Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success

Registration open: 2nd Annual Place-Based Community Engagement Symposium

Hosted by Engage Dallas, in collaboration with Residence Life & Student Housing, The Budd Center, The Office of General Education, the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, and The Center for Teaching Excellence, this two-day event will take place on November 2nd and 3rd.

About the Place-Based Community Engagement Symposium

The Place-Based Community Engagement Symposium is a gathering of thought leaders, academics, community leaders, and nonprofit professionals from SMU and the DFW area.

This event is designed to explore the transformative potential of community engagement within specific geographic contexts.

Our goal is to delve into the strategies and innovations that have the power to catalyze positive change within communities, with emphasis on campus and community collaboration and sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships.


Seats are limited, so please RSVP by October 20, 2023. You will be able to opt to register for one or both days.

Student Academic Engagement & Success

Spread the word about the Big iDeas Pitch Contest!

Applications for the Big iDeas $1000 Pitch Competition are due this Wednesday, September 27 at 9:00am. Be sure to spread the word! Students can go to to apply.


Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success

New External Breadth Swap Petition now available for Common Curriculum students on the Fall 2023 Catalog or later

The Office of General Education made a new External Breadth Swap Petition available on Tuesday, September 19. The new petition is public at and on the Registrar’s Form Library

SMU Common Curriculum (CC) students may satisfy up to three Breadth requirements using external credit. External credit is test, dual, concurrent, or transfer credit.

Suppose a student possesses pre-matriculation external credit for more than three Breadth requirements. In that case, a student may want to substitute one of the three satisfied Breadth requirements that were applied during Fall 2023 admission processing for a different Breadth requirement.

Based on recommendations from the University Advising Center, the Registrar’s Office configured the Fall 2023 catalog to satisfy external Beadth credits in the following order during the admission process:

  1. Literary Analysis and Interpretation (LAI),
  2. Creativity & Aestetics (CA),
  3. Historical Context (HC),
  4. Philosophical, Religious, and Ethical Inquiry (PREI),
  5. Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS),
  6. Exploring Science (ES), and then
  7. Technological Advances and Society (TAS).

The advising community felt this order would benefit the high-hour majors in Lyle School of Engineering and other sciences and Pre-Health track students who will fulfill ES and TAS through SMU courses.

Questions or concerns about the new petition can be directed to the Office of General Education via

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Rotunda Scholars Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with Engaged Learning Fellow Brianna Freshwater

The education system today is quite complex, with so many different options of Advancement Placement (AP) classes, International Baccalaureate (IB), honors programs, etc. Not only are there many options but different districts around the country offer different things and some do not offer any advanced courses at all. This can be incredibly stressful to students applying to college who might be wondering if their class load is impressive enough for their top university choices. Brianna Freshwater, a junior studying sociology and anthropology with a minor in religious studies, is tackling this issue and more in her research project: In the Schools but Not the Classrooms: Advanced Placement Test-Taking in Schools Serving Predominately Students of Color.  

Brianna began her journey with Rotunda Scholars, an SMU program for first year students from underrepresented communities and the Honor Sophomore Seminar. She chose this topic because of her own experiences growing up in a rural, predominantly white school district that did not have a single AP course. Brianna wanted to know how that experience impacted her and her fellow classmates since AP classes “felt like a big deal everywhere else.”  

Through her research, Brianna discovered that it does not matter what is offered at your school, rather it matters how much students take advantage of the opportunities that are available in their schools because “schools look at you in context.” Her research goes into this further seeing how AP course taking matters and how they vary across race and socioeconomic status in urban schools. Brianna is looking specifically at DISD campuses and seeing what courses are offered, how many seats are offered, etc. She wants to understand what campuses are “performing at expected rates” by looking at PSAT scores to determine if students are prepared to take AP courses. She is also talking to faculty members about policies and how they approach the topic of higher education with their students.  

This project is doubling as Brianna’s Engaged Learning Fellowship as well as her distinction project for her sociology major. She has had research experience in the past as well with the Cooper-McElvaney Fellowship as well as McNair Scholars. All these experiences have helped her with thinking about the world in different ways. They have also helped her long-term goal of wanting to go into a PhD program and have pushed her to be unafraid to pursue research.  

Most importantly, Brianna wants this project to be able to give schools specific information about how they can make AP programs at their respective campuses more equitable. She hopes to be able to literally hand information to schools to make plans for the better. Brianna does not want research to feel like it is “stuck in universities” with little to no real-world application. By bridging the gap between academic literature and real-world application, Brianna believes in the ability to make change. 


