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Rummana Khan Hemani

2007 staff achievement awards: Rummana Khan Hemani

May 1, 2008

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Each year, SFU’s staff achievement awards highlight the exceptional personal and work-related accomplishments of staff members. In this issue, SFU News features the innovation award winner Rummana Khan Hemani, director of academic advising and student success.

Rummana Khan Hemani clearly remembers the academic distress she experienced during her first university semester, despite earning good grades in high school. And she’s made it her mission to smooth that transition for others.

As SFU’s director of academic advising and student success, Khan Hemani is in charge of helping students in academic difficulties. She also ensures that all newly admitted students and those who have not yet declared a major have access to academic advising.

"It’s a big responsibility involving a huge group of students," she says, noting that last fall semester 1,750 SFU students were on academic probation and 7,550 had not yet declared a major.

Since assuming her current job two years ago, Khan Hemani has introduced several strategies that have doubled academic advising services to students.

But its SFU’s new Student Success program that earned her the 2007 Staff Achievement award for innovation. Khan Hemani, in collaboration with the Student Learning Commons, Health & Counselling Services, and other contributors designed and executed the two-semester pilot program — aimed at international students and applied-science students who have been required to withdraw (RTW) — in just seven months.

The early results of the intensive, often one-on-one program "are very promising," says Khan Hemani. Some 73 per cent of students in the pilot project improved their cumulative grade-point average (CGPA) in the first semester. "These students had all been on academic probation and didn’t improve, which is why they were required to withdraw," she adds.

And since only 25 per cent of students required to withdraw in the past 10 years have ever returned to SFU, Khan Hemani is hopeful Student Success will significantly improve long-term student retention rates.

Khan Hemani earned her BBA at SFU in 1990 and immediately joined SFU student services, rising from financial aid advisor to admissions recruiter, associate director and acting director before taking the helm as director. Her job is "hugely rewarding," she says. "The work I do has a positive impact on students and you can see it immediately. I see a lot of opportunities ahead for the kind of work we’re doing. And that’s exciting."

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