Meet us here first, and then say 'hey' IRL.

residential community Director (RCD)

Rena Gore




Rena, our enthusiastic Residential Community Director (RCD) of our Commons, is from all over the East Coast (Maryland, North Carolina, and New York). She attended college and grad school in New Jersey. In college, Rena was a double major in Management and Marketing with a minor in Theater. She has been at SMU and a part of MHPS and her church for a year now. She comes most recently from Flagstaff, Arizona, where she also worked in Residence Life. In fact, her background in Residence Life is extensive: she has been working in Residence Life for the past ten years, and she truly enjoys what she does. She is passionate about building community and making everyone feel at home here. She loves when people stop by her office in Mary Hay just to say "hey!" She also is a Mary Kay consultant and spends her free time couponing, shopping, and blowing bubbles. Her favorite drink is a chai tea latte (vanilla). 

faculty-in-residence (fIR)

Liljana Elverskog




Liljana is our cheerful and cultured FiR. She loves baking, biking, reading, movies, sewing, being involved with MHPS, and of course teaching! She is a Senior Lecturer of Arabic and the Arabic Area Chair and has taught Modern Standard Arabic in the United States at all levels for almost twenty years. She has taught Arabic at the University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University, the Middlebury College Summer Language Program, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Brown University, and the University of North Texas. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University in May of 1999. Her dissertation, “Verb Morphology in Educated Spoken Arabic,” is a sociolinguistic study of verbal conjugation in this form of spoken Arabic and its implications for the teaching of Arabic. She received her M.A. from the Khartoum International Institute for Arabic Language in the field of Teaching Arabic as a Second Language, and her BA from the University of Sarajevo. 

Don't miss visiting with her on Sundays! Nearly every Sunday from 8-9 pm, Liljana opens up her home in Mary Hay for Sunday Night Snacks, a weekly tradition. She mixes up what's on the menu, but MHPS residents have come to expect Liljana's famous chocolate chip cookies!  


Madyson Smith




Madyson Smith is a current master’s student at SMU in the Higher Education Administration Program. In her role as ARCD, she co-supervises the student staff of RAs and advises MHPS Commons Council. She attended Texas A&M University where she earned her B.A. in Communication Honors, an English minor, a Professional Writing Certificate, and a Strategic Communication Certificate. Her undergraduate background there consisted of involvement in many student organizations and Greek Life, participation in a Marketing Study Abroad Program, and interning at multiple non-profits and other organizations. After her May 2018 graduation, she hopes to continue her Higher Ed career in Texas by taking on a challenging university role that connects together her undergraduate study, her graduate study, and her passions – communication, education, leadership development, and advising/mentoring. Her interests include writing, reading, photography, kayaking, watching Netflix, spending time with her family and friends, and visiting other areas/towns (especially the TX Hill Country). Her favorite food is pistachio froyo. 

faculty affiliates (FA)

Johan Elverskog 

Teresa Brentegani 




Johan, a Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at SMU (and the husband of our FiR, Liljana), is the author and editor of numerous articles and books on the history of Inner Asia, which have won several awards and also been translated into Chinese, Korean, and Russian. His work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Ford Research Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation, among others. He has also been a fellow at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies, and the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and the Käte-Hamburger Kolleg at Ruhr Universität.








Teresa, SMU-in-Lugano Program Director, is a member of the Department of World Languages and Literatures and Chair of the Italian area. She has taught beginning, intermediate and advanced Italian at SMU for over 15 years, as well as abroad on the SMU-in-Rome and Bologna program, which she also directed. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking authentic Italian food and spending time with friends. 

residential community chaplain (rcc)

