Strategic Direction

Cultivating Courageous Change

2018-2025 Division of Student Affairs Strategic Plan

In concert with Launching SMU’s Second Century, the University’s strategic plan for 2016-2025, the Division of Student Affairs is essential to SMU’s mission of “shaping world changers who contribute to their communities and excel in their professions in a global society.”

In that spirit, we are committed to providing Mustangs with transformative learning experiences—rich, educational opportunities that allow students to put into practice the knowledge they gain in the classroom. As a community of student-centered professionals, our division develops robust student experiences and forges strategic partnerships with University and community stakeholders to serve the entire SMU community. 

The Division of Student Affairs strategic plan, Cultivating Courageous Change, was created to guide our continued efforts and at once defines our commitment to our work, our desired impact on our students, and the way in which our students will impact the world.

2022-2023 Student Affairs Impact Cover, two students jumping infront of white SMU letters with dark and light blue balloons, grey block letters on blue background


2021-2022 Student Affairs Impact Cover, blue cutout Dallas Hall, red block letters, blue script letters, black numbers, white SMU logo


Digital mockup image of the cover of the Impact magazine. There are three blue magazines stacked one top of one another but staggered. The cover says "Student Affairs" in a script font, and "Impact" in a bold white outline font.



2018-2019 Student Affairs Impact Cover, white background with black, teal, yellow, red, and blue block letters and numbers


2017-2018 Student Affairs Impact Cover, blue background with red and white curved lines, red script, white block letters


Strategic Goals

Our strategic goals include many measures, processes, and actions designed to improve the student experience and develop professionals within our division. The objectives associated with each goal are focused action items that contribute to the overall advancement and accomplishment of the goals.

Goal One: Foster a sense of belonging and promote student success through the development of a comprehensive student experience.

By developing an intentional and comprehensive student experience, we will foster a sense of belonging and student development that will contribute to successful transitions, increased retention, and graduation.

  1. Develop a framework for a comprehensive experience guiding students from orientation through graduation to increase retention and persistence.
  2. Develop action plans across the division to support the Residential Commons model to strengthen the vibrancy of our living learning communities.
  3. Identify and develop high impact practices across the division positively impacting overall student retention and success with an increased focus on traditionally underserved populations including diverse, transfer, veteran, graduate, and international students.
  4. Develop laboratories of practice to help students intentionally integrate the learning outcomes from their curricular and co-curricular experiences into their daily lives supporting career readiness.
  5. Enhance University and division traditions and events to build affinity and foster a vibrant sense of Mustang pride and belonging.
  6. Create a division-wide strategy and leadership framework for recruiting and developing student leaders across programs and services.
  7. Develop enhanced pathway plans for students within the conduct process so they may learn to hold themselves accountable and understand the impacts of their actions on others.
  8. Enhance programs to build affinity to campus through their residential commons, fraternities and sororities, spirit groups, and student organizations.
  9. Increase the number of opportunities within the division that allow students to complete general education requirements.
  10. Map all programs and services hosted by student affairs departments to the six learning domains presented in this strategic plan.

Goal Two: Cultivate an understanding of and respect for diverse perspectives.

We will cultivate the understanding of and respect for those from different backgrounds and experiences through programs and services emphasizing the importance of self-exploration and cultural intelligence, recognizing the value of diverse perspectives and disciplines to local and global communities.

  1. Increase intentional opportunities within every Residential Commons, and across the division, for students to engage in topics of diversity, inclusion, equity, civility, personal responsibility, and cultural intelligence concepts throughout their experience.
  2. Incorporate cultural intelligence and inclusive leadership concepts into all formal student leader training as well as staff development opportunities.
  3. Identify programs across the division addressing the needs of students related to their sense of self, specifically examining ability, age, class, ethnicity, familial status, gender, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexuality, veteran status, and other facets of identity.
  4. Create an interdisciplinary approach to cultural awareness through relationships with academic partners including the implementation of the Cultural Intelligence Initiative.
  5. Implement fraternity and sorority programming to strengthen collaboration among the four governing councils.
  6. Evaluate our diversity-focused departments, programs, and services to develop a comprehensive and integrated infrastructure for supporting and advocating for underrepresented students.
  7. Establish a sequence of student experiences and learning opportunities to explore self-identity, engage across difference, and promote respect for all people. 
  8. Implement a regular diversity-focused campus climate survey to identify opportunities to increase campus inclusivity and to best support students from all
  9. Leverage the opportunities for community engagement in Dallas and North Texas by creating intentional experiences for students to learn about and connect to diverse populations.
  10. Design and implement opportunities for students to explore faith and spirituality including engaging in interfaith dialogue.

