ORACLE course eases transition for SMU transfer students

Students who transfer to SMU after beginning their college experience on another campus will have the opportunity to take a class in Fall 2013 designed for a smoother transition.

Prospective students who attended Mustang Stampede on Saturday, Feb. 16 learned about ORACLE, which stands for Optimum Reading, Attention, Comprehension, Learning Efficiency. Students enrolled in the ORACLE class meet twice a week and earn a one-hour credit that can be applied to any degree program as an elective.

The class is a pilot project made possible by a donation from a family whose daughter transferred to SMU. It will be available to the first 23 transfer students who sign up for it.

The ORACLE class at SMU is primarily designed to strengthen reading and studying skills, including:

  • An approach to studying that builds on individual learning styles and strengths
  • Time-management skills that will help reach academic goals with time left for everything else
  • Strategies for reading faster with deeper comprehension
  • Techniques for improving concentration and memory
  • A system for taking and using class notes
  • Test preparation procedures and test-taking strategies to help students learn, recall and apply what they’ve learned
  • Methods for organizing desk, notebooks and planners

Transfer students make up a significant portion of SMU’s undergraduate studentpopulation – about 900 of SMU’s approximately 6,500 undergraduate students come to SMU after previously attending a community college or another university.

“This ORACLE class is geared specifically for transfer students,” said Nancy Skochdopole, SMU director of Transfer and Transition Services. “What we like to say about a transfer student is we know they’re not new to college, but they’re new to SMU.

“For the students who sign up for the ORACLE class, it could be tremendously significant as they transition to what will probably be a more rigorous curriculum at SMU,” Skochdopole said. “And it will help them find a group and make friends with other students who are transitioning to SMU.”

> Find more student resources at SMU’s Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center

SMU, DCCCD renew credit-transfer agreements

SMU-DCCCD meetingSMU and the Dallas County Community College District formally agreed in August to continue their shared commitment to help students and improve college graduation rates with two agreements that support easy transfer of credits between the two institutions.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner and DCCCD Chancellor Wright Lassiter signed an articulation agreement and a reverse-transfer agreement that provide guidelines for class-credit transfers.

Agreements that allow students to easily transfer credits from community colleges to four-year universities are an important method for improving a student’s chances of completing a four-year degree. The Dallas County Community College District is SMU’s biggest source of transfer students. In the last five years, 604 students have transferred from DCCCD to SMU.

Turner said transfer students from DCCCD tend to be slightly older than students who start their college careers at SMU, usually have work experiences they can draw from, and come from a variety of backgrounds.

“Transfer students add an important diversity of opinion in our upper level classes,” Turner said. “There’s more than one way to get a degree at SMU.”

Turner noted that he, too, began his college education in a two-year program. He received an associate’s degree and transferred from Lubbock Christian College as a junior to Abilene Christian University, where he graduated with a B.S. in psychology. Turner went on to receive an M.A. and a PhD. from the University of Texas.

The articulation agreement spells out guidelines for transferring community college credits toward a four-year SMU degree. The reverse-transfer agreement allows DCCCD/SMU students to transfer SMU credits back to the community college district. This is important because students often transfer to a four-year institution just shy of the hours they need to complete the associate’s degree. Since community colleges in Texas are measured, in part, by how many associate degrees they award, the agreement allows DCCCD to get the credit the district deserves for two-year graduation rates.

“It’s a win-win for both DCCCD and SMU students, and we are happy to facilitate the process,” said Nancy Skochdopole, director of SMU’s Transfer and Transition Services.

(Above, left to right, Dylan Lewis, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, DCCCD Chancellor Wright Lassiter and Daniela Balderas. Lewis and Balderas are seniors who transferred to SMU from DCCCD.)

Pres. Turner to become first member of new honors chapter

Tau Sigma National Honor Society logoSMU President R. Gerald Turner will be a special guest – and the honorary first member – at the charter and inaugural induction ceremony of SMU’s Gamma Beta Chapter of Tau Sigma National Honor Society. The celebration takes place at 4 p.m. April 22 in Conference Rooms 108 and 110, Blanton Student Services Building.

