SMU in Four

Undergraduate student focus groups on early alert tools occuring this week

SMU in Four Early Alert Pillar is facilitating three focus groups this week to discuss student experiences related to early alert tools.

Students will be asked to share their experiences related to Early Progress Reports, Midterm Progress Reports, and the Mid-Semester Check-in survey, to name a few. All undergraduate students are invited to participate.

Please help us recruit students to participate by forwarding to interested students. Lunch is provided for in-person attendees, but online participants are possible

Questions about the focus groups can be directed to the SMU in Four email at

SMU in Four

Mid-Term Progress Reports (MPRs) completed at an all-time high this semester

As part of SMU in Four, undergraduate faculty are asked to complete early and midterm progress reports each semester. During the fall semester, requests for reports from faculty occur during September
and October, and for the spring semester in February and March.

Faculty members report on any deficient grades by students and may indicate if students are failing due to attendance or assignments.

This semester we had a record-setting 80.3% of faculty report mid-term grades, with over 90% of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and Lyle School of Engineering faculty making submissions.

Submitting MPRs is a crucial step in the SMU in Four initiative, as it allows records offices, advisors, and academic support staff to identify and support students who may need additional help in certain academic areas.

Staff will now reach out to students with two or more reported deficiencies and invite them to discuss academic support options, such as peer tutoring and meeting with their professors, that can help boost their academic performance.

Thank you to all the undergraduate-serving schools and colleges for coming together in this effort and to the faculty who submitted MPRs.

SMU in Four

SMU in Four releases new Early Alert Reporting Guide to campus community

SMU in Four is SMU’s comprehensive approach to improving retention and four-year graduation rates. To this end, SMU in Four advances student academic success through its most essential form: progress toward a degree. Sometimes students encounter academic, personal, and professional challenges that do or have the potential to slow their progress.

Our university community should be aware of the primary early-alert report location which will trigger university intervention and outreach to support student success.

As part of SMU in Four, we are implementing a new tool to assist SMU faculty and staff. SMU in Four Early Alert tool provides five, primary reporting locations for early-alert scenarios depending on the topic. They include SMU reporting mechanism of my.SMU Advising Notes, Caring Community Connections, Financial Aid, Student Success and Retention, and StarRez Notes. This guide is to help faculty and staff alert the correct university office, representative, or resources.

Download or request a laminated copy be placed in campus mail to your attention by emailing

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