Office of General Education Peer Academic Leaders Student Academic Engagement & Success

The Office of General Education celebrates their PAL of the Month

The Peer Academic Leaders (PALs) are off to a running start this fall. PALs completed their Peer Leader training on August 14th, and all also passed their Certified Peer Educator (CPE) exam.

The Office of General Education is proud of the PALs and is excited to see how they utilize the tools they learned during training. While all eleven PALs have shown great initiative and engagement in August, one PAL stands out a hair above the rest.

Meet Syed Sajjad. Syed is an SMU sophomore who currently studies Finance and Energy. Syed was consistently engaged in his CPE training and regularly contributed to all discussions, no matter how big or small the topic. Syed was also one of the first PALs to complete all assigned programming for August. Students might have seen him at the Cockrell McIntosh kick-off on 8/27, where he took the initiative to order pizza for the residents and shared information about the PALs’ services.

Syed is an excellent representation of a student who always puts forth 100% effort, and we are excited to watch him continue to shine this year.

To all undergraduate students, check out upcoming PALs programs and events on the Office of General Education SMU360 page or the SMU Connected Wednesday newsletter. Students can also schedule appointments with PALs during office hours via Booking.SMU.

Office of General Education

Updated and new admin imaging occurring in the Office of General Education 

The Office of General Education, in conjunction with the Office of Information Technology, collaborated to rename and update the drawer types used in AdminImages.SMU. Drawers store electronic records of general education and other important petitions. 

AdminImages.SMU provides an electronic document storage and retrieval system. Electronic documents can be scanned or captured in various ways, and all documents are stored in a secure, encrypted database. 

Previously, the drawer was initially named “SCH UG GEC” an abbreviation of School Undergraduate General Education Curriculum. However, the naming was changed to reflect our office’s current processes and the document types we will process moving forward. The updated drawer name is “PROV GenEd” an abbreviation of Provost General Education. The table below shows the previous drawers and types and how they have been renamed.  

Original  Drawer   Original Type  Renamed Drawer  Renamed Type 
SCH UG GEC  SCH UG Honors Petition  PROV GenEd  PROV GenEd Honors Petition 
SCH UG GEC  SCH UG Enrollment Request  PROV GenEd  PROV GenEd Enrollment Request 
SCH UG GEC  SCH UG GEC Individual Petition  PROV GenEd  PROV GenEd Individual Petition 
SCH UG GEC  SCH UG GEC Formal Exemption  PROV GenEd  PROV GenEd Formal Exemption 
SCH UG GEC  SCH UG Data Science Advising  Removed  Removed 
SCH UG GEC  Default  PROV GenEd  Default 
SCH UG GEC  SCH UG Transfer Credit Petition Reeval  PROV GenEd  PROV GenEd Transfer Credit Reeval 
SCH UG GEC  SCH UG Transfer Credit Petition Preappro  PROV GenEd  PROV GenEd Transfer Credit Preappro 

Viewing permissions and access remain the same. School records offices, the Registrar, and some advisors can access scans of completed (approved or denied) Office of General Education petitions.  However, two additional imaging drawers have been added to aid transparency and improve academic advising of students.  

New Drawer   Petitions Included 
PROV GenEd BRD Swap  New Fall 2023 catalog and forward petition tracking swaps in use of external credit 
PROV GenEd PREX  Pre-approval and fulfillment verification petitions used for graduation requirements (e.g., proficiencies and experiences) 

We share this information to increase visibility and accessibility to General Education processes and records offices. If you have any questions or concerns, please direct them to Lisa Cordoba (  

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Engaged Learning Fellowship and Big iDeas

The Office of Engaged Learning invites students to apply to their premier funding opportunities: the Engaged Learning Fellowship and the Big iDeas Pitch Contest!

The Engaged Learning Fellowship (ELF) provides up to $2500 of funding for students pursuing a capstone project in research, service, or creative inquiry. The deadline for the current cycle is September 15. Applicants submit a project proposal along with a letter of recommendation from their faculty mentor. Proposals are reviewed by a faculty panel.

