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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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An economist goes to Mustang Corral

As a member of the SMU faculty, I received e-mails asking for volunteers for Mustang Corral during the Spring 2007 semester. I read the information and checked my schedule. Yes, I had time, but was I really willingly to shorten my break between semesters to hang out with the incoming SMU students? As an economist, I had to do a quick cost-benefit calculation.

The time costs included an afternoon of leader training, two-and-a-half days of Mustang Corral, as well as packing and travel time to SMU. The only pecuniary cost was gas money from home to SMU and back. My opportunity cost included having a few more days to prepare for classes or be with my family or sleep.

I also considered mental costs. I was a bit concerned about the responsibilities of taking on a faculty Leader position. Did I really want to face the prospect of shepherding over 900 students? I wasn’t aware of all of the benefits at the time, but the leadership training was enough to convince me that they would outweigh the costs.

I knew from the start that the Mustang Corral team had created an event that would be amazing from beginning to end! Each participant was thoroughly informed and there was always someone available to answer questions. On the afternoon of leadership training, we were given a brochure called the Leader Curriculum. It thoroughly outlined a leader’s responsibilities during each day at Corral, the schedule of activities, step-by-step instructions for small-group Round-Ups (discussions) and possible times to eat and sleep. The team also presented each volunteer with the 2007 Mustang Manual and three T-shirts (including one with a red pony and an arrow pointing up). Instead of a four-hour lecture, we had table discussions, ate snacks, made new acquaintances while playing games, received important information and asked questions.

Yes, I would get a little less sleep than usual. No, I was not personally responsible for over 900 students. In fact, each faculty leader was paired with at least one student leader. The student leaders were in charge of almost everything having to do with the small groups of incoming students. The student leaders did an incredible amount of work for weeks before and during Mustang Corral and were smiling to the very end.

The benefits started the first morning when my assignment was to go with a student leader, knock on dorm room doors, and yell, “Mustang Corral! Head to the coliseum!” This provided some exercise and a chance to warm up my voice. Next I headed to the coliseum where I got to help guide students into the correct registration line. (Yes, that was me yelling, “Letters L-M! Right here!”)

One benefit of Mustang Corral was that I got to learn the traditions and history of SMU. I got to meet people working at SMU outside of the economics department, a group of amazing leaders among the students and many members of the class of 2011. I was able to talk to students about expectations in the classroom from a professor’s point of view. I debated with several students as to whether there could be another “right” answer to a riddle. I even had a few discussions about economics.

The Mustang Corral team’s extensive work and attention to detail made the event an unforgettable experience. Although I didn’t know beforehand, I found out that missing the chance to be a Faculty Leader at Mustang Corral would have been a huge opportunity cost. I hope in 2008 that more faculty (and staff) members will become involved. I can personally attest that the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Cost of volunteering: three-and-a-half days. Participating in Mustang Corral: priceless!

Dr. Elizabeth Wheaton is an economics lecturer. She can be reached at [email protected].

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