Pulling back from the brink

November 1, 2007

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By Diane Luckow

Each semester, approximately two percent of undergraduate students receive the dreaded letter from SFU telling them they are Required to Withdraw. They are the students on academic probation whose last semester and cumulative grade-point-averages are below 2.0 (a C average).

"These are generally capable people who, for whatever reason, stumble and fall," explains Nancy Johnston, director of student learning and retention. "It could be for transitional reasons—they’re from small towns or out of country and moved into residence or they have mismanaged their time or they’ve experienced a personal crisis."

This semester, however, a trial group of international and applied science students has been given a reprieve—if they participate in a pilot called the Student Success program.

"It’s a customized learning program developed just for them," explains Johnston. "They work with a counsellor, a learning specialist and a faculty advisor to figure out why they failed, whether they’re taking the right courses and how to find support."

"A lot of students on academic probation remain in denial and hope it just goes away," adds Rummana Khan Hemani (left), director of academic advising and student success. "At the very time they should be seeking support, they avoid it."

In an effort to keep these students in school, the student learning and retention division, in conjunction with the student learning commons and health and counselling, created the success-program pilot, with a hoped-for enrolment of 100 students. In fact, the pilot attracted 126 students.

"They’re afraid, demoralized and their self-esteem has taken a major hit," says Khan Hemani, who oversees the program with manager Annette Santos. "But given the opportunity most are interested in coming back and finishing, even if it means a commitment to address underlying issues. We have high hopes that these students will succeed at SFU."

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