For her exemplary leadership of the SMU College Prep program and customized learning initiatives, SMU CAPE Program Specialist Lauren LaRocca will receive the 2021 South Region Emerging Leader award from UPCEA (University Professional and Continuing Education Association), the leading national professional organization for continuing education program staff.

When Lauren joined the SMU CAPE team in July 2019, the nascent College PrLauren LaRoccaep program consisted primarily of standardized test preparation and study skills classes offered in traditional classroom settings. SMU College Prep’s catalog now includes a varied selection of workshops focusing on academic excellence as well as technology, business and entrepreneurship, and liberal arts –programs for middle and high schoolers now reflect the same content, rigor, and connections to industry as SMU CAPE’s professional development programs for adult students. Lauren envisioned a program that represents innovative content and instruction facilitated by instructors who are passionate about empowering students.

Precipitated by the global pandemic, Lauren demonstrated courageous, proactive decision-making by reimagining summer pre-college workshops as fully online learning experiences. Lauren worked with instructors and SMU colleagues to design an engaging curriculum delivered through virtual instruction, peer collaboration and self-led learning. Online delivery enabled students from across the United States, and even internationally, to participate in classes that otherwise would be available only to those in our own community.

Lauren is a champion of SMU CAPE’s mission to deliver innovative learning experiences that boost careers and transform lives. Her work is fundamental to our support of the university’s commitment to serving Dallas and the North Texas region. She is a valued colleague and truly an emerging leader at SMU, in the community, and within the continuing education profession. Congratulations, Lauren!