Student Academic Engagement & Success

SMU360 training videos now available

The Office of Information Technology recently hosted two separate online trainings for SMU360, led by a representative from CampusGroups, the vendor for SMU360. Recordings for both trainings are now available on the SMU360 Resource webpage, Please share this webpage with your student organization leaders so they know the resources available to help manage their group page.

Below are topics that were covered during each session.

Student Leaders

  • Basic User Navigation
  • Group Page and Feed
  • Communicating with Members
  • Event Management
  • Building Surveys and Forms
  • Mobile App
  • Gamification (Badges and Points, CCT)

Staff and Student Org Advisors

  • Home Page Overview
  • Group Pages & Feed
  • Communicating with Members
  • Event Management (RSVP, reviewing, approving, assessment, and reporting events)
  • Attendance Check-In
  • Mobile App
Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Rotunda Scholars Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with 2023 Engaged Learning Starter Award Winners

Please join me to congratulate the 2023 Engaged Learning Starter Award (ELSA) Winners: Alina, Alexis, and Ryenne! The award is given to first year students who had come up with their own research projects to explore throughout the year. These three winners will be presenting their findings at the Fall Research Symposium on November 1st! Until then, let’s get to know more about each of the awardees and their projects. 

Alexis Schroeder

Alexis Schroeder is a second-year transfer student majoring in Psychology and Health and Society with a minor in Sociology. Alexis knew that she wanted to gain experience in research and through the help of SMU professor Dr. Nia Parson, she was connected to Engaged Learning to pursue her passion project: Medical Ableism: Neoliberal Stigmatization of Holistic Medicine in the Biomedical System. 

Photo of Alexis Schroder, Engaged Learning Starter Award Winner
Alexis Schroder

Alexis’s research discusses the “intersection between neoliberalism and the biomedical healthcare system and how that perpetuates systematic medical ableism.” This topic is incredibly close to Alexis’s heart as she is disabled and is very active in the disabled community on SMU’s campus. Alexis wants to advocate for “representation by the represented” and promote the voices of disabled people in academic literature. Additionally, Alexis discusses how to balance ancient medical practices with biomedicine to create a more integrative approach to healthcare. This research project also plays a larger role in Alexis’s long-term goals because she wants to go into therapy and to manage her practice in an integrative way. 

Alina Munoz

Alina Munoz is a second-year student majoring in Health and Society and minoring in Neuroscience and Spanish. Alina was introduced to the fellowship through Rotunda Scholars, an SMU program for first year students from underrepresented communities, that introduced her to the Office of Engaged Learning. Alina’s project is called Saludstria: Opening the Gates to Healthcare. 

Photo of Alina Munoz, Engaged Learning Starter Award Winner
Alina Munoz

Saludstria is an important key word for this project as it is a combination of the Spanish word for health, Salud, and Alina’s grandmother’s name Salustria. Her grandmother deals with diabetes and high cholesterol and Alina would accompany her grandmother to the doctor’s office to help translate information. It was there she saw firsthand all “the barriers that individuals have with healthcare,” especially minorities. Alina works directly with her local community at the Agape Clinic and is planning on using the data she collected from surveys from the clinic in her research on how “minorities are blocked from receiving the proper care they need.” At the Fall Symposium you can learn more about this research project and see the real impact Alina has made on her community in Dallas! 

Ryenne Reiter

Finally, we have Ryenne Reiter, a sophomore double majoring in Political Science and Human Rights with minors inNeuroscience and Law and Legal Reasoning. Her journey began with Rotunda Scholars as well. 

Photo of Ryenne Reiter, Engaged Learning Starter Award Winner
Ryenne Reiter

In October, Ryenne will be presenting her project: The Role of Gender Expectations and Stereotypes in Eating Disorders. This will be a literature review along with her own qualitative study of comments found on TikTok videos by famous fitness influencers. She chose this topic because of how social media can “teach young women and young girls to think about femininity, beauty, what it means to look feminine, and how that develops into eating disorders later on.” Her passion for this research project comes from a combination of her own experiences during high school and classes she has taken here at SMU like psychopathology with Dr. Alicia Meuret. The knowledge she gained through her classes has helped her understand her own experiences better. This inspired Ryenne to create this project because she “knew that people don’t like to talk about the hard things, but [she] feels like they need to be addressed.”   

All three of the ELSA winners have worked incredibly hard this past year to create high quality projects inspired by their own stories and passions. Keep an eye out for them and the symposium to learn more! 


Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Success & Retention

Student Success & Retention new digs for 2023-2024

Ivy, Kolin, Shun, and Jeff invite y’all to Pony (on) Up to the 3rd floor of Perkins Administration Building for a trip to “World Changers R Us”. Our “sweet” suite is 301 and ask Jeff or Kolin about the creatures that live in the haunted attic above us.

Student Academic Engagement & Success

SAES unit web pages brand migration and media library reorganization completed; deleting old websites week of September 11

In partnership with the Office of Information Technology, Student Academic Engagement and Success (SAES) began migrating unit websites to the new SMU-banded web pages in May and completed migration on September 1.

As part of the brand migration, the SAES Marketing, Communication, and Digital Technology committee worked with unit webmasters to assist with a site content refresh (e.g., text, pictures, layouts). The committee recommended reorganizing navigation and pages based on Google Analytics data of high-traffic pages. As part of the process, broken links, spelling, SEO optimization, SMU web governance, and site navigation were addressed. Finally, professional headshots and employee biographies were also added.

Additionally, SAES Marketing, Communication, and Digital Technology committee announced the reorganization of the Media Library. The media library contains pictures, files, and other digital assets linked to our web pages.

Due to the migration and restructuring of pages, the Media Library was updated into a structure similar to the page organization (e.g., academic support, academic enrichment, and initiatives).

Webmasters should notice folder organization changes and our removal of files that are no longer linked to any front-end pages. This eliminates constituents from finding outdated files by accident in SMU searches. Plus, file names may have been changed to improve accessibility and navigation.

The final step of our process will be to finalize redirects, verify brand standards across SEAS pages, and delete the old web pages the week of September 11. If units require content from their old sites, they are advised to make appropriate arrangements to export and/or archive.

Office of General Education Peer Academic Leaders Student Academic Engagement & Success

The Office of General Education celebrates their PAL of the Month

The Peer Academic Leaders (PALs) are off to a running start this fall. PALs completed their Peer Leader training on August 14th, and all also passed their Certified Peer Educator (CPE) exam.

The Office of General Education is proud of the PALs and is excited to see how they utilize the tools they learned during training. While all eleven PALs have shown great initiative and engagement in August, one PAL stands out a hair above the rest.

Meet Syed Sajjad. Syed is an SMU sophomore who currently studies Finance and Energy. Syed was consistently engaged in his CPE training and regularly contributed to all discussions, no matter how big or small the topic. Syed was also one of the first PALs to complete all assigned programming for August. Students might have seen him at the Cockrell McIntosh kick-off on 8/27, where he took the initiative to order pizza for the residents and shared information about the PALs’ services.

Syed is an excellent representation of a student who always puts forth 100% effort, and we are excited to watch him continue to shine this year.

To all undergraduate students, check out upcoming PALs programs and events on the Office of General Education SMU360 page or the SMU Connected Wednesday newsletter. Students can also schedule appointments with PALs during office hours via Booking.SMU.

Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Success & Retention

Introducing Shun Colter to the Office of Student Success & Retention!

Student Success & Retention is excited to announce Shun D. Colter as our new Assistant Director!

Shun comes to us most recently from the Texas Workforce Commission where he served for 3 years as a Vocational Counselor, a role where he oversaw a ~50-person caseload and helped clients overcome barriers to success in going to college and securing employment.

Shun has also volunteered as the Counseling Coordinator for Friendship West Baptist Church for the past four years, a role in which he provides mental health education and resources to his local community.

Before these roles, Shun worked as a Rehab Clinician with New Start for two years and a Mental Health Associate for Menninger Psychiatric Clinic, both in Houston.

Shun has a master’s degree in counseling from Prairie View A&M where he also worked for two years. Shun’s bachelor’s degree is in Sociology and Psychology from the U. of North Texas. Shun grew up in Port Huron, Michigan before coming to college in Texas and beginning his career as an actor (IMDB link). Shun was chosen as Houston’s New Actor to Watch for 2013 but even before that, as a 13-year-old, Shun was print modeling for JC Penney, New Yorker Kid, and Macys.

Jeff Doyle shared that “Shun brings a level of professionalism, care, and hard work to our office that only further supplements the already amazing staff we have in Kolin and Ivy. I hope others on campus will reach out to Shun by email ( or phone (768.7055) to welcome him to the Hilltop.

Shun shared, “I hope to make a strong effort to allow students to be seen, heard, and valued by having an open mind through demonstrating kindness, compassion and empathy.”

Shun joins Kolin Goldschmidt, Program Coordinator, Ivy Phillips, Success Counselor, and Jeff Doyle, Director, on the fully staffed department thanks in large part to Assistant Provost, Dr. Dustin Grabsch!