Guildhall administrator, Navy reservist Steven Cole celebrates Veterans Day after returning from deployment in Afghanistan

The Guildhall at SMU

Guildhall administrator, Navy reservist Steven Cole celebrates Veterans Day after returning from deployment in Afghanistan

Capt. Steven Cole, USNRNavy veteran Steven Cole is back at SMU as both a staff member and a student after a one-year deployment with the NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

A deputy director with the SMU Guildhall and an officer in the United States Navy Reserve, Capt. Cole returned to the University in August after serving as director of the NATO-led Multinational Fusion Center, Regional Command North (RC-North) – a United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Mazar-i-Sharif with personnel from 17 different countries.

And in spring 2016, Capt. Cole becomes a master’s degree candidate in SMU’s Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, which shares the SMU-in-Plano campus with the Guildhall. He hopes to complete his postgraduate journey with doctoral studies in behavior sciences.

Capt. Cole’s Navy intelligence service focuses on counterinsurgency, human terrain and strategic analysis. A certified fraud examiner and private investigator with special expertise in forensic accounting, he made good use of his experience in an assignment with the Afghanistan Minister of Interior Affairs and Inspector General, helping to revamp the agency’s training and infrastructure.

“All the money, all the bullets, all the fuel the United States and the coalition are pouring into the government – someone has to account for that,” he says. “You can’t expect an agency to account for things when they don’t even have an accountant on staff.” His audits helped to drive sweeping changes, including the removal of corrupt officials and a revalidation of the ministry’s reporting cycles.

“Now they’re reviewing real numbers,” he says. “And we left a lot of good people in place to continue making progress.” Capt. Cole will retire from Navy Reserve service in an on-campus ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 in the Hillcrest Commons, Collins Executive Education Center.

Capt. Cole began his “dream job” at the Guildhall in April 2014. During his deployment, he carried stacks of Guildhall stickers and business cards and shared them often with fellow service members – most of whom were fellow gamers as well.

“I’d love to see some of these enlisted members come to Lyle or Meadows on their Veterans Administration benefits and join the Guildhall 4+1 program,” he says. “It’s kind of a big deal, and it’s just about the best way to get into a Guildhall program.”

Steven Cole joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in February 1986 and earned his B.B.A. degree in accounting from Abilene Christian University in 1978. His first Navy Reserve assignment was in North Texas: as assistant training officer to Fleet Intelligence Rapid Support Team, Pacific 0470 (FIRSTPAC 0470) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Dallas in Grand Prairie. During his Navy Reserve career he has served as an analyst, intelligence officer and intelligence training instructor with commands throughout California and Texas. His current command is stationed at Carrier Strike Group FOUR, Norfolk, Virginia.

A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Capt. Cole served with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) mission of counterintelligence, human intelligence, force protection and counterterrorism assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Capt. Cole was awarded the Information Dominance Warfare Officer (IDWO) pin in October 2010. His personal decorations include the Distinguished Meritorious Service (2), Joint Service Commendation and Navy Commendation medals, as well as two Combat Action ribbons.

November 11, 2015|For the Record, News|

SMU Guildhall hosts 2015 Spring Exhibition Friday, May 15

Paul Bettner

Paul Bettner, co-creator of Words with Friends and founder of Playful Corp, will speak at a graduation reception for The Guildhall at SMU’s Cohort 21.

The Guildhall at SMU hosts its bi-annual graduate exhibition showcasing video games developed by graduating students on Friday, May 15, 2015. The 2015 Spring Exhibition will honor Cohort 21: 26 master’s degree candidates who specialize in art creation, level design and programming.

The Exhibition will take place in Building 2 of the SMU-in-Plano campus at 5232 Tennyson Parkway. All of the following events are open to the public:

  • 2:30-4 p.m. – Open play session of 2D and 3D games developed by Guildhall students
  • 4-5 p.m. – Cohort 21 Honors presentations and awards
  • 5-6 p.m. – Cohort 21 Capstone team games presentations

An invitation-only reception for Cohort 21 and their friends and family will conclude the day’s events.

> Find more SMU Guildhall events on Facebook

Paul Bettner, CEO and founder of the McKinney, Texas-based game development studio Playful Corp, will be the honorary keynote speaker at the Cohort 21 graduate reception.

Bettner has been creating interactive entertainment for 20 years. In 2008, he co-founded Newtoy, Inc. with his brother David to create the hit social game Words with Friends. Before that, he worked with Microsoft Game Studios, where he helped create blockbuster hits Halo Wars and Age of Empires.

In 2012, Bettner founded Playful Corp. Their first announced title, Lucky’s Tale, is a platforming adventure game designed exclusively for virtual reality. Bettner and his team are also in active development on Creativerse, currently gaining fans through early access on the Steam gaming site.

> Visit The Guildhall at SMU online: guildhall.smu.edu

May 5, 2015|Calendar Highlights, News|

Princeton Review ranks SMU Guildhall #3 among graduate game-design programs in 2015

The Guildhall at SMU exterior, February 2015The Guildhall at SMU maintains its third spot among the world’s top graduate game-design programs in The Princeton Review’s sixth annual report, published Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

The University of Utah was ranked at #1 on the graduate school list in the Review’s 2015 report; UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy ranked #2. At #3, The Guildhall ranks above the University of Southern California (#4), Rochester Institute of Technology (#6), New York University (#9), MIT (#11) and Ohio State (#18), and higher than two other top-25 graduate programs in Texas: UT-Dallas (#12) and Texas A&M (#22).

