Empowering outstanding students to attend Southern Methodist University and succeed, regardless of background and financial means, is a major commitment at this Dallas university, one of the most recent schools to become a selected partner in the Leaders for Tomorrow program.
In September 2021, SMU pledged to raise $450 million when it launched its current fundraising campaign, SMU Ignited. The funds raised are supporting students from underrepresented populations with more merit- and need-based scholarships and academic support as well as internships, stipends and study-abroad opportunities.
This past April, the university announced Access SMU, an additional scholarship initiative designed to bridge financial gaps for high-achieving Texas students who receive federal Pell Grants – more than half of Pell Grant recipients are first-generation students.
The school’s intense commitment to putting SMU within reach for talented students starts at the top. Elizabeth Loboa, SMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, as well as K.C. Mmeje, Vice President for Student Affairs, are both first-generation college students.
“More than 70 percent of our students receive some combination of academic awards and need-based financial aid,” notes SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “But even a small gap between available aid and the cost of education can be insurmountable. Access SMU will fill that gap for those who receive both federal Pell Grants and the merit scholarships, which are granted to our most gifted students.”
The new partnership between SMU and The Annexstad Family Foundation further widens the path to SMU for students who may have thought that this private university was out of reach for them.
With the Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarship, two new Scholars per year will have their full cost of attendance met in alignment with Access SMU’s mission. Through this partnership, students can focus on coursework, research opportunities, professional development, student group involvement and volunteer work, all with the support of SMU and AFF’s additional resources to help navigate their four years.
As many Leaders for Tomorrow Scholars well know, paying for college is just one hurdle for first-generation students, who also lack any parental college experience to draw upon as they face the challenges of college life. To provide a support system that helps them flourish, SMU established the First-Generation Initiative (FGI) back in September 2019. As part of that effort, SMU’s Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) provides tutoring, mentoring, free printing, access to technology and textbooks, study abroad assistance and emergency funds for unforeseeable hardships all under one roof.
Persistence and Achievement at ACE, has introduced hundreds of students to programs and resources that help Scholars academically, financially and socially. ACE has become their hub providing private study space around students who share similar backgrounds, helping them learn about campus activities and connecting them with free tutors.
SMU students have also developed a First-Generation Association – an important step in making SMU a more welcoming community. The organization now has more than 100 members, including first-generation students and allies. The first Leaders for Tomorrow Scholars are certain to find community and connections at SMU and at ACE.
Introducing our 2021-2022 Scholars Carson Hanson and Otti Cepin. We wish them well on their academic journey. We know that you will make SMU and yourselves proud on your educational adventure!