity—being able to take courses across schools, across disciplines, because you believe that is what the world requires—SMU offers you a very good chance, maybe a better chance than other institutions, because again, we are relatively small and criss-crossing campus is entirely possible, even easy, as opposed to multi-campus complexes, where it is a challenge. For prospective students, I try and guide them to discover a little bit about themselves and to find a good fit.
For current students who are already enrolled, please, please make the best of all the opportunities available to you. There are just so many opportunities on campus that are outside the classroom. Growth at SMU is holistic growth, it is holistic development. It is well-roundedness and so many things that you will learn and you will remember and cherish by way of memories, will not just be in the classroom. They will be the freshman orientation camps that you were part of organizing. It will be the community service trip that you made to Myanmar. It will be the internship where you were, excuse the language, scared shit because you have never been in that environment. There are so many opportunities that SMU offers. Avail yourself of them.