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

NCUR 2024: Let’s Hear from the Participants!

Congrats to (L-R in group picture) Anish Senthilkumar, Karen Lin, Elisabeth Hood, Anna Su, Sadikshya Sitaula, Kevin Nguyen, Jonathan Thomas, Vivian Thai on presenting at NCUR 2024!

These eight SMU students had the incredible opportunity to present their research and creative work at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research 2024. They traveled to California State University, where they were able to interact with students and faculty from universities across the country for an exciting conference.

Here is more from a few of the students about their thoughts on the experience:

Preparing for the Conference:

Ellie Hood ’24: The best way I found to prepare for the conference was to attend the Undergraduate Poster Session! Being able to practice poster presentations on a smaller scale gave me confidence in myself and my research going into a much bigger poster session like NCUR!

Kevin Nguyen ’24: I prepared for the conference by making my poster. I made it early because I had the American Chemical Society conference a few weeks before. Thus, I had enough practice presenting my poster after that initial conference.

Vivian Thai ’25: I have been working on my project for almost 2 years prior to the conference, but to prepare specifically for NCUR, I scheduled a meeting with my PI and went over the data that I wanted to present. After that, I submitted an abstract and continued collecting leftover data until I was ready to make my poster. I had several meetings with my professor to draft my poster and I also presented at SMU’s Research & Innovation Week to prepare.

The NCUR Experience:

Ellie: To put it simply, NCUR was an intellectual feast. Not only was it fun and encouraging to share my own research, I also had the best time hearing about everyone else’s research! Every single poster and presentation that I came across was so interesting, and it’s so inspiring to me that so many undergraduates are dedicated to academia.

Kevin: My experience with the conference was incredibly rewarding. I only presented on one day, but for the other days, I went to see other SMU students’ presentations. Even then, I visited fellow chemistry undergraduates and saw their work. When I had time, I enjoyed the beach, hung out with friends, and relaxed in the hotel.

Vivian: My experience at the conference was amazing! I had the opportunity to do a poster presentation, but attendees were also able to watch other poster presentations and oral presentations. One of my favorite things about NCUR is that it’s a huge conference, so there is a large variety of topics. I listened to presentations with focuses ranging from Formula One to programming robots in agriculture. In addition, there was plenty of free time to explore the city. NCUR 2024 was hosted in Long Beach, CA and it was so much fun exploring the area and going to the beach.

Advice for Future NCUR Presenters:

Ellie: For future NCUR presenters, I say have fun with it! Don’t get in your head about whether or not your research is good enough to be at NCUR. If you’re at NCUR, you have something great to offer! Take time to see as many posters and presentations as you can, spend time with the other SMU presenters, and really soak it all in. Also, there are lots of grad schools tabling at NCUR. If you’re unsure about your post-grad plans but know that you want to pursue graduate education, definitely take the time to talk to the schools!

Kevin: For future presenters of NCUR, I recommend “selling” your presentations well. For poster presentations specifically, eye-catching titles and enthusiastic demeanors help to grab people’s attention and allow you to network with them. Also, please take some time to see other people’s work, as they could enlighten you on where you might go next in your research!

Vivian: Try to start your presentation in advance in case anything comes up. If you’re doing a poster, practice your spiel in the days leading up so you feel confident on the day of your presentation. Also, NCUR is a great opportunity for students who have never presented their research before. The environment is very welcoming and everyone is eager to hear about your research, so don’t stress too much about it!

 

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

Mustang Champions Announced for March 2024

SMU Athletics and the Academic Development of Student-Athletes (ADSA) have selected four Mustang Champions for the month of March! Let’s meet the four SMU Mustangs that are reaching for new heights personally and academically during this semester:

Leif Bouwman (Men’s Swim & Dive)

  • Leif isn’t just keeping his head above water in the pool – he’s also conquering the demanding world of Mechanical Engineering (Premedical/Biomedical Specialization). Despite the challenging coursework, Leif boasts a near-perfect 3.981 GPA this Spring and exemplifies dedication and perseverance.