Maxwell Urbina




Maxwell is from Managua, Nicaragua and he is happily married to Avelina Diaz de Urbina, Doctor in Medicine. He serves as our RCC for MHPS and brings over 17 years of ministry experience. He studied Pastoral Theology at the Antillean Adventist University in Puerto Rico and is currently earning his Master of Divinity at Perkins School of Theology at SMU. Prior to coming to SMU, he worked as a Church Pastor in California and Texas and as an Assistant Pastor in SDA West Conference in Puerto Rico, among other responsibilities. He has also participated in and led many mission trips. In his church now, he serves an anointed elder and music director. Maxwell has high-energy and loves to minister to young people (college folks!) and children. Maxwell is fluent in Spanish and English and has studied a bit of Greek and Hebrew too. He enjoys playing volleyball, Uno, and Dominoes, and he watches a lot of Christian movies and listens to a lot of Christian music. Maxwell can't wait to get to know MHPS residents through lobby chats and our programs.

Maxwell will regularly be in our Commons, eager to talk to anyone and everyone on Mondays from 1:00-3:00 pm and Tuesdays-Fridays from 9:00-11:00 am. 

He can be reached via phone at 469-777-1018 or by email at

commons council leadership team

Bronson Ciavarra, President

Ryan Mendez, Chief of Staff

Lexi Newman, Spirit & Competition Coordinator

Mariah White, Communication Coordinator

Spencer Blakley, Advocacy & Hall Improvement Funds Coordinator

Alix Sommers, Hospitality & Event Logistics Coordinator

Siqian Yang, Community Involvement & Culture Coordinator




Bronson is a Biology Major with minors in Philosophy and Statistical Science. He is from Richmond, Texas. He joined Commons Council during his first-year at SMU and stepped into the role of Chief-of-Staff his second semester. Now, he's stepped up to President! In addition to his involvement with MHPS' Commons Council, Bronson is involved with BYX Fraternity, Global Medical Brigades, Reformed University Fellows, Hilltop Scholars, and several intramurals. He enjoys fishing, hunting, camping, basketball, water polo, reading, thrift shopping, eating breakfast tacos, chilling in his hammock, and having conversations. One day, he would like to make his family into an A Capella group. One day, please come back and perform at MHPS! 








Ryan is a sophomore from Durant, Oklahoma, studying Finance and Applied Physiology. He first got involved with Commons Council during his first-year at SMU. Ryan is also involved with the SMU Wesley Foundation and Mustang Heroes, and he is a player on many intramural sports teams. He loves working out, reading, spending time with friends, and playing sports. Though his biggest pet peeve is when people smack their food, Ryan also loves Nature Valley protein bars. A fun fact about Ryan is that he is an accomplished Eagle Scout - kudos, Ryan! 









Lexi is a sophomore from Waco, Texas. She is studying Chemistry and also hopes to minor in Math. Staying true to her academic interests, Lexi is a member of the Chemistry Society. She also has an athletic side: having a spot on SMU's Club Volleyball team and dominating sports through many of MHPS' intramural teams. In fact, she says her favorite activities are sports, anything competitive, and game nights. She also likes to paint and draw. 









Returning to Commons Council as an executive leader, Mariah is a junior from Lake Highlands/Dallas, Texas. At SMU, she is studying Secondary Education and Psychology while she works for Red Bull and is involved in Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She has an interest in Kpop, Korean culture, and makeup. This ex-National pageant queen enjoys sour gummy worms too. 











Spencer is a sophomore at SMU, studying Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in Biomedical as well as Spanish. He is from Collierville, Tennessee. During his short time at SMU, Spencer has already become involved with Student Senate, Black Men Emerging, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorpated, Hilltop Scholars, and the Connect Mentorship Program. He loves cooking, sports, and hanging with friends. 










Alix, a sophomore from Westport, Connecticut, is studying English, Fashion Media, and Business. At SMU, she is involved with Habitat for Humanity. She is interested in traveling and learning about other cultures and enjoys trying new foods, going to concerts, spending time at the beach, visiting New York City, skiing, and being outdoors. Her favorite snack is a package of mini Reece's peanut butter cups, and she loves an iced green tea from Starbucks. 










