Phillips Foundation Gives SMU $1.7M Grant for SMU Impact Lab

A collaboration between the university’s Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business, the SMU Impact Lab aims to equip the next generation of SMU students to understand impact investing through education and practice.

Southern Methodist University in Dallas has received a $1.7 million multiyear grant from Phillips Foundation to establish the SMU Impact Lab, a student-focused initiative to invest in commercial opportunities that produce substantial financial and social returns.

A collaboration between the University’s Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business, the SMU Impact Lab aims to equip the next generation of SMU students to understand impact investing through education and practice. 

‘Investing for the greater good’

“The SMU Impact Lab is an exceptional resource center for our University that is designed for those interested in investing for the greater good,” Samuel S. Holland, Algur H. Dean of SMU Meadows School of the Arts, said in a statement. “The gift from Phillips Foundation will be invaluable to the program and support our larger SMU community interested in positive impact alongside their passions and careers.”

The university said the lab will also enrich the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in North Texas.

The SMU Impact Lab will provide students, faculty, and alumni the opportunity to invest in solutions to complex community problems.

The lab combines the social, creative, and arts entrepreneurship programs of the Meadows School of the Arts and the traditional investing and financial expertise of the Cox School of Business, the university said.

Via hands-on experiences, students across the campus will evaluate investable opportunities for both measurable social impact and financial returns.

Aligning ‘profits and purpose’

SMU said that a portion of the Phillips Foundation’s grant will support its existing Real Estate Impact Investment Fund, a student-led fund recently created to spur innovative investment in underserved communities throughout North Texas.

The experiential learning fund targets a blended investment approach that considers both financial and impact metrics and focuses on real estate opportunities in overlooked neighborhoods.

SMU said that profits are split equally between ongoing support of the fund’s diverse portfolio and a scholarship program to benefit real estate-focused students at SMU.

“This fund gives students practical learning experiences in the constantly shifting real estate markets of DFW and North Texas. It will also enable us to create opportunities for future generations of students by providing scholarships powered by the fund’s investments,” Joseph Cahoon, director of the Cox School’s Folsom Institute for Real Estate and professor of practice in real estate, said in a statement.

The grant from Phillips Foundation adds to SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow, SMU’s multiyear $1.5 billion campaign for impact. The grant furthers the campaign’s goals to enrich teaching and research and enhance the SMU campus and community for future generations.

“We selected SMU as a collaborator on this initiative after identifying that this region needs an engine for social innovation and impact investing education in particular,” Elizabeth Carlock Phillips, executive director of Phillips Foundation, said in a statement. “As Phillips Foundation has learned in practice, it is possible to align profits and purpose. We are excited for the SMU Impact Lab to equip and inspire a new generation of impact investors and social entrepreneurs.”

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