Goal Three: Develop strategic partnerships - divisionally, institutionally, locally, and beyond.

We will develop partnerships - on and off campus - expanding the network of collaborative relationships divisionally, institutionally, throughout North Texas, and beyond to create interdisciplinary, effective, and innovative programs and services for our students.

  1. Expand collaborative programs and services between departments within the division with an increased focus on more fully integrating the Residential
    Commons model.
  2. Increase faculty engagement with student affairs departments to help inform evidence-based programming and align curricular and co-curricular learning experiences
  3. Strengthen community and business partnerships prioritizing increased internships and employment opportunities.
  4. Increase strategic collaborations between student affairs and academic affairs including the academic deans, University Libraries, and support services within the Office of the Provost to provide more robust programs and services increasing retention.
  5. Grow opportunities leveraging Dallas and North Texas as an off-campus laboratory for experiential learning to build experience increasing their marketability to employers.
  6. Increase the number of local, domestic, and international service opportunities with a special emphasis on engaging student organizations and fraternities and sororities.
  7. Collaborate with other divisions on campus to more fully engage the community in traditions programming, athletic events, and public services.
  8. Leverage opportunities for community engagement and student-support partnerships in Dallas and North Texas.
  9. Engage parents of SMU students as strategic partners in student success.
  10. Partner with alumni to support students in career exploration, mentorship, and community engagement. 

Goal Four: Promote comprehensive well-being as a priority and crucial component to the personal development of a healthy student.

We will prioritize the development of programs, services, and resources designed to encourage healthy habits in students' daily lives through creating and supporting a culture of multi-dimensional well-being..

  1. Establish a well-being campaign to promote healthy habits in a student's daily life with special emphasis on students within the Residential Communities and fraternities and sororities.
  2. Develop a long-term strategy to reduce high-risk drinking and alcohol use including reviewing policies and procedures impacting alcohol usage.
  3. Utilize local and national benchmarking instruments to implement best practices in health and wellness programs tailored to the needs of our campuses.
  4. Create campus-wide strategies to help students cope with stress and destigmatize the utilization of mental-health resources.
  5. Develop and improve programs and services enabling students to understand, articulate, and practice the aspects of comprehensive well-being including administrative buildings and residential facilities.
  6. Implement a comprehensive bystander intervention training to enhance knowledge and response for interpersonal violence to build a campus culture of care and action.
  7. Enhance our framework for supporting students in crisis including broad training for the campus community on recognizing students at risk and improving the awareness of university resources for students of concern.
  8. Continue monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of wellness-based services.
  9. Increase the active engagement of students in peer-led health education programs.
  10. Increase departmental collaborations across the division on wellness-based programs and services.

Goal Five: Strengthen data-informed decision-making by implementing intentional assessment and responsible fiscal stewardship.

We will increase data-informed decision-making by conducting intentional assessment and serving as responsible stewards of university resources allowing the division to make strategic decisions to maximize human and fiscal resources to better serve students.

