SMU Makes the Move to Code Yellow

As of Monday, March 15, SMU is now functioning at a yellow operational status. Here’s what that means for events within the Division of Student Affairs:

Event format
-Indoor events are now allowed, but with proper social distancing requirements in place
-If the space does not allow for social distancing protocols, outdoor options should be explored

-Food should not be served unless the event is held during a traditional meal time
-Only boxed, pre-packaged food allowed
-Giveaways still limited

-Clear pathways with defined, separate entrances and exits should be present at the event
-Event attendees should assess for symptoms of COVID-19 the day of the event

-in person events should not occur back-to-back to account for cleaning

-Students may travel by car locally (within a 50 mile radius) for team sports
-International and group travel is still prohibited

-External guests may not attend in person events, but are allowed to attend virtually
-External speakers do not count as guests, but are limited to one per event

Community service
-On site community service still remains virtual

Residential Commons and Upper Division Housing
-Students living in Residential Commons and Upper Division Housing are now allowed to have guests in their rooms, but certain restrictions remain.

For a full breakdown on what this shift to Code Yellow means for SMU, please click here


Winter Weather Forces Campus-Wide Shutdowns

Friday, February 19, 2021

Dear SMU students, faculty, staff and families,

With the sun out today and the snow beginning to melt, I want to thank you all for your hard work, tenacity and patience as we have worked our way through this mammoth winter weather event. Things will begin to get back to normal on Monday when we resume classes, virtually, and decide how classes will be delivered on Tuesday and the rest of the week.

The campus fared much better than many in Dallas and throughout Texas, but it has been a tough time for all Mustangs, including the 251 students living on the Hilltop who had to relocate when bursting pipes and other weather-related issues forced us to find them other temporary accommodations. We know our faculty, staff and students living off-campus have had their own issues with lack of heat, bursting pipes and flooding, only compounded on and off campus when dropping water pressure prompted us to follow a “boil water” mandate.

Our essential staff members have done heroic round-the-clock work to keep our on-campus students warm, dry and fed. Many of them caught what sleep they could on campus or in nearby hotels to accomplish that important work. They worked to procure and stage thousands of bottles of hard-to-find water for students after the “boil water” order was issued, and the SMU Moms and Dads Club stepped up to make water and snacks available. Essential workers also opened and staffed Hughes-Trigg Student Center as a warming and charge-up station, which we knew would be important for our off-campus students. We owe them all our heartfelt thanks for enduring long hours and bitter cold to help get us through this and should recognize that there is still a great deal more hard work for them to do next week and beyond.

The University is prioritizing repairs to our on-campus student housing to allow students to move back to their own rooms as quickly as possible and pushing hard to re-open weather-impacted classroom spaces. Students will be notified when to expect housing and buildings to come back on line and we will provide them with support until they do.

I know I can count on your continued patience as the thaw likely reveals more infrastructure problems that were previously hidden by the cold and snow. Check SMU Aware for the latest information and continue to monitor SMU Aware email and SMU Twitter and Facebook for updates. Please continue to look out for each other as we get back to the business of teaching and learning. We can all be reassured that in tough times, Mustangs always “Pony Up.”

R. Gerald Turner


New Faculty-in-Residence (FiR) Appointments

January 5, 2021

Dear Colleagues and Students,

We are pleased to announce the appointment of three new Faculty-in-Residence (FiR) to begin their service July 1, 2021. The selection process was very competitive and we were excited to have received so many applications for these positions from a very talented pool of faculty. Each FiR family will reside in one of our Residential Commons and will work with the respective Residential Community Directors (RCD) and student leaders to enhance the educational experiences of their residents.


Carol Dickson-Carr

Carol Dickson-Carr is a professor of practice serving Dedman College, teaching economics and business writing courses, among others. Professor Dickson-Carr believes, “Every student has it in them to succeed in the academy and in life with the right support…and FUN! My family is SMU strong, and we are looking forward to serving the Virginia-Snider Commons community to help continue the great work Ann Batenburg has accomplished.”


Jack Levison


Jack Levison holds the W. J. A. Power Chair of Old Testament Interpretation and Biblical Hebrew in Perkins School of Theology. His spouse, Priscilla Pope-Levison, is associate dean for external programs and professor of ministerial studies at Perkins. “Heidi and David Son, who have cared for Boaz students for years, told us that our lives are about to change dramatically—a change we welcome wholeheartedly. With our two kids grown—both SMU grads—we are pleased to embark on the adventure of living tooth-to-jowl with undergraduates in Boaz Commons.”


