First-Generation Initiative

First-Generation Initiative publishes refreshed and expanded website

The First-Generation Initiative (FGI) published a refreshed website ( for the SMU community on August 13. Just in time for the new academic year, the refresh expanded web-based resources and new features including:

Faculty and staff are encoruaged to direct students to the first-generation initiative via Feedback and recommendations of additional resources/scholarships are welcome; please email


University Testing Center

University Testing Center to host open house August 24

You are cordially invited to celebrate the grand opening of SMU’s University Testing Center!

On August 24, from 2-4pm, join us in the basement of Clements Hall (G15) to learn about the space, the services offered, and how we support you in providing a secure and reduced distraction environment for students.

Food will be served and information sessions and tours will be led by our Testing Manager and Coordinator every 20 minutes. We hope you’ll stop by and join us in welcoming this new department to campus.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, you can find us online at Reach out to us via email at or by phone at 214-768-6064.

University Honors Program

Meet the SMU student who is an international dinosaur origami champion

Original publication in The Dallas Morning News, published 7:00 AM on Jul 27, 2022. Travis Nolan is a Dedman Scholar and in the University Honors Program. If you’ve seen little origami figures in the Scholars’ Den Conference Room, they’re one of Nolan’s creations.

Travis Nolan brings prehistoric creatures to life using a single sheet of paper.

In the basement of Southern Methodist University’s Heroy Science Hall, Travis Nolan cups an origami reptile in the palm of his hand.

Technically, it’s not a dinosaur, though it looks like one. Nolan says the reptile, called a dimetrodon, walked the earth before dinosaurs even existed. The dimetrodon he’s holding has a small beige eye, curved tail and tiny claws on each rust-colored limb.

“The best way to describe it is a Komodo dragon with the front half of a bulldog and a giant fin on its back,” Nolan said.

Nolan says dimetrodons could grow up to 15 feet long. The model in his hand is about 6 inches long, and he created it from a single square sheet of paper.

Nolan is an earth sciences major at SMU, specializing in geology. He’s also an international origami champion, and combines his interests to create intricate models of prehistoric creatures. His original design of an “unusual shrimp,” a 500 million-year-old predator called Anomalocaris took first place in the 2021 International Origami Internet Olympiad’s Own Design category.

Dinosaur origami figures made by Travis Nolan, an SMU paleontology student, photographed in the SMU Heroy Science Hall Monday, July 11, 2022, in Dallas, TX.(Juan Figueroa / Dallas Morning News StaffPhotographer)
Dinosaur origami figures made by Travis Nolan, an SMU paleontology student, photographed in the SMU Heroy Science Hall Monday, July 11, 2022, in Dallas, TX.(Juan Figueroa / Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer)

Creating origami dinosaurs is a passion project for Nolan, who has loved prehistoric creatures from a young age. It’s also an exercise in exploring the unknown.

Creating complex creatures from a sheet of paper is a bit like trying to answer expansive questions about how dinosaurs walked the earth millions of years ago, he said. Nolan is using the expertise and knowledge he and other paleontologists have to create something meaningful from a seemingly blank canvas.

“You have to start from approaching a problem that doesn’t seem approachable,” Nolan said, “and then, breaking it down, and working through that similar process.”

Nolan said he’s been captivated by dinosaurs since his dad got him a dinosaur puppet when he was 3. His interest in origami grew gradually after he learned how to fold simpler projects like paper airplanes and geese.

Then he discovered pictures of detailed origami dinosaurs and dragons created by professional folders, and his mind was blown.

“They were working from the same starting point as I was: one sheet of paper,” Nolan said. “They were doing the same thing, but ending up with these crazy complex things. And I think that really caught my imagination.”

Most origami projects, be it a dog or a dinosaur, start with a crease pattern: a pattern of folds on a piece of paper that Nolan said is like the “roadmap” for creating a 3-D final product.

Crease patterns for common folds like cranes or frogs are easily available online. Patterns for prehistoric creatures like the dimetrodon, or Anomalocaris, are in shorter supply.

To fold those three-dimensional creatures, Nolan comes up with the crease pattern himself.

That involves taking a long, hard look at his square paper and figuring out how each corner and edge fits into his final product.

“If I want to fold a dog, then the first thing I need to figure out is, what part of the dog is coming from what part of the paper?” Nolan said.

Once he’s got his crease pattern down, Nolan begins to fold. He says there’s a lot of trial and error baked into the process.

“I can design a crease pattern, fold it — it doesn’t look right,” Nolan said. “This flap’s too long, that flap’s too short … and so you can go back and sometimes you can tweak the last one, and sometimes you have to start over.”

