SMU in Four

Year-one progress and Common Curriculum degree planner


September 9, 2022


Dear Campus Community –

Welcome back for the fall semester! We’ve completed the first year of SMU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), SMU in Four, our comprehensive initiative to improve four-year graduation rates and retention. Thank you all for your contributions to important aspects of the QEP. We could not do it without you, after all, retention is a collective effort. We write with updates on the initiative as we look ahead to year two.

Leadership & Membership: First, the initiative is now co-directed by Dr. Molly Ellis, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Office of Faculty Success, and Dr. Dustin Grabsch, Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education & Academic Success.

Next, in preparation for the new year, we would like to share the year-two membership rosters for all SMU in Four pillars/teams. For the 2022-2023 Academic Year, the chairs of each SMU in Four Pillars and Teams are:

  • Early Alert Pillar: Dr. Sue Bierman & Audryanna Reed
  • Academic Advising: Josh Beaty
  • First-Year & Gateway Courses: Dr. Paige Ware
  • Faculty Steering Committee: Dr. Paige Ware
  • Student Steering Committee: Dr. Dustin Grabsch
  • Technology Team: Curt Herridge
  • Assessment Team: Dr. Molly Ellis
  • School Implementation Teams: Dr. Sheri Kunovich

Join Us for a Progress Presentation: We will all gather at key moments throughout this five-year initiative. Our first will be the SMU in Four Year-One Progress Presentation for the SMU campus community on September 28, 2022 from 3:30 – 5:00 pm. Please RSVP and join us in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Auditorium. We will update the campus on our progress and goals for year two.

Undergraduate Degree Planner is Coming: To aid undergraduate Common Curriculum students in their progress toward degree, the SMU in Four Technology Team is developing a new tool called HighPoint Degree Planner within my.SMU. This tool will help students and advisors develop and sequence a personalized path to on-time graduation. HighPoint Degree Planner will not only benefit students and advisors but will aid academic departments in data-driven course scheduling and seat capacity planning. The new tool will launch to students on the Common Curriculum in November 2022.

In preparation, SMU in Four School Implementation Teams will be asked to work with academic departments to verify their degree plans within the HighPoint system. Instructions will be sent to department chairs (or a designee) to verify in September/October. Training and support sessions will be provided to the campus community and by request. Read more about the Common Curriculum HighPoint Degree Planner.

If you would like to stay abreast of updates related to SMU in Four, we invite you to subscribe to our blog or check out our updated website.



Molly Ellis

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Office of Faculty Success, Office of the Provost


Dustin Grabsch

Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education & Academic Success

Student Academic Engagement & Success, Office of the Provost



SMU in Four

New tool in development to aid undergraduate Common Curriculum degree planning and progress

SMU in Four – SMU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) – is the SMU’s comprehensive approach to improving retention and four-year graduation rates. To this end, our QEP advances student academic success through its most essential form: progress toward degree. The strategies in the QEP build upon existing University practices to integrate three important levers, which will be activated across academic majors and student-support resources to address the needs of all SMU students and ultimately lead them to greater levels of success.

SMU in Four is developing a new my.SMU tool called HighPoint Degree Planner. This tool will permit Common Curriculum students to plan courses for the attainment of their degree and aid SMU in course scheduling and seat planning to permit timely graduation. Common Curriculum students are those who matriculated in the fall 2020 semester or after. In the coming months, academic departments will be asked to verify their degree plans while advisors & students will be provided with training resources and opportunities.

What is Degree Planner and why would I use it?

HighPoint Degree Planner helps students & advisors develop and sequence a personalized path to on-time graduation. All data used within Degree Planner is real-time as it leverages my.SMU’s system. As a student adjusts their academic plan and complete courses, the Degree Planner recognizes those changes and makes the appropriate adjustments. Students can run a “What If” degree plan if they are considering another academic plan; major and/or minor. Degree Planner should help students stay on track and give guidance when adjustments are made to the academic plan.

Degree Planner is a planning tool for a student’s degree plan while the Degree Progress Report (DPR) is the authoritative source for graduation requirements.

How do I use Degree Planner?

With the implementation of Degree Planner, students & advisors can develop a degree plan to graduation. Together, advisors & students evaluate and update the plan each term and then move the degree plan into a Course Schedule and Shopping Cart for enrollment when the registration periods arrive each term. Specific training information will be available in mid-October 2022.

When is the implementation of Degree Planner?

SMU will be asking departments to review their degree plans in September so that updates can be made when degree plans are rolled out to students in November 2022. Details will be sent to academic departments via SMU in Four School Implementation Teams.

Questions about Degree Planner can be directed to SMU in Four via the email address.

SMU in Four

SMU-in-Four Student Steering Committee now recruiting student leaders to serve for the 22-23 academic year

SMU-in-Four is excited to announce the continuation of the student steering committee titled, Student Advisory Committee (StAC)! StAC is accepting student leader applicants to join for the 2022 – 2023 Academic Year.

The SMU-in-Four StAC team focuses on bridging the gap between students, faculty, and administration by test-driving new university products, pulsing the campus for feedback, and presenting their findings to SMU’s leadership.

