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

2024 Summer Research with Engaged Learning

Summer undergraduate research is off and running with the Office of Engaged Learning!

37 SMU students will be participating in the fourth annual Summer Research Intensive, working alongside 25 faculty members in the Cox School of Business, Dedman College, Dedman School of Law, Lyle School of Engineering, and Simmons School of Education and Human Development. In the SRI, students will work on faculty research projects and attend professional development workshops throughout the summer. The program also creates a community and cohort experience for student researchers to interact and collaborate.

As part of the Summer Research Intensive, OEL sponsors the Summer Research Symposium, a weekly speaker series highlighting research and innovation by SMU faculty and invited guests. The symposium series will take place Wednesdays from 12-1pm in the Hughes-Trigg Chamber with lunch provided. These events are open to the public!

2024 Summer Research Symposium Speakers
6/12: Dr. Beth Wheaton-Páramo, Economics
6/19: Dr. Peng Tao, Chemistry
6/26: Dr. Alexander Chase, Earth Sciences
7/10: Faculty Panel: How do I get a Grant?
7/17: Dr. Jeanna Wieselmann, Teaching & Learning
7/24: Faculty panel: Resilience in Research

Starting June 3, OEL and the Department of Statistics and Data Science will host the third annual Data Science for Social Good Research Experience for Undergraduates. 12 undergraduate students from across the country will attend the 8-week program to learn how to use data science tools to find solutions to economic and environmental problems affecting the Dallas community. The students will work in teams under the guidance of SMU faculty mentors Dr. Cullum Clark (Bush Institute/Economics), Dr. Anthony Petrosino (Teaching & Learning), Dr. Beth Wheaton-Páramo (Economics), and Dr. Mary Spector (Law). Stay tuned for more about the participants and their projects.

Student Academic Engagement & Success

The Office of Engaged Learning Welcomes New Staff

The Office of Engaged Learning is excited to welcome two new staff members to the team, Alisha Bailey and Olivia Prioleau.

Headshot of Alisha Bailey

Alisha serves as Assistant Director for Pathways to Business and Industry Program. Before transitioning to OEL, she served as Program Manager in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, where she led the engineering outreach camps for K-16. Alisha received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Spelman College and her Master of Science in Environmental Sciences from Alabama A&M University. Prior to obtaining her master’s degree, Alisha worked as a sixth and seventh grade mathematics teacher in Houston, TX, before transitioning back into the science field. Through her master’s program, her knowledge and focuses were fisheries, aquaponics, and water management research and by studying abroad in Nanjing, China, she broadened her skills in GIS. Alisha worked for the government in the environmental health field as an Environmental Compliance Specialist for several years in Atlanta, GA. Outside of work, Alisha is continuously dedicated to service by volunteering at Ronald McDonald House Dallas, as an advisory board member with Women Leading Technology, serves on the Board of Directors for The GEMS Camp, a proud alumna of Leadership ISD Dallas County Civic Voices Fellowship, and a member of Junior League of Dallas.

Headshot of Olivia Prioleau

Olivia Prioleau serves as the new Project Specialist, coordinating the Big iDeas and Mustang Mentors program. As a Charleston, South Carolina native, Olivia received her B.A. in Journalism and Communications from the University of South Carolina and will be graduating with her M.Ed. in Higher Educational Leadership from Texas Christian University in May of 2024. During her two years at TCU, Olivia served first-year leadership programs, student organizations, and large-scale programs in her role as the Graduate Assistant in the Student Activities Office. She is excited for her new journey at SMU and to serve more students on the Hilltop.

Please join us in welcoming Alisha and Olivia!

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

Meadows students pursue research projects with Engaged Learning Fellowships

Discover what meaningful research projects Meadows students across four different majors are pursuing with their Engaged Learning Fellowship. Read the full article from Meadows School of the Arts.

For students interested in pursuing a research or capstone project, there is another opportunity to apply for an Engaged Learning Fellowship this spring. Find information about the fellowship and how to apply at The deadline to apply for this cycle is April 15.

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

Research & Innovation Week, April 1-5

Research & Innovation Week is happening next week! As part of RIW, The Office of Engaged Learning is excited to showcase the outstanding research and projects being done by SMU undergraduates across campus.

The Undergraduate Poster Session will take place Tuesday, April 2, 2-5 p.m. in the Moody Hall Atrium.  Prizes are awarded for the Top 3 posters overall, and the best poster in each school will be recognized. You can also vote for your favorite poster during the session for the Fan Favorite award. We hope you will come by to check out their posters, hear their presentations, and support these exceptional Mustangs!

The week is filled with panels, workshops and more. Visit the Research & Innovation Week website for event details and registration links.