The Big iDeas Pitch Contest awards up to $1000 of funding for student entrepreneurs. A brief application is due by September 27, and participants will deliver a live 90-second pitch to a panel of judges on Friday, September 29 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Success & Retention

Introducing Shun Colter to the Office of Student Success & Retention!

Student Success & Retention is excited to announce Shun D. Colter as our new Assistant Director!

Shun comes to us most recently from the Texas Workforce Commission where he served for 3 years as a Vocational Counselor, a role where he oversaw a ~50-person caseload and helped clients overcome barriers to success in going to college and securing employment.

Shun has also volunteered as the Counseling Coordinator for Friendship West Baptist Church for the past four years, a role in which he provides mental health education and resources to his local community.

Before these roles, Shun worked as a Rehab Clinician with New Start for two years and a Mental Health Associate for Menninger Psychiatric Clinic, both in Houston.

Shun has a master’s degree in counseling from Prairie View A&M where he also worked for two years. Shun’s bachelor’s degree is in Sociology and Psychology from the U. of North Texas. Shun grew up in Port Huron, Michigan before coming to college in Texas and beginning his career as an actor (IMDB link). Shun was chosen as Houston’s New Actor to Watch for 2013 but even before that, as a 13-year-old, Shun was print modeling for JC Penney, New Yorker Kid, and Macys.

Jeff Doyle shared that “Shun brings a level of professionalism, care, and hard work to our office that only further supplements the already amazing staff we have in Kolin and Ivy. I hope others on campus will reach out to Shun by email ( or phone (768.7055) to welcome him to the Hilltop.

Shun shared, “I hope to make a strong effort to allow students to be seen, heard, and valued by having an open mind through demonstrating kindness, compassion and empathy.”

Shun joins Kolin Goldschmidt, Program Coordinator, Ivy Phillips, Success Counselor, and Jeff Doyle, Director, on the fully staffed department thanks in large part to Assistant Provost, Dr. Dustin Grabsch!


Academic Devleopment of Student-Athletes (ADSA)

Save the date: SMU is hosting the American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium

Mark your calendars and prepare for an enriching event that promises to bring together the brightest minds in our field!

SMU is hosting the annual American Athletic Conference (AAC) Academic Consortium Symposium. Here are a few reasons why you won’t want to miss it.

Save the Date Details:

  • Dates: April 12- 14, 2024
  • Location: Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)

The AAC Academic Symposium is more than just another conference. The core focus of the event is to discuss programming related to student well-being. These programs will create a structure, process, and programming that fosters partnerships among member institutions and develops initiatives that advance the academic mission of each school. Find additional information about the Consortium on the AAC Site: Academic Consortium (

University Testing Center

University Testing Center expands services this fall with new test-scheduling software

The 2022-23 academic year brought many exciting changes on the SMU campus, including a three-phased opening of the University Testing Center (UTC) in Clements Hall last August. During phase one, the center began providing accommodated testing services previously proctored by Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS), except scribe and reader tests.

This fall, phase two operations will expand testing services to student-athletes during their sport’s competition season, which necessitated a migration from DASS Link to a new test scheduling software to increase student group access.

The new UTC Portal offers a comprehensive, streamlined approach for delivering additional academic testing and credit-by-exam services to SMU students and local community partners during the phase three expansion in Spring 2024.

Watch our new video overviews for students and professors to learn more about our new system. Professors can schedule one-on-one consultations to be oriented to the new platform.

The UTC is certified by the National College Testing Association (NCTA) and adheres to professional standards ensuring exam integrity and accessibility for both examiners and examinees.

Academic Devleopment of Student-Athletes (ADSA) Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Success & Retention University Testing Center

University Testing Center welcomes Amie DeRegge as Testing Coordinator

As the University Testing Center (UTC) launches its second year of operation this fall, we are excited to welcome Amie DeRegge as our new Testing Coordinator!