Nolan keeps tweaking and testing his crease until he has it perfected. Then he makes a final fold using a new sheet of paper.

Travis Nolan, an SMU paleontology student who makes origami dinosaurs to visualize what certain dinosaurs might have looked like in the prehistoric era, makes an origami video for a Morning News video in the SMU Heroy Science Hall Monday, July 11, 2022, in Dallas, TX. (Juan Figueroa / Dallas Morning News StaffPhotographer)
Travis Nolan, an SMU paleontology student who makes origami dinosaurs to visualize what certain dinosaurs might have looked like in the prehistoric era, makes an origami video for a Morning News video in the SMU Heroy Science Hall Monday, July 11, 2022, in Dallas, TX. (Juan Figueroa / Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer)

Planning for a new creation takes about a month depending on its complexity and if he can fit the work it in between his homework and other commitments, Nolan said. Folding takes eight to 12 hours for a design of moderate difficulty, and 20 or more for one that’s more complex.

Louis Jacobs is professor emeritus of earth sciences at SMU and has known Nolan since he was a kid.

“When he sets about doing something, he can really focus down on the details and concentrate,” Jacobs said. “And I say that because I don’t know too many people that could really remember how to fold some of those extinct origami animals. I mean, they’re very intricate and complicated.”

Nolan has been competing in the International Origami Internet Olympiad since 2016. The competition has been around since 2010, and takes place online.

The 2021 Olympiad featured 800 origami artists from 60 countries.

Nolan used thin, handmade paper from Germany to craft the predatory Anomalocaris, an extinct relative of a modern arthropod, fitting the category’s sea life theme. He said taking first in the original design category was the “coolest thing.”

Nolan is entering his junior year at SMU and is exploring doctoral programs in paleontology. He also volunteers for Paper for Water, a nonprofit based in Dallas that creates origami ornaments to fund water sanitation projects around the world.

Nolan plans to keep exploring the unknown. For him, creating origami dinosaurs is about more than the final product.

It’s about using art to bring extinct creatures back to life, one fold at a time.

Adithi Ramakrishnan is a science reporting fellow at The Dallas Morning News. Her fellowship is supported by the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News makes all editorial decisions.

University Testing Center

University Testing Center welcomes new Testing Coordinator

The University Testing Center welcomes Lauren Horton as the new Testing Coordinator.

As a Testing Coordinator, she will assist with: (1) preparing testing room, materials and equipment for test administrations according to individual requirements and accommodation guidelines, (2) proctoring online and conventional pen/paper tests, (3) co-supervise Testing Assistants, undergraduate and graduate student test proctors, (4) other UTC operational needs.

Lauren shared, “I have worked with SMU for many years in different facets, but my love for students and passion for teaching remains prevalent through it all. My favorite way to spend my days is by wandering the beautiful campus, exploring campus buildings, going to SMU games and events, and socializing with my fellow Mustangs on Dallas Hall Lawn. Pony Up, y’all!”

Please join us in welcoming Lauren to the UTC!

University Testing Center

University Testing Center operational for Fall 2022

Since 2018, conversations to establish a testing center to serve the SMU community were occurring. A Provost Office Testing Center Strategic Committee was formed, and working with the University Space Committee, space was identified in 2021 to establish the University Testing Center (UTC) in the basement of Clements Hall (G15).

On August 22, 2022, a three-phased opening of the center will begin.

  1. In phase one, most accommodated testing – for students with testing accommodations approved by Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS) – will be proctored by the center. Accommodated testing will be conducted by the UTC as a backup to instructors and academic departments. The test proctoring process and reservations of testing seats remains the same within DASS Link.
  2. In spring 2023, phase two will pilot the expansion of services to student athletes during their sport’s competition season.
  3. The final phase, depending on space usage and demand, will be to add placement testing, evaluation services.

A handful of other campus test proctoring services will remain operational and resources to instructors. Learn more about the new testing center, eligibility for testing, policies, and booking processes at

National Fellowships

SMU Students Earn Prestigious Fulbright, Boren Awards

Eight SMU students have accepted Fulbright and Boren awards for international study, research and teaching in Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea.

Story first published at

DALLAS (SMU) – Eight SMU students have accepted Fulbright and Boren awards for international study, research and teaching in Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea. Five will be headed across the world as Fulbright finalists to conduct research and teach abroad for the 2022-2023 academic year, while three will travel as Boren fellows and scholars.