Alberto Pastor


Alberto Pastor is an associate professor of Spanish and General Linguistics in the Department of World Languages and Literatures in Dedman College. Professor Pastor expressed, “In my classes and personal life I try to serve as an advocate for multilingualism and multiculturalism in the society at large. My family and I are thrilled to continue the diversity values and traditions of MHPS Commons, and to be part and foster this community”.



We wish to thank Dr. Ann Batenburg, Dr. Liljana Elverskog, Dr. David Son and their families for their service as Faculty-in-Residence. We know that each of them made a lasting impact on the students in their respective Residential Commons.

We also extend our gratitude to the members of the FiR Search Committee for their efforts in assisting in this search and appointment process:

Co-Chair – Dr. Sandra Duhé, Associate Professor and Chair, Director of Public Relations and Strategic Communication, Meadows School of the Arts; Faculty-in-Residence for Cockrell-McIntosh Commons, Residence Life & Student Housing

Co-Chair – Dr. Dustin Grabsch, Director of Academic Initiatives, Residence Life & Student Housing;

Willie Baronet, Professor, Creative Advertising, Meadows School of the Arts; Faculty-in-Residence for Armstrong Commons, Residence Life & Student Housing;

Emily Kilburg, Residential Community Director for Crum Commons, Residence Life & Student Housing;

Logan McElroy, Student Leader, Resident Assistant, Upper Division Housing; and

Dr. Paige Ware, Associate Provost for Faculty Success, Office of the Provost.

Please join us in welcoming and congratulating Drs. Dickson-Carr, Levison, and Pastor as the newest Faculty-in-Residence. We look forward to their contributions to the residential and educational experiences of our students.






K.C. Mmeje, Ed.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs




Elizabeth G. Loboa, Ph.D.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs


Dear SMU Students,

Your safety while living and studying on our campus is the highest priority at SMU. Much of this semester we have focused on how to stay healthy during the pandemic, but I’d like to focus on another important precaution ­– crime prevention and awareness.

Recent crimes in the greater metro area outside of SMU have impacted some of our students. It is critical that you keep safety top of mind when you go out. As the semester comes to a close and the holidays approach, please celebrate responsibly and look out for one another.

If you plan to drink, appoint a designated driver or companion, and respect the decision of those who do not wish to consume alcohol. If you see a friend who has had too much to drink, please help care for them. Call a ride, escort them back to campus or seek help from others.

Here are some key safety tips from our campus police, who are here to protect you.

The SMUPD recommends:

  • Avoiding high-crime areas off campus.
  • Educating yourself on crime in areas you frequent, using this crime map.
  • Being aware of your surroundings and recognizing your vulnerabilities.
  • Using the buddy system and watching out for your fellow students.
  • Not accepting rides from people you do not know.
  • When using ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber, making sure you match the driver and vehicle license plate to your order – don’t get into a vehicle just because it has a ride-share sign in the windshield.
  • If threatened by an approaching vehicle, run in the opposite direction. The vehicle will have to turn around to pursue you.
  • If you find yourself confronted by an assailant, remaining calm and assessing the situation before choosing your course of action. Whether or not the assailant is armed or has made threats against you, saving your life should be your first concern.
  • Not consuming any items such as drinks or food that could have been contaminated.
  • Minimizing alcohol consumption to maintain a clear head.
  • Using sidewalks and crosswalks and avoiding walking alone, especially at night.
  • When walking during the evening hours, being aware of your surroundings and only walking in well-lit and populated areas.
  • Not displaying cash or valuables on the street or in clubs, and being aware of your environment.
  • Reporting suspicious behavior to University Police by calling 214-768-3333 (on campus) or 9-1-1 in emergencies.

For more information on how to stay safe both on and off campus, or about personal safety classes and briefings, check out SMUPD’s crime prevention resources.


Dr. Kenechukwu (K.C.) Mmeje

Vice President for Student Affairs


Madison Mucci-Ferris co-authors article focusing on the impact of parental support on college students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Madison Mucci-Ferris, Residential Community Director in Residence Life and Student Housing, recently co-authored the article, College students’ mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: The role of relational turbulence and social support processes in relationships with parents. The article, on which Mucci-Ferris collaborated with Dr. Timothy Worley of Penn State, focuses on the impact that parental support has had on college students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The full text of the article can be found here.


