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Here to help: Yasko Sugai’s dedication to students earns her a Staff Achievement Award
Students’ interactions with front-line staff and faculty have a major impact on their experience at SFU. But for every staff member that a student sees, there are many more quietly working behind the scenes. One such person is Yasko Sugai, recipient of a 2020 Staff Achievement Award for Student Services.
Sugai’s job title is Records Assistant, but it doesn’t fully capture the work that she does in Student Services. For many people at SFU, she is the key point of contact in Undergraduate Records, the unit that keeps a detailed account of each student’s journey from enrollment to graduation. It’s absolutely crucial that these records are accurate and up to date, and in an organization as large and complex as SFU, with tens of thousands of students with unique situations, that process can be very complicated.
When something goes wrong with a student’s records, Sugai is often the one to sort it out. Though she rarely works directly with students, the impact that her work has on them is always top of mind. “Everything is always urgent,” she says, “students don’t see the volume of other work that staff are dealing with, but you have to put yourself in their shoes, and be compassionate.”
During her time at SFU, she has amassed a wealth of institutional knowledge of complex university policies, faculties and programs; and back-end processes that help her ensure that students in complex and unusual situations do not fall through the cracks.
Her colleagues value her ability to break down these processes in ways that others can understand, proactively spot issues that might arise, and to suggest solutions to students’ problems that are compassionate and fair. But Sugai stresses that this is a team effort, that she is always working collaboratively with her colleagues to find the best possible outcomes for students.
As SFU transitions toward in-person classes and services this fall, Sugai is looking forward to spending more time on campus. She’s found that it’s harder to train and support new staff while working remotely, and she’s missed the informal check-ins that help keep people connected.
She’s also really looking forward to seeing students return to Burnaby campus. “It’s so invigorating being around young people,” she says. “Students are the heartbeat of the university. Coming to SFU is an achievement for them and it’s not always easy. We should approach in such a way that they feel we’re here to help. That’s very important to me.”