Siqian (pronounced 'see-chin') is a sophomore studying Mathematics and Accounting. She is an only child and is from Chengdu, Sichuan, China. Commons Council is the organization she is fully invested in at SMU. After participating in Quiz Bowl, Siqian thought Commons Council would be a great way to make friends, get involved, practice her English, and help make MHPS a home for all MHPS residents, especially international students. For fun, Siqian enjoys cooking, swimming, listening to music and singing along. 

MARY HAY Resident assistants

Raven Harding, First Floor RA

Leah Hudson, Second Floor RA

Katie Hurdle, Third Floor RA

Curtis Faulkner, Fourth Floor RA




Raven, a third-year RA, is a senior from Frisco, Texas, studying Health and Society, Psychology, and Spanish. Outside of studying, Raven can be found singing with her A Cappella group, hanging with her AKA sisters, giving tours to prospective SMU students, and enjoying ShondaLand Thursdays. She is also an accomplished Netflixer, Shopaholic, and Foodie (currently on a quest to find the best Queso in Dallas). Raven is so excited to be returning home to the MHPS family and cannot wait to make new memories with the residents and staff!









Leah, from Fort Worth, Texas, is a senior majoring in Accounting and minoring in Italian. In addition to being a second-year RA, Leah works at the Comptroller’s Office as the Assistant Comptroller, and she is involved in the Association of Black Students and Sisters Supporting Sisters. She likes reading and watching TV; she's also an expert golfer who went and competed at State in high school. She visits the golf course or Top Golf when she can manage the time. Her favorite drink from Starbuck is a double chocolate frap. 









Katie is a senior from Columbia, Missouri majoring in Engineering Management, Information, & Systems. She just so happens to be studying Operations Research and working on earning her Master's too. Katie is involved in Girl Scouts, leading a troop, and INFORMS. She loves spending time with friends, baking goodies, taking walks, playing board/party games, and enjoying the outdoors. She is excited for another great year in MHPS, eating her fave: kettle corn popcorn!









Curtis, a junior and first-year RA, from Austin, Texas, studies Acting and Musical Theatre at SMU. He keeps himself busy by being involved in SMU Student Theatre, Southern Gentlemen, Spectrum, the Association of Black Students, and SMU Naturals, and he is a Rotunda Academic Scholar. His favorite hobbies are dancing, singing in the Commons, and mountain hiking.  

peyton resident assistants

Sidney Eichelberger, First Floor RA

Gabriella (Gabi) Smith, Second Floor RA

Ryan Mendez, Third Floor RA




Dallas, Texas native, Sidney is a sophomore Biomedical Engineering student. He is also studying Philosophy as a minor. Before becoming an RA, Sidney got involved in MHPS as a Commons Council member during his first-year. Sidney is involved with SMU Photography and the Club Water Polo team, and he is a Rotunda Scholar. He enjoys swimming, basketball, water polo, the outdoors, and music. He'd be happy with anything involving dark chocolate, but he is lactose intolerant.   









Gabriella, or Gabi, is a sophomore from Southlake, Texas. At SMU, she is studying Visual Art, Economics, and Creative Writing. When she's not in the classroom, Gabi can be found working on her photography skills, writing, watching films, or napping. Gabi is also involved in SMU's Rowing Team, the Retail Club, Korean Student Association, and Sisters Supporting Sisters. She grew up in Mexico and she wishes to someday go to South Africa and to learn multiple languages. 