“The pursuit of national fellowships such as the Fulbright and the Boren align with SMU’s goals for greater academic quality, and I am so proud of the recognition our students have received,” said Elizabeth G. Loboa, SMU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

“These scholarships provide a transformative opportunity for our students to go out and make their mark on the world as researchers, teachers, and cultural ambassadors and to extend SMU’s reach and reputation on a global scale,” Loboa said. “I congratulate this year’s recipients, all of our student applicants and the faculty and staff who supported them throughout the rigorous application process.”


The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in partnership with more than 140 countries worldwide. Awardees are selected in an open, merit-based competition that considers leadership potential, academic and/or professional achievement, and a record of service. Fulbright alumni include 61 Nobel Prize laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize recipients and 40 who have served as heads of state or government. SMU Fulbright Finalists include:

Austin Hickle, South Korea, English teaching assistant

Austin Hickle graduated in May 2022 with a B.A. in Economics and Public Policy after serving as student body president during his senior year and student body vice president as a junior. During his time on the Hilltop, he received a number of awards and honors including the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Ray L. and Nancy Ann Hunt Leadership Scholarship. Austin also was inducted into both Phi Beta Kappa and the Robert Stewart Hyer Society, SMU’s most prestigious academic organization for undergraduate students. Passionate about educational policy, he founded several organizations addressing student needs including the College Health Alliance of Texas, a statewide coalition of 41 student government leaders who worked together for a safe reopening of campuses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Global Education Mission, a nonprofit providing education for children living in Cameroon. Austin also worked as a teacher’s assistant and instructor both in Dallas and in Cameroon. He will travel to South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in January 2023.

Camilla Martinez, Bulgaria, English teaching assistant

Camilla Martinez recently received her M.F.A. in Theatre from the Meadows School of the Arts. Camilla is headed to a small town in Bulgaria (Smolyan) where she will teach English. During her time at SMU she has taught the Art of Acting, has performed in mainstage productions on campus, and was a resident artist at the TX Studio in Dallas. Most recently Camilla was an understudy for Tiny Beautiful Things at Dallas Theatre Center. She applied for the Fulbright ETA program because it allows her to bring together artistry and education. Camilla will capitalize on the skills she honed as an instructor at SMU, where she helped students venture out of their comfort zone and step into their own as individuals taking the stage in front of an audience. “The Fulbright mission aligns with my desire to be a globally aware artist, and to use the skills I have to teach, make art, and connect with people,” Camilla said. After Bulgaria, Camilla plans to return to the U.S. and create a career in theatre, film and photography.

Evan Schumacher, Germany, research

Evan Schumacher graduated in May 2022 with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance and a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Cognitive Science. In addition to performing with the SMU Dance Ensemble every semester, Evan pursued independent research on gender and casting at dance companies in London, Paris, and Washington, DC, funded by the University Honors Program’s Richter Independent Research Fellowship and the Engaged Learning Fellowship. As a senior he received the 2022 Outstanding Achievement in Dance Award. For his Fulbright Germany Study/Research award, Evan will analyze the aesthetic values of the Stuttgart Ballet by examining the institution’s archival papers, including those of its influential directors Jean-Georges Noverre and John Cranko. Evan said, “My Fulbright award will ideally serve as a testing ground for me to begin to nail down my ideas about the philosophy of dance. Ultimately, I hope that the ideas I develop on my Fulbright become the foundation of my future theories that will shine a light on the nuanced values that drive the practice of ballet.”

Anna Taglioli, Taiwan, English teaching assistant

Anna Taglioli graduated in May 2022 with majors in international studies, human rights, and world languages (Chinese and Italian) with a minor in piano. Her list of honors includes induction into the Robert Stewart Hyer Society and Phi Beta Kappa, as well as membership in the University Honors Program. A student of Mandarin since the age of 10, Anna is eager to travel to Taiwan on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship because she always has been interested in promoting cultural exchange. The Fulbright assistantship will build on her experience teaching languages, including four years as an English teaching assistant at the QD Academy in Plano and as a Chinese and Italian language teacher in the SMU Child Care Center. Anna said, “I intend to center my career around international and language studies, so I believe my Fulbright award will be invaluable to my future career. I hope to pursue a career in foreign service to continue to support peace, cultural exchange, and promote American interests abroad.”

Izzah Zaheer, Belgium, English teaching assistant

Izzah Zaheer graduated in May 2022 with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.B.A. in Management. During her time on the Hilltop, she was selected as a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar and member of the University Honors Program, served as a Residential Assistant in MHPS Commons, and completed an Engaged Learning Fellowship capstone research project titled “The Evolution of Local Journalism.”  Outside of the classroom, Izzah pursued her passion for journalism as a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She chose to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Belgium because she “loved the mix of different European identities, its relevance as the center of Europe and the various languages used through the country.”

