Academic Technology Service Directors 2022

SMU’s ATSDs: Advancing Unique Technology Support for Instruction & Scholarship

ATSD Group PhotoAs we begin a new term, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) recently added new Academic Technology Service Directors, or ATSDs, to work as a liaison between faculty and OIT dedicated to each of SMU’s colleges and schools. This group of individuals ensures that the unique technology needs of academics and faculty in each school, specifically those required for instruction and scholarship, are well supported, integrated, and highly personalized.

Academic Technology Service Directors, while part of OIT, serve their communities by integrating into their schools. The ATSDs are strategically partnering with each area’s leadership while maintaining an “open door policy” for developing relationships with each faculty member. As envisioned by SMU’s Associate CIO for Academic Technology Services, Jason Warner, “This team is as much about building relationships of trust with the faculty we serve as much as it is about the necessary technologies—as we know both are key ingredients for academic success.” While specializing in the differential teaching and research solutions relevant to each academic area, this team of embedded technology leaders advocates for the academic units, supports the University, and works to integrate academic outcomes through SMU’s shared technology platforms.

Jennifer Culver, Ph.D.

Jennifer CulverJoining SMU five years ago, Jennifer Culver, Ph.D., is the ATSD for Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the Manager of OIT’s Online Production Services. Working with faculty and staff in creating mixed reality simulations and supporting various West Dallas STEM School teams gives a glimpse of why she was selected for the Extraordinary Staff Award in 2020 by SMU’s Faculty Senate. She has even shared her passion for classroom technology use—including best practices using online teaching tools in blended classrooms—in the Phillippines in 2019. This made her an essential resource when we moved to the SMUFlex model during the pandemic. When she is not helping faculty, she enjoys spending time with her children and dog. She also is on the Board of Directors for a non-profit performance collective in Dallas called Artstillery.

Mike Gebreselassie

Mike GebreselassieMike is an SMU alum with a B.S. & M.S. from Lyle and an MBA from Cox. For over 15 years, Mike Gebreselassie has been an active member of the Cox School of Business community, working his way up to Senior I.T. Consultant — supporting the technology needs of faculty, students and staff. In 2021, Mike was recognized for his work with the Staff Recognition Award based on his previous performance in helping launch hybrid and pilot online business programs and improving the delivery of recorded lectures for the Executive MBA program and other certificate programs. His skills are invaluable to an ATSD, and he will continue to work alongside other Academic Technology Directors to advance technology solutions to support the instruction, research, learning, and strategic goals of SMU and Cox. In his spare time, Mike enjoys running, photography, and traveling.

James Pan

James PanJames Pan has been helping SMU faculty for over 25 years, not including his time as an undergrad. After receiving his B.A. in 1991, James continued working for the campus computer store for several years and then, in 1996, began providing technical support for the engineering school. In 2016, he was selected to become one of the original ATSDs. James specializes in supporting educational technologies, such as Zoom and Panopto, and piloted many distance learning video solutions we use today. Working with the Dedman School of Law and Perkins School of Theology, he has put those specialties to use, including working on law review/legal clinics and special event support. In 2019, James was recognized by Perkins School of Theology with the Outstanding Staff Member Award. James enjoys cooking and cycling while away from SMU, but not at the same time. He is also fluent in Chinese.

Tyeson V. Seale

Tyeson SealeThe newest member of OIT, Tyeson Seale, took on the Academic Technology Service Director role in March of this year. Previously, Tyeson had spent over 15 years in multiple positions under the University Library, including Assistant Director of Community Engagement. He is also an SMU alum, receiving his B.A. in Cinema/T.V. from Meadows in 2005 and his MBA with concentrations in Business Analytics and Marketing from Cox in 2021. He has charged into his new role by introducing faculty to the new custom spaces as part of the renovation of the Owens Fine Arts Center. This fall, he is re-establishing the ever-popular Tech Effect office as an additional way to support students, staff, and faculty with their technology needs. Outside of SMU, Tyeson appreciates time with the family, watching Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Stars games, and all things International Soccer. He also enjoys photography and food—making, buying, and eating—including being the designer of an award-winning Grilled Cheese sandwich in the Regional Grilled Cheese Invitational.

Levi Sterling

Levi SterlingIn one of the more unique ATSD positions, Levi Sterling is putting his years of instruction in Video Game Design & Game Programming to good use with the SMU Guildhall. Since 2018, Levi has assisted students in faculty with publishing game titles for mass distribution, managed development tools such as GitHub, Perforce,, and Miro, plus provided technical support for various development hardware and testing devices. After successfully migrating the SMU Guildhall from its Plano location to the brand-new, state-of-the-art Ford Hall in Dallas, he went on to forge a partnership with Microsoft and, in doing so, provided SMU students with one of the largest game libraries in the world. Levi’s love for games is not only a digital one. He is an avid board game and table-top game player. When he gets the chance, he is also an outdoor activity enthusiast and enjoys camping, fishing, and whitewater rafting.

Faye Walter

Faye WaltersWorking as an ATSD for Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences since 2020, Faye Walter came to SMU during one of the most turbulent times in higher education. Rising to the challenge, Faye built upon her over 13 years of experience in distance learning to help Dedman quickly pivot to SMUFlex. It paid off, and she was recognized for her effort with the 2020 Shining Star Award from Dedman College. In just two years, she has launched a Virtual Reality project with World Languages and Literatures and incorporated Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) into grading with Mathematics and other departments. One of her outstanding achievements was facilitating the Dedman faculty’s use of instructional systems, which increased student engagement and Canvas adoption to 99%. To round things out, she practices yoga and does weight lifting. She also enjoys live music and reading during her time off.

Merlin Wilkerson

Merlin WilkersonLike James Pan, Merlin Wilkerson has also been helping SMU faculty for over 25 years. Drawing upon his years of experience with the Lyle School of Engineering, Merlin became one of the founding ATSDs in 2015 and played a crucial role in Lyle’s unification with OIT. His expertise with Linux is regularly put to use in managing the University’s Genuse (General Use) Linux computing systems and the related software packages. Of course, he is always available to assist faculty and students in knowing about and taking advantage of available resources at SMU, including academic tools, such as Canvas, Zoom, and Panopto. Merlin also enjoys spending time with his family and a leisurely walk with his dogs.

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Cover photo © Guillermo G. Vasquez. Used with permission. 

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Ian Aberle

Ian Aberle is an Adobe Creative Educator and the Senior IT Communications Specialist & Trainer for the Office of Information Technology (OIT). For over 25 years, he has helped the SMU community use technology and implement digital and web media through multiple roles with the Digital Commons, SMU STAR Program, and now OIT. Ian enjoys photography and road trips with his family in his free time.