Raelyn Roberson (Track & Field/ Cross Country)

  • Raelyn isn’t just double-majoring in Applied Physiology and Health Management (APHM) and Biological Sciences – as a senior, she’s mastered the art of being a student-athlete. Driven, resilient, and a true leader on and off the track, Raelyn embodies what it means to excel in academics and athletics. As president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), she’s a champion for her fellow athletes, using her voice to make a positive impact across the entire campus. Want to learn more about the amazing work SAAC does? Check them out here! SMU SAAC

Kobe Wilson – (Football)

  • Kobe Wilson isn’t just a standout on the field – he’s a champion for his fellow student-athletes and the Dallas community. Over the past few months, Kobe has become an active member for the Black Student-Athlete Advisory Council (BSAAC). He’s not just attending meetings, he’s actively spreading the word about BSAAC’s mission and inspiring others to join.  He’s a dedicated volunteer, actively participating in DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) events and making a positive difference in Dallas. Kobe is also taking full advantage of the Life After Ball (LAB) program, networking with professionals and applying for internships. Talk about a World Shaper in action!

Jenna Watson – (Women’s Swim & Dive)

  • This semester, Jenna Watson has immersed herself in the SMU Community head first! Not only did she jump in to help lead the March SAAC meeting when Raelyn was away, but she also spearheaded the preparation for the crucial SAAC/Strategy Meeting on March 25th. Jenna shouldered a huge chunk of the project, making sure all the presentation materials were polished and ready to go by deadline. This Mustang Champion clearly isn’t afraid to take charge and make a difference!

Come back next month for another update of Mustang Champions of the Month!

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

Big iDeas Spotlight: Ryder McNeal

The invitation for Ryder McNeal ‘24, to dream big was prompted four years ago by a simple yard sign on Dallas Lawn for the Big iDeas Pitch Competition. This moment clearly made an impression, too, because McNeal, stayed intrigued about Big iDeas throughout his journey at SMU.  However, it wasn’t until the fall of his senior year that McNeal decided to pitch an idea at the intersection of film, marketing, business and entrepreneurship.  And a good idea it was, for his company, PREVO, was the top winner of the Big iDeas Business Plan Competition this past February!   

PREVO, McNeal’s exciting new company, is a streaming platform dedicated to showing a curated catalogue of independent or student-made films, from film-makers across the country. After Big iDeas awarded prize money to McNeal, he dove deeper into his business through the Big iDeas E-Launch.  

E-Launch is a robust training series powered by the Office of Engaged Learning that offers workshops and guest speakers to develop student businesses. This past year it was led by Entrepreneurship Fellow Michael Kelly (Founder, Resolute Future) and the Big iDeas team. McNeal said that E-Launch was “truly the catalyst in helping him flesh out {his} ideas and gain the feedback that was needed in order for PREVO to be successful.”  

Since the pitch competition last fall, PREVO has found collaborations across SMU’s campus. Roseanne Hart, an adjunct professor in both the Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, and the Division of Journalism’s Fashion Media program, asked McNeal if PREVO could be the focal point a public relations class this Spring. Hart’s PR students are tasked with creating a launch and marketing plan for PREVO and will present their plans to McNeal at the end of the semester. “I’m really excited that PREVO could be used for students in an academic space, but also that I can be encouraged by the launch plans they come up with. Hopefully, it can really help frame how I launch PREVO this summer,” said McNeal. 

PREVO is set to fully launch in mid-July of 2024, on the date of McNeal’s birthday. As McNeal is concluding his final semester on the Hilltop, he has shifted many of his larger efforts towards the marketing for PREVO. He is reaching out to film faculty members and film festivals across the country, hoping to generate excitement within film schools and cities that celebrate independent films regularly. In addition to marketing, McNeal is working on getting a student ambassador for PREVO. 

For a while, independent films were all that McNeal could take on with the resources that he had, but creating PREVO has deepened his appreciation for small-scale films as a whole. 

All of these efforts “were made possible to me through receiving Big iDeas funding. The financial support helped be build out the steps I needed to take to be prepared to launch this summer and I am extremely grateful,” said McNeal. And for the student who may need some encouragement for starting their business or sees a simple yard sign on Dallas Lawn, McNeal says, “get involved with the things you love! Get involved as much as you possibly can because there are so many ways to do a lot with a little, especially while you’re in college.” 

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Academic Center for Excellence Academic Skill Development Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs

2024 Extra Mile Award winners

Every spring for the Hilltop Excellence Awards, Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies‘ student organization, Students for New Learning (SNL), presents two or three instructors with the Extra Mile Award. This award recognizes teaching excellence and sensitivity when working with neurodivergent students.

