Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Student Academic Engagement & Success

Congratulations to the 2023 Big iDeas Pitch Contest winners!

 On Friday, September 29th during SMU Family Weekend, the Office of Engaged Learning hosted the annual Big iDeas Pitch Contest in the Hughes-Trigg Chamber. A panel of Judges watched 22 SMU students give 90-second pitches for their businesses.  

Big iDeas provides funding, training and coaching for entrepreneurial projects to undergraduates of any major. 13 student teams were awarded funding at the Pitch Contest. 

Among the winners were senior Tiffany Jones, who proposed the Next Chapter, a collection of resources for adolescents aging out of foster care. Junior Jude Lugo proposed LectureLogger, an attendance tracking solution that uses secure QR codes to enhance classroom efficiency and learning outcomes. Junior Nrithi Subramanian proposed Mantra and Co., a service-based apparel and accessories brand seeking to create unity within the South Asian community. 

Special thanks to our judges Michael Kelly (Co-Founder of Resolute Future), Mona El-Gharby (Founder & CEO of CURLē), Tia Nayar (Founder & CEO of Wildflower Insight), Dr. Seth Orsborn (Director of the Deason Innovation Gym), Kat Weaver (Founder of Power to Pitch).

 Congratulations to the following winners:

A’Style Productions
Atrion Sorrells ‘24

Rohit Patnala ‘23

Speed Gregory ‘23

Jude Lugo ‘25

Mantra and Co.
Nrithi Subramanian ‘25

Yaw Boateng ‘23

PREVO Streaming
Ryder McNeal ‘24

Eric Vu ‘25

Reflectly AI Inc.
Trevor Gicheru ‘25
Bernadette Cruz ‘27

Nick Ludwig ‘24

Sallie’s Halo
Kennedy Honors ‘25

The Next Chapter
Tiffany Jones ‘23

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

The Office of General Education celebrates their September PAL of the month

As the Peer Academic Leaders (PALs) wrap up their September programming, the Office of General Education wants to recognize their September PAL of the month, Hannah Ashby.

Hannah is currently a Junior at SMU who is working towards a degree in Psychology. Since her first day of training, Hannah has impressed us with her work ethic and creativity.

When Hannah is not planning or facilitating her own programs, she can be found at her fellow PALs’ events, cheering them on. Hannah has quickly developed into a leader during her time as a PAL, and she continuously leads by example.

The Office of General Education is proud of Hannah’s hard work, and we look forward to seeing her continued efforts to inspire her fellow Mustangs.

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Recap: Data Science for Social Good

This summer, the Office of Engaged Learning and Data Science Institute welcomed 12 students from across the country to participate in the second year of the “Data Science for Social Good” program. The program was funded by a National Science Foundation “Research Experiences for Undergraduates” site grant written by Lynne Stokes (Professor Emerita of Statistical Science) and Jennifer Ebinger (Director, Office of Engaged Learning).

Students in this program developed their skills with Python, AI, and data visualization in a 2-week data science bootcamp taught by Eric Godat (Team Lead, Data Science and Research Services, OIT). Then they formed teams to tackle research projects mentored by Cullum Clark (Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative), Anthony Petrosino (Professor, Teaching and Learning) and Mary Spector (Professor, Dedman Law). The program culminated in a Three Minute “Thesis” competition with the OEL’s Summer Research Intensive.

Special thanks and commendation is due to Lauren Gilmore, Senior Program Specialist of the DSI, for her amazing logistical and program support! Thanks also to the wonderful TAs for their contributions: Abdullah Saifee, Cindy Hua, Duwani Katamullage, Marc Sager, Max Sherard.

The students were invited to present their work on the Southern Demographic Association annual meeting in San Antonio, October 18-20.

Hear what the REU participants have to say in this video:

Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success

Registration open: 2nd Annual Place-Based Community Engagement Symposium

Hosted by Engage Dallas, in collaboration with Residence Life & Student Housing, The Budd Center, The Office of General Education, the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, and The Center for Teaching Excellence, this two-day event will take place on November 2nd and 3rd.

About the Place-Based Community Engagement Symposium

The Place-Based Community Engagement Symposium is a gathering of thought leaders, academics, community leaders, and nonprofit professionals from SMU and the DFW area.

This event is designed to explore the transformative potential of community engagement within specific geographic contexts.

Our goal is to delve into the strategies and innovations that have the power to catalyze positive change within communities, with emphasis on campus and community collaboration and sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships.


Seats are limited, so please RSVP by October 20, 2023. You will be able to opt to register for one or both days.

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Student Academic Engagement & Success

Spread the word about the Big iDeas Pitch Contest!

Applications for the Big iDeas $1000 Pitch Competition are due this Wednesday, September 27 at 9:00am. Be sure to spread the word! Students can go to to apply.


Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success

New External Breadth Swap Petition now available for Common Curriculum students on the Fall 2023 Catalog or later

The Office of General Education made a new External Breadth Swap Petition available on Tuesday, September 19. The new petition is public at and on the Registrar’s Form Library

SMU Common Curriculum (CC) students may satisfy up to three Breadth requirements using external credit. External credit is test, dual, concurrent, or transfer credit.

Suppose a student possesses pre-matriculation external credit for more than three Breadth requirements. In that case, a student may want to substitute one of the three satisfied Breadth requirements that were applied during Fall 2023 admission processing for a different Breadth requirement.