  1. Increase regular assessment of programs and services to ensure resources within the division are allocated and invested in areas that align with divisional and university strategic plans.
  2. Review division organization structure and human resources allocation for optimal alignment.
  3. Implement, explore, and analyze national benchmarking instruments to develop actionable items to improve various aspects of the student experience.
  4. Conduct a utilization and needs assessment for student-focused spaces and develop action plans based on the results to improve the student experience with division facilities.
  5. Analyze division use of technology to reduce redundancies and increase efficiencies, services, and learning opportunities through the strategic use of innovative technologies.
  6. Require each department to annually provide evidence of removal or revamping of at least one initiative identified as underperforming through assessment efforts.
  7. Complete a CAS program review for every department including developing action plans to improve programs and services including outcome achievement for students.
  8. Require departments to post all events on a unified calendar and track all program participation to evaluate program effectiveness and overall student engagement.
  9. Develop a comprehensive and robust fundraising strategy for the Division of Student Affairs.
  10. Establish an innovation grant to support the creation of creative and interdepartmental programs and services.

Goal Six: Advance professional excellence as an expectation and commitment when recruiting, retaining, and advancing talent in the division.

We will establish guidelines and programs to advance professional excellence as an expectation and commitment to inform the recruitment, development, retention, and advancement of talent in the division.

  1. Establish clear expectations of how living out the commitment statements and mastering the NASPA/ACPA competencies is realized in daily work.
  2. Create a culture of professional excellence that cultivates talent development and demonstrates an investment in each individual employee.
  3. Prioritize the role of staff as educators actively contributing to the academic mission through the developing of flexible procedures to encourage completion of terminal degree programs and adjunct teaching positions.
  4. Commit to ongoing learning within the field and across disciplines to develop capacity and enhance effectiveness by regularly reviewing staff access to professional development funds.
  5. Develop a dynamic professional development curriculum preparing and supporting staff and graduate assistants to advance the components of the strategic plan.
  6. Develop position pathways for each role within the division including identifying opportunities for collateral assignments to promote cross-departmental skill building.
  7. Establish research groups tasked with exploring an issue pertinent to the division and implement action based on findings.
  8. Encourage staff submission for publication based on academic and professional interests and projects.
  9. Increase the number of staff actively engaged in volunteering and leadership positions within local, state, regional, and national professional associations.

Learning Domains

Our division is dedicated to fostering student learning through various programs and services. To achieve this, we have established six distinct learning domains that encompass different aspects of learning: cognitive (knowledge), affective (attitudes and beliefs), and psychomotor (skills and abilities).

The domains categorized as "internal" are designed to enhance individual learning outcomes by focusing on what students know, who they are, and the skills they possess. On the other hand, the domains labeled as "external" aim to broaden students' understanding of the world, their engagement with society, and their capacity to influence the world around them. 

We will map all of our programs and services with these learning domains as outlined in our strategic plan to ensure our resources and support are investing in the mission and values of the University.

Additionally, we will implement advanced assessment methods to closely monitor students' progress in each of these areas to ensure the effectiveness of our efforts.

student affairs learning domain courageous leadership

Courageous Leadership

The courageous leadership domain supports values-based leadership for students to leverage as they lead with conviction and integrity regardless of formal positions or roles.

ethical leadership | values-based leadership | inclusive leadership
leadership models | leadership styles | servant leadership

student affairs learning domain global consciousness

Global Consciousness

The global consciousness domain encourages recognition of and positive engagement with diverse cultures and perspectives to understand unique contributions in an increasingly global society.

cultural intelligence | multicultural competence | intersectionality | social issues
universal design principles | social entrepreneurship | social change model

student affairs learning domain personal congruence

Personal Congruence

The personal congruence domain fosters identity development to help students clarify their values to live with integrity and conviction.

awareness of self | identity development | values clarification
moral courage | faith exploration | ethical decision-making

student affairs learning domain social responsibility

Social Responsibility

The social responsibility domain empowers students to employ their gifts and skills to affect positive social change.

asset-based community development | advocacy | bystander responsibility
social justice | allyship | social innovation

student affairs learning domain holistic wellness

Holistic Wellness

The holistic wellness domain challenges students to integrate healthy practices into every aspect of life to establish a productive and sustainable lifestyle.

physical activity | mental wellness | emotional intelligence
relational health | spiritual development | social integration

student affairs learning domain amplified capacity

Amplified Capacity

The amplified capacity domain equips students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to develop into productive, confident, and capable individuals.

grit | critical thinking | effective communication | accountability
conflict management | individual discipline | financial literacy