Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Student Academic Success Programs

SASP A-LEC Staff is Complete

Student Academic Success Programs welcomes Grace Okoro, who will start as tutor coordinator July 5th.  Grace has a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from UTA and a master’s in Health Administration from TWU.   She is also working towards a PhD in Health Sciences.  Grace will be assisting Adreana and Nancy in expanding our tutor training program, working with our tutors, and working with students.   Grace will bring SASP experience in data collection, and as a teaching assistant.

Student Success & Retention

Office of Student Success and Retention to temporarily close for move to Perkins Administration Building

The Office of Student Success & Retention will move to the Perkins Administration Building (PAB), Suite 301, on Wednesday, July 5.

Due to packing, moving, and unpacking, the office will be closed Monday, July 3, and Wednesday, July 5, with a university holiday closure on July 4.

Phone service will be interrupted during this time, and emails will be responded to upon reopening. Our telephone number and email remain the same.

Please help us update your websites, publications, or resources that list our physical office location to our new location in Perkins Administration Building. Thank you for your support and understanding during this time of transition.

Student Success & Retention

Help select the next Director of the Office for Student Success & Retention

On behalf of the Director for Student Success and Retention search committee, please join us for an upcoming finalist campus presentation and/or campus partner panel interview.

Three finalists have been selected for the Director of the Office for Student Success and Retention. Finalists will visit campus on Friday, June 30;  Friday, July 7; and Monday, July 10.

Friday, June 30, 2023:

  • 2:00 pm – 2:45 pm: Campus Partner Interview
  • 3:00 pm – 3:45 pm: Campus Presentation

Friday, July 7, 2023:

  • 10:00 am – 10:45 am: Campus Presentation
  • 11:15 am – 12:00 pm: Campus Partner Interview

Monday, July 10, 2023:

  • 10:00 am – 10:45 am: Campus Partner Interview
  • 11:00 am – 11:45 am: Campus Presentation

If you are interested in joining for one or more campus presentations or campus partner interviews, please email Dr. Dustin Grabsch (, chair of the search committee. Calendar invites with candidate materials, presentation prompts, and other applicable information will be shared with interested community members. We appreciate your input as we select this important campus leader.

About the Role: The Director is critical and collaborative in supporting undergraduate retention and graduation initiatives at SMU. The primary role is supervising three full-time staff and providing day-to-day problem-solving for students trying to remain, depart, or return to SMU. Working closely with the Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education and Academic Success and the SMU in Four initiative, the Director operationalizes processes to identify at-risk students, strategically outreaches to inspire engagement, coordinates interventions, tracks academic progress, and assesses our institutional strengths and weaknesses. The Director chairs a university-wide retention and financial support committee to retrain undergraduate students. The position serves as a critical partner to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Success Programs

Changes in SASP Staff


Dr. Robin Corbett, DASS Coordinator, will be leaving SMU to be closer to her home and family to pursue new endeavors effective 7/7/2023. All student files will be temporarily reassigned until our new staff member arrives. For any questions, please call the office while we’re in this transition – 214-768-1470

We are welcoming the new Coordinator in July and will be introducing her before the fall semester begins.

Please join us in wishing Robin well and thank her for her work with SMU.

Our second change involves the First Gen Initiative.  These programs and student academic support will be overseen by Associate Director, Chris Meyers.  Chris has done an outstanding job working with our students on academic probation and will supervise a new academic counselor to take over those duties.  Chris is excited to work with our first generation students and pick up the program that has grown tremendously over the past three years.  He’ll work hand in hand with the advisor to the First Generation Association, the recognized student organization, to expand the programming and celebrations for these students.  Please contact Chris if you are interested in working with our First Gen students –  Any graduate student interested in joining this program as a graduate assistant should look at the job description on Handshake.

Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs Student Success & Retention

Summer Forge program launched with a full, 20-student cohort

This summer, SMU launched a new academic support program called Summer Forge. Summer Forge provides invited undergraduate students with financial, academic, and social support to accelerate their path to on-time graduation.  

Invited students receive up to 8 paid semester credit hours over May, Summer, and/or August terms. The initial cohort for Summer Forge includes 20 students attempting over 80 credit hours during the summer terms. The average participant takes 6 hours that fulfill either major or Common Curriculum requirements. 

Animating the university’s commitment to improving retention and graduation rates, Summer Forge is a collaboration between the Office of Student Success and Retention, SMU in Four, Office of Financial Aid, and Student Academic Success Programs. Ivy Phillips, a Success Counselor in the Office of Student Success and Retention, initially identified the students based on various criteria, in addition to their commitment to complete classes in the Fall 2024 semester at SMU. 

Throughout the summer, Summer Forge participants are offered tailored campus resource referrals and coached on strategies to support a successful academic summer term. Becca Umobong and Sarah Cartwright, members of the Student Academic Success Programs team, are available to provide academic counseling and support. Lydia Allen in the Writing Center is also available to assist students with writing, and A-LEC has tutoring services across course content areas. 

Please get in touch with Brittaney Wilson, General Education and Academic Appeals Coordinator, with any questions about the program. 

Student Academic Engagement & Success University Testing Center

University Testing Center to hire full-time Testing Coordinator

We’re looking for a full-time Testing Coordinator to support the University Testing Center (UTC) this Fall! The position was formerly occupied by Lauren Horton, who received her Masters of Science in Cybersecurity in May. Lauren will be missed by many as she leaves the Hilltop for new adventures ahead, and we are forever grateful for her wonderful contributions to our center.