This year, SNL has recognized: Pamela Corley, Department of Political Science; C.J. Enloe, World Languages and Literature – Spanish; and Shon Phillips, English. Watch the official presentation video here.

Congratulations to our winners! Thank you for helping to make SMU a welcoming place for neurodivergent students and “going the extra mile” to help them succeed.

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

Highlighting our February Mustang Champions

Our second round of Mustang Champions has been announced for the Spring semester! Mustang Champions are nominated each month, by ADSA and athletics staff, for recognizing athletes that are working to perform at their highest level! Whether by improving their academic or athletic performance, embodying the S.P.I.R.I.T of SMU athletics, or student-athlete success initiatives.

Sarah Kelly (Women’s Rowing) exemplifies dedication and perseverance. Despite facing challenges, Sarah has remained focused throughout the spring semester, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to success in her academics. Her hard work is evident in her strong academic performance and grades.

Ja’Heim Hudson (Men’s Basketball) embodies a well-rounded student-athlete. Ja’Heim dedicates extra time to academics, attending study hall and diligently completing work with his counselor, even while traveling for games. His commitment shines not only in the classroom but also on the court.

Bryce McMorris (Football) has emerged as a true leader. Bryce actively participates in both the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Black Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (BSAAC). He collaborated to establish a student-athlete STEM group-fostering academic engagement in science, technology, engineering, and math. Furthermore, Bryce advocates for fellow athletes by discussing student-athlete employment opportunities and their potential benefits and drawbacks. His consistent leadership extends to bi-monthly senior staff meetings, where he represents SAAC effectively.

Layla Garcia-Moreno (Women’s Soccer) exemplifies a strong work ethic. Despite only speaking English for two years, Layla actively participates in all Life After Ball (LAB) resources this semester. She is diligently working on her resume in pursuit of an internship, demonstrating a proactive approach to her future and excellent use of her resources.

Congratulations once again to Sarah, Ja’Heim, Bryce, and Layla for being recognized as our February Mustang Champions! These student-athletes are just a few examples of the many Mustangs who are excelling both on and off the field. Remember, there’s always someone to cheer for at SMU!

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Academic Center for Excellence Academic Skill Development Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs

Assistive technology helps all students – part 1

We at Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS) see how invaluable assistive technology is in the life of a student with a disability, but we want to share how this tech can help anyone. In the first of a two-part post, we’ll look at the text-to-speech software Kurzweil, and browser extensions that make Canvas more user-friendly. 

Kurzweil reads electronic text aloud, and so students who are blind, have low vision, and many who are dyslexic rely heavily on it or similar apps. Students with ADHD, ESL students, students with a preference for auditory learning, and even those just struggling to focus find it easier to follow along as the text is read to them. Kurzweil is available for download to all SMU students through DASS, Academic Development of Student-Athletes (ADSA), and Fondren Library.

Academic counselors here at DASS and in Academic Skill Development (ASD), see students struggle to find posted assignments, rubrics, and important dates on Canvas. Two Chrome browser extensions available for download at the Chrome Web Store might help: Tasks for Canvas and Better Canvas.

Tasks for Canvas presents many ways to organize and bring important things front and center, including class announcements. It “gamifies” assignments with a progress wheel and helps the student break a task into smaller parts, then tracks their progress.

The second extension, Better Canvas, is more for cosmetic changes to the layout making it easier to see and get to the most important parts of each Canvas page. It is like Tasks but allows more creativity in its use of colors, dark/light modes, and themes.

Stay tuned for part two next week when we’ll consider mindfulness apps and AI!

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

Poster Session 2024: Let’s Hear from the Winners!

SMU’s Undergraduate Poster Session for 2024 has concluded with some incredible posters and winners! The winners Elisabeth Hood, Veronica Khoury Seeling, and Gabriel Mongaras have shared with us some information about their respective posters. Read on to learn more about them! 

Can you give us a layman’s terms explanation of your project? 

Headshot of Ellie Hood
Elizabeth Hood, Factors Affecting Romantic Partner Preferences Majors: Psychology, Sociology

Elisabeth:My study investigated factors that influenced people’s attitudes and behaviors towards romantic interethnic relationships. Through surveys and interviews, we concluded that people would rather have a partner who shares their beliefs and values than have a partner who belongs to specific racial/ethnic group. This aligns with an emerging theory of interracial relationships known as dyadic cultural affinity, which places less focus on differences in the partners’ physical appearances and more focus on the compatibility of the partners’ beliefs, values, and practices.”

