Student Success & Retention

Now accepting applications for Program Coordinator position in Student Success and Retention

SMU Student Academic Engagement & Success (SAES) is excited to share that the Office of Student Success and Retention is hiring a full-time Program Coordinator.

Please consider, share with your offices, and post within your professional networks.   

Program Coordinator, Student Success and Retention: The coordinator’s visible position provides support for SSR, customer service to a variety of constituents, & support for the implementation & ongoing usage of a campus-wide early alert system to help SMU meet retention & graduation goals. This position will coordinate efforts across areas involved in early alert identification & reports, & integrate the information into a single system in order to connect students to the appropriate campus resources. Campus-wide solutions that need integration/coordination include early & mid-term grade reports, mid-term student self-assessments, weekly reports from dropout detective, PeopleSoft Queries, surveys, & CCC reports of academic concerns. The position will also manage the paperwork and flow of information for students intending to transfer from SMU to another institution, track & summarize data in reports, & maintain website. Will compile and analyze data to assist in change recommendations

  • Deadline: November 22, 2023
  • Hiring point-of-contact: Dr. Dustin Grabsch (; 214-768-4887) 

Submit an application within the SMU Staff Career Portal.

A search committee comprised of SAES staff members will review applications, conduct virtual and in-person campus interviews, and make a recommendation for hire.  

Peer Academic Leaders Student Success & Retention

Ask a Mustang: A resource for new and current students

Ask a Mustang is a pop-up Q&A table hosted by the Office of Student Success and Retention, with volunteer support from staff and students. It’s located at popular student spots and serves as an informal platform for students to ask questions about all aspects of student life. Sessions are held at key points during the term, including the beginning of the semester, enrollment periods, and finals preparation.

Our first Ask a Mustang session this fall featured the SMU Peer Academic Leaders (PALs) and took place on September 5th and 6th in the morning hours at Fondren Library, near Starbucks. During this two-day event, we invited students to ask questions to SSR and the PALs, as well as share their SMU experiences.

We had a total of 44 student participants (6 first-year students, 10 sophomores, 8 juniors, 18 seniors, and 2 graduate students), many of whom shared insights on our question board: ‘What do you wish you knew before coming to SMU?’ and ‘What advice would you offer to new students?’ Here are some notes left by students:”

  • “Study hard! You are not alone, reach out if you need help!”
  • “Find out about SMU’s resources, they have everything!”
  • “Don’t miss classes. Prioritize mental health. Have a balance.”
  • A-LEC provides tutoring and (professor) office hours are helpful too!”
  • “Keep your priorities straight and focus on school and make good relationships with professors.”
  • “Don’t wait until the last minute to start studying.”

We’ll have our second Ask a Mustang session during the enrollment period and the final round during the preparation for finals. We look forward to seeing you there!

p.s. Lesson learned – sometimes giving someone something free is not as attractive as asking for help. We attracted 10X students with the question, “Would you be willing to help new students” vs. “Would you like a free cookie? ”

Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs Student Success & Retention

Summer Forge has successfully wrapped up its inaugural year

The Summer Forge, an academic support program at SMU, has successfully wrapped up the inaugural year. Summer Forge provided the initial cohort of 20 undergraduate students with financial, academic, and social support to accelerate their path to on-time graduation.   

Students who participated in Summer Forge could select courses during May Term, Summer Term, or August Term, in addition to SMUinTaos that fulfilled a major or Common Curriculum requirement. The initial cohort for Summer Forge attempted over 80 credit hours during the summer terms, with 96% of the attempted coursework completed.  

Summer Forge participants were offered tailored campus resource referrals and coached on strategies to support a successful academic summer term. 83% of the Summer Forge students report using the tutoring services provided in the ALEC, and 17% report receiving support from the Writing Center. 

Here is what some of the students had to say about their time in Summer Forge: 

Summer Forge exceeded my expectations with the ability to aid in summer tuition and provide opportunities to students who are struggling or need a little help. I would highly recommend the program in order to catch up on classes and graduate with your class on time.”-Katie P.  


“It allows the opportunity to raise your GPA without worrying about any finances in the process, as that can be stressful to worry about in itself.” -Morgan L.  


“Summer Forge was a great opportunity for me to take Summer courses and advance my studies. The program is helping me graduate on time and make up time lost.”-Sloan H.  

Summer Forge is a collaboration between the Office of Student Success and Retention, SMU in Four, Office of Financial Aid, and Student Academic Success Programs.  

For more information visit 

Office of General Education Student Academic Engagement & Success Student Academic Success Programs Student Success & Retention University Advising Center

Committee on Academic Petitions launched a new webpage and appeal submission form

Effective June 1, the Committee on Academic Petitions (CAP) launched a new webpage and an appeal submission form for undergraduate students.  

Students must submit their appeal using the electronic form and include all supporting documentation. They will instantly receive notification that their appeal has been received. Additionally, students will receive notification from the system as the appeal is reviewed and considered.   

All offices should inform students to submit their appeals via the official appeal submission form. Email submissions will no longer be considered, and students will be redirected to to submit their CAP appeals. 

The Committee on Academic Petitions is a committee with membership appointed by the Provost. It is charged with considering and deciding student academic petitions, as set out in the SMU Statement of Process for Undergraduate Student Academic Petitions.  

Academic Petitions are requests by a student for an exception to an academic policy. Academic policy includes any policy, rule, or regulation that applies to academic matters at SMU. 

