Every year, the SMU Board of Trustees selects a group of students for a formal dinner with the board to learn about students and hear students' experiences and feedback on the campus life. In a pandemic, student feedback is of the utmost importance, so despite the circumstances, SMU was committed to having students who met with the Board of Trustees at the board meeting in February. The event was virtual due to the pandemic with zoom rooms set up for conversing with tables, similar to how a dinner would work, and then a large zoom room for the evening presentations. Amongst the group of SMU students invited, five students are chosen to give a 5 minute speech about their experiences at SMU and to speak to the entirety of the board. I was one of those five students chosen and it was an incredible honor to speak to the board and my fellow peers.
I was able to go back and watch speeches from previous years and I even got to see what some of the others' speeches looked like for this year, and I saw that each person brings with them their own agenda. Well, agenda is perhaps too strong a word and certainly too negative a connotation. What I mean is that often students use their time to advocate for a particular cause or speak to an issue that affects them on campus. Finding my "agenda" was something I really struggled with because I honestly didn't want to spend my time talking about those kinds of things. There are issues I have seen on SMU's campus and I am glad that others were choosing to highlight them and advocate for the board to address them, but for me I've been spending my recent time reflecting on how many opportunities I have had at SMU to explore and learn, and so I made that the topic of my speech.
I wanted to use my speech to connect what I have done at SMU to where I am going with my future, and how the opportunities at SMU have made this possible. I talked about my experiences with the study abroad department, and even later got to answer a question about what area I would want SMU to invest more in, which I suggested that affordable study abroad is essential for our community. I also spoke about my academic interests, and how a liberal arts education, with both the university curriculum and the honors program, afforded me the opportunity to explore topics outside of my degrees and find passions for learning beyond my future career path. I believe it is really important that the board members hear that many students do appreciate the liberal arts education and do appreciate the opportunities on campus for an expansive learning. I am very grateful to be invited to speak to the SMU Board of Trustees and I hope to continue being able to tell my story.