 

Veronica Khoury Seeling, The Relationship Between Executive Functioning and Immediate Memory

Veronica: “Based on researchers like Arain, we know that frontal lobe related executive function may not be fully developed until around age 25 and although the relationship between executive functioning and memory abilities has often been researched in child and older-adult populations, little research has looked to examine that relationship in college age/young adult populations. Thus, this study sought to examine the relationship between executive function and long-term episodic memory. Executive function refers to any higher order processes such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, or inhibitory control while long term episodic memory refers to the recollection of personal experiences or events. It was hypothesized that when controlling for variables like ADHD status, anxiety or depression level, age, and hours of sleep that executive function would still predict long-term episodic memory performance. After a 1 hour in lab session in which about 95 participants’ baseline executive function and long-term episodic memory performance were assessed, we took the data and ran a multiple regression controlling for those variables previously mentioned. It was found that executive function did indeed significantly predict long term episodic memory performance, suggesting that executive function is very important for general memory abilities in college age students, and future research should look towards intervention methods for those with executive dysfunction who may be struggling in school (like those with ADHD).” 

Headshot of Gabriel Mongaras
Gabriel Mongaras, Linear Transformers With Cosine Attention Majors: Computer Science, Math, Statistics

Gabriel: “ChatGPT and related GPT style models have a major problem. After every word GPT generates, it has to store that word so it can reference it later. This is a problem as each word added increases the memory quadratically in term of the sequence length – that is every word increases the memory by every other word, not just itself! This becomes intractable to handle for any reasonable conversation or sequence. This problem comes from the attention mechanism, the heart of GPT models. We fix this problem by converting the softmax function to a cosine function and stabilizing the new attention mechanism, giving linear complexity while retaining the accuracy of the old softmax attention.” 

How long have you worked on this project 

Elisabeth:This project began in Fall 2022!”  

Veronica: “The data used for this project was taken from a larger 3-day study organized by a doctoral candidate in the MAPL lab, Diane Moon. I’ve been working on that larger project since October 2023. This particular project has been something Diane Moon and I have worked on since January/February of this year.” 

Gabriel: “I have been working on this project since September of last year.” 

How did you prepare, design, and print your poster? 

Elisabeth:To prepare and design my poster, I used a template provided by the Office of Engaged Learning. You can easily find these templates on the Engaged Learning website! The Engaged Learning website also has PDFs of the previous year’s winning posters, so I also used those as a guide. To print my poster, I used the FedEx on Hillcrest.” 

Veronica: “This poster was prepared after countless meetings with Diane Moon and was designed with previous posters done by Diane and Dr. Bowen in mind. After I initially created the poster, Diane and Dr. Bowen looked over it two separate times before it was finally printed by the Psychology department.” 

Gabriel: “Since we’ve been writing a paper, most of the information and charts came from there. However, the language had to be changed to be a little less technical. Most of the information was written around the results, algorithm and charts, which made it a lot earlier to write in less technical language, but also written like a narrative: what’s the problem, how is it fixed, what’s the results. Additionally, I tried to supply as much background information on the attention mechanism as possible with the little space I could do it in.” 

What was your favorite part about presenting your poster? 

Elisabeth:My favorite part about presenting the poster was answering people’s questions! The sociology of interethnic relationships is something I’m very passionate about, and so receiving questions and being able to answer them was really inspiring; it gave me hope that this is a topic other people care about as well!” 

Veronica: “Hearing how students with ADHD or other learning disabilities felt that accommodations and future interventions were very important for their success in college and that this research validated those experiences. This made me realize that this research, although small, was still important.” 

Gabriel: “Meeting all the cool people with amazing projects and who were super passionate about them!” 

Any tips for future presenters? 

Elisabeth:Future presenters: have confidence in yourself! Imposter syndrome is very common, especially for first-time presenters, but you know more than you think you know about your research topic. Posters are a huge feat for undergrads, so just remember that you worked so hard and you deserve to feel proud of yourself! For more practical advice, definitely get a second pair of eyes on your poster before you get it printed. Furthermore, don’t wait until the last minute to print.” 

Gabriel: “Don’t be nervous about the poster presentation. It’s a lot of fun to talk about the work you’ve been doing over the past months or year(s) and most people just want to see the cool stuff you’ve been working on! Though one piece of advice is to try to think of possible loopholes or limitations in your approach as people may ask about those.” 

