For the Record

Kenechukwu (K.C.) Mmeje named SMU Vice President for Student Affairs

Kenechukwu K.C. MmejeKenechukwu (K.C.) Mmeje, assistant vice president and dean of students at Loyola University Chicago, has been named Vice President for Student Affairs at SMU effective Monday, July 17, 2017.

“Strength of character and a commitment to students shines through in interactions with Dr. Mmeje,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His experience at urban, private universities in Chicago and Los Angeles also set him apart as a candidate for this important position at SMU. We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Mmeje to the Hilltop in Dallas.”

In his new duties, Mmeje (pronounced MAY-jay) will oversee areas including the Office of the Dean of Student Life; Residence Life; women’s, LGBT, multicultural, volunteer and leadership programs; student activities; student conduct; the Hegi Family Career Development Center; campus ministries; health and wellness programs, including the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center; the Hughes-Trigg Student Center and the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.

As assistant vice president and dean of students at Loyola University Chicago since September 2014, Mmeje has been responsible for several functional areas that support Loyola’s academic mission and promote a vibrant campus life, including the Office of the Dean of Students, Off-Campus Student Life, Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution, Student Activities & Greek Affairs, Leadership Development and Second Year Experience, Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, and the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC). He has almost 15 years of progressively responsible student affairs experience in judicial affairs, crisis management, retention and academic support services, and student advocacy and support.

In addition, he oversees Loyola’s Behavioral Concerns Team and co-chairs the Threat Assessment Team. He also co-chairs the Loyola Experience Implementation Committee, which is responsible for ensuring alignment of the institution’s academic and co-curricular programs through ongoing collaborations that include New Student Convocation, Welcome Week, and Student Support and Retention Initiatives, among others.

“I am excited to join the SMU community,” Mmeje said. “Throughout the search process, I was struck by the passion and enthusiasm with which everyone I met described their love and tremendous pride for SMU. I look forward to partnering with the outstanding professionals in the Division of Student Affairs, faculty and academic leaders to offer a seamlessly integrated curricular and co-curricular experience that supports the holistic development of each student. I am eager to meet the SMU student community and to begin working on their behalf.”

Mmeje began his career in student life and development at the University of Vermont in Burlington, where he served as assistant director of the Office of Judicial Affairs from 2003-04. He served the University of Southern California (USC) as assistant director of student judicial affairs and community standards (2004-05), and as student affairs advisor and special projects coordinator for the vice president of student affairs (2005-06).

From 2006-10, Mmeje was director of the USC Scholars Program, a funded outreach and retention initiative serving local underrepresented, first-generation, and low- to moderate-income transfer students. In this role, he collaborated with faculty to develop, implement and assess programs that facilitated the academic and social success of these students at USC. In addition, he provided regular training for academic advisors on how to better serve the university’s transfer population, as well as admissions and financial aid counseling for students and their parents and guardians.

His eight-year career with Loyola University Chicago included service as associate dean of student life (2010-13) before his promotion to assistant vice president, Student Life, in July 2013. Concurrently with his other duties, he also served as interim director of the Department of Residence Life from 2015-16.

Mmeje received his B.A. degree in sociology and Black studies from the University of California-Santa Barbara. He earned a Master of Education degree in higher education student affairs administration from the University of Vermont and his Ed.D. in educational leadership from USC. In addition, he holds a Certificate in Management and Leadership in Education from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

His wife, Natasha, is a health educator and currently serves as assistant director of Loyola’s Wellness Center for Health Promotion. She also is a trained medical advocate for survivors of sexual assault in the State of Illinois. They have two daughters, Ayana and Savannah.

Mmeje was selected after a nationwide search coordinated by a campus committee chaired by Harold W. Stanley, vice president for executive affairs. He replaces the late Pamela D. Anthony, who died Jan. 17, 2017, after a battle with cancer. Joanne Vogel, SMU associate vice president and dean of student life, currently serves as vice president ad interim.

Four distinguished SMU scholars named 2017 Ford Research Fellows

Four outstanding SMU professors were honored for their scholarship and research with 2017 Ford Research Fellowships. The awards were presented during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 4.

This year’s recipients are Stephanie Al Otaiba, Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development; Jeffrey Kahn, Dedman School of Law; Zhong Lu, Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Bruce Marshall, Perkins School of Theology.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help SMU retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

Stephanie Al Otaiba is the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include school-based literacy interventions, response to intervention, learning disabilities, diverse learners, and teacher training. She has published more than 110 journal articles and book chapters and has also developed reading curricular materials. Her research has been supported by several federally funded grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and Office of Special Education Programs, and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Jeffrey Kahn is a professor in Dedman School of Law whose areas of expertise include U.S. constitutional law, administrative law, Russian law, human rights and counterterrorism. His latest research focuses on the right to travel and national security law; his most recent book, Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, critically examines the U.S. government’s no-fly list. Professor Kahn’s work on Russian law has been noted by name by the editors of The New York Times and published in various law reviews, as well as the peer-reviewed journals Post-Soviet Affairs and Review of Central and East European Law. Professor Kahn is a founding member of the Advisory Board of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Education Program and a Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