The ceremony will establish the honor society’s SMU chapter, as well as recognize the academic excellence that students have exemplified in their first semesters after transferring to the University, says Registrar John Hall.

Tau Sigma was founded specifically to “recognize and promote the academic excellence and involvement of transfer students,” according to the honor society’s website.

President Turner is SMU’s most prominent transfer student – during his college years, he received an Associate of Arts degree from Lubbock Christian University before transferring to Abilene Christian University. Upon his induction as an honorary member, he will become SMU’s first chapter member. Forty-one current University transfer students will join him as the chapter’s inaugural class.

Nancy Skochdopole, director of the Registrar’s Office of Transfer and Transition Services, initiated the chapter’s founding to help enhance and solidify all aspects of the transfer experience.

> Visit the Office of the Registrar online

SMU debuts new regalia during Commencement 2009

SMU's new custom regalia for 2009

This May, for the first time in SMU’s near-century of existence, the University’s graduating class will wear red and blue during Commencement ceremonies. The new custom regalia will make its debut during the 94th all-University ceremony at 9:30 a.m. May 16.

The new robes are the result of a 3-year team effort led by the Office of the Registrar. That group included Political Science Professor Brad Carter, SMU’s chief marshal from May 1990 to December 2008. Professor of Economics Tom Fomby succeeds Carter as chief marshal beginning with the May 2009 ceremony.

With the red and blue robes, the University has become part of a national trend toward custom regalia, “but to my mind, it’s more than that,” Carter says. “SMU has always had some of the best ceremonies and Commencement weekends of any school. And this seemed to be a sort of culminating act. It would highlight the particular brand of SMU, it would be beautiful, and it would be very localized and non-generic, yet elegant.”

The ad hoc selection team included Carter, Assistant Registrar for Academic Ceremonies Gretchen Voight, Director of Transfer and Articulation Services Nancy Skochdopole, University Registrar John Hall, Associate Provost Tom Tunks, Provost Paul Ludden, Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad Cheves and President R. Gerald Turner.

“We had prepared our speech about why custom regalia was a good idea,” Hall says, recalling the first meeting with President Turner. “Then Gerald came into the room, went to one of the samples, and said, ‘Well, I don’t know if that’s the right color red.’ He had accepted the premise already, and now we just had to work out the details. I spent three nights writing that speech and never gave it.”

Choosing the perfect shade of blue was a bigger challenge, Voight says. “The first fabric sample we got was electric blue,” the color of a water-bottle cap, she says. Manufacturer Herff Jones helped to refine colors, fabrics, piping and other details, in close consultation with the regalia committee.

SMU custom doctor's gown, front viewThe team also worked with Herff Jones to develop unique regalia for each degree level. The bachelor’s robe includes a red “Stole of Gratitude,” to be kept by the new graduate after the robe is returned, and traditionally presented to an individual who had a profound influence on his or her education. The master’s robe features tabbed sleeves and a single SMU logo on the left lapel.

New doctoral regalia includes gold piping around velvet chevrons and SMU logos embroidered in gold. It has been approved by Deans John Attanasio and William Lawrence for use by Dedman School of Law and Perkins School of Theology graduates, as well as Ph.D. and other doctoral recipients. SMU trustees will wear the doctoral robes without hoods for the 2009 ceremonies; their new regalia is still in the design stage.

The University has a 7-year agreement with Herff Jones to provide the custom regalia. Seven years is the average life span of a rental robe, but SMU’s attire may remain in good condition for much longer, Hall says. “The typical black rental robe may be used as many as 12 times a year, but ours will only be used twice a year,” he adds.

The results will do SMU graduates proud for years to come. “I’m a Commencement traditionalist, and I couldn’t imagine not having black robes – but these are just beautiful,” Skochdopole says.

Top: SMU’s new custom regalia for doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degree recipients (left to right). Lower left: A front view of the new doctoral robe and tam. Photos courtesy of Herff Jones.

How to rent, buy and wear regalia, courtesy of the Registrar’s Office