SMU names Lisa Garvin as chaplain, minister to university

Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs

August 26, 2020

Dear SMU Community,

I am pleased to announce that the Rev. Lisa Garvin has been named Chaplain and Minister to the University, effective October 19, 2020.

Garvin will replace the Rev. Steve Rankin, who intends to explore new ways to advance his ministry after 11 years of service to the University. Rev. Garvin will make history by being the first woman at SMU to hold the role of Chaplain and Minister to the University.

“I am elated to be joining the SMU community,” Garvin said. “To serve as your chaplain and minister to the University is a dream come true. I look forward to all the ways we will grow together in wisdom and faith. Building on SMU’s deep roots in the United Methodist tradition, I am eager to engage SMU’s rich diversity and expand the table of religious life on The Hilltop.”

A native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Garvin comes to SMU from Emory University where she served as associate dean of the chapel and religious life for eight years. She was also the director of Ministerial Services for the Bishop’s Cabinet in the Mississippi Conference from 2008-2012 and chaplain to her alma mater – Millsaps College – from 2005-2008. She has a lifelong commitment to church-related higher education.

Garvin is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and currently serves as a director of its General Board of Church and Society and chairs the board’s Advocacy Work Area. A member of the Mississippi Conference, Garvin served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2012 and as the secretary of the Committee on Higher Education and Ministry. She currently serves on the Georgia Prison Ministry Board and the Local Advisory Committee for AID Atlanta.

She graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and a Juris Master in Human Rights from Emory University School of Law. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in European Studies from Millsaps College. Garvin has been recognized by both universities for outstanding service.

Garvin has a special interest in human rights and racial justice, and has led travel seminars (journeys of reconciliation) to South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the U.S.-Mexico border and Cuba.

I want to take this time to thank and honor Rev. Dr. Rankin for the service he has given to the University as chaplain and minister to the University since 2009. He has been a servant leader, supporting the University’s commitment to spiritual growth and ethical behavior.

Thank you to the search committee for conducting a successful national search. In addition, thank you to those who interviewed and provided feedback on our finalists.

Please join me in welcoming Rev. Lisa Garvin to the Hilltop.


K.C. Mmeje
Vice President for Student Affairs

For more information about the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, please visit


Meghan Perez: 2020 Courageous Change Leader

Photo of Meghan Perez. She is standing outside in front of trees, is smiling, and is wearing a dark blue shirt.

The Courageous Change Leader award is the highest honor bestowed on a staff member within the Division of Student Affairs. It was created to honor the individuals who have embodied the commitment statements outlined in our strategic plan and any member of the campus community is welcome to nominate a staff member. It is with great pleasure that we announce Meghan Perez, Assistant Director in the Office of the Student Experience as the recipient of this year’s award. 

Meghan received multiple nominations outlining why she is deserving of this award and it was incredible to see the common threads amongst all of the narratives. Meghan’s influence extends beyond her specific areas of responsibility to the entire division. She has repeatedly been sought after to serve on committees, task forces, search committees, and special projects. Meghan is known among her colleagues as a serious Student Affairs professional, committed to excellence and dedicated to maximizing the effectiveness of each project. She is also a ton of fun and the type of person you want to work with no matter the task. She certainly models the type of division member we need, remaining committed to personal congruence while achieving goals collaboratively and efficiently. 

Many of Meghan’s characteristics are admirable, but her commitment to developing students stands out above the rest. 

Colleagues are consistently impressed by the way she interacts with a student that stops by her office, engages a student that comes to eat lunch in the suite, or talks about students in her program. Each interaction is personal and caring—she knows specific details about what is going on in everyone’s world and uses those details to intentionally check in on students or push them to submit an internship application. Meghan easily develops meaningful relationships and students trust her personally and professionally. While students are attracted to her fun-loving nature, they also know that she is committed to their growth and does not shy away from difficult conversations intended to push them forward in their development. It is no stretch to say that Meghan actively shapes world changers in her daily work through the leadership programs she creates and oversees as well as the individual relationships she cultivates with students. 

Meghan Perez pushes division members to be better Student Affairs professionals, better friends, and better colleagues. She is committed to saying our commitment statements as loudly as possible at every division meeting (she can be heard above the crowd), and more importantly, she is committed to acting out every single one of those commitment statements. Meghan is working every day to develop world changers and innovate our work, and she is more than deserving of the 2020 Courageous Change Leader Award. 