Zhong Lu is the Shuler-Foscue Endowed Chair and director of graduate studies in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. His geophysics research focuses on the use of satellite-borne radar to detect subtle changes in the earth’s surface preceding volcanic eruptions. He also researches volcano deformation, earthquake deformation mapping, fault geometry and modeling, and ground-water basin analysis. His work with InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) includes underground nuclear explosion monitoring, landslide monitoring and water-level changes of wetlands. Professor Lu has been awarded more than $3 million in grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Geological Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Bruce Marshall is the Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine in Perkins School of Theology. He ranks among the top scholars in the world who conduct research and write about the most enduring and debated of Christian beliefs – namely, the doctrine of the Trinity. His research and writing focus on this doctrine, as well as the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. He is also an expert on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and has lectured widely throughout the United States and abroad on topics ranging from Trinitarian theology to Christology. Professor Marshall has written two books and more than 90 articles, book chapters, and reviews, and is a frequent speaker in both national and international venues.

Four top teachers named SMU’s 2017-19 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors

Four outstanding SMU professors have been named 2017-19 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors, as announced by the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 4, 2017.

The 2017 honorees are W. Keith Robinson, Tsai Center for Law, Science and Innovation, Dedman School of Law; Stephen Sekula, Physics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Kumar Venkataraman, Finance, Cox School of Business; and Kathleen Wellman, History, Dedman College of Humanities and Science.

The new members of SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers will join active returning members William Dillon, Marketing, Cox School of Business; Maria Dixon, Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, Meadows School of the Arts; Elizabeth Thornburg, Civil Procedure and Alternative Dispute Resolution, Dedman School of Law; and Gabriela Vokic, World Languages and Literatures (Spanish), Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Each year since 2001, the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Awards, named for SMU Trustee Ruth Altshuler, recognize SMU faculty members for their commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning.

“These are faculty whose concerns for higher education go beyond classroom boundaries and often the boundaries of their own discipline,” according to the CTE. “They represent the highest achievement in reaching the goals of higher education.”

Each recipient receives a $10,000 award and membership in SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers for the two years of their appointment as Altshuler Professors. Members participate actively with other members of the Academy to address issues in classroom teaching.

> Read more about the 2017 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors at the SMU CTE homepage

Five receive 2017 Faculty Senate Outstanding Staff Awards

The SMU Faculty Senate honored five staff members for outstanding performance with 2017 Faculty Senate Outstanding Staff Awards. The honors were presented during the Senate’s last meeting of the 2016-17 academic year on Wednesday, May 3.

This year’s winners:

  • James Dees, Graduate Student Administration, Lyle School of Engineering
  • Pamela Goolsby, Events and Facilities, Perkins School of Theology
  • Teresa Janicki, World Languages and Literatures, Dedman College
  • Carolyn Jeter, Executive Assistant to the Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost
  • Sandra Oswalt, Sponsored Projects, Office of Research and Graduate Studies

In addition to the glass trophies presented to each honoree, they received gifts ranging from season tickets to art books to museum memberships, donated by SMU Athletics, the SMU Bookstore, SMU Dining Services, Meadows Museum and the Meadows School of the Arts.

Updates from the May 5, 2017 meeting of the SMU Board of Trustees

In its quarterly meeting May 5, SMU’s Board of Trustees elected new officers, selected two new committee chairs and welcomed new incoming deans of the Edwin L. Cox School of Business and Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. President R. Gerald Turner also agreed to a five-year extension, ensuring that he will continue to serve as president until at least May 31, 2022.

According to SMU Board of Trustees Chair Michael M. Boone, this action expresses the Board’s continuing confidence in Turner’s leadership. “The Board’s goal is to continue SMU’s momentum and its rising prominence at this historic time.”

The SMU Board reelected Boone as board chair. Robert H. Dedman, Jr. was elected vice-chair and chair-elect. He is expected to serve as board chair beginning in June 2018. David B. Miller was elected secretary. Two new committee chairs were chosen by the Board: Kelly Compton will chair the Academic Affairs Committee and Jeanne Tower Cox will chair the Student Affairs Committee.

New ex-officio members of the Board are SMU Faculty Senate President Paul Krueger, a professor of mechanical engineering in the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, SMU Alumni Board Chair Doug Smellage, 1977 SMU alumnus and Dallas businessman, and SMU Student Trustee Andrew Udofa, a 2014 SMU alumnus (degrees in biology and chemistry) and current Simmons School of Education and Human Development doctoral student.

SMU’s new deans, who will start at the University on Aug. 1, are Matthew B. Myers, Cox School of Business, and Stephanie L. Knight, Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

The Board also enthusiastically supported the Pony Power: Strengthening the Stampede initiative to strengthen annual support for scholarships and programs. The goal of this three-year effort is to increase current-use giving from its $43 million per year total to $50 million per year.

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