Happenings on the Hill

A changemaker

Austin Hickle had something of an epiphany last summer: If college campuses were going to return successfully to on-campus learning in fall 2020, student engagement would be crucial to compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Within three months, he organized the College Health Alliance of Texas, which conducted student opinion research and became a conduit to Congress for student pandemic concerns.

His leadership skills and proven ability to create change earned the senior economics and public policy major a $30,000 Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship for future public servants.

Hickle recruited 54 student leaders from 27 Texas universities to represent the student voice in fighting the pandemic. Anxiety, isolation, and decreased availability of mental health resources emerged as key student issues. In response, the alliance partnered with the Meadows Public Policy Institute’s Okay to Say and the Grant Halliburton Foundation to create a mental health hotline for college students.

A researcher

Gabrielle Gard conducts research under SMU biology professor Pia Vogel’s direction, testing inhibitors with a less drug-resistant line of breast cancer cells.

SMU junior Gabrielle Gard has been working in sophisticated research labs since she was a high school junior at Ursuline Academy, so carefully nurturing cancer cells for work with SMU biology professor Pia Vogel likely feels routine.

The biochemistry major’s dogged pursuit of hands-on research contributed to her receiving a 2021-22 Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious national science awards presented to undergraduate students.

The $7,500 scholarship honoring former Sen. Barry Goldwater encourages outstanding students to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

Gard, the daughter of two Parkland Hospital pharmacists and researchers, has been interested in science since she was little, visiting natural history and science museums and attending science summer camps.

A huge gift

A $1 million commitment from the Hegi Family – Fred ’66 and Jan Hegi ’66 and their sons and daughters-in-law, Peter and Amy ’96 and Brian and Elisabeth (Libby) – will equip students to navigate today’s fast-changing work environment and find lifelong career success.

SMU president R. Gerald Turner with Jan and Fred Hegi.

The gift will fund the renovation and expansion of SMU’s Hegi Family Career Development Center and provide two new career counselors to equip students with skills that position them for professional success.

“With this new gift, the Hegi Center will be able to provide even more relevant experiential learning and professional development opportunities for Mustangs to gain skills that will situate them for a productive and rewarding future,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

The renovated space, supported by the Hegi family’s gift, will incorporate the latest cutting-edge technology for student use in addition to providing more opportunities for Mustangs to hone their career skills. It will also allow for larger career fairs, enabling more corporations and employers to attend these popular events and network with SMU students.

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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