Alumni Changemakers: Steve Denson

Alumni Changemakers: Steve Denson

To honor our 40 years, we're celebrating our most valuable resource - our alumni - through 40 profiles highlighting their leadership. Alumnus Steve Denson completed the Junior Summer Institute at Michigan University in 1990. 

Creating Innovative Solutions through Diverse Perspectives 

Steve Denson embodies the values of inclusion, collaboration, and leadership. A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Steve earned his BA in Political Science and History from East Central University while also serving as the President of the Young Democrats. He earned his MS in Public Policy and Management from Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and participated in the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship at the University of Michigan School of Public Policy.

After working as a Consultant for Dresser-Rand, Steve became the Assistant Director of Student Services for Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University during which time he also interned as a Consultant at CP Industries. He went on to work as the Chief Development Officer for Chickasaw Nation Foundation before committing his leadership skills to Southern Methodist University.

His career at Southern Methodist University began as the Associate Director of Student Services, led to being the Director of Student Services, and then to Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the University’s Cox School of Business. He currently holds the position of Assistant Dean of Diversity for SMU’s Cox School of Business and is part of the Diversity Council, a team of 15 diversity officers working with the University’s Chief Diversity Officer to diversify the staff, faculty, and student body at SMU.

“If you want a diverse population on your campus, you have to change your philosophy, you have to change your approach, and you have to diversify the makeup of the people who are providing that education.”

As an adjunct professor and senior lecturer of Negotiations at SMU Cox, a position he maintains in addition to his role as assistant dean of diversity, he has successfully led numerous winning delegations to the National Undergraduate Negotiation Competition. An Advisory Board Member for the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at the University, he offers insight into the indigenous cultures in support of their research and programming and initiated a travel research grant to help students immerse themselves in Native American Culture.

Steve is building bridges not only on campus but beyond. He maintains active relationships with diverse local and national organizations and initiatives such as National Black MBA Association, Prospanica, the Association of Latino Professionals for America, Ascend, Women in Business and the National Association of Black Accountants to support a culture of inclusion for both his students and the workforce.

“We want to create opportunities for them outside of the University by reaching out to organizations that are going to help them build their networks.” 

His work has not gone unnoticed. He has been recognized by the Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce with the Corporate Executive Diversity Award, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Texas with the Native American of the Year Award, and the Southwest Jewish Congress as a recipient of the Stan Golden Men of Action Award. He has provided expertise and leadership to the American Indian College Fund as a Board Trustee, the U.S. Dept of Labor as a member of the Native American Employment and Training Council appointed by President George W. Bush and reappointed by President Barack Obama, and to the National Public Radio station KERA-FM as a Community Advisory Board Member.

Steve recognizes that diversity is a driving force of innovation for both business education and the evolving corporate world. Through intentional collaboration and focus, he is nurturing a rich multicultural landscape that is broadening the horizons of what is possible both for individuals and corporations.

Thank you, Steve, for valuing and promoting diverse perspectives and contributions. Through your leadership and example, people are feeling welcome on the campus and in the workforce. Your efforts are ushering in a thriving society that is vibrant and bright from all perspectives.

Read more changemaker profiles here