Streamlining Events: SMU’s New Site Features Venues, Campus Partners and More

Last spring, the Operational Excellence Event Management Initiative team began implementing a list of improvements developed to streamline the event planning process at SMU. Among their recommendations was the creation of a one-stop website for both internal and external event planners.

The site,, went live in October and features information about venues, University policies and campus partners which should prove helpful to those planning all kinds of events including, receptions, luncheons, weddings, student events, conferences, and more. Photos, location details, capacities, and the Event Lead to contact for scheduling or more information are given for each major SMU venue in addition to a venue directory.

The Event Leads are members of a group recently created by the Event Management Initiative and serve as primary logistics contacts or representatives for the spaces in their area(s). Event leads are also responsible for keeping information about their venues current on the SMU Event Services website and meet quarterly to discuss standards and best practices. This group is co-chaired by Denton Bricker, Director of Operations for Conference and Event Services and  Jay Hengst, Director of Operations and Events at Meadows School of the Arts.

The new website is managed by Denton Bricker.

For questions about the site, contact

News Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Windy Epperson

This summer, the Operational Excellence website is featuring a series of staff spotlights: stories about staff members who’ve taken on new leadership roles since the implementation of OE2C and are helping bring more innovation and efficiency to campus operations. Read more SMU staff spotlights

In the 11 years that Windy Epperson has been at SMU, she has worn several hats. With a background in accounting and purchasing at Baylor Medical Center, she joined the University in 2006 as a purchasing agent in Procurement, followed by a post as the procurement card (“p-card”) administrator. For the past three years, she has been changing the way the University pays its bills as the accounts payable manager.

“My team and I are responsible for timely and accurate payment of SMU bills, while also making sure the University remains in compliance with all regulatory requirements and that we abide by our own University policies when making those payments,” she says. Since taking on her managerial role, she has helped the department look for ways to process payments more efficiently within Shared Services. “We have also explored opportunities to reduce the time spent in preparing and processing the requests to create time savings for the schools and business units,” she says. “Some of the improvements implemented include the electronic submission of payment requests, eliminating scanning by attaching documentation within PeopleSoft, centralizing the receipt of invoices and using DocuSign to obtain electronic approvals. This has eliminated the need for a paper request for payment of an invoice and enabled us to process payments daily rather than twice per week.”

The efforts she makes with her team have paid off in a dramatic way. “Before the changes were implemented, the service level agreement (SLA) for processing payments was 10 days from receipt of the request in Accounts Payable,” she says. “We have reduced the SLA to 5 days.”

Epperson began her role in Accounts Payable (AP) before OE2C, but feels the campus-wide initiative brought new support from SMU leadership to make changes needed to increase efficiencies and customer satisfaction from both vendors and campus constituents. “The restructuring of the department to allow a dedicated AP specialist per school/area has helped that specialist become more familiar with activities for their assigned client and provide better service,” she says.

Her favorite part of the job is research. “Doing the research to resolve an issue for a vendor or internal customer and working toward a resolution that leaves them satisfied is very gratifying,” she says.

Of course, the transition has not been without challenges. “The process of implementing changes is not always smooth, as people are accustomed to doing things the ‘old’ way,” says Epperson. “We spent time explaining the changes to each department/area and detailing how the changes would result in getting vendors paid in a timely and accurate way while reducing time required to submit information for processing. Most feedback from internal customers about the changes has been positive, as they’ve seen the processing time reduced significantly.

“I really credit my accounts payable team for welcoming change and helping guide others on campus through it. They are smart, engaged and work hard to meet or exceed expectations. They are a big reason why our changes have been successful.”

Epperson’s success in cutting the AP processing time from 10 days to 5 days keeps her motivated to make further improvements. “During this fiscal year we plan to implement the upload of worksheets to create vouchers, which will eliminate the need for processors to key hundreds of payments from a worksheet,” she says. “This will result in timely payments and eliminate the possibility of keying errors. We also are looking at ways to take advantage of any available discounts and/or rebates with early payment or different payment methods.