Three SMU graduate students were named Fulbright Alternates. Xxavier Carter was named an alternate for an Arts award to Norway. Laura Bell and Virginia Ridley were named alternates for English Teaching Assistantship awards to Andorra and Luxembourg, respectively.


Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are awarded through a major federal initiative – the National Security Education Program – designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. The program provides U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the United States. In exchange for funding, Boren Award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year. SMU’s Boren Scholars and Fellows are:

Benjamin Feinstein, Kazakhstan, Boren Scholar

Undergraduate Benjamin Feinstein is pursuing a major in history and a minor in Russian area studies. He works as a student researcher and editor on the Center for Presidential History’s “US Relations under Bush and Putin” project and serves as the President of the SMU Russian Club. A testament to his academic achievement so far, Ben was invited to join the Robert Stewart Hyer Society as a junior. He will spend the 2022-2023 academic year at Al Farabi National Kazakh University in Almaty, Kazakhstan studying Russian language and Eurasian history. “I will return with a year of immersion in a Russian-speaking country and invaluable knowledge about key player in the critical strategic region of Central Asia,” Ben said. “Such linguistic, political, and cultural knowledge will qualify me to enter a relevant defense job as soon as I graduate from SMU. In short, Boren will qualify me for my dream in a way that I could not have imagined.”

Matthew O’Donohue, South Korea, Boren Fellow

Matthew O’Donohue is a third year Ph.D. student in the Lyle School of Engineering who will be working in partnership with a laboratory in South Korea to create a device that will be used to sequence DNA and characterize various biologically relevant proteins. Drawing on his nanotechnology experience in mechanical engineering professor MinJun Kim’s Biological, Actuation, Sensing and Transport Laboratory at SMU, Matthew seeks to internationalize his research in South Korea while learning Korean. “I will be able to conduct research in a state-of-the-art laboratory with access to many advanced tools that will benefit me as a researcher,” Matthew said. Outside of the laboratory, Matthew is most excited to experience living in a new culture. He said he chose to research in South Korea because, “I have never been to Korea, let alone Asia, and wanted an opportunity to experience that part of the world.” Upon completing his Boren Fellowship, Matthew will return to SMU to complete his Ph.D. and plans to pursue a career as a science, technology and weapons analyst in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Madeline Pan, Taiwan, Boren Scholar

Undergraduate Madeline Pan is majoring in Biological Sciences and Health & Society, and minoring in Statistical Science and Chemistry. At SMU, Madeline has received an Engaged Learning Fellowship, Robert Mayer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and the Richter International Fellowship, which helped her to pursue various research topics related to COVID-19 and the antibiotic industry. She will travel to Singapore in August to improve her Mandarin Chinese language skills. As someone interested in becoming a physician, she will capitalize upon this opportunity to enhance her Chinese language and cultural competency skills in preparation for caring for a wider patient population.  Madeline is excited to thoroughly explore the city-state and connect with the locals and students at the language school.

SMU students interested in pursuing international study, research or travel should reach out to their respective fellowship offices. Undergraduate fellowships are administered by Brandon Miller (, assistant dean for University Honors Program and Fellowships, and graduate fellowships are administered by Rachel Ball-Phillips (, director of Graduate Fellowships and Awards in the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.




SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas.  SMU’s alumni, faculty and more than 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world. 

Office of General Education

Updated Common Curriculum Proficiencies and Experiences requirements and rubrics available

The Office of General Education, enacting the vote of the Council of General Education, has published updated rubrics for the Common Curriculum’s Proficiencies and Experiences graduation requirements.

The Council of General Education sought to:

  • Provide consistency across the Proficiencies in terms of the number of hours required for an activity and the length and number of the required reflections
  • Create a standard prompt for each Proficiency, as students often had difficulty understanding what to put in their reflection
  • Add the option of submitting completed work that demonstrates the supporting skills (completed during the activity or course) in lieu of a reflection.

Overall, the Council noted that the inconsistencies in the requirements and the fact that they caused problems for students (and were largely arbitrary), so the Common Curriculum Proficiencies and Experiences were streamlined. The streamlined requirements and updated rubrics are now available on the Common Curriculum website.


Office of General Education

Office of General Education website migration to Student Academic Engagement and Success

On Monday, July 25 the Office of General Education began migrating its website and digital assets to Student Academic Engagement & Success.