Have questions about the CAP appeal process? Visit for more information or email your questions to 

Student Success & Retention

Dr. Jeff Doyle named new director of the Office of Student Success and Retention

Dr. Jeff Doyle, an academic and student affairs professional with expertise in student success, residence life, and student learning, has been named director of student success and retention at SMU. He will begin his duties on July 31, 2023.

“Jeff is a dynamic leader with a demonstrated track record strengthening connections and partnerships across key student support units,” said Dustin Grabsch, SMU assistant provost for undergraduate education and academic success. “With his extensive experience supporting diverse students, including those who are first-generation, low-income, international, athletes, and students with disabilities, among others, I am confident that his leadership will enhance our commitment to student success initiatives on the Hilltop. I eagerly anticipate witnessing his impact on fostering fidelity and facilitating our growth in this crucial area.”

Doyle was selected after a competitive national search. Doyle has over 25 years of experience in higher education, most recently at Baylor University, where he worked in planning and assessment within the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and was dean for student learning and engagement.

He has served on the faculty at several universities where he taught and supervised undergraduate and graduate students, oversaw student organizations, and helped lead campus-wide efforts to improve student persistence and graduation.

Doyle attended the University of Virginia and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and counselor education, with a focus on student affairs. He also holds a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Virginia in education with a focus on organization behavior.

Doyle shared, “I am excited to meet the amazing students, faculty, and staff who make up SMU, and learn more about SMU’s strengths and areas where I can be helpful.”

In his free time, Jeff enjoys road cycling, books, and listening to podcasts.

Student Success & Retention

Office of Student Success and Retention to temporarily close for move to Perkins Administration Building

The Office of Student Success & Retention will move to the Perkins Administration Building (PAB), Suite 301, on Wednesday, July 5.

Due to packing, moving, and unpacking, the office will be closed Monday, July 3, and Wednesday, July 5, with a university holiday closure on July 4.

Phone service will be interrupted during this time, and emails will be responded to upon reopening. Our telephone number and email remain the same.

Please help us update your websites, publications, or resources that list our physical office location to our new location in Perkins Administration Building. Thank you for your support and understanding during this time of transition.

Student Success & Retention

Help select the next Director of the Office for Student Success & Retention

On behalf of the Director for Student Success and Retention search committee, please join us for an upcoming finalist campus presentation and/or campus partner panel interview.

Three finalists have been selected for the Director of the Office for Student Success and Retention. Finalists will visit campus on Friday, June 30;  Friday, July 7; and Monday, July 10.

Friday, June 30, 2023:

  • 2:00 pm – 2:45 pm: Campus Partner Interview
  • 3:00 pm – 3:45 pm: Campus Presentation

Friday, July 7, 2023:

  • 10:00 am – 10:45 am: Campus Presentation
  • 11:15 am – 12:00 pm: Campus Partner Interview

Monday, July 10, 2023:

  • 10:00 am – 10:45 am: Campus Partner Interview
  • 11:00 am – 11:45 am: Campus Presentation

If you are interested in joining for one or more campus presentations or campus partner interviews, please email Dr. Dustin Grabsch (, chair of the search committee. Calendar invites with candidate materials, presentation prompts, and other applicable information will be shared with interested community members. We appreciate your input as we select this important campus leader.

About the Role: The Director is critical and collaborative in supporting undergraduate retention and graduation initiatives at SMU. The primary role is supervising three full-time staff and providing day-to-day problem-solving for students trying to remain, depart, or return to SMU. Working closely with the Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education and Academic Success and the SMU in Four initiative, the Director operationalizes processes to identify at-risk students, strategically outreaches to inspire engagement, coordinates interventions, tracks academic progress, and assesses our institutional strengths and weaknesses. The Director chairs a university-wide retention and financial support committee to retrain undergraduate students. The position serves as a critical partner to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Student Success & Retention

The first cohort of the Crossing the Finish Line program graduated this spring

To help more students graduate from SMU within six years, University Decision Support, academic advisors, and school record offices partnered with the Office of Student Success and Retention (SSR) to identify undergraduate students who have left SMU close to graduation based on credit hours but have not graduated from another university. Branded as Crossing the Finish Line, the new program sought to re-engage students to complete their SMU degree.  

Once identified, SSR invited select students to participate in a cohort who received academic and financial support to complete their undergraduate degrees at SMU. During the Spring of 2023, 2 out of the 11 students that received invitations from SSR decided to return to SMU and complete their degrees. Both students in the first cohort of the Crossing the Finish Line program graduated in May. 

SSR Success Counselor Ivy Phillips closely monitored these students’ academic progress throughout the semester. Additionally, Phillips met with them every two weeks to check in and address any student issues or concerns.  

Thanks to the Crossing the Finish Line program, one student earned her degree and received a job offer from her dream company. She began working for the company in May. Another student shared: 

I can whole-heartedly say that Ivy played a massive role in my success in completing my final semester. She helped me set deadlines, schedule out time to complete my assignments amidst my busy work schedule, monitored my grades, and also urged me to get involved with SMU’s student and career/ financial literacy programs… Ivy, alongside the wonderful Janet Stephens and my Meadows professors, all gave me the push I needed to finally get this degree done. Couldn’t have done it without them!”

The SSR team is currently identifying and inviting students to join the second cohort of the Crossing the Finish Line program. We look forward to re-engaging more students and helping them cross the finish line of graduation!