“Our overall goal is to keep finding ways to make the entire bill paying process faster and easier for our vendors and our campus colleagues!”

News Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Vali Dicus

This summer, the Operational Excellence website is featuring a series of staff spotlights: stories about staff members who’ve taken on new leadership roles since the implementation of OE2C and are helping bring more innovation and efficiency to campus operations.

SMU is a family affair for Vali Dicus (’84). “Both of my twins, Beau and Cady, my husband, father, brother, two nephews, and one niece are also alumni of SMU,” said Dicus. “SMU is more than just a job to me. It has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.”

After finishing her B.B.A. at SMU, Dicus went to work for Arthur Andersen and completed her CPA, allowing her to audit many types of businesses. She later held posts with Greyhound and Allied Pilots Association and then spent years doing contract work for numerous companies while raising her family. In 2004, after serving as co-chair for her 30th SMU reunion, she got to know some of the Development and External Affairs (DEA) staff. “The next year, DEA needed temporary staff to help with homecoming and asked me if I would be interested,” said Dicus. “This led me to doing temporary work for SMU in various areas of DEA until I took a full-time position as the coordinator for the DEA Integrated Marketing department in July 2009.”

Her roles at SMU continued to evolve and change. “In 2014, I had just moved from being an accounting specialist for DEA to serving as the assistant financial officer for Residence Life and Student Housing (RLSH),” said Dicus. “Within a couple weeks, my position was pulled into Shared Services, where my additional duties included Benefits accounting and implementing the new TouchNet eCommerce system. It was a challenge taking on those new responsibilities! I worked hard to learn everything and stay focused and organized.”

“She is a true unsung heroine,” said colleague Bobbie Watson, financial reporting accountant in the Controller’s Office. “She almost single-handedly helped many areas on campus convert to TouchNet credit card processing over a very short period of time, while juggling two or three other demanding jobs simultaneously, including RLSH support and an assignment in Benefits.”

Then, last fall, several positions opened up for financial business managers in the Academic Support unit of Budget and Finance. “Although I hated to leave the work I was doing, I had always hoped that one day I would have the opportunity to take on a higher level role for a school or division, and I decided to apply for one of the positions,” said Dicus. “My new position as financial business manager for Simmons School of Education and Development allows me to handle financial reporting and budget management for the entire Simmons school rather than smaller pieces as I have done in the past.”

Dicus said she has learned a great deal in the reorganization. “The Shared Services initiative gave me an opportunity to use and improve my skills,” she said. “I appreciate the fact that the Business and Finance leadership took the time to look at my background as a whole when the Shared Services initiative started. This change gave me the chance to learn and do things I would have never been able to do under the old structure. I was able to do multiple jobs that had totally different subject matter. Since I love to multitask, this was good for me. In my newest role, I am looking forward to handling more analytical issues.”

On her experiences working with various departments across campus, Dicus said, “I had been working in DEA for around 10 years and loved the people. I was really sad to leave that group and thought I would never be able to create those kinds of relationships in a work environment again. However, each area I have been in during the transition has been great. I was only in RLSH for a short time but made some wonderful friendships. The group in Shared Services proved that accountants can have a sense of humor! Although I haven’t gotten to know the people in Simmons very well yet, I have come to the conclusion that SMU is full of fantastic people.”

Dicus believes having all the financial staff work under the same umbrella is a good thing. “We now have a peer network and can develop procedures to do things in a standardized manner across campus,” said Dicus. “When I was in DEA, I was hesitant to approach Business and Finance staff. Now that I am part of the same unit, I feel more comfortable asking questions and have a better understanding of the bigger financial picture. As financial business manager of Simmons, I want the Simmons faculty/staff to feel that I am ‘serving’ them and am a part of their team, too. Also, I think the new structure could give the leadership of Business and Finance the ability to create more opportunities for a career path for financial staff.”

In her new role, Dicus will become intimately acquainted with the financial matters at Simmons. “We have a new dean, Stephanie Knight, starting in August,” she said. “I want to understand her expectations from Shared Services and do my best to provide her, and the entire school, with what they need.”