Amie brings over 20 years of experience in student academic records management, having served as a Texas charter high school registrar.  Her passion for serving students and her strengths in data management, multi-tasking, and customer service make her a tremendous addition to the UTC team.

“I’m so happy to work in the University Testing Center.  I love the culture and spirit of SMU and look forward to helping our students reach their academic goals for success in life,” Amie said.

Amie’s arrival at the UTC coincides with more new changes coming to the UTC this fall.  In addition to providing testing services to students receiving accommodations from DASS (Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies), the center will expand testing services to student-athletes during their sport’s competition season.  A migration to test scheduling software in the new UTC Portal will provide additional academic testing and credit-by-exam services to SMU students and the local community.

“It’s an exciting time to be at the UTC and be a part of its growth,” Amie said.  “It provides yet another opportunity to become immersed in the life of SMU.”

Amie enjoys spending time outdoors in her spare time, vacationing with family on the beach, being “Minyama” to her grandkids, and having fun with her pets Sparky and Doc.  She and her husband, Andrew, are proud Mustang parents to their daughter, Molly, an incoming freshman and member of SMU Cheer.

The UTC is certified by the National College Testing Association (NCTA) and adheres to professional standards ensuring exam integrity and accessibility for both examiners and examinees.



Academic Devleopment of Student-Athletes (ADSA) Student Academic Engagement & Success

ADSA welcomes two new literacy specialists

The Academic Development of Student-Athletes (ADSA) is happy to add two new Learning Specialists to their academic support team! Welcome Julie Rinker and Kelly Franklin! 

Julie Rinker (Literacy Specialist) 

Julie is back on the Hilltop after she graduated from SMU with her Master’s in Education in 2018. She brings with her an extensive background in providing structured literacy interventions for students with dyslexia and infuses motivation along with mechanics for reading. She previously worked as a K-12 public school educator and enjoyed sharing her passion with others by helping certify other dyslexia practitioners. She is a human rights educator and enjoys inserting these topics into her lessons to create thought-provoking conversations among her students. 

Kelly Franklin (Literacy Specialist) 

Say hello to Kelly Franklin, our newest Literacy Specialist! She comes to the Hilltop from her previous role as an adjunct English instructor at TCU and other institutions. She is currently pursuing her Doctoral degree in English Rhetoric and Composition at TCU and brings over 20 years of teaching experience at the K-12 and university levels. Her work with underrepresented and marginalized communities remains a  through-line in her career and the ADSA welcomes her expertise to their intervention program! 

Our Intervention program is now fully staffed with the addition of Julie and Kelly, and the ADSA staff is ready to provide academic support to our 500 student-athletes for the upcoming academic year! 

Welcome to the Hilltop, Julie & Kelly! 


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

The work life of an undergraduate researcher: chemistry edition

This article unravels the captivating journey of undergraduate researchers in the field of chemistry as they step into the vibrant world of laboratory exploration. By delving into the experiences of Jonathan Cox, Kevin Nguyen, and the guiding wisdom of Dr. David Son, we uncover the invaluable benefits and transformative impact that research has on the young minds in academia. Jonathan and Kevin worked all summer as undergraduate researchers a part of the Summer Research Intensive

So, step into the bustling realm of a university chemistry lab, where the symphony of beeping machines and the hum of scientific dialogue paint a vivid picture of discovery in progress. For Jonathan Cox, an undergraduate researcher with Dr. John Buynak, the allure of “more advanced academia” beckoned, leading him to a summer of immersion in synthetic organic chemistry research. Cox reflects on the exhilaration of interacting with researchers from around the globe at the American Society for Microbiology Conference, where ideas are exchanged, and boundaries are pushed.

