First-Generation Initiative

Second annual First-Generation Graduation Celebration a success during Celebration of Excellence Weekend

Co-hosted by the First-Generation Association and the First-Generation Initiative, the second annual First-Generation Graduation Celebration was a success on Sunday, April 30, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom.

This year’s celebration spotlighted the 75 first-generation students graduating in May and August of 2023. The 75 students will be collectively awarded an estimated 142 degrees.

Eighteen graduating students were presented with a first-generation graduation stole, a commemorative Class of 2023 tumbler, and a handwritten letter from a First-Gen Proud Faculty or Staff Ally.

Get to know the 18 graduating students who were joined by their family and friends at this year’s ceremony:

Graduation stoles have long been worn by graduates during commencement ceremonies as a symbol of personal and academic achievement. At SMU, we are proud to provide stoles to all of our first-generation graduating students to help them mark the significant accomplishment of reaching graduation day.

First-generation students often face unique challenges, such as navigating the college or university system, balancing academic demands with work and family responsibilities, and overcoming financial difficulties.

Class of 2023 first-generation students posing for a photo in their graduation stoles.

Wearing a stole that says first-generation during graduation is a way to recognize and honor these challenges and to show pride in being the first in one’s family to achieve this level of education. It is also a way to inspire and encourage future generations to pursue higher education.

This blog post will be updated in two weeks to include additional photos from the ceremony. For information on the First-Generation Initiative, please email

Hilltop Scholars Student Academic Engagement & Success University Advising Center

Two SAES team members were recognized with The “M” Award at the 2023 Hilltop Excellence Awards

Two Student Academic Engagement and Success (SAES) team members were honored with The “M” Award at the 2023 Hilltop Excellence Awards on Friday, April 28.

Dr. Caitlin Anderson, Director of the Hilltop Scholars Program and Senior Lecturer of Applied Physiology and Wellness, and Ellen Richmond, Director of the University Advising Center, were recognized with the highest recognition on the Hilltop.

The “M” Award is the highest recognition bestowed upon students, faculty, staff, and administrators on the SMU Campus. The recipients’ efforts have been continuous during their years at the University and are not limited to a narrow vested interest. The “M” Award honorees inspire others, giving unselfishly of their time and talents to make the University, and indeed the world, a better place.

Please join us in congratulating our stellar SEAS and SMU colleagues!

Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs University Advising Center

DASS Ads Study Skills Videos

Disability Accommodation and Success Strategies has added a new short video study skills series to its website: check out the “Body Doubling”!

Office of General Education

Approved meeting minutes from the Council on General Education on April 21, 2023

The Council on General Education met on April 21, 2023. The meeting minutes for March 31, 2023 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 the April 21, 2023 Council on General Education meeting.
  2. Approval of Minutes for the March 31, 2023 Council on General Education meeting.
  3. Previously Reviewed Proposals
    1. ITAL 2302-Breadth/CA
    2. WL 3311-Breadth/TAS, PREX/HD, PREX/GPS
    3. RUSS 3341-PREX/CIE, PREX/HD
    4. ADV 2343-PREX/GPS, PREX/HD
    5. ANTH 3314-PREX/HD
  4. New Proposal
    1. ADV 4399-PREX/OC
    2. ADV 3303-PREX/QA
    3. FILM 3352-Breadth/HC
    4. HIST 3365- Breadth/HC
    5. HIST 4388-Breadth/HC
    6. PLSC 4340-Breadth/SBS
    7. ENGL 2315-Breadth/LAI
    8. MATH 1340-FND/QR
  5. Activity Proposal
    1. Board Fellows Program- PREX/CE
  6. Office of General Education Updates

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

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

Catch up on NCUR and Research Week

The last few weeks have been busy in the world of Undergraduate Research! Read recent posts from the Office of Engaged Learning about:

Our trip to NCUR with eight undergraduate researchers and creative artists

Reactions and tips from the winners of this year’s Undergraduate Poster Session

First-Generation Initiative

First Generation Initiative’s new Instagram takeovers

Are you ready to share your SMU experience with the world? The First-Generation Initiative is excited to announce that we’re looking for enthusiastic first-generation students, faculty, and staff to participate in an Instagram takeover.

Students can showcase their student events, activities, and campus life! Faculty and staff can reflect on their own first-generation experience and offer tips for success.

It’s an excellent opportunity for our first-generation community to share your unique perspective, connect with a broader audience, and make your mark on our community’s social media.

Why should you participate in an Instagram takeover?

Share Your Story: This is your chance to highlight your experiences as a first-generation student, faculty, or staff member. Whether you’re a student involved in clubs, sports, or other activities, an Instagram takeover allows you to showcase your involvement, passion, and pride for our university. Faculty and staff can offer reflections to normalize the first-generation college experience. Everyone’s story matters – and we’re here for it.

Connect with Your Peers and Students: By taking over our Instagram account, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with students. It’s a chance to build a sense of community and foster meaningful connections on the Hilltop.

Be Creative and Have Fun: An Instagram takeover is a chance to unleash your creativity and have fun! You can experiment with different types of content, such as photos, stories, videos, polls, and more. You can also share your thoughts, insights, and perspectives on various topics related to your university experience. Faculty and staff, not sure what to do? We are here to help if you want to try out a new social media platform.