> Read The Princeton Review‘s full 2015 game design program rankings

The Review selected the schools based on its 2014-15 survey of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada and abroad offering game design coursework and/or degrees. The 50-question survey asked schools to report on a range of topics, from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements. In addition, the Review weighted more than 60 data points to make its assessments, with criteria focusing on curriculum, facilities, technology and career services.

“Being in the top three schools is a tribute to faculty with deep experience, bright and motivated students, industry support, and a commitment to continual improvement,” said Gary Brubaker, director of The Guildhall at SMU.

The Princeton Review’s reporting partner, PC Gamer magazine, will include a section on the top schools in its May 2015 issue. The issue will feature information on degree programs, class offerings, events, prominent professors, and alumni. The print edition will be available on newsstands Tuesday, March 31.

> Visit The Guildhall at SMU online

March 30, 2015|News|

No means no: SMU study shows that teen girls report less sexual victimization after virtual-reality assertiveness training

Stock photo of two people holding handsTeen girls were less likely to report being sexually victimized after learning to assertively resist unwanted sexual overtures and practicing resistance in a realistic virtual environment, according to a new SMU-led study.

The effects persisted over a three-month period following the training, says clinical psychologist Lorelei Simpson Rowe, lead author on the pilot study and an associate professor of psychology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

The research also found that those girls who had previously experienced dating violence reported lower levels of psychological aggression and psychological distress after completing the program, relative to girls in a comparison group.

“The virtual simulations allowed girls to practice being assertive in a realistic environment. The intent of the program is for the learning opportunity to increase the likelihood that they will use the skills in real life,” said Simpson Rowe, who also serves as graduate program co-director in the Department of Psychology. “Research has shown that skills are more likely to generalize if they are practiced in a realistic environment, so we used virtual reality to increase the realism.”

The training program, called “My Voice, My Choice,” emphasizes that victims do not invite sexual violence and that they have the right to stand up for themselves because violent or coercive behavior is never OK.

“It is very promising that learning resistance skills and practicing them in virtual simulations of coercive interactions could reduce the risk for later sexual victimization,” said Simpson Rowe.

She cautioned, however, that the research is preliminary and based on a small sample: 42 in the “My Voice, My Choice” condition and 36 in a control condition. Future research is needed to establish the benefits of the program across different age groups and populations, for example, college versus high school students.

The study’s strengths included its randomized controlled design and a high participant retention rate among the 78 teen girls in the study.

The virtual-reality simulation component of “My Voice, My Choice” utilizes a software program developed by study co-authors Ernest N. Jouriles and Renee McDonald in conjunction with the game design program in The Guildhall at SMU. Jouriles and McDonald are clinical psychologists in the SMU Psychology Department. Jouriles is professor and chair. McDonald is a professor and associate dean of research and academic affairs in Dedman College.

“One advantage the virtual simulations offer is the ability to actually observe whether, and how, the girls are using the skills in coercive situations that feel very real,” McDonald said. “This provides girls with opportunities for immediate feedback and accelerated learning, and for facilitators to easily spot areas in need of further strengthening. The value of this advantage can’t be overstated.”

One question that remains for future research is whether the practice in virtual simulations was the operative factor that reduced sexual victimization, Simpson Rowe said.

“We need to determine if practice in a virtual setting is the key factor in making the intervention effective, or if other factors, such as being encouraged to stand up for themselves, led to the outcomes,” she said.

The researchers reported their findings, “Reducing Sexual Victimization among Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of My Voice, My Choice,” in the journal Behavior Therapy. The article has been published online in advance of print.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

February 12, 2015|Faculty in the News, For the Record, News, Research|

SMU Guildhall hosts free-play sessions of student-designed games during 2014 Fall Exhibition Friday, Dec. 19

The Guildhall at SMU will host a free-play day featuring games designed by graduating students at its 2014 Fall Exhibition on Friday, Dec. 19. The Exhibition will take place in Building 2 of the SMU-in-Plano campus, 5232 Tennyson Parkway.

The Exhibition honors Cohort 20, composed of 26 graduate students who specialize in art, level design, production and software development. All of the following events are open to the public:

  • 2:30 to 4 p.m. – Open play session of 2D and 3D games developed by Guildhall students
  • 4 to 5 p.m. – Cohort 20 Honors presentations and awards
  • 5 to 6 p.m. – Cohort 20 Capstone team games presentations

An invitation-only reception for Cohort 20 and their friends and family will conclude the day’s events.

Steve Nix, CEO and co-founder of Yvolver, will be the honorary keynote speaker at the Cohort 20 graduate reception. Yvolver is a Dallas-based startup that brings the science of loyalty reward programs to mobile games with a platform that focuses on player retention, engagement and monetization.

In addition to co-founding Yvolver, Nix is an adviser for Dallas Venture Partners. Previously, he was GM of Digital Distribution with GameStop, ran Business Development at id Software, served as CEO of Ritual Entertainment, and helped found the SMU Guildhall. He lives in Dallas with his wife and two daughters.

For more information about the Fall 2014 Guildhall Exhibition, contact  at Doug Darby, 972-473-3545.

December 16, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News|
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