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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 2

Assistive technology can enhance the academic life of neurodivergent and neurotypical students alike. In part 1, we touched on text-to-speech software and browser extensions that make Canvas easier to use. If you missed it, check it out! Here in part 2, we’ll take a look at mindfulness software and AI.

Recent, long-term scientific studies suggest that mindfulness leads to academic success not just for students with ADHD, but all students. Just 20 minutes of daily meditation or meditative prayer can decrease rumination, emotional volatility, and anxiety, and increase memory, focus, and cognitive flexibility. For more information, check out apps like Headspace, Smiling Mind, and the Apple Mindfulness App.

Researchers are also identifying how ChatGPT and other AI tools can assist students with disabilities, such as exploring research topics, brainstorming self-advocacy conversation starters, and providing activity ideas for self-care. Some uses of AI are not useful for learning, however: having AI write even part an assignment is plagiarism; overreliance on AI leads to decreased comprehension due to a lack of engagement with course material; and information provided by AI may not be factually based or able to be sourced. Regardless, students should always consult with their instructors before using AI in a class.

Assistive technology helps to create an inclusive environment where students of all kinds, not just those with disabilities, can participate and engage. For more information, contact Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS) at dass@smu.edu or 214-768-1470.

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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 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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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

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Academic Center for Excellence Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center First-Generation Initiative Honors and Scholars Office of General Education Offices & Programs Rotunda Scholars SMU in Four Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs Student Success & Retention

Student Senate Awards First-Generation Scholarship

The First-Generation Initiative is excited to announce that on March 26th, Student Senate passed legislation, which appropriates $50,000 per year exclusively to Pell Grant, first-generation students. This first-gen scholarship will begin in Fall 2024 and last for the next nine years (Spring 2033).

A huge thanks to all of Student Senate for the unanimous vote, but a special thanks to: Alex Alarcón, Clayton Meyer, Michael Castle, and Wyatt Harms! We also want to thank the First-Generation Initiative’s former graduate/student assistants, Briana Morales and Guadalupe Roman, for their determination in continuing to push for more first-gen support.

 

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Academic Devleopment of Student-Athletes (ADSA) Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies Honors and Scholars Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs University Testing Center

New room numbers at the University Testing Center

As part of the renovation of the Scholars’ Den in Clements Hall, room numbers for the University Testing Center (UTC) have changed.

Visitors will still access the UTC at the west end of the Clements Hall basement in suite G15, most directly using the side entrance facing Dallas Hall. Students and professors are to check in at the testing office (now renumbered to room G28) for test administrations and completed test pickup. Students will continue to be assigned to testing labs identified as “Peruna,” “Hilltop,” and “Varsity.”

Room number identification will be updated on the UTC website, the UTC portal for test registration, and in information handouts for both students and professors.

Please contact the UTC at 214-768-6064 or universitytestingcenter@smu.edu with any questions you may have.

 

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Academic Devleopment of Student-Athletes (ADSA) Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center Student Academic Engagement & Success University Testing Center

No testing at the University Testing Center during Spring Break

The University Testing Center (UTC) will be closed for testing during Spring Break, March 11th – 15th.  The testing office will be open during standard operating hours, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Testing is suspended due to computer installation and scheduled upgrades in the center.

Testing will resume on Monday, March 18th.

For questions, please contact us at 214-768-6064 or at universitytestingcenter@smu.edu.

All the best for a wonderful break!

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

First-Gen Feature: Caroline Madrid

First-generation college students must overcome unique obstacles to be successful in college. Every obstacle comes with a story worth hearing. First-Gen Feature is a chance for first-generation college students to showcase their stories. Caroline Madrid, a first-year student shares what being first-gen means to her.

Q: What was your motivation for pursuing college?

A: My motivation for pursuing college was simply just to make my grandpa proud, he was a very smart man and he always inspired me to pursue my dreams. My parents were also another motivation, my parents worked really hard my entire childhood to provide for me and my siblings, and being able to return the favor was really important for me.

Q: What are your career goals?

A: My career goal is to make it as a lawyer and ultimately raise a happy family. As a first-gen, I’ve watched my parents work tirelessly every day to provide for me and my family and even today, they continue to work hard so I can be here. I want to not only release this burden off their shoulders but work hard for my future family.

Q: What extracurricular activities are you involved In and how do you manage course load and other aspects of life?

A: I have two jobs and Rotunda scholars where I have monthly and weekly requirements. The best way I have found to manage my courseload is to maintain my priorities and remember what I came to SMU for. Every day here at SMU is a reminder of the life I want to provide for myself and my family, and that gives me the strength to focus on my studies.

Q: What achievements are you most proud of?

A: Considering I am in my first year, I am proud of myself of staying persistent on my academics and maintaining good discipline while managing my two jobs and social relationships.

Q: Advice for first-gen students?

A: Don’t fight your battles alone, for so long I always thought I had nobody to help me through my hardships but after coming to SMU I realized so many of the faculty care about you and your success and truly want to see you succeed.

 

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Academic Devleopment of Student-Athletes (ADSA) Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies Student Academic Engagement & Success University Testing Center

University Testing Center now accommodates Respondus LockDown Browser for Canvas assessments

The University Testing Center (UTC) is excited to announce a new proctoring software that allows Canvas tests to be administered with the Respondus LockDown Browser (LDB).

The new software, NetSupport School, replaces a previous program, iTalc, that could not facilitate real-time surveillance of students taking Canvas tests with the Respondus LockDown Browser on UTC computers.

With NetSupport Schoolprofessors will no longer have to create non-LDB versions of Canvas tests administered at the UTC — classroom test versions with LDB can now be used without issue.  And, on test day, students will not have to search for a “UTC version” of a Canvas test different from what is given in the classroom.

With its expanded features, NetSupport School streamlines the student and faculty testing experience while enhancing the UTC’s commitment to test integrity and security.

Various academic departments and professors utilizing the testing center suggested this feature and service enhancement, and we are excited to offer this new ability.

For more information, please contact the UTC at 214-768-6064 or universitytestingcenter@smu.edu.

 

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First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Success Programs

First-Gen Social “Let’s Talk About FAFSA”

On Feb. 15, 30 first-gen students attended a workshop sponsored by the First-Gen Initiative, First-Gen Association, and Financial Literacy to discuss the changes in the FAFSA, answer questions and socialize. The presentation was conducted by Jennifer Gomez with several Financial Services advisors in attendance for one-on-one discussions. Also joining the students were members of the University Advising Center, who mixed with the students and discussed summer and fall registration plans. Thank you FGI, FGA and Financial Literacy for sponsoring an informative program in an informal way to help our first-gen students. The Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was enjoyed by ALL!