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Writing Center Lounge Adds Student Art

Our first rotating art pieces are up and running in the Writing Center.  Currently, we are displaying artwork by Nastya Shyvilka.  Not only a talented artist and President’s Scholar, Nastaya works in the A-LEC as a Russian and biology tutor.  We will have more pieces on display and a bio on Nastaya shortly.  Designed as a welcoming space for students seeking writing assistance from our faculty and staff, the Writing Center is also a lounge and we invite students to come, relax and work with other students on projects.

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A-LEC is Awarded International Certification from College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA)


Southern Methodist University is pleased to announce that the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC) has been awarded certification as a Level I certified tutor training program by the internationally recognized College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA).

For more than thirty years CRLA has been a leader in learning assistance, reading, and academic support programs with almost 1,300 members and over 2,000 certified training programs worldwide.

The A-LEC has worked hard to develop a tutor training program that meets CRLA’s rigorous standards and has successfully completed the International Tutor Training Program Certification (ITTPC) peer review process. Achieving certification means that the A-LEC has met CRLA’s high standards for tutor selection, training, direct service, and evaluation as an integral part of their overall tutoring program.

Please join us in congratulating the A-LEC on a job well done.

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Expanded CLEP Testing now available at the University Testing Center

The University Testing Center is pleased to offer expanded CLEP (College Level Examination Program) testing beginning June 2024.

Testing is available by appointment to any SMU student or community member seeking academic credit. At SMU, course credit is awarded when a score of 60 points or above out of 80 possible points is achieved. Community members may also test at SMU and send scores to other colleges and universities for credit.

SMU gives credit for CLEP subject examinations based on the specified minimum scores below*.  American Government, Financial Accounting and History of the U.S. I and II are only available to incoming students under the 2024-2025 Undergraduate Catalog and are not available to continuing students.


Score (out of 80)

Credit Hours

Course(s) Credited

Common Curriculum Requirements Satisfied

American Government



Generic Credit – TBD Social & Behavioral Science (SBS)
American Literature



ENGL 20XX None
English Literature



ENGL 20YY None
Financial Accounting



Generic Credit – TBD Quantitative Applications (QA)
History of the US I



Generic Credit – TBD Historical Contexts (HC)
History of the US II



Generic Credit – TBD Historical Contexts (HC)



ECO 1312 Quantitative Applications (QA)



ECO 1311 Quantitative Applications (QA)

*The above credit table is subject to change and applies to the 2024 Undergraduate Catalog.


  • All tests are administered on campus, in person.  Remote CLEP administrations are not conducted at the UTC.
  • Students must register and pay for a CLEP test on the College Board website, indicating SMU as the testing site and score recipient.
  • Testing seats are reserved using the UTC Portal.  The CLEP test administration fee charged by the testing center is waived for current SMU students, with a modest charge for community members.
  • Students must bring their College Board CLEP Registration Form and SMU ID card to their testing appointment at the UTC.

After Testing

When testing is complete, students will receive a preliminary score report from UTC staff.  Scores will also be available in the My CLEP Student Account portal on the CLEP website.  Final, official CLEP score reports will be sent directly from the College Board to the SMU Registrar, where course credit will be awarded with a qualifying score.

For more information, visit the University Testing Center or the College Board FAQs for CLEP.

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Congratulations to our A-LEC tutors

SASP/A-LEC held a celebration to honor our 19 graduating tutors on Monday, April 29.  Cake, cookies, fruit and lots of congratulations were doled out to these students who give their time to help other students.  Thank you all for a great semester!

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Congrats to our Tutors


The A-LEC would like to congratulate several tutors for their accomplishments this semester.

Duke Bartholomew, Nino Castellano, and Ethan Zech for the Ben Thomas Excellence in Tutoring Award; Malachi Steward for the Tau Sigma Undergraduate National Fellowship Award and the Gilman Scholar to France Award; Sneha Alex for the Honors Program; Blake Wallace for the Honors Program and the Religious Studies Writing Award; Yumiko Hastings for Phi Beta Kappa; Anna Lena Adams for Tau Sigma; Faith Bellamy for the Hamilton Undergraduate Research Award; and Kshounish Bhadra-Bhaduri for the Chalk Scholarship Award for Excellence in Physics.

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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 or 214-768-1470.

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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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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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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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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.