Office of the Provost

Academic Quality at SMU

Strategic Planning for Academic Quality at SMU

With steady climbing during its first century, SMU has reached considerable heights within the higher education landscape.  From this elevated position, we enter our second century at basecamp, ready to ascend toward the mountaintop of higher education as a premier research and teaching university with global impact.

During 2017-2018, task forces delivered reports related to our goal of enhanced academic quality and stature.  With these reports as part of the input, the Provost’s Office prepared an accompanying discussion document entitled, "Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of SMU – Analyses and Opportunities", which was distributed to the campus community on 18 October 2017.

Prior to distribution to the campus community, the 2017 Academic Quality discussion document went through an extensive review process with the SMU President and SMU’s senior leadership team during the summer of 2017 with over 300 comments and suggestions reviewed and addressed. During the autumn of 2017 and early 2018, the campus community dialogue included a series of in-person and electronic avenues for promoting discussion. The Provost held two town hall events in November that were open to all faculty and staff.  During the two town halls, nearly 200 participants shared dreams and ideas for the future of the University.  

Additionally, SMU’s deans held eight smaller group gatherings of 30 or fewer faculty and staff. More than 150 people signed up to participate in those discussion groups.  At the invitation of Faculty Senate President (Professor Paul Krueger), the Provost made a presentation before the Senate to address questions and to receive their ideas and suggestions.  The Provost also held additional discussions with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate.

In partnership with SMU Trustee Kelly Compton, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the SMU Board of Trustees, numerous discussions were held with SMU’s Board members to receive their thoughts and perspectives.  

Now, after an extensive period of community engagement, the present paper, Continuing the Ascent, proposes an initial suite of bold recommendations.  As the campus dialogue concludes, it is worth emphasizing that the University is not at the end of the process.  Rather, the University community has reached one of many milestones on its journey.

Continuing the Ascent: Recommendations for Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of Southern Methodist University

Having now completed a campus-wide dialogue during 2017-2018 regarding how to advance Southern Methodist University’s (SMU’s) overall academic quality to the level of a premier research and teaching university with global impact, we are pleased to release: "Continuing the Ascent: Recommendations for Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of Southern Methodist University."  Informed by "Launching SMU’s Second Century, Shaping Leaders for a Changing World, 2016-2025 Strategic Plan", and through a series of task force reports and an extensive campus-wide dialogue about academic quality, the University is coalescing around a shared understanding of the academic priorities that will enable us to fulfill the strategic plan.  This document focuses on 14 University-wide recommendations that SMU should implement over a reasonable timespan, such as 10 years, to enhance the University’s overall academic quality and stature.  "Continuing the Ascent: Recommendations for Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of Southern Methodist University" may be accessed by clicking here.

Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of SMU: Analyses and Opportunities

In 2015, the University issued a strategic plan entitled, “Launching SMU’s Second Century, Shaping Leaders for a Changing World, 2016-2025 Strategic Plan.”  The document entitled, "Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of SMU: Analyses and Opportunities," builds on Launching SMU’s Second Century, by focusing on Goal Number One: “To enhance the academic quality and stature of the University.” The "Academic Quality" document also draws on Goal Number Two, “To Improve Teaching and Learning,” and Goal Number Three, “To Strengthen Scholarly Research, Creative Achievement, and Opportunities for Innovation.”  In the quest for an aspirational and flexible vision for elevating SMU’s academic excellence, “Academic Quality” provides analyses and a range of possible opportunities for discussion.  The document includes evidence-based analyses, using both quantitative data and case studies of other successful universities, and opportunities for how SMU can promote academic excellence.  The document also has an educational purpose by informing the SMU community about how to define both academic “quality” and academic “stature.”  The document further informs by benchmarking SMU to aspirational universities.  "Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of SMU: Analyses and Opportunities" may be accessed by clicking here.

Task Force on Scholarly Research and Creative Impact

The SMU task force on Scholarly Research and Creative Impact examined and recommended ways for SMU to strengthen its scholarly research and creative activities to bolster the University’s position.  The task force was comprised of 17 faculty members representing each of our academic units.  To answer its charge, the task force met regularly, engaged SMU faculty, and consulted external experts to conduct an extensive review of current strengths and challenges and to develop eight categories of recommendations that address how SMU might best and effectually demonstrate intentional, sustained commitment to scholarly research and creative impact.    The full report may be accessed by clicking here.

Task Force on Creative and Interactive Technology

The Creative and Interactive Technology task force explored the integration of creative computation, visual arts, digital humanities, digital social sciences, computer gaming, and other related fields.  The task force comprised faculty from the Departments of Creative Computation (Meadows School of the Arts), Electrical Engineering, Guildhall (computer gaming), History, Instructional Design (Simmons School of Education and Human Development) and the Deans of Dedman College, the Lyle School of Engineering, and the Meadows School of the Arts.  The key recommendations of the Creative and Interactive Technology task force were organized around the concept of “INQuiry.” This concept signifies a search for truth, information, or knowledge to advance interdisciplinary innovation by incubating a new academic model at SMU, which builds on existing strengths in tool-building, interactive experience, and the configuration and deployment of data about people and society. The full Creative and Interactive Technology task force report may be accessed by clicking here.

Task Force on Data Science and Analytics

The Data Science and Analytics task force investigated  ways for SMU to construct a vision for the future of data science and analytics at SMU.  The task force was comprised of faculty members from the Departments of Computer Science and Engineering, Economics, Mathematics, Statistics, Cox School of Business, and the Associate Vice President and Dean of Graduate Studies.  Among the key recommendations by the Data Science and Analytics task force were to publicize SMU’s existing programs and strengths in Data Science in degree programs, research, and investments across the University and to create a new Data Science Institute (DSI) charged with: (1) Coordinating and facilitating interdisciplinary programs in Data Science, (2) collaborating with other institutes and centers on campus, and (3) developing research and educational linkages.  The full Data Science and Analytics task force report may be accessed by clicking here. 

Task Force on the Future of the SMU Libraries

The full Future of the SMU Libraries task force report may be accessed by clicking here.

Task Force on Student Success and Retention at SMU

The charge to the Task Force on Student Success and Retention at SMU may be accessed by clicking here.