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Lydia Allen, Writing Center Director & Assistant Director of the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC)

Lydia received her BA in psychology, with minors in special education and French, from Texas A&M and her BA in English and philosophy from UT Austin. She received her MA in Biotechnology from Columbia University where her emphasis was in neurobiology. She also received an MA, PhD ABD in History of Ideas from University of Texas at Dallas. Before joining the A-LEC staff, she taught STEM Writing in the SMU English Department and worked as a member of the Writing Center faculty. Lydia loves her amazing kiddo, sci-fi tv, audio books of all kinds, and Earl Grey, hot.

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Sue Bierman, Executive Director

Sue received her B.S., M.S, and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. Her major fields of study are Psychology, Counseling, and Higher Education Administration. Before joining the A-LEC staff in January 2007, Sue was an Assistant Professor and Coordinator for Student Services at Butler University. Sue has taught courses in Psychology, Statistics, and Student Success and Ethics. She has worked in Residence Life, Student Activities, and Athletic Advising. Sue enjoys playing pickleball, scary movies, and reading.

candy brown

Candy Brown, Administrative Assistant, Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS)

Candy works with students to schedule proctored exams and prepares accommodation letters, among other responsibilities for the Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies Staff.

Michelle profile

Michelle Bufkin, Senior Accommodations Coordinator, Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS)

Michelle earned her B.A. in Public Policy from Duke University and her M.P.A. from the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining A-LEC, she served as a lecturer and advisor for the SMU Learning Therapy Center. Michelle has worked in private practice as a learning therapist, served as president of the Academic Language Therapy Association and the SMU Mothers’ Club, and is active on community boards. Outside of work, Michelle enjoys spending time at the Arboretum and traveling with her family.

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Valiza Cameron-Patterson, Accommodations Coordinator

My path as an educator and counselor has been marked by a profound commitment to nurturing growth, resilience, and holistic well-being in diverse student populations. With a decade-long journey spanning charter, public, and private institutions, I've witnessed education's transformative power firsthand. As a Semi-Finalist for Texas School Counselor of the Year, I've guided students through personal, social, and behavioral challenges, facilitating not only academic progress but also vital life skills. I strive to foster empathy, resilience, and inclusivity. Continuing this voyage, I eagerly collaborate with colleagues to shape tomorrow's empowered leaders. In my free time, I love to travel the world while experiencing new things.

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Sarah Cartwright, Learning Skills Specialist, Academic Skill Development

Sarah earned her B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Family and Consumer Sciences—Child and Family Services from Marshall University and her M.Ed. in Higher Education at SMU. Before joining SASP, Sarah loved working in childcare and the K-12 sector but now loves supporting college students. Sarah enjoys traveling and experiencing new things, and is passionate about her faith, family, and food.

Schedule an appointment with Sarah


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Mitzi HennesseyAdministrative AssistantAltshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC)

Mitzi works at the A-LEC front desk. She started working at SMU in 2001  in various roles, including the Cox Business Information Center, University Development Operations, Electrical Engineering, and Lyle Distance Education before joining the A-LEC in 2017. She enjoys walking, biking, reading and spending time with her dog and her family. She is the proud parent of an SMU alumna.

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Gracy HerreraAcademic CounselorAcademic Skill Development 

Gracy, a first-generation student, earned her BA in Psychology from Texas A&M University. While living abroad with her husband and two children, she worked as an academic coach for student-athletes. During this time, Gracy received her MS in Sports Psychology from California Southern University. She also served as team manager for the United Arab Emirates Falcons and Dubai Barracudas American football programs. In her free time, Gracy enjoys traveling, running, and spending time with her Maltese pup. 

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Adreana Julander, Director, Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC)

Adreana earned her BS in Mathematics from Southern Utah University and MS in Statistics from SMU. As an adjunct statistics instructor at SMU, she has taught courses at Texas Tech, Weatherford College, and Paul Quinn College. She will always be a farm girl at heart.