Check out Meghan’s award presentation here!



2020 Courageous Change Leader Award Presentation

Congratulations to Meghan Perez, 2020 Courageous Change Leader

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For more information about the Division of Student Affairs at SMU, please visit


Recognizing professional and academic achievements among Student Affairs staff

Over the past year, our dedicated staff within the Division of Student Affairs have been hard at work in their professional and academic achievements. Read more about these incredible accomplishments below:

  • Dr. Wendelin Donahue, Associate Director of Employer Relations, was selected to serve as a director for the Board of Directors for Voice of Hope and Step Up Women’s Network Dallas Chapter.
  • Sandra Scheidegger, Assistant Director of Employer Relations, was selected as a panel facilitator at the 2020 Southern Association for Colleges and Employers (SoACE). She hosted Expanding our Options, a Virtual Internship Employer Panel.
  • Kristin Smart, Associate Director for Career Development, completed all requirements to earn her LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) certification in September 2019.
  • Dr. Crystal Clayton, Executive Director for the Hegi Family Career Development Center, was appointed in January 2020 to a three-year term as a director on the Plano Chamber Board of Directors.
  • Dr. Essence Smith, Assistant Director for Employer Relations, graduated with her Ed.D. from SMU in May 2020 from the Simmons School of Education and Human Development
  • Dr. Veronica Davis, Associate Chaplain to the University, successfully defended her dissertation in August 2019. 
  • Tyler Kim, Program Coordinator for the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, was admitted to SMU’s Ed.D. program and began courses in the fall of 2020.
  • Madison Mucci-Ferris, Residential Community Director, obtained her MBA from SMU’s Cox School of Business. Mucci-Ferris was also selected to receive SMU’s Courageous Change Leader Award in 2019, and served as a Committee Member, SWACUHO, Exhibits and Displays Committee from 2019-2020.
  • Dr. Allison Kanny, Director for Student Affairs Administration, was elected Chair of the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation’s Membership/Organizational Development Committee.
  • Erica Zamora, Director of the Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement, was elected as Co-Chair for the MultiRacial Knowledge Community
  • Meghan Perez, Assistant Director of the Office of the Student Experience, was selected as Communication Team Lead for the NASPA Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community
  • Dr. Lindsey Koch, Director of the Office of Student Experience and Dr. Liljana Elverskog, Faculty in Residence for Mary Hay Peyton Shuttles Commons, were recipients of the M award, SMU’s highest honor.
  • Blake Pollard, Student Center and Activities Coordinator, was selected by the SMU Student Senate as the 2020 Staff Member of the Year.
  • Lauren Chapman, Associate Director for Student Center and Activities was selected as one of the ACUI regional conference top three presentations. The presentation, entitled, Let No Detail Go Undone: Using Spreadsheets for Efficient Event Planning was later turned into a webinar.
  • Jennifer “JJ” Jones, Executive Director for Student Development was a contributing author for the textbook, Fraternities and Sororities in the Contemporary Era. Jones was also admitted to SMU’s Ed.D. program and began coursework in the Fall 2020 semester.
  • Dr. Sidney Gardner, Director of the Women and LGBT Center was asked to give a talks sponsored by EY affinity groups; Dallas Unity and Professional Women’s Network Pride Month called “Ally Begins with All”  Gardner was also asked to serve as a panelist for a UT Southwestern Medical Center discussion entitled “Visibility, Identity, and Advocacy: A discussion about navigating relationships within the LGBTQ+ community” as part of Pride Month. She was also asked to serve as a facilitator for the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce LGBT Leadership Institute, and served in another capacity within the North Texas Chamber of Commerce at the Foundation Business & Community Excellence Awards.
  • Melinda Carlson, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Residence Life and Student Housing, was elected to serve as the Chair of the Women in Housing network for ACUHO-I
  • Dustin Grabsch, Director for Academic Partnerships in Residence Life, received the Dissertation of the Year award from the Texas Association of College and University Student Personnel Administrators in 2019. Grabsch was also selected to 
  • Amanda Bobo, Assistant Director of Residence Life, was selected as the Chair of the SWACUHO Exhibit and Displays Committee. Her term will run from 2018-2022. 
  • Eleanor Luna, Associate Director of Training for RLSH, was selected as SWACUHO’s Texas State Director from 2018-2020. 
  • Michelle Madsen, Associate Director of Residence Life, was selected to serve on SWACUHO’s Exhibits and Displays Committee in 2018. 
  • Jennifer Post, Director of Residence Life, finished her term as an Executive Board Member for the Residential College Society in 2019. 
  • Susan Strobel Hogan, Senior Associate Director for Assignments, RLSH, served as Historian, SWACUHO, 2017-2020. She was elected as the Chair-elect for the ACUHO-I Talking Stick Advisory Board  in 2019 and subsequently served as the Chair of the Talking Stick Advisory Board, ACUHO-I, 2019