Contribute to FGI’s Social Media: By participating in an Instagram takeover, you’ll be contributing to your FGI’s social media presence and helping to showcase the vibrant and dynamic campus life. Your content can inspire and engage prospective students, alumni, and the broader community.

If you’re interested in participating in an Instagram takeover, here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Follow us on Instagram: Ensure you’re following our FGI official Instagram @smu1stgen account to stay updated on the latest news and announcements.
  2. Submit a request to take over Instagram via our webform

We will get in touch with you! We can’t wait to see the incredible content you’ll create and share with the SMU community and beyond.

Office of General Education SMU in Four Student Academic Engagement & Success University Advising Center

Degree Planner after-action report and advisor incentives announced

Degree Planner was introduced to students at the end of the Fall 2022 semester as a tool that supports the SMU in Four – SMU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) –SMU’s comprehensive approach to improving retention and four-year graduation rates. 

The Degree Planner in the my.SMU Student Dashboard is a powerful tool that can provide students with a personalized, pre-populated degree plan to help them on their journey to graduation. This degree path provides a sequence of courses that will fulfill degree requirements and can be adjusted regularly to fit their future plans. This differs from the Degree Progress Report (DPR), the authoritative source for graduation requirements. 

Initial adoption efforts focused on the 5,348 Common Curriculum students who matriculated in the fall 2020 semester or after (213 Spring 2023 graduating seniors were excluded). Students received outreach on Degree Planner’s purpose, support with completion, and notification of their progress in a variety of ways: 

  • 1,201 students completed their Degree Planner for all remaining terms.  
  • 1,484 students completed their Degree Planner for the Fall 2023 semester. 
  • 8 Degree Planner Support sessions were held (4 in Caruth, 2 in Hughes Trigg, 1 in Meadows, and 1 Zoom Session)  
  • 7 Blog posts were written introducing Degree Planner, sharing progress, announcing raffle winners (on 2/2/23, 2/13/23, & 3/16/23 ), and general information on Degree Planner  
  • 7 Student emails were sent   
  • 130 Winners were selected in raffles to win prizes for completion of Degree Planner.  
  • To-do tasks were added to students’ My.SMU accounts. These to-do tasks were updated and removed weekly. 

We want to reward the following advisors with $100 Amazon gift cards for having the highest number of advisee completions University-wide: 

  • Dorie Beitchman 
  • Misti Compton 
  • Maria Crouch 
  • Christopher Logan 
  • Jennifer Malone 
  • Barbara Morhle 
  • Jeanene Renfro 
  • Caroline Rydquist 
  • Alyssa Wong 

Special Acknowledgement is also given to Janet Stephens and Alyssa Wong for their efforts in encouraging student completion and advertising our student support sessions.  

Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success

Updates made to 44 COVID-19 cohort students for one-time exceptions for Proficiencies and Experiences

The Office of General Education communicated on Monday, February 20, to the campus community about the one-time exception to two Common Curriculum Proficiencies & Experiences for COVID-19 cohorts.

Based on feedback from School Record Offices, we completed the first of three recommended audits. The first audit was conducted today, a day after the originally published Withdrawl Deadline. We added waivers to 44 undergraduate students on the Common Curriculum who dropped courses with needed tags following the February 20 announcement. We applied 38 Community Engagement waivers and 37 Civics and Individual Ethics waivers.

The next audit will be conducted on Thursday (after the extended Withdrawl date due to the ice storm), and the final audit will be as soon as possible following the posting of final grades for the Fall 2023 semester to limit impacts on graduation verifications.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Office of General Education at

SMU in Four

Mid-Term Progress Reports (MPRs) completed at an all-time high this semester

As part of SMU in Four, undergraduate faculty are asked to complete early and midterm progress reports each semester. During the fall semester, requests for reports from faculty occur during September
and October, and for the spring semester in February and March.

Faculty members report on any deficient grades by students and may indicate if students are failing due to attendance or assignments.

This semester we had a record-setting 80.3% of faculty report mid-term grades, with over 90% of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and Lyle School of Engineering faculty making submissions.

Submitting MPRs is a crucial step in the SMU in Four initiative, as it allows records offices, advisors, and academic support staff to identify and support students who may need additional help in certain academic areas.

Staff will now reach out to students with two or more reported deficiencies and invite them to discuss academic support options, such as peer tutoring and meeting with their professors, that can help boost their academic performance.

Thank you to all the undergraduate-serving schools and colleges for coming together in this effort and to the faculty who submitted MPRs.

SMU in Four

New Degree Planner issues and requests tracker now available

The Office of the Registrar has created an easy and convenient way for advisors to report Degree Planner issues and requests to the Academic Advisement (AA) team.

Using the Degree Planner Issues/Request Tracker makes it easy for staff to describe their issues, attach pertinent documents and alert the AA team promptly. The form also helps the AA team to process requests and document actions taken. Users can see the progress of their requests and will automatically be notified when there is any progress on their reported issues/requests.

We encourage you to bookmark Degree Planner Issues/Requests Tracker, where you can find the form and the instructions. However, the link to the Degree Planner Issues/Requests form is also available from the Registrar’s Faculty and Staff page.

Please be aware that there are now two forms: one for DPR issues and another for Degree Planner issues. Contact the AA team ( if you have any issues using either form.

Please use the Degree Planner Issues/Requests Tracker to submit any future issues/requests rather than emailing the AA team to ensure a timely response. The Office of the Registrar will no longer accept issues reported via email after today.