Ryan is a sophomore from Durant, Oklahoma, studying Finance and Applied Physiology. He first got involved with Commons Council during his first-year at SMU. Ryan is also involved with the SMU Wesley Foundation and Mustang Heroes, and he is a player on many intramural sports teams. He loves working out, reading, spending time with friends, and playing sports. Though his biggest pet peeve is when people smack their food, Ryan also loves Nature Valley protein bars. A fun fact about Ryan is that he is an accomplished Eagle Scout - kudos, Ryan! 

shuttles resident assistants

Cristina Dondiego, First Floor RA

Eston White, Second Floor RA

Greg Guggenmos, Third Floor RA

Emily Zhang, Fourth Floor RA




A first-year RA, Cristina, who is a sophomore from Dallas, Texas, studies Finance and International Studies. She is also planning on getting minors in Photography and Economics. At SMU, Cristina is involved with College Hispanic American Studies, Rotunda Yearbook, and Mustang Heroes, and she is a Rotunda Scholar. In her free time, she loves exploring Dallas, eating avocado toast, browsing through Instagram for outfit inspiration, taking photos, working at Salon Pompeo, and shopping. 










Eston, a second-year RA, is a junior from Richardson, Texas, majoring in Psychology. He comes from a family of seven with seven pets. His hobbies include watching movies, hanging out with friends, eating Whataburger, and listening to N’Sync, One Direction, and Boyz II Men while watching an endless stream of Parks and Rec. Yes, they happen at the same time. Students organizations he is involved in include BYX Fraternity and Best Buddies. He loves being an RA because it provides the perfect opportunity to create a fun living environment for SMU students. He can’t wait to have another great year!








Greg, an ambitious junior and a first-year RA from Garland, Texas, is working on his BS in Statistical Sciences, his minors in History and Computer Science, and his MS in Applied Statistics and Data Analytics. We wonder how he has time for all his activities: BYX Fraternity, Human Rights Community Outreach Fellows, SMU Ambassadors, and Mustang Heroes. Greg enjoys rock climbing, ultimate frisbee, urban exploring, and reading the Economist magazine. He cannot eat milk, cheese, butter, or chocolate - so don't try to tempt him. He does enjoy Starbuck's Pike's Place Roast (no sugar, no cream of course). He has a goal to someday memorize a whole deck of cards in less than five minutes.  







A first-year RA, Emily is a sophomore from Denver, Colorado. Her major is in Chemistry and she is minoring in Human Rights and Women and Gender Studies. Emily is involved in Best Buddies, Gamma Phi Beta, Chemistry Society, Asian Council, and the University Honors Program. Her favorite pastimes are working out and playing her ukelele. A fun fact about Emily is that she used to have a pet hedgehog and multiple pet hermit crabs; if she were allowed to have them here, we bet she would. 

peer leaders

Charlotte Schodowksi, Peer Academic Leader

Danqing Zhang, Peer Health Educator

Olivia Marx, Peer Honors Mentor

Heidi Zettl, Peer Honors Mentor




Coming from Kingsport, Tenessee, Charlotte is a sophomore at SMU, studying Finance. She also hopes to minor in Math. Charlotte is involved with Alpha Kappa Psi, Mustang Heroes, Student Senate, and the BBA Marketing Association. Among her favorite activities are hot yoga, dancing, baking, and City Surf! Charlotte hopes to open her own business someday.  










Danqing is a sophomore from Shanghai, China. She is studying Studio Arts, Economics, Creative Computation, and World Language. At SMU, Danqing is involves with the University Honors Program and Mustang Heroes. She likes visiting art museums, experiencing concerts, eating, working out, and traveling. Also, she loves chocolate and litchi. 










Olivia is a sophomore from Arlington, Texas. She is studying Biochemistry and Math. When she's not busy with the Mustang Band, Ballroom Dancing, and the Honors Program, Olivia can be found eating, watching Netflix, or swimming. Honey nut Cheerios is her favorite snack, and she has a goal to lose the lottery in every state.












Heidi is a sophomore from Allen, Texas, though her parents have since relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. She is studying Mechanical Engineering, Finance, and the Natural Sciences. At SMU, Heidi is involved with Theta Tau Engineering Fraternity and the Honors Research Association. Heidi enjoys playing piano, writing music, petting dogs, catching lizards, and meeting interesting people. She's an interesting person herself, being able to dislocate both of her shoulders! Backpacking through Europe is on her bucket list.