Jonathan Cox, Rising Senior Researcher

Cox inherited a transformative research experience where he applied textbook theories to new hands-on experiments. He had initial apprehensions about maneuvering intricate instruments and executing precise techniques; however, the lab became a canvas where theory transformed into tangible reality using newfound skills. Cox’s exposure to pharmaceutical research, a field he hadn’t previously considered, ignited a spark of interest. Cox had “never considered the overlap between advanced synthetic organic chemistry and biology…until I was able to put my foot into the lab and research it first hand,” he said. 

Cox, and his summer research partner Kendall Stieben, won first place in the SRI Three-Minute Thesis Competition, where students in the SRI cohort had the opportunity to talk with faculty and staff partners about their research from the summer.

Kevin Nguyen, an undergraduate researcher with Dr. David Son, equally had a transformative experience in the SRI. He emphasized the collaborative nature of chemistry research, which shapes a learning environment that encourages teamwork. Nguyen’s participation in the Three-Minute Thesis and professional development workshops during the SRI highlight his commitment to making complex ideas in his lab accessible. Nguyen states, “research isn’t research unless the public can comprehend its usage.” His desire to learn to simplify his research jargon was large in part to making his work accessible to community members. 

Nguyen tied for third place in the Three-Minute Thesis Competition as well.

Kevin Nguyen, Rising Senior Researcher

Dr. Son believes that partnership and mentorship with his students, like Nguyen, allow for them to truly hone their skills. Dr. Son’s rule of thumb for aspiring researchers is clear: “express interests in research early and often… be persistent and consistent,” he stated. His advice echoes through the corridors of academic ambition, emphasizing the importance of tenacity and consistency in the pursuit of knowledge. Dr. Son ensures that his role as a mentor nurtures his students’ minds holistically and not solely through lab work. 

The impact of undergraduate research transcends the confines of the lab. Through the SRI, Cox’s exposure to global conferences with Dr. Buynak widened his perspectives on chemistry and biology. In addition, Nguyen’s emphasis on public comprehension challenges conventional perceptions of research. As we consider their insights, it becomes evident that research equips young scholars with practical skills, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate complex ideas to a wider audience. This foundation extends beyond academia, preparing them for diverse career paths and making them stand out in competitive landscapes.

The work life of an undergraduate researcher in chemistry emerges as a profound journey of transformation and enlightenment. As we highlight the intricate realm of research, their narratives remind us that beneath the beakers and data lies a realm of collaboration, communication, and unwavering dedication that the SRI experience exposes for these students. The legacy of these young minds extends far beyond the lab, shaping a future where scientific discovery finds its voice in the world.

Rohan Jagarlamudi is a senior at the Alcuin School and interned this summer with the Office of Engaged Learning.

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

Summer Forge has successfully wrapped up its inaugural year

The Summer Forge, an academic support program at SMU, has successfully wrapped up the inaugural year. Summer Forge provided the initial cohort of 20 undergraduate students with financial, academic, and social support to accelerate their path to on-time graduation.   

Students who participated in Summer Forge could select courses during May Term, Summer Term, or August Term, in addition to SMUinTaos that fulfilled a major or Common Curriculum requirement. The initial cohort for Summer Forge attempted over 80 credit hours during the summer terms, with 96% of the attempted coursework completed.  

Summer Forge participants were offered tailored campus resource referrals and coached on strategies to support a successful academic summer term. 83% of the Summer Forge students report using the tutoring services provided in the ALEC, and 17% report receiving support from the Writing Center. 

Here is what some of the students had to say about their time in Summer Forge: 

Summer Forge exceeded my expectations with the ability to aid in summer tuition and provide opportunities to students who are struggling or need a little help. I would highly recommend the program in order to catch up on classes and graduate with your class on time.”-Katie P.  


“It allows the opportunity to raise your GPA without worrying about any finances in the process, as that can be stressful to worry about in itself.” -Morgan L.  


“Summer Forge was a great opportunity for me to take Summer courses and advance my studies. The program is helping me graduate on time and make up time lost.”-Sloan H.  

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.  

For more information visit