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A deep breath, a deeper understanding

Apr 25, 2022

Len Fehr, King's writing success coordinator, meets students where they're at
Len Fehr, King's writing success coordinator, meets students where they're at

Writing and academics didn’t always come easily to Len Fehr, King’s writing success coordinator.

As an undergraduate student at a large public university, Fehr struggled to keep up in his studies. There were no accommodations in those days for students struggling with disabilities, and that included Fehr, who at the time was legally blind.

"At one point, a professor came up to me and suggested quite frankly that I wasn’t university material,” he says. “That’s the sort of thing that sticks with you."

And it did. Fehr dropped out. After an agonizing two years filled with stress and anxiety, he felt there was no other option.

Fehr moved on to a successful career, spending 15 years at Environment Canada, and another 10 years working in the private sector, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t finished with university. So, in the fall of 2009, Fehr attended his first day of classes as an English student at King's.

His transcript provided transfer credit from his time in university 20 years prior but also forced him to begin the year on academic probation.

"At the beginning, my confidence was shaky. Those familiar feelings of inadequacy came rushing back one day in the library, but I found the support I needed to succeed as an adult student."

Fehr credits his supportive professors and a great cohort of classmates at King’s for his success in turning his academic career around. After graduating in 2012, Fehr went on to complete his master's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University in England.

Each day, between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., Fehr meets with students at various stages of their academic journey. They may be ESL students struggling with English language and expression, those needing a nudge to take that next step in thinking critically, or a student at any stage hoping to increase their mastery of the material … and their GPA.

It can be a challenge determining the first steps to take with a student, but it’s never difficult for Fehr to empathize.

"Every now and then a student comes in anxious, and stressed, and scared; I say, 'Just breathe, we’ll figure it out, we’ll get through this.'" Fehr's aim is student success. He doesn’t want to see students with a desire to learn and grow miss becoming the person they were called to be.

"There are moments when you’re explaining how literature works and you watch a student move from the surface to the depths of the content. That’s exciting. The first time they realize a short story is more than 15 minutes wasted, or when a student starts coming up with great insights and ideas and I have a hard time keeping up with them—that's a lot of fun."

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