Based on recommendations from the University Advising Center, the Registrar’s Office configured the Fall 2023 catalog to satisfy external Beadth credits in the following order during the admission process:

  1. Literary Analysis and Interpretation (LAI),
  2. Creativity & Aestetics (CA),
  3. Historical Context (HC),
  4. Philosophical, Religious, and Ethical Inquiry (PREI),
  5. Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS),
  6. Exploring Science (ES), and then
  7. Technological Advances and Society (TAS).

The advising community felt this order would benefit the high-hour majors in Lyle School of Engineering and other sciences and Pre-Health track students who will fulfill ES and TAS through SMU courses.

Questions or concerns about the new petition can be directed to the Office of General Education via

Honors and Scholars Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research President’s Scholars Rotunda Scholars Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with Engaged Learning Fellow Brianna Freshwater

The education system today is quite complex, with so many different options of Advancement Placement (AP) classes, International Baccalaureate (IB), honors programs, etc. Not only are there many options but different districts around the country offer different things and some do not offer any advanced courses at all. This can be incredibly stressful to students applying to college who might be wondering if their class load is impressive enough for their top university choices. Brianna Freshwater, a junior studying sociology and anthropology with a minor in religious studies, is tackling this issue and more in her research project: In the Schools but Not the Classrooms: Advanced Placement Test-Taking in Schools Serving Predominately Students of Color.  

Brianna began her journey with Rotunda Scholars, an SMU program for first year students from underrepresented communities and the Honor Sophomore Seminar. She chose this topic because of her own experiences growing up in a rural, predominantly white school district that did not have a single AP course. Brianna wanted to know how that experience impacted her and her fellow classmates since AP classes “felt like a big deal everywhere else.”  

Through her research, Brianna discovered that it does not matter what is offered at your school, rather it matters how much students take advantage of the opportunities that are available in their schools because “schools look at you in context.” Her research goes into this further seeing how AP course taking matters and how they vary across race and socioeconomic status in urban schools. Brianna is looking specifically at DISD campuses and seeing what courses are offered, how many seats are offered, etc. She wants to understand what campuses are “performing at expected rates” by looking at PSAT scores to determine if students are prepared to take AP courses. She is also talking to faculty members about policies and how they approach the topic of higher education with their students.  

This project is doubling as Brianna’s Engaged Learning Fellowship as well as her distinction project for her sociology major. She has had research experience in the past as well with the Cooper-McElvaney Fellowship as well as McNair Scholars. All these experiences have helped her with thinking about the world in different ways. They have also helped her long-term goal of wanting to go into a PhD program and have pushed her to be unafraid to pursue research.  

Most importantly, Brianna wants this project to be able to give schools specific information about how they can make AP programs at their respective campuses more equitable. She hopes to be able to literally hand information to schools to make plans for the better. Brianna does not want research to feel like it is “stuck in universities” with little to no real-world application. By bridging the gap between academic literature and real-world application, Brianna believes in the ability to make change. 


Student Academic Engagement & Success

SMU360 training videos now available

The Office of Information Technology recently hosted two separate online trainings for SMU360, led by a representative from CampusGroups, the vendor for SMU360. Recordings for both trainings are now available on the SMU360 Resource webpage, Please share this webpage with your student organization leaders so they know the resources available to help manage their group page.

Below are topics that were covered during each session.

Student Leaders

  • Basic User Navigation
  • Group Page and Feed
  • Communicating with Members
  • Event Management
  • Building Surveys and Forms
  • Mobile App
  • Gamification (Badges and Points, CCT)

Staff and Student Org Advisors

  • Home Page Overview
  • Group Pages & Feed
  • Communicating with Members
  • Event Management (RSVP, reviewing, approving, assessment, and reporting events)
  • Attendance Check-In
  • Mobile App
Office of General Education Peer Academic Leaders SMU in Four

Find your PAL and complete your Degree Planner in my.SMU student communication sent

SMU in Four would like to share efforts being made to encourage undergraduate students to complete their my.SMU Degree Planner. 

The following message was shared on Sunday, September 17.


From: SMU in Four (

To: Undergraduate Students

Subject Line: Find your PAL and complete your Degree Planner in my.SMU

Dear Mustangs,

We’re officially in week 4! Is this semester flying by, or is it just us? SMU in Four hopes you’re getting into the swing of things, but if not, have you considered finding a Peer Academic Leader (PAL)? PALs are a diverse group of undergraduate students at SMU who have been dedicating their time to help their peers navigate academics.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to meet them, have no fear! They have plenty of upcoming events on the books to help you succeed.

All students are expected to use Degre Planner, so visit one of the PAL workshops this month to start, update, and complete your plan! Degree Planner workshops are on the following dates. RSVP’s are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome:

If you can’t make it to any of these, book a one-on-one appointment with a PAL during their office hours, and they’re happy to help! Whether it’s at Laura Lee Blanton Building, Suite 100, or anywhere else on campus, they’re excited to PAL around!

Melina Padron

Sr. Advisor for General Education


O: 214-768-6559

Office of General Education; Student Academic Engagement & Success

Office of the Provost


6185 Airline Road

Dallas, TX 75205

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

The Office of Engaged Learning welcomes Kelly Chandrapal as new Program Coordinator

The Office of Engaged Learning welcomes Kelly Chandrapal as the new Program Coordinator. Kelly comes to SMU most recently from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s art museum where she worked closely with undergraduate and graduate students in her position as the Learning Resources Coordinator. Prior to working at UNC, she implemented educational programs in museums and taught elementary and high school art in Texas public schools. Kelly earned a BFA in Visual Art Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and MA in Museum Science from Texas Tech University. She is a Texas native but new to Dallas and is looking forward to becoming a part of the SMU community!