Director of Academic Initiatives
Southern Methodist University Inc

Dallas, Texas


Salary Range:

Salary commensurate with experience and qualifications

About SMU

SMU's more than 12,000 diverse, high-achieving students come from all 50 states and 90 countries to take advantage of the University's small classes, hands-on research opportunities, leadership development, community service, international study and innovative programs. The University offers a strong foundation in the humanities and sciences and undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs through eight schools.

Now in its second century of achievement, SMU is increasingly recognized for the ways it supports students, faculty and alumni as they become ethical leaders in their professions and communities. On the most beautiful college campus in the country, SMU Mustangs are energized by unbridled opportunities - from teaching, learning and research to creativity, performance and athletic endeavor.

About the Position:

Southern Methodist University (SMU) invites applications for the position of Director of Academic Initiatives within Residence Life & Student Housing (RLSH). The Director of Academic Initiatives serves as a senior staff member within the Department of Residence Life and Student Housing and oversees the development, implementation, and ongoing assessment of all academic programs and services offered within the residential communities. This position reports to the Dean of RLSH and plays a key role in the strategic planning of the department with a focus on embedding academic programs and initiatives within the residential communities. This position must work collaboratively with the Faculty in Residence (FiRs) and Residential Commons Affiliates (faculty and staff), Academic Affairs, and other departments to create vibrant residential communities that support student learning and academic success. Additionally, the Director of Academic Initiatives will examine the impact of academic initiatives within the residential communities.

Essential Functions:

  • Academic Initiatives

    Coordinate the search process for new Faculty in Residence. Assist in coordinating the FiR selection and annual performance evaluation processes. Serve as the day-to-day supervisor of 11 FiRs. Train and onboard new Faculty in Residence. Conduct offboarding and exit interviews for FiRs ending their appointments.

    Facilitate monthly FiR meetings for supervision, goal setting, and best practice sharing. Liaison with the Office of Housing Operations, facilities, parking, dining, and other entities to support the quality of life of FiRs and their families.

    Provide support in the development of academic programs; including, but not limited to defining and identifying goals, soliciting and providing feedback, and developing strategies to enhance academic programs in residential communities.

    Assist the Dean of RLSH and the Director of Residence Life in developing, implementing, and evaluating community development requirements and initiatives, particularly as it relates to the Residential Commons. Facilitate and strengthen a Residential Commons Affiliate Program that contributes to academic engagement within residential communities.

    Advance understanding of the residential college model, philosophy, and Residential Commons pillars at SMU. Present, develop resources and establish policies in conjunction with the Dean of RLSH.
  • Collaborations

    Provide support to FIRs and Residential Commons Directors (RCDs) in their efforts to plan and provide academic support and enhancement initiatives for residents.

    Work collaboratively with academic affairs, university departments, and other offices to identify opportunities to integrate academic programs within the residential communities. Support key collaborations such as Engage Dallas and SMU in Four.

    Serve or lead unit, divisional, and campus-wide committees, and taskforces. Assist with early warning initiatives and response in conjunction with campus programs and initiatives.

    Serve as primary contact for academic interventions for first and second-year students, including targeted student populations. Implement strategies to create support for transfer students and first-year commuter students affiliated with a Residential Commons. Develop, implement and assess a recognition program for residential students and staff who excel academically.

    Coordinate all advising/academic support services offered by other departments that are provided within RLSH facilities and assist with coordinating class scheduling for residential classroom spaces.
  • Essential Research, Assessment, & Reporting

    Develop long-range strategic planning for all academic initiatives within the Residential Commons and Upper-Division Housing. Lead the development, assessment, and write-up of RLSH's Division of Student Affairs annual report.

    Coordinate quarterly reports to the Board of Trustees and other required reporting. Run reports to aid the decision-making of the unit.

    Supervise and conceptualize original, empirical research of an interdisciplinary research team focused on residential life and student success.
  • Supervision & Budget

    Supervise the Associate Director for High-Impact Practices, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications, and a Graduate Assistant for Assessment, Research, & Planning. Indirectly oversee RLSH's investments in Engage Dallas, peer leadership programs, marketing, and communications to prospective and current residents, families, and other constituents. Lead weekly staff meetings.

    Develop, administer, and reconcile academic initiatives budgets. Approve expense reports, perform journal entries, and monitor expenses. Perform other duties as assigned.


Education and Experience:

Master's degree in College Student Personnel, Higher Education/Student Affairs or another related field is required.

Five to seven years of full-time post-master's degree work experience in a directly related/relevant field is required.

Excellent knowledge of student development theory and practices is required.

Proficiency in Microsoft Office (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook) is required.

Three years previous experience (post master's degree) working with academic initiatives, living learning communities, and student engagement programs in university residential communities is preferred.

Strong preference will be given to candidates with proven success working with college faculty and living learning programs.

Experience managing budgets is preferred.

Strong work ethic and an ability to multi-task and work comfortably in a fast paced and highly dynamic student centered environment is required.

Experience in supervising and advising professional and/or graduate level staff is required.

Leadership experience, including the ability to work effectively with staff, students and other key stakeholders, inside and outside of Student Affairs is strongly preferred.

Demonstrated commitment to cultural competence is highly preferred.

Demonstrated skills in crisis management is strongly preferred.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

Must have excellent interpersonal, verbal, written, & listening communication skills is required, including the ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of constituencies in a diverse community.

Candidate must have the ability to build relationships and work collaboratively with others, both inside and outside of Student Affairs.

Candidate must demonstrate leadership ability & the ability to work effectively with staff, students and other key stakeholders.

Must have excellent problem solving, analytical and critical thinking skills.

Candidate must have excellent strategic, organizational, project management, and time management skills. Must have proven short and long-term planning skills, with the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously.

Candidate must have excellent attention to detail and accountability.

Must be proficient in Microsoft Office (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook).

Experienced with Tableau and StarRez is essential.

Must be willing & able to work occasional evening and weekend hours to support staff and faculty events.

Physical and Environmental Demands:
  • Sit for long periods of time
  • Carry/lift 25 lbs.
  • Must be able to drive motorized equipment
Deadline to Apply:

This position is open until filled.

EEO Statement:

SMU will not discriminate in any program or activity on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. The Executive Director for Access and Equity/Title IX Coordinator is designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies and may be reached at the Perkins Administration Building, Room 204, 6425 Boaz Lane, Dallas, TX 75205, 214-768-3601,


SMU offers staff a broad, competitive array of health and related benefits. In addition to traditional benefits such as health, dental, and vision plans, SMU offers a wide range of wellness programs to help attract, support, and retain our employees whose work continues to make SMU an outstanding education and research institution.

SMU is committed to providing an array of retirement programs that benefit and protect you and your family throughout your working years at SMU and, if you meet SMU's retirement eligibility criteria, during your retirement years after you leave SMU.

The value of learning at SMU isn't just about preparing our students for the future. Employees have access to a wide variety of professional and personal development opportunities, including tuition benefits.

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