SMU and President R. Gerald Turner are investing $1 billion in the student body. You. Me. Athletes. Engineers. Everyone.
The average American, with an annual salary of $50,000, would have to work 20,000 years to earn $1 billion. SMU is nearly there after just six years of fundraising efforts beginning Sept. 12, 2008. This is good news.
SMU is now placed on the list of schools such as Columbia University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins Universty, Georgetown University, the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California that have decided to devote the time and effort of raising $1 billion to improve the lives, environment and education of their students.
It’s not easy to get on that list. Although SMU surpassed its $750 million goal this summer, causing the decision to raise it to $1 billion, Second Century Campaign projections show SMU hitting $950 million by 2015, not quite $1 billion. But as Turner said, “There is no list of $950 million,” and “there’s lots of work to do.”
Maybe the future is not certain, but I am certain that Turner and the board of trustees raised the goal with confidence and will work hard to reach it.
My confidence stems from how the campaign’s money has been, is being and will be used.
Millions of dollars are attracting endowed faculty. In 2008, SMU had 62 endowed faculty positions. There are now 96, four short of the original campaign goal of 100 which has now been raised to 110.
Millions of dollars are being used to compete for top students. Since 2006, 472 permanently endowed scholarships have been created. SMU fundraising generates more than half of the $99 million of student financial aid. And these efforts are working. In 1999 the average SAT score of first-year SMU students was 1144. This year’s entering class boasted an average of 1302, well above averages at Universit of Texas at Austin, Baylor University and Texas Christian University.
Millions of dollars (about 375 million of them) are being spent on enhancing the SMU campus. The Residential Commons living model, which includes five new RCs and a dining complex on the south side of campus costing $121 million, will change student life. First-years and sophomores living on campus will foster community and liven up campus after class hours. Students will also be the benefactors of the $47 million renovation of Moody Coliseum, where they can build school spirit and enjoy on-campus entertainment (maybe with a beer in hand). Students will also be able to support SMU tennis in the new Tennis Complex under construction south of campus.
Everyone from sports fans to engineers will benefit from 100-year-old Fondren Library’s $19 million renovation. The facelift includes the enhancement and addition of study rooms and a cafe, as well as technology upgrades. The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center, a renovated Memorial Health Center, will also serve all students with increased capacity and privacy, and upgraded technology and infrastructure.
The addition of renowned faculty, generous scholarships and an even more incredible campus with resources for all types of students are already visible improvements in student life via the Second Century Campaign.
As Turner and his colleagues push through the final years of this campaign, working hard to complete all of its goals, I have begun to look back.
I see the reasons I chose SMU: a small student body, beautiful campus, great city and promising education. And now I see (albeit through the construction) that those values remain in place and are only getting better. Those improvements will affect my last few months here and will continue into my future as an alumna. I not only will be more valuable with a degree from a school on that $1 billion list, but I will leave with a sense of pride and gratitude of the school that worked so hard to improve my student experience.
So, while we may groan about the parking, construction or lack of big athletic victories, remember that we don’t have it so bad. SMU really is on our side. She’s got $1 billion in her hand, and she’s all in.
Roden is a senior majoring in journalism and Spanish.