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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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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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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!

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First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Success Programs

First Gen Fest a success

The First Gen Initiative (FGI) and the First Gen Student Association (FGA), with support from SMU Student Senate, collaborated for the 2023 annual First Gen Fest. The celebration was a huge success with over 500 students, faculty, and staff celebrating our First Generation Mustangs. Chris Meyers (SASP/SAES), Brandon Kitchin (SCIE/Student Affairs), and members of the First Gen Student Association (FGA) coordinated food, games, resource tables and give aways to celebrate the contributions and successes of our First Gen Mustangs.

Thank you, Chris Meyers and Brandon Kitchin
Thank you partners, for our resource tables
Great food
First Gen T shirts were a hit
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First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs

First Gen Fest 2023

Join us November 8th as we celebrate our First Gen students!  Co-sponsored by First Gen Assn and First Gen initiative
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Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Success Programs

Student Academic Success Programs adds additional staff

SASP is fully staffed to kick of the fall, 2023 semester!

Please join us in welcoming Gracy Herrera as the new academic probation counselor. Gracy will counsel all pre-major students on academic probation. Gracy is an education advocate with over 14 years’ experience developing academic courses of action for students of varying social backgrounds, scholastic levels, and special needs. Gracy has most recently focused on advancing the skills of student-athletes in Dubai. Gracy will start next Monday, August 7.

We are also excited to welcome Makenzie Moriarty as the new academic counselor. Makenzie will counsel declared majors on academic probation, university probation, Prelude students, and the general undergraduate population. Makenzie comes to SMU from the University of South Carolina where she was a GA in the Student Success Center working to empower peer leaders and counsel students who were working to transfer to USC.  Makenzie will start next Monday, August 7.

Varun Singh is our new Graduate Assistant for the First-Generation Initiative.  Varun will work closely with Chris Meyers to support our first-gen students and implement our signature events. Varun is pursuing a MS in Business Analytics in the Cox School of Business. Varun has worked as a head organizer for a film festival, managed various projects, and has spent the last six years starting and managing his own real estate and construction firm. Varun will start next Wednesday, August 9.

We’d also like to thank our colleagues who assisted in the search process for all our positions this spring and summer – your collaborations are so appreciated.

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First-Generation Initiative Mustang Scholars Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Success & Retention University Testing Center

Undergraduate Education and Academic Success publishes 2022-2023 annual report

Undergraduate Education and Academic Success is a branch within the Office of the Provost’s Division of Student Academic Engagement and Success which oversees a wide range of academic support and engagement offices and initiatives.

Our 2022 – 2023 offices and initiatives included:

A copy of the annual report is included below and is available for download.

Questions, comments, and feedback can be directed to Dr. Dustin Grabsch (dgrabsch@smu.edu).

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Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies First-Generation Initiative Student Academic Success Programs

Changes in SASP Staff

 

Dr. Robin Corbett, DASS Coordinator, will be leaving SMU to be closer to her home and family to pursue new endeavors effective 7/7/2023. All student files will be temporarily reassigned until our new staff member arrives. For any questions, please call the office while we’re in this transition – 214-768-1470

We are welcoming the new Coordinator in July and will be introducing her before the fall semester begins.

Please join us in wishing Robin well and thank her for her work with SMU.

Our second change involves the First Gen Initiative.  These programs and student academic support will be overseen by Associate Director, Chris Meyers.  Chris has done an outstanding job working with our students on academic probation and will supervise a new academic counselor to take over those duties.  Chris is excited to work with our first generation students and pick up the program that has grown tremendously over the past three years.  He’ll work hand in hand with the advisor to the First Generation Association, the recognized student organization, to expand the programming and celebrations for these students.  Please contact Chris if you are interested in working with our First Gen students – cmeyers@smu.edu.  Any graduate student interested in joining this program as a graduate assistant should look at the job description on Handshake.