  • Melinda Carlson, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Residence Life and Student Housing, served as a panelist for ACUHO-I Virtual Round Table for Senior Housing Officers, held on May 7, 2020. Carlson was also selected to serve as a panelist for the discussion, “Women in Housing: The Roads We’ve Traveled,” and as the host and presenter for the “Women in Housing Network Community of Practice” event, both of which were part of the 2020 ACUHO-I Virtual Summit. On May 29th, Melinda Carlson hosted the event, “Lean on Me- How Womxn Support Womxn in the Housing Profession” as part of the ACUHO-I Women in Housing Network Webinar.
  • Nick Blair, Residential Community Director for Morrison-McGinnis Commons, presented the paper, Working for or against you, operating within the complex culture of residential colleges at the Residential College Symposium in Waco, TX in November, 2019
  • Amanda Bobo, Assistant Director of Residence Life, Northern area, presented at the SWACUHO Annual Conference in Sugar Land, TX. The presentation was titled,  National Housing Training Institute: Exploring the possibilities. 
  • Dustin Grabsch, Director for Academic Partnerships in Residence Life, presented the paper, Social justice learning communities: Results and implications from a national benchmark analysis at NASPA’s Multicultural Institute in New Orleans, LA in December 2019. Additionally, Grabsch presented at the SWACUHO Annual Conference in Sugar Land, TX, where he presented, Students with autism: Understanding expectations of a growing population on-campus. Grabsch also co-presented at SMU’s Research Days in Dallas with the presentations, Student attendance at residential college system activities; Developing a thriving student experience; Impact of a residential college model on students, faculty and staff; and Academic and student success within a Residential College model. 
  • Emily Kilburg, Residential Community Director for Crum Commons, presented the paper, Working for or against you, operating within the complex culture of residential colleges at the Residential College Symposium in Waco, TX in November 2019.
  • Eleanor Luna, Associate Director of Training and Development for RLSH, presented the paper, Intentional RA recruitment  at the Southwest Association for College and University Housing Officers Conference, held in Sugar Land, TX in February 2020. 
  • Michelle Madsen, Assistant Director of Residence Life, and Jennifer Post, Director of Residence Life, co-presented the paper, Lesson learned five years in at the Residential College Symposium in Waco, TX in November 2019. 
  • Matt Nadler, Residential Community Director, Upper Division Housing, and Sarah Ballman, Residential Community Director for Cockrell-McIntosh Commons, presented the at the 2019 Residential College Symposium in Waco, TX in July, 2019 with the paper, Don’t go it alone: Empowering your hall staff to use StarRez.


  • Lauren Anne Cove, Residential Community Director for Armstrong Commons, was a grant recipient from the Hopper-Dean Foundation for the project, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM.”
  • Dustin Grabsch, Director for Academic Partnerships in Residence Life and Student Housing, and Jennifer Post, Director of Residence Life, both received the Academic and Student Success in Residential Colleges,Research Grant from  SWACUHO.


  • Dr. Dustin Grabsch, Director for Academic Partnerships in Residence Life and Student Housing, contributed to the article, CUE-ing Student Success: Evaluating Academic Support Space in Residential Communities, which was published in the Journal of College and University Student Housing. Grabsch also contributed to the article, Self-reported professional development needs by professional level, which was published in the College Student Affairs Journal. Additionally, Dr. Grabsch first authored the paper, Does testing type matter? Comparing the impact of instant and traditional feedback methods on student learningIn February 2020, Grabsch co-authored the paper, Predispositions for participation in high-impact practices.
  • Madison Mucci-Ferris, Residential Community Director, co-authored the article, Social Support and Mental Health During COVID, which was published in October 2020.