Remarkable and Unique CityMy Dallas Story

Name: Aurélie Thiele

City: Dallas

Neighborhood: Uptown

Company/Title: Southern Methodist University, Associate Professor

When did you move here? Where from?
July 2016, from Pennsylvania

Where else have you lived?
I was raised in Brussels, Belgium; went to college in Paris, France; lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for doctoral studies at MIT; and worked at a university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

What made you Say Yes to Dallas?
I wanted to go back to a big city with a booming economy and a thriving cultural scene.

How did you choose where to live in the Dallas Region?
My criteria were a short commute to work and a walkable neighborhood, while being close to city attractions. Uptown was perfect.

What is the one thing that you could have done to make your move easier?
I was lucky to find Dallas-based Arpin America to move me across the country. If I had to do the move again, I would have the movers do a full pack instead of a partial pack. They were so much more efficient than I.

How has your opinion of the Dallas Region changed since moving here?
I like Dallas even more now. Culture is really important for me, and I expected good cultural opportunities because I knew about the SMU Meadows School for Performing Arts, Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Symphony and the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I thought I’d miss New York City, where I would often go when I lived in Pennsylvania to catch a play, a concert or a Broadway show. It turns out I don’t miss New York at all. The arts in the Dallas Region have been spectacular.

I love how institutions such as the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Collection of Asian Art and the Kimbell in Fort Worth offer free year-round admission to their permanent collections. For a vibrant society, it’s important that everyone be exposed to culture, independent of financial ability to pay. And the excellent Dallas Symphony, led by New York-bound Jaap van Zweden, also has great ticket prices. It tells you a lot about an area when local institutions (helped by generous donations, obviously) make access one of their priorities. I like how so many local businesspeople have given back to the community.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to move here?
Don’t believe the clichés. Family members in Europe mentioned JFK’s assassination and the 1980s TV show when I told them about the job offer. They meant well, but those were the only two things they knew about Dallas. Acquaintances in the northeast said they’d never be able to move to such a conservative city. I think by that they meant judgmental — not realizing they were the ones passing judgment. But I have found Dallasites to be very welcoming. People haven’t asked me where I went to church or to which political party I belong — two things I had been warned I would surely be interrogated on as soon as I set foot in Texas. I’ve been stunned by how much of a gem Dallas is.

What is your passion, and how does Dallas help fulfill it?
I love everything creative. Dallas offers so many opportunities to be exposed to first-rate creative output. My passion is to write, and I have found the book-related events at the Dallas Museum of Art (Arts & Letters series) and the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture to be inspirational. I also love art. It doesn’t get any better than having the Dallas Museum of Art, the SMU Meadows Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art nearby.

Professionally, I love making a difference. It’s exhilarating to teach SMU students; they’re bound for great things. I’m proud to make my own small contribution to that.

What would you miss most about the area if you had to leave?
I would miss the great quality of life: the restaurants, the performing arts events, the proximity to everything I like. And the people, too.

Tell us about the work environment here.
I love working at SMU. All the faculty and staff members I’ve met are committed to helping students become world changers who will cultivate principled thought, excel in their endeavors, and contribute to their communities. It’s one thing to have people tell you as much during the interview process, quite another to see it in action.

Where do you go and what do you do on the weekends or days off?
I usually go to a performing arts event at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, attend a panel discussion at the Nasher Sculpture Center or drop by the Dallas Museum of Art. I might catch a movie at the Angelika. On occasion, I go to the Bishop Arts District or White Rock Lake. At some point during the weekend, I try to catch up on Krys Boyd’s Think podcasts.

Where do you go to experience culture?
SMU Meadows School of Performing Arts, Dallas Museum of Art, Meyerson Symphony, Winspear Opera House, Wyly Theatre — I like everything creative.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Dive Dallas in Snider Plaza near SMU. Their salads and seafood are extraordinarily fresh and tasty. I also love True Food Kitchen, Mesero, Meso Maya, Bolsa Mercado and Terra Mediterranean Grill in Irving for their weekday buffet. For upscale celebrations, nothing beats Flora Street Café, across the street from the Meyerson Symphony Center. It’s worthy of a Michelin star.

What is your favorite festival/event?
Anything happening at the SMU Meadows School for the Performing Arts is my favorite event of the moment.

Where do you like to shop? Why?
I usually do my shopping online, but NorthPark is the most beautiful mall I’ve ever seen and the art on display is outstanding.

Who is your local hero? Why?
Ret. Chief David Brown of the Dallas Police Department, for his leadership

Do you travel often? Is it easier or harder to do here?
Dallas is at most three and a half hours by plane of any major city in the U.S. and is a hub for both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. That’s hard to beat.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Dallas is uniquely positioned to become one of the main creative cities in the U.S. and a leading innovation hub, thanks to its mix of top universities, thriving companies across a wide span of industries, and great quality of life. I’m not sure if the people in Dallas realize how remarkable and unique the city is.

(And, thanks to Derrick Spencer of Lure Salon for styling my hair!)

Photo Credit:  Sarah Bradbury