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Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success

The Office of General Education to re-launch Common Reading in revised format

As the Spring 2024 semester comes to an end, the Office of General Education is working to re-launch the Common Reading program for SMU undergraduate students in Fall 2024 in a revised format.

This version of the Common Reading will target first-year students, allowing them the opportunity to earn their Civics & Individual Ethics (CIE) Common Curriculum (CC) Proficiency. Due to budget and logistical constraints, it will only be a targeted group within the first-year cohort rather than all first-year students.

The Office of General Education has created a campus-wide survey to get feedback from students, staff, and faculty members on the following:

  • Book selection and its alignment with the CIE rubric
  • Time commitment and requirements for students intending to receive the CIE credit
  • Time commitment for faculty/staff facilitators

This survey will assist the General Education team in these early planning stages as they work to create a meaningful program for students that also supports their academic endeavors. The Office of General Education encourages undergraduate students, and faculty/staff that work primarily with undergraduate students, to complete this survey.

More information will be provided regarding the Common Reading program as it continues to be developed throughout the spring and summer months.

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Office of General Education

Approved meeting minutes from the Council on General Education on March 8, 2024

The Council on General Education met on March 8, 2024. The meeting minutes for February 23, 2024, were approved at this meeting. Below is the agenda, and the meeting minutes have now been posted on the General Education website.

  1. Approval of Agenda for March 8, 2024, Council on General Education meeting.
  2. Approval of Minutes for the February 23, 2024, Council on General Education meeting.
  3. CC Tag Proposals (Peter)
    1. Course Proposals
      1. HRTS 4399 (Human Rights Research) REVISED-Civics and Individual Ethics; Human Diversity; Global Perspectives
      2. AMAE 3387 (Principles of Creative Entrepreneurship) – REVISED-Oral Communication
    2. Activity Proposals
      1. Honor Council – Civics and Individual Ethics
      2. SMU Outdoor Adventures – Community Engagement; Oral Communication
  4. CC Rubric Update (Dayna)
    1. Approved pending revisions.
      1. Social and Behavioral Sciences
      2. Technological Advances and Society
    2. Tabled
      1. Exploring Science
      2. Global Perspectives
  5. Student Progress Toward Degree and Throughout (Sheri)
    1. Role of the Schools in satisfying CIE/CE
  6. Proposals (Peter)
    1. Critical Reasoning Fulfillment Requirements
      1. CR proposals-voting ballot will be sent out with a 3/21 deadline.
      2. In Development – WIM to W Progress; Modification to Course Content Criteria (4000-level)
  7. General Education Office Updates (Dustin)
    1. Catalog Review

Please contact the Office of General Education for questions or proposal development support.

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Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Engagement & Success

First-Gen Spotlight: Arath Dominguez 

The Dallas Morning News recently featured Arath Dominguez, a first-generation student at SMU. In the article, Arath describes his experience as a first-generation student and explains why he chose to attend SMU. Coming from a family of seven he knew he wanted to go to a school where he could thrive while staying close to his family. He is pursuing a B.A. in computer science and a B.S. in data science. Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) has opened many doors to engage in opportunities to engage with people from diverse backgrounds which led him to switch his degree from electrical engineering. “Thanks to the contacts I made through SHPE, I interned at AT&T as a data scientist. This experience solidified my passion for pursuing a career in data science or technology consulting and reinforced my desire to work for a company that values diversity.”

He notes his strong alliance with Student Financial Services and how crucial it is to keep applying for scholarships even after high school. “I did not stop looking for scholarships during my undergraduate career. Students are not limited to not only getting scholarships during high school.” A combination of federal grants, merit scholarships, and institutional support has aided Arath in attending SMU paying for almost 95% of his tuition!

Lastly, he emphasizes how important it is for first-generation students just to ask for help. “Just asking questions is crucial, especially for first-gen students like me. I struggled with this because I didn’t want to reveal that I didn’t know what was going on, even when I didn’t. In hindsight, I would’ve benefited from asking more questions.” Asking questions has allowed Arath to be successful and seek more resources to help him through his academic career.

“Failure is a natural part of the learning process, and you need to be open to it to identify areas for growth, So don’t be afraid to ask questions even if you feel like the person next to you has it all figured out. Because the truth is, they probably don’t. – Arath Dominguez