  • Monday, April 1: Kick-off Event and Centers & Institutes Panel, 8am-12 PM
  • Tuesday, April 2: Undergraduate Poster Session, 2-5 PM
  • Wednesday, April 3: Graduate Poster Sessions, Dedman College graduate programs at 9 AM-12 PM, All other graduate programs and postdoctoral scholars at 2-5 PM
  • Thursday, April 4: Lunch & Learn: Navigating through the Research Labyrinth, 11:30AM-12:30PM
  • Thursday, April 4: Keynote Talk: Keivan Stassun, Director of the Frist Center for Autism & Innovation and Stevenson Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, 5 PM
  • Friday, April 5: SMU Faculty Innovation Day, 8 AM – 3:45 PM
  • Friday, April 5: MFA Qualifying Exhibition: “To Feel, To Mend, To Be”, 2-5PM in the Pollock Gallery


Office of Engaged Learning

New mentorship opportunities with Mustang Mentors

This past month, a select group of students were invited to participate as a mentor or mentee in the SMU Mustang Mentors program. The Office of Engaged Learning is working with Mentor Collective, a peer mentoring platform that creates one-on-one connections between students to enhance the college experience. Students are paired with a peer mentor based on common interests, skills, and academic goals who can provide guidance and support as they transition to life at SMU. Students will learn what to expect in school, how to approach challenges and gain career advice. At the same time, mentors will build their networks and develop skills to become better professionals and leaders.

Mustang Mentors will be hosting info sessions this spring for students to learn more about the program and what it has to offer. In the fall, the program will welcome a full cohort of mentors and mentees. To learn more about the program, contact and stay tuned for more information at

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

Encourage undergraduate students to present at Research & Innovation Week

Research & Innovation Week is two weeks away and we’re looking for students to present at the Undergraduate Poster Session. The deadline for students to register is Monday, March 18.

Please encourage your students to participate! This is a great opportunity for undergraduates to share their research with the SMU community, and to compete for cash prizes.

The Undergraduate Poster Session will be held Tuesday, April 2 from 2-5pm in the Moody Hall Atrium. For more information about the poster session and other events, visit

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

SMU Alum’s business featured on NBCDFW

We love seeing SMU entrepreneurs in the news! SMU alum Lidya Winnie ‘19 was recently featured on Texas Today on NBC discussing her natural beauty business Konjo Beauty. Watch Lidya’s Texas Today segment

Lidya started her company Konja Beauty while studying Arts Entrepreneurship and Markets and Culture and developed this idea as a fellow at the Big iDeas, SMU Incubator. You can learn more about her business and shop her products at

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Congratulations Big iDeas Business Plan Winners!

On Friday, February 12, The Office of Engaged Learning held its annual Big iDeas Business Plan Competition where twelve undergraduate entrepreneurship teams pitched their business plan in four minutes to a panel of business experts. Seven entrepreneurs were awarded funding up to $7,000. Please help us in congratulating the winners:

Ryder Mc Neal ’24, PREVO

Jude Lugo ’24, LectureLogger

Mason Morland ’24, SteadiSpoon

Anish Senthikumar ’25 and Vedang Uniyal ’24, The Active Mind Initiative

Joshua Baier, ’24, Timio News

Mason Dierkes ’27, Seed Innovate

Benjamin Omoregbe ’24, Internsurf

Special thanks to our judges Ayodele Aigbe (CEO of Hangio), Andrew Denton (Founder of Glia Health and Prosper AI), and Michael Kelly (Co-Founder of Resolute Future).

News Office of Engaged Learning Student Academic Engagement & Success

National Mentoring Month 2024

Did you know January is National Mentoring Month? Mentoring plays a significant role in the university experience, providing students with the support, guidance, and resources they need to succeed. As a new semester begins, now is the perfect time for us to reflect on the impact these positive relationships have within our academic community.

Here are some of the benefits of mentoring, to name a few: 

  • Improved academic performance
  • Positive impact on mental health and well-being
  • Boosted confidence and sense of belonging
  • Connections on campus and beyond
  • Preparation for life after college

Peer mentoring is equally as important to student success and offers the unique benefit of the shared experience!

Starting this spring, the Office of Engaged Learning will re-launch SMU Mustang Mentors in partnership with the Mentor Collective, a peer mentoring platform to promote student engagement and tailor mentorship to fit all students’ needs.

Join us in celebrating National Mentoring Month and stay tuned for more on SMU Mustang Mentors!  

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

SMU student entrepreneur Trevor Gicheru in the news

Trevor Gicheru, a computer science junior at SMU, is making headlines with his software Nurovant AI, which uses AI technology to create quizzes, flashcards, and study tools from audio recordings of lectures. While preparing for a class at SMU, he saw an opportunity for the app, and fellow students are already using it to improve their learning experience. Nurovant AI is growing popularity among students and investors alike, and recently featured in the Dallas Morning News.

In 2024, Trevor and his team have ambitious goals for Nurovant AI.

“We are currently in the midst of raising a pre-seed round of 250k. We’ve already secured about half of our funding target and aim to complete this round by the end or middle of January,”  Trevor said. “Additionally, we’ve garnered venture interest from VCs across the country. Our objective is to finalize a deal with one of these firms by mid-year. Another key goal is to achieve 10,000 downloads of our app by April, a milestone that would significantly demonstrate our product’s traction and market fit. We’re also aiming to pilot our school-facing version of the software in at least five schools, broadening our impact and reach.”

As a two-time winner of the Big iDeas Pitch Competition, Trevor has great advice for students aspiring to build a startup:

“My advice is straightforward: take action,” he says. “Don’t wait for others to believe in your dreams. It’s essential to be proactive and pursue your vision with determination and resilience. Building a startup is a journey filled with challenges, but with a strong belief in your ideas and a willingness to work hard, you can create something truly impactful.”

For SMU students looking to take the next step in building their startup, The Office of Engaged Learning will be holding the Big iDeas Business Plan Competition on February 9 from 9am -1pm. Encourage students to apply today to pitch to win $5000.