Student Success & Retention

Student Success and Retention welcomes new team members

The Office of Student Success and Retention is excited to welcome two new team members beginning Tuesday, January 2, 2024. Justin “Jay” Guillory will serve as our new Success Coach. In his role, Jay will:

  • Provide academic counseling and problem-solving for students.
  • Reaching out to students reported via Retention Alerts, Advising Notes, and another early-alert mechanism.
  • Lead and facilitate the Summer Forge program, an academic credit recovery program.
  • Support and advise students who are at risk or recently lost merit-based student financial aid.

Saahil Mathews will also join the team as our new Program Coordinator. In his role, Saahil will:

  • Manage and respond to inquiries and questions from email, phone, drop-in, and other referrals to the office.
  • Process leave requests (formal exits and leave of absence) to the office.
  • Coordinate timed outreach campaigns such as early and mid-term progress reports and not-enrolled student follow-up.
  • Develop and maintain internal and external internal communications with students and constituents.

Read more about Jay and Saahil on our Meet the Team page.

Student Success and Retention will say farewell to Ivy Phillips, our Success Counselor, as she transitions to a new role in the Lyle School of Engineering on January 15, 2024. Join us for a farewell reception on Friday, January 12, from 3:30 – 5:00 pm in Blanton 108.

SMU in Four

SMU in Four Year-two report available

The SMU in Four team releases the year-two progress report on SMU’s Quality Enhancement Plan.

Updates are provided on early-alert mechanisms, undergraduate academic advising, technology enhancements, and gateway & introductory courses. Plus, student retention, graduation rates, and goals for year three of the five-year initiative are shared.

Download a copy of the SMU in Four Year 2 Progress Report.

In October, a copy of the year-two progress presentation was shared with the SMU community and is also available online. Questions regarding the report or presentation may be directed to

University Advising Center

University Advising Center Welcomes Two New Advisors to the Hilltop

The University Advising Center has made some new additions to our staff this month. Veronica Gutierrez and Amy ‘Ricki’ Ward joined us just in time for the holiday season cheer.

Headshot of Ricki Ward, a new Academic Advisor in the University Advising Center.A native Texan, Ricki is a 2002 graduate of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in both History and Psychology.  She then earned her Texas Teacher Certification via LeTourneau University’s Post-Baccalaureate Educator Certification Program.  She began her career as a teacher at Dallas Academy, where she specialized in creating and implementing personalized curriculum for students with learning differences.  Most recently, Ricki taught 4th grade math and science in Garland ISD, and was awarded 2022-23 Teacher of the Year at Dorsey Elementary in Rowlett.  She lives in Rowlett with her husband, Tony, her two teenage children, Bailey and Jake, and her black lab, Charlie.  Ricki is a lifelong Texas Rangers fan and avid reader, and recently began volunteering as a camera operator for Her email is and her office number is (214) 768-6835.

Headshot of Veronica Gutierrez, a new Academic Advisor in the University Advising Center.

Veronica Gutierrez joins the University Advising Center after spending 29 years in public education as an elementary school teacher and counselor. Veronica graduated from Paris Junior College and Southwest Texas State University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. She also received her Master’s degree in Counseling from Texas A&M University-Commerce. Veronica was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and has always loved the beauty of the SMU campus. She is very excited to start this new journey. Her email is and her office number is (214) 768-6836.

Please join the University Advising Center in welcoming our two new advisors to the Hilltop!

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Big iDeas E-Launch propels latest generation of entrepreneurs

SMU’s Big iDeas program in the Office of Engaged Learning offers funding, training and mentoring to undergraduate entrepreneurs in any major. The E-Launch workshop series guides entrepreneurs in the creation of their businesses. E-Launch met each Monday evening this semester and was led by Entrepreneurship Fellow Michael Kelly (Founder, Resolute Future), with sessions taught by Seth Orsborn (Director, Deason Innovation Gym), John Rougeux (Partner, Category Thinkers) and Ellen Smoak (Founder & CEO, The Society of Women Entrepreneurs).

Each student entrepreneur has made considerable strides in crafting their businesses through sessions covering market research, prototyping, business planning, and storytelling. We asked our entrepreneurs about what they’ve learned throughout the sessions.

“E-Launch has helped me ground my business idea and determine which elements to focus on and which are most important,” said senior Ryder McNeal, founder of PREVO Streaming. PREVO is a streaming platform dedicated to showing a curated catalogue of independent or student-made films from across the country. Ryder, who is majoring in Marketing and Film, looks forward to his next steps. “I am extremely excited to launch my business in the coming months and work to refine my pitch deck.”