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Nancy Larkin, Assistant Director, Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC)

Nancy Larkin comes to us after a long career in public education. She has a STEM background, with a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Lamar University, a Master’s degree in Educational Technology Leadership from George Washington University, and a doctorate in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. Nancy is a native Texan and has lived in Lumberton, Houston, Marble Falls, and Plano. She has a son who just graduated from Plano Senior High School and a French Bulldog. She enjoys living in the Dallas area, but will always be a “small town” girl at heart.

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Grace C. Okoro, Tutor Coordinator, Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC).


Grace received her B.S. in Kinesiology at the University of Texas at Arlington and her Masters in healthcare administration at Texas Woman’s University in Houston, Texas. Grace is currently a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science, where she is studying global health. Before joining A-LEC, Grace worked as a graduate assistant, where her desire for learning emerged. She has helped hundreds of students with navigating Canvas, understand their curriculum, and construct research.

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Chris Meyers, Director of the First Generation Initiative, Academic Skill Development

Chris received his B.A. in Communication at Texas A&M University and his M.A. in Dispute Resolution at SMU. Before joining the A-LEC, he worked as a Life Development Coach at Innovation 360. Chris enjoys spending most of his time with his wife and children. He is an aspiring woodworker, an avid outdoorsman, and a lover of books and deep conversations, especially as they regard faith/spirituality. 

Schedule an appointment with Chris

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Makenzie Moriarty, Academic Counselor, Academic Skill Development

Makenzie received her B.A. in Anthropology, with a minor in Business Administration, from Baylor University and received her M.Ed. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina. Before joining SASP, Makenzie worked as an adjunct instructor at Midlands Technical College teaching a course in Student Success and as a dance teacher teaching students aged 3 to 18. She loves to try new restaurants, explore new places, and play card games.

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Shon Phillips, Writing Center Coordinator, Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC)

Shon received her B.A. in Sociology from The University of Texas at Austin.  While teaching high school English, she decided to pursue an M.A. in English from Southern New Hampshire University. She is currently working on her doctoral degree at SMU.  Shon is also an adjunct WRTR faculty member.  She has taught WRTR 1311 and WRTR 1312.  In her free time, family comes first…followed by binge watching anything on HGTV. 

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Abbie Short, Graduate Assistant for Student Success, Academic Skill Development

Abbie earned her B.A in Psychology with a minor in Women and Gender studies from Texas A&M university in 2020. She is currently an SMU grad student pursuing a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. She has experience in child development, sales, and marketing. Abbie enjoys being with her family, watching movies, and doing anything that involves being creative. 

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Alexa Taylor, Director, Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS)

Alexa received her B.S. from Oklahoma State University and her M.S. in Counseling Psychology from the University of North Texas, and, in 2002, received her Texas LPC license (Licensed Professional Counselor). She joined the SMU family in 2001. In her position with DASS, she enjoys helping students find new, more efficient ways to study and advocate for themselves as well as helping the SMU community understand disability issues.

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Jeanna Turay, Accommodations Coordinator, Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS)

Jeanna received her B.S. in Biology from Stephen F. Austin State University and her Masters in Organizational Leadership from Colorado Christian University.  Jeanna finds joy in helping students recognize their potential and accomplish their educational goals.  She enjoys being outdoors with her rescue dog, Tyson, hiking and experiencing new cultures.

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David Tylicki, Senior Learning Specialist, Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS)

David earned his Bachelor's degrees in English and Psychology from Tulane University and a Master's in Professional Counseling from Georgia State University. He has worked with students with disabilities at Tulane, Georgia State, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Becca Umobong, Director, Academic Skill Development

Becca earned her B.A. in Communication from Washington State University and her M.Ed. in Higher Education from Dallas Baptist University. Becca is a HDEV 1210 and HDEV 1211 lecturer, facilitates learning strategy workshops, and provides students with individual academic counseling. Becca enjoys hiking, swimming, reading and coaching her children's sports teams.

Schedule an appointment with Becca