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Talking About Residential Colleges at SMU

[Dallas Hall, Southern Methodist University] — It was my pleasure to visit and speak about residential colleges and “the idea of a collegiate university” last week at Southern Methodist University in Dallas under the auspices of the Gartner Honors Lecture Series. The visit was arranged through the kindness of Prof. David Doyle, the director of SMU’s Honors Program.

SMU has about 6000 undergraduates and it occupies a spacious campus that has by and large preserved an elegant Georgian feel. Its first building was the landmark Dallas Hall, a magnificent structure that was modeled in part on Thomas Jefferson’s rotunda at the University of Virginia. There is a fine architectural history of SMU available: Building SMU by Ruth Patterson Maddox.

Prof. Doyle and the members of the Honors Program have established a special honors residential community that is flourishing, and there are a number of people on campus who are interested in extending it, and perhaps moving SMU in the direction of a full residential college system. The campus has several existing buildings and building pairs that might be suitable for such a plan. These encouraging developments in Dallas may be a sign that the great state of Texas is on its way to becoming a national center of collegiate activity: the residential college system at Rice University in Houston is the third-oldest collegiate system in the United States, and the development of Brooks College at Baylor University in Waco is likewise very promising.

Many thanks indeed to Prof. Doyle and his campus colleagues for their kind hospitality during my SMU visit, and may their collegiate contemplations continue to grow and flourish.

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