The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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SMU fosters diversity

Last week while I was listening to Pandora, an amazing online radio that plays music similar to a chosen artist or song, an old song by Faith Hill started playing.

I can’t remember the last time I heard “Mississippi Girl,” but the lyrics from the song really made me think. In case you can’t recall the lyrics, Hill sings about staying true to her roots. Even though she is a famous artist, she proclaims that she still enjoys the things she used to: “wearing my old ball cap” and “riding my kids around piggyback”.

I started to think about how much of your identity changes in college. SMU receives a lot of criticism about its stereotypes. While many of those stereotypes might have been true a decade ago, times have changed. Our students do not all come from the Park Cities area. More than half of our incoming class of 2012 hails from different regions around the country.

How often do students give up idiosyncrasies and cultural habits in order to feel like they fit into the SMU culture? And how much does the SMU culture change you as a person, both positively and negatively?

Looking back on my experiences, I admit that I have compromised my own identity. I am not a behavioral science expert, but I know that the pressure to conform in social situations is powerful. Do you remember ever playing a game at camp where one person leaves the room and everyone sits in a circle and performs various actions? When that person returns, he or she has to guess who is leading the group in the various actions.

I always despised this game. I recall feeling extremely frustrated and left out because I couldn’t guess who the leader was.

Think back to Mustang Corral. I bet you can recall who the leaders were. Maybe they were your Corral leaders or a peer. You quietly observed how they interacted.

Typically, when we meet new people, we guard our true identities carefully. Sometimes, we hide part of who we are from our new friends out of fear of rejection.

Although I am not well-read on human behavior, I am still very curious. Because my ethnic identity differs greatly from my close circle of friends, I find it difficult at times to share my ethnically different experiences and perspective.

I suspect this habit formed sometime in elementary or middle school. Before I came to SMU, I went to a small private school. Throughout my twelve years there, I knew maybe 20 people who shared my Chinese heritage. Because I often lacked common ground, I stopped sharing a lot of who I was with my friends. It was not really anyone’s fault.

These instances probably built up over the years. For example, I remember always being embarrassed when my mother made me sushi for lunch. I know you’re thinking, “Sushi is awesome!” Not when you are in middle school and it smells funny. And wasabi? It looks like boogers.

I remember never being able to sleep over at a friend’s house on weekends because I had class on Saturdays. Every Saturday, I spent about five hours at Chinese school learning the language and culture. That kind of makes you the one kid no one invites to birthday parties.

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts my friends at SMU have given me is the opportunity to find myself. I believe I am at a place where differences of opinion are encouraged, cultural differences are shared, and we all become better version of ourselves. I have really enjoyed sharing my culture and traditions with friends who never knew these parts of me existed. I feel that they have become better people because their perspectives and experiences have shifted a little as well. In many ways, I owed it to them to introduce them to the wonderful world of Asian cuisine, literature, and arts. I mean, I have been the one holding back.

SMU just launched a new mini-campaign called The Face of SMU. The campaign highlights students who are helping create a better world in their own way, the fact that you can carve your own path here and become the next “face of SMU”.

I think an underlying statement of this campaign speaks to the strong individuality of our students. That the SMU experience helps you figure out what matters to you and empowers you to make things happen. I really feel that SMU has done this for me. It has helped me find myself – the best version of myself – and given me the confidence to know I am equipped to handle the next stage of my life.

I wonder how many students can relate to this campaign. Do you believe SMU provides you with the necessary tools to become a leader, ambassador, or whatever else it is you dream of becoming? Do you believe that SMU provides you with the kind of environment where you can grow intellectually and not be stifled?

As another year draws to a close, you might consider who you were, who you’ve become, and who you want to be. It is okay if you’ve changed a lot. I know I have. Honor your past by striving to become a better person.

Daniel Liu is a graduate engineering management student. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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