We continue to serve our students needing accommodated testing services as we have since opening our doors last August. In the coming months, we will expand our services to other groups, including SMU student-athletes needing makeup testing while away for their sport and non-SMU distance learners, and professional examinees in the community needing fee-based proctoring services.

Some of the many things our new team member will do:

  • Prepare testing labs, materials, and equipment for paper-based and computer-based tests;
  • Manage daily electronic test registrations, reschedules, cancellations, and testing lab capacity;
  • Manage electronic receipt and return of exam materials;
  • Perform check-in procedures, electronic test proctoring, and confidential test security protocols;
  • Assist with phone inquiries, email inquiries, and walk-in inquiries;
  • Troubleshoot and document testing issues and irregularities;
  • Maintain security and confidentiality of student records, information, and accommodations;
  • Publicize news and events through blogging, website, and campus marketing resources

Our ideal applicants will have:

  • Ability to learn software for test scheduling and computer test administrations;
  • Experience in website development, database systems, blogging and online file storage and manipulation;
  • Proficiency in MS Office;
  • Ability to interface with a diverse constituency of students, parents, faculty and staff;
  • Willingness to work additional hours during peak testing times and as needed to support testing center operations

Please consider, share with your offices, and post within your professional networks.

Deadline:  July 7, 2023

Priority consideration to submissions received by June 27, 2023

Hiring Point of Contact:  Lori Krone ( / 214-768-2269). See the job posting in the SMU Staff Career Portal.

Academic Center for Excellence First-Generation Initiative Honors and Scholars Rotunda Scholars

New Success Counselor joins Rotunda Staff

Briana Morales joins the Honors and Scholars team as the new Rotunda Scholars Success Counselor. A Texas Native, first-generation college graduate, and SMU alum, Briana earned her Bachelors of Science in Psychology and is currently pursuing her Master of Science in the SMU Counseling program. Since her time as an undergraduate, Briana worked with SMU’s First-Generation Initiative and First-Generation Association as a fierce advocate for many students whose struggles she knows too well.

Briana’s experience mentoring students, coordinating student centered events, and building relationships across campus will be a welcome addition to the Rotunda family. Briana is excited to join the Rotunda support system and community as it grows in number and expands services. Her favorite part of serving students is the relief and joy on students’ faces when they see how much you care. To her, there is no greater feeling than showing someone you care about their well-being and success. We are excited for Briana to join our team and begin working June 19th.

Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs

Student Academic Success Programs announces staff updates

Please welcome two new staff members to the Student Academic Success Programs (SASP) team and thank a valued member who is leaving:

Dr. Nancy Larkin is joins the A-LEC team as the Assistant Director of Tutoring.  Nancy has an Ed.D. from Walden University in Teacher Leadership, a master’s in Educational Technology from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Geology from Lamar University.  She has experience teaching and writing curriculum in many high school science courses including Honor’s and AP physics, chemistry and biology.  She has presented at many conferences and has a lifetime teaching certification in Texas public schools.

Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS) regrets to say goodbye to Dr. Robin Corbett in July as she returns to the K-12 sector, working in the area of special education. We welcome her replacement, Valiza Cameron-Patterson, in mid-July. Valiza comes to us from Dallas ISD where she served as a school counselor. She received her Master’s degree in Counseling & Student Affairs from TCU, and is excited to work with students with disabilities in higher education.

Student Success & Retention

The first cohort of the Crossing the Finish Line program graduated this spring

To help more students graduate from SMU within six years, University Decision Support, academic advisors, and school record offices partnered with the Office of Student Success and Retention (SSR) to identify undergraduate students who have left SMU close to graduation based on credit hours but have not graduated from another university. Branded as Crossing the Finish Line, the new program sought to re-engage students to complete their SMU degree.  

Once identified, SSR invited select students to participate in a cohort who received academic and financial support to complete their undergraduate degrees at SMU. During the Spring of 2023, 2 out of the 11 students that received invitations from SSR decided to return to SMU and complete their degrees. Both students in the first cohort of the Crossing the Finish Line program graduated in May. 

SSR Success Counselor Ivy Phillips closely monitored these students’ academic progress throughout the semester. Additionally, Phillips met with them every two weeks to check in and address any student issues or concerns.  

Thanks to the Crossing the Finish Line program, one student earned her degree and received a job offer from her dream company. She began working for the company in May. Another student shared: 

I can whole-heartedly say that Ivy played a massive role in my success in completing my final semester. She helped me set deadlines, schedule out time to complete my assignments amidst my busy work schedule, monitored my grades, and also urged me to get involved with SMU’s student and career/ financial literacy programs… Ivy, alongside the wonderful Janet Stephens and my Meadows professors, all gave me the push I needed to finally get this degree done. Couldn’t have done it without them!”

The SSR team is currently identifying and inviting students to join the second cohort of the Crossing the Finish Line program. We look forward to re-engaging more students and helping them cross the finish line of graduation!  

Offices & Programs Student Academic Engagement & Success University Advising Center

New Office Coordinator, Gerralynn McKenna, joins the University Advising Center

The University Advising Center is pleased to share that Gerralynn McKenna has joined our office as our newest Coordinator! Gerralynn comes to SMU after teaching elementary special education for 4 years. She recently moved to Dallas from Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband . She enjoys hiking, being outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and reading. Please join us in giving her a warm welcome to SMU!