Previously, the office reported to Associate Provost of Curricular Innovation and Policy and was transferred to the supervisory area of the Associate Provost for Student Academic Engagement and Success on July 1.

You may notice broken links or missing documents within the media library during this week as the transition occurs. Additionally, links from Google or other search engines may take up to two weeks to remap to the current website pages.

Please report broken links and other website issues which persist after August 1 to Thank you for your support and understanding during this transition.

Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success University Testing Center

Now accepting Undergraduate Degree Counselor and student worker applications

Two new full-time staff positions titled Undergraduate Degree Counselors are live on the SMU Staff Career Portal. These positions are a collaboration between the Office of General Education and their respective school. Please consider, share with your offices, and post within your professional networks.

About the Position: The Undergraduate Degree Counselor works with declared majors, transfer students, and faculty advisors primarily within Meadows School of the Arts and Lyle School of Engineering while collaborating closely with the Provost’s Office and the Office of General Education. This collaboration advances retention efforts, implementation of the HighPoint four-year degree planner, conducting retention and enrollment data requests, analysis, and the obtainment of SMU in Four stated goals. Through academic advisement (course selection, academic progress, four-year graduation), records processing, and strategic communications (website, social media, web resources, and job aids) the Undergraduate Degree Counselor builds community capacity and understanding related to General Education requirements at SMU.

Either the Lyle or Meadows position can be preferenced by the candidate during the search process under job posting PRO00000193. Therefore, candidates will be considered for both roles with a single application.

Deadline to Apply: August 5, 2022. Priority consideration may be given to submissions received by July 29, 2022.

Additionally, student worker positions available within Undergraduate Education & Academic Success. Please share with your students and invite them to apply in Handshake:

  • Office of General Education Student Assistant: The Office of General Education at SMU serves faculty, staff, and students related to the university curriculum. The Student Assistant is responsible for completing a range of clerical tasks to uphold office operations. Their duties include taking phone calls and transferring callers to Professors or other staff, making copies for staff members or distributing mail and directing students to different offices or departments. ($10.50/hr; Job Number: 6684872)
  • Marketing & Communications Student Coordinator: The Marketing and Communications Coordinator will lead the creative development of a printed and web-based publications related to the Student Engagement & Academic Success (SAES) area within the Office of the Provost. The position aids with requests to update or redesign webpages, develop print and digital flyers, create and execute social media campaigns, and more. The coordinator also serves as an ambassador for the area at tabling and other marketing events. ($12.00/hr; Job Number: 6676534)
  • University Testing Center Testing Assistant: At SMU, the University Testing Center (UTC) provides superior service to our student clients, instructors, evaluators, and community partners within a convenient, confidential, and comfortable environment. Our dedication to providing exemplary, individualized service to every visitor of our center is paramount, in keeping with SMU’s dedication to fostering individual learning, dignity, and worth. The Testing Assistant (TA) provides standard and accommodated testing services for the administration of paper-based and computer-based academic exams at the University Testing Center.  The TA provides administrative office support to include test preparation, test proctoring, and clerical duties. ($12.00/hr; Job Number: 6684859)

Application deadlines, job descriptions, and qualifications vary. Please see Handshake for additional details and how to apply.

First-Generation Initiative Mustang Scholars Student Academic Engagement & Success

Apply to be the inaugural Director of Mustang Scholars/1st Generation Initiatives

Student Academic Engagement and Success is excited to share a new position, titled Director of Mustang Scholars/1st Generation Initiatives, is live on the SMU Staff Career Portal. Please consider, share with your offices, and post within your professional networks.

About the Position: The Director of Mustang Scholars and 1st Generation Initiatives (HR Title: Assistant Director 2) is responsible for the academic engagement and success of first-generation and Pell-eligible students at SMU.  The position develops and executes unique programming for Mustang Scholars (8-10 high-achieving Dallas-area students). The person in this role collaborates closely with other campus offices that support first-year and transfer students at SMU; aligns programming and outreach with the stated goals of SMU in Four as they support success and retention of this identified student populations; plans and implements intentional programming which provides mentorship to students in support of their academic pursuits. The position facilitates university-wide initiatives related to first-generation college students. A key portion of the job is to provide high-impact engagement and continuous monitoring, tracking, and support from matriculation to degree completion.

Deadline to Apply: July 15, 2022. Priority consideration may be given to submissions received by July 1, 2022.

A collaborative search committee comprised of SAES members, admissions, and a student will be formed next week to review applications, conduct virtual and in-person campus interviews, and make a recommendation for hire. We are targeting an August or September start date.