Last semester, this group tackled issues with the university catalog, student access to important information, and user-friendliness of our new technology, HighPoint. This semester, we’re back with a variety of sub-committees to continue to improve the student experience related to academic advising, early alert, and first-year & gateway courses work.

Interested in communicating with faculty and administration on behalf of your peers? Want to know more about what these groups do and how you can participate? Check out our job posting on Handshake, and email Bailey Price ( with questions.

Take charge of your time at SMU by helping us create a better campus and community for all our future mustangs.

SMU in Four

New view of student information in my.SMU

As part of the continued progress of the SMU in Four initiative, this morning, when you open my.SMU, you will see a new tile, “Student Dashboard View.” When the Student Dashboard (the new my.SMU student experience) was released to students last year, staff requested to also have this view so that they could view some of the tools given to students (like Schedule Builder) as well as better answer student questions about class search and enrollment. This view of my.SMU is a way for advisors to see my.SMU student records as the students themselves do, but it’s only a supplement to your current my.SMU: your security to my.SMU remains as is, and you can use the classic my.SMU pages as you do today.

Click here to access the documentation for use of the Student Dashboard. This page also includes an overview video, if that is of interest to you. If you have questions about the dashboard, contact The Office of Student Academic Engagement and Success at or for my.SMU assistance contact the OIT Help Desk at We hope you find the Dashboard a helpful tool.

SMU in Four Student Academic Engagement & Success

Early Progress Reports (EPR) and Midterm Progress Reports (MPR) updates for faculty


Dear SMU Faculty, 

After receiving faculty feedback about how we collect early and mid-term grade reports, we have made some minor changes to the process this year. In the past, we only asked for designated student populations during the early intervention period. Faculty indicated this often left them wondering what to do about the other students in their class who were at risk and communicated it was more difficult to record the information for only a subset of students. Therefore, beginning this fall we will ask you to identify at risk students in the early intervention period for all undergraduate students.  

You will receive a notification from the Registrar’s Office that early intervention (EPR) grade rosters are open on Wednesday, September 21 and are due on Tuesday, September 28 at midnight. Mid Term (MPR) grade rosters will be open Friday, October 15 and are due on Sunday, October 24 at midnight.  

The second piece of feedback we received from faculty is that you often do not have a graded assignment prior to having to report EPR grades. We understand this and therefore suggest that performance measures can include participation, attendance, and/or a grade. What is most important is that you, as faculty report a deficiency when a student needs to know that their grade or engagement in a course is deficient. You can make this distinction by selecting FA “Failure to Attend” or FT “Failure due to Testing”. Instructors with graded assignments might instead choose to enter deficient letter grades C-, D+, D-, F or indicate that the student does not currently have a deficient grade. 

These early reports provide an excellent time to remind students about course expectations and to positively acknowledge what has already been accomplished. In addition to your efforts, outreach from academic advisors and academic support personnel takes place for students who have multiple deficiencies. We hope to reach students who struggle in the early parts of the semester in order to offer resources to turn around their academic performance and experience.   

Thank you for helping us to make the process better. And thank you, in advance, for your assistance!  


Dr. Sheri Kunovich  


Calendar for Grade Reporting 

Early Intervention (EPR) grade rosters open from September 21-28 at midnight 

Mid Term (MPR) grade rosters open from October 15-24 at midnight 

SMU in Four

Requirement to use and include Canvas features for student success

SMU in Four – SMU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) – is the University’s comprehensive approach to improving SMU’s retention and four-year graduation rates. Over the last five years, 73% of our undergraduate students graduate in four years, and we have consistent gaps across race and socio-economic status. We need everyone’s help to improve the graduation rate and to close these equity gaps. To this end, SMU in Four strategies build upon existing University practices to address the needs of all SMU students and ultimately lead them to greater levels of success. One such existing University practice is the use of our campus’s course management system, Canvas. A key step in the SMU in Four plan for the fall of 2021 is to continue making use of Canvas to support our students.

The plan below was built by a team of faculty and administrators from all five undergraduate schools. In addition, we paid close attention to Student Senate Resolution S-106-14 which asks for greater standardization across Canvas courses and consistent employment of basic features.

Starting this fall, all 3-credit courses offered as part of the undergraduate curriculum (with the exception of independent studies) are required to include three technical features of Canvas to meet our goals:

  • Syllabus tool to post the course information so that students have access to all of their course syllabi on Canvas.
  • Calendar tool so that students can keep up to date on assignment due dates and other time-sensitive course information such as when exams are scheduled.
  • Gradebook tool to record grades so that that students have access to their ongoing progress.

To help you support these elements of the SMU in Four initiative, we have asked the Office of Information Technology (OIT) to create a new, simplified web support portal that includes detailed help guides as well as a schedule of upcoming support and training events. A coordinated communications plan will commence in July to inform you of support and help options as you prepare for fall 2021. In addition, the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) is available to provide deep instructional design and teaching support to assist you with fall semester planning. If you need any help at all, please do not hesitate to reach out early!

Based on our experiences from the last many months, we are well equipped to leverage Canvas’ technology tools to better orient all modes of instruction to the academic needs and expectations of our students. I know we will help SMU make significant progress on important SMU in Four retention initiatives and appreciate your support.


Elizabeth G. Loboa, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Southern Methodist University