SMU makes impact, participates in 2016 Dallas Festival of Ideas

The keynote panel of The Entrepreneurial City featuring Trey Bowles, SMU Meadows adjunct professor. Photo credit: Christina Cox

SMU and the Meadows School of the Arts had a unique fingerprint throughout the programming, forums and activities of the second annual Dallas Festival of Ideas Feb. 19-20.

This year’s theme was the “United City” with five areas of focus for the future of Dallas: The Educated City, The Entrepreneurial City, The Healthy City, The Literary City and The Physical City. The event was staged in Fair Park and sponsored by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and The Dallas Morning News. It featured speakers, programs and performances to turn ideas into action.

Sam Holland, Meadows’ dean, Algur H. Meadows Chair and professor of music, chose to sponsor “The Entrepreneurial City,” which featured SMU students and professors throughout its programming.

“Entrepreneurship is in our DNA at Meadows. We are fascinated by the artist as an entrepreneur,” Holland said. “Partnering with the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture on this project was a completely natural, if unexpected, step for Meadows.”

Holland said that with its arts management and arts entrepreneurship departments, Meadows is trying to, “see the term ‘starving artist’ banished from the lexicon.”

To accomplish this, every student in Meadows takes a first-year course to collaborate with artists in other disciplines. They also build a professional website and social media presence and develop an elevator pitch. Students can take courses in topics like arts budgeting and financial management, developing an arts venture plan and more.

“Our approach to arts entrepreneurship education has put us on the leading edge nationally, which has also brought attention to us and to Dallas,” Holland said.

This imbed fabric of entrepreneurship, which helps enrich the cultural landscape and entrepreneurial activity of both SMU and Dallas, is why Holland and Meadows chose to sponsor and participate in the Dallas Festival of Ideas.

“Meadows had people performing, speaking, leading panel discussions, sitting on panels, and on and on from start to finish,” Holland said.

Holland also noted he was happy Meadows was the sponsor of the Russell Simmons appearance because he was arguably one of the most prominent keynote speakers and possibly the most controversial.

“We like that,” he said.

The Entrepreneurial City

The Entrepreneurial City featured the most SMU participants with a social impact panel from Meadows’ minor in social entrepreneurship, a Big iDeas student pitch contest and a 30-minute session on arts entrepreneurship games from Jim Hart, director of the arts entrepreneurship program.

The Cox School of Business also had an advice booth that mirrored Lucy’s from “The Peanuts” and charged five cents for entrepreneurial advice.

The headlining panel of the city featured keynote speaker Simmons and the panel featured Trey Bowles, Meadows adjunct lecturer and co-founder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center.

The speakers focused on the skills it takes to become an entrepreneur and what it means to be an entrepreneur in Dallas. There was a focus on faith, white space and finding a purpose in what one is doing.

“Forget results, they don’t even make you happy,” Simmons said. “Operate from a present, abundant mindset… you have to go to work, put your head down and be faithful.”

Bowles said he knew three years ago that Dallas was an entrepreneurial city, even though no one outside of DFW knew.

Bowles was right. With 19,000 new companies started in Dallas alone and innovations in fashion tech, financial tech, oil and gas tech and the arts, Dallas is proving itself as an entrepreneurial city.

“We’re becoming the ‘I’ city,” he said. “We’re the idea city; we’re the impact city; we’re the innovation city.”

Bowles emphasized that entrepreneurs must be courageous, persevere and have a little bit of crazy in them to succeed. They must also gain experience through learning, earning or failing.

“Failure is nothing other than an education,” Bowles said.

Meadows was also actively involved in the Entrepreneurial City through Hart’s award-winning, interactive, game-based workshop, which teaches participants how to be proactive entrepreneurs.

Susan Kress, director of Engaged Learning, speaking to the audience about the upcoming pitch contest. Photo credit: Christina Cox

Several students were involved as well in a student pitch contest that featured three Big iDeas: Biolum, Fiddler and Mexican Bingo.

Susan Kress, director of Engaged Learning, said that she and Hart felt that showing, not telling, what Big iDeas does at SMU was the best way to show its impact.

“We thought that the city would be more interested in what SMU students are actually doing,” Kress said.

Kress said that in the past two years, the program has identified 20 winning teams. They chose Biolum, Fiddler and Mexican Bingo because of their successful work through the program and their diverse representation of disciplines.

“We had a Meadows group, a Dedman group and a Lyle group… to show what different students are doing,” she said.

Kress said SMU and the Big iDeas program is unique because of its promotion of interdisciplinary entrepreneurship. She found the organization’s participation in the festival successful.

“I was just so enthused with how it went,” she said. “I think that SMU has something really special and that Engaged Learning is helping develop undergraduate entrepreneurship on campus.”

The Physical City

The Physical City focused on the future workplace of Dallas from its downtown to its suburbs.

According to a report from The Dallas Morning News, the keynote panel discussed how to rethink offices’ connections to the city as well as “co-working spaces and low-rises that integrate workplaces into urban life.”

Kate Canales, research professor and director of design and innovation programs at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, was a panelist at the keynote. She said she was delighted to be on the panel and that so many SMU colleagues participated in the festival throughout the day.

Canales’ work within Lyle focuses on human-centered design. She said this means human behavior is a major input into design decisions and the experience with a thing.

“Part of how we do that is by looking at how the current design is impacting behavior,” she said. “The methodology extends pretty far, including into the workplace.”

One of the examples Canales said she gave was the design of a chair. The ergonomic factors of the chair impact one’s posture, which then affects how one feels. The arrangement of the chair in relation to others could also have an impact.

“Suddenly, it isn’t really about the chair, but about the experience and the behavior,” she said. “So, that’s a simple example of how our physical environment controls us in ways that are sometime intentional and sometimes not.”

Canales said this awareness of the physical environment and drive toward human-centered design could drive behaviors people want to see in
the workplace.

Other featured SMU panelists included Clyde Valentin, director of Meadows’ Ignite/Arts Dallas program, on the Educated City; Darryl Dickson Carr, Dedman professor and chair of English, on the Literary City; and Eric Bing, professor of global health and director of SMU’s Institute for Leadership Impact, on the Healthy City.

The Women’s Museum at Fair Park which housed part of the Dallas Festival of Ideas. Photo credit: John McCarthy


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