Ryder McNeal Prevo Streaming with big check from Big iDeas

Throughout the process, the entrepreneurs completed assignments, such as a Lean Canvas, that are designed to help them develop a business plan and seek more funding in the future. “I’ve learned a lot,” said first-year Yaw Boateng, “such as the entire concept of category design, what an MVP is (minimum viable product), the different stages of prototypes, and how to conduct market research.”

Yaw Boateng, Peruna Bot with big check from Big IDeas

Yaw is majoring in Data Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is developing PerunaBot, an AI chatbot, to help SMU students navigate all the resources on campus. Yaw enjoyed learning broader entrepreneurship lessons like “alignment is purpose.” He explained, “from this framework, you’re reducing all friction from achieving your goals and creating a natural tailwind to push you forward. Also, understanding nuance for decision-making that can be applied to all areas of life.”

The next step for many of these entrepreneurs will be the Big iDeas Business Plan Competitionon February 9, 2024. All SMU undergrads are eligible to apply. Details on the application, business plan, and future E-Launch sessions are on the Big iDeas website,

These interviews were conducted by Leon Jackson, interim Project Coordinator for Big iDeas.

Office of General Education

Modifications made to Common Curriculum Global Perspectives rubric, permitting all SMU Abroad programs to satisfy

The Council on General Education (CoGE) approved changes to the Common Curriculum (CC) Global Perspectives (GPS) Proficiency and Experience (P&E) rubric on November 11, 2023.

The CC Global Perspectives graduation requirement contains 5 experience criteria. Criteria three establishes how undergraduate students can achieve the graduation requirement via a co-curricular experience.

CoGE approved an update to the experience criteria to now read:

Student experiences must involve at least fourteen days of an immersive experience in a global culture or completion of an approved SMU Abroad program. An immersive context is one in which students live like members of the local population, following local customs, eating local food, taking local transportation, etc

This change was recommended since not all SMU Abroad programs are 14 days but may be shorter, ranging from 9 to 12 days. Since SMU Abroad programs have a curricular component or are SMU faculty-led, we believe the GPS student learning outcomes are being achieved via these vetted programs by the Education Abroad Council.

Students who do not enroll in a GPS-tagged course via the SMU Abroad program will be asked to complete the 1,000-word reflection as part of their re-entry experience. Therefore, these changes would permit SMU to say all SMU Abroad offerings achieve GPS. This change also enacts recommendations from the ACE Internationalization Steering Committee.

SMU Abroad and the Office of General Education are working to operationalize the collection of reflections beginning with the Spring 2024 abroad cohort during their re-entry experience. If you have questions about these changes, please contact the Office of General Education.

Office of General Education

The Council on General Education approves changes to Common Curriculum Critical Reasoning fulfillment requirements

On Friday, December 1st, the Council on General Education approved a change in the Common Curriculum Critical Reasoning fulfillment requirement effective Spring 2024.

Since the establishment of the Common Curriculum in Fall 2020, the Critical Reasoning Foundation component required undergraduate students to (1) achieve a C- or better and (2) not drop or withdraw from a CR course. Effective Spring 2024, students can now drop or withdraw from a CR-tagged course.

This change was warranted due to the recently announced changes to the Critical Reasoning rubric and the efforts to develop courses outside of the Writing and Reasoning Program (WRTR). Beginning in Spring 2024, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs (CCPA) and Journalism (JOUR) will offer CR-tagged courses.

The Office of General Education will coordinate updates to impacted course descriptions, syllabi language, and websites with academic departments before winter break. This recent approval will be reflected in the Undergraduate Catalog for the 2024 – 2025 academic year.

Student progress through the Common Curriculum Foundation components will be monitored and enforced via the University-wide Requirements for Academic Progress articulated in the Undergraduate Catalog. 

The fulfillment requirements of a C- letter grade and the inability to drop and withdraw remain in effect for the Academic Writing Foundation component.

Please direct questions to the Office of General Education at

First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Success Programs

First Gen Fest a success

The First Gen Initiative (FGI) and the First Gen Student Association (FGA), with support from SMU Student Senate, collaborated for the 2023 annual First Gen Fest. The celebration was a huge success with over 500 students, faculty, and staff celebrating our First Generation Mustangs. Chris Meyers (SASP/SAES), Brandon Kitchin (SCIE/Student Affairs), and members of the First Gen Student Association (FGA) coordinated food, games, resource tables and give aways to celebrate the contributions and successes of our First Gen Mustangs.

Thank you, Chris Meyers and Brandon Kitchin
Thank you partners, for our resource tables
Great food
First Gen T shirts were a hit