Campus leader

Campus leader

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Through involvement, future teacher Naveen Khan found a family—and her calling —at Rowan

Rowan University’s Glassboro campus feels like a giant hug to Naveen Khan.

“I feel like I belong,” says Khan. “I’ve never been happier than when I am on campus. Anyone can be a Prof.”

But not everyone makes being a Prof an art form. Through her classes, her work on campus, her involvement in a plethora of Rowan activities and events, and her leadership, Khan might very well be the Picasso of Prof pride.

That’s saying something considering that Khan transferred to Rowan just two years ago and is a commuter student—albeit one who spends as many as 14 hours a day in Glassboro.

“I like to go to bed at night thinking, ‘Wow. I’ve done all of these things today.’ I like that aching, tired feeling where I earned that sleep,” says Khan, who accepted her degree in early childhood education cum laude from Rowan’s College of Education on Wednesday, May 10. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with specializations in history and Spanish and a concentration in international studies from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences

“My involvement at Rowan happened very naturally. I started going to different events and hanging out in the student center. Then, I started planning my day around clubs,” says Khan, who is assistant vice president of student affairs for the Student Government Association (SGA), a main office assistant at the Rowan Rec Center, and formerly worked as an information desk assistant in the Chamberlain Student Center.

A leader and mentor

Additionally, she mentored freshmen in the Dr. Harley E. Flack Student Mentoring Program, was a coach for the Academic Success Center, a senator for the Muslim Student Association and a peer tutor in the Writing Center.

Moreover, she has been active in a host of on-campus leadership endeavors, including a leadership retreat and training session with the Office of Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution (SJICR), attending an Inclusion Leadership Conference at Temple University, and participating in a Student Leadership Panel for first-year students.

Not surprisingly, one of the aspiring elementary school teacher’s favorite areas of Rowan involvement has been the Early Childhood Demonstration Center, Rowan’s on-campus preschool. Soon after transferring to Rowan from Camden County College, where she earned her associate’s degree in elementary/secondary education in 2015, Khan began volunteering at the center.

“She spent her time with the kids foregoing pay in order to enhance her own experiences and give back to the College of Education,” says Zeynep Isik-Ercan, a professor of interdisciplinary and inclusive education and coordinator of the early childhood education program.

The following semester, Khan earned a grant through Rowan’s All About ME (Meaningful Employment) program, which gave her the chance to serve as the center’s intern. She still kept returning to volunteer for additional hours.

“The children are angels,” Khan swoons. “They’re so full of curiosity and love.”

Embracing diversity

A Muslim student, Khan wears a hijab and freely spoke to the children about it.

“I make a whole lesson about it. I tell them people can choose how they want to dress and I choose to cover my hair,” says Khan, who also read the book I Wear My Hijab Every Day to the children, removing the book's references to religion.

Khan is hopeful having early exposure to a Muslim teacher will help her students be more open to diversity. She readily, happily answers their questions.

“One day at a field placement in Millville I was sitting on the floor with the children and a girl came up to me and said, ‘Do you have ears?’ and she pinched my ear and moved it to see if it was actually there,” Khan laughs. “And then she said, ‘You do!’ and went off to play. Their fascination at that age is just amazing.”

Nearly trilingual—she speaks English and is nearly fluent in Urdu and Spanish—Khan completed her student teaching in a first-grade classroom at Pennsauken’s Burling Elementary School. Though she began her academic career as an engineering major at Rutgers University-Camden—“I didn’t make it to Thanksgiving,” she says—Khan quickly found her way to teaching.

“When I was in first grade, I used to pretend I was a first-grade teacher,” says Khan, who wrote 20 lesson plans a week during student teaching. “I love teaching social studies and science.”

‘They have the odds against them from the day they were born’

She’s drawn to special education and has applied to the graduate program in special education at Rowan.

“They have the odds against them from the day they were born,” she says of children with special needs. “If I can provide any kind of support in the classroom, that’s going to make the biggest difference in my life. I love kids and if I can help them, I’m absolutely going to do it.”

She can easily envision her future classroom.

“In my classroom, I’m going to have soft instrumental music playing. The classroom will have a nice flow to it. A perfect day will be then I can reach every student on some level,” she says.

“I love the curiosity of the children. I love how loving they are, how generous.”

Khan thrives in the classroom, says Isik-Ercan, who observed Khan teaching in classrooms as part of her coursework.

“She engages her students well,” says Isik-Ercan, praising Khan’s gift for collaboration, her ambition and her humility. “Naveen can be crazy and funny and funky with them, but, also, quiet and focused. She’s very creative and she’ll create a good classroom community that will foster social-emotional development in her students. We need many more teachers like her.”

Friendly, caring and funny, Khan’s ability to connect with others is one of her gifts, says Gary Baker, assistant director of Greek Affairs.

Enthusiastic, energetic, caring

“She’s a relational leader,” says Baker, who worked with Khan when he was assistant director of Orientation and Student Leadership Programs. “Her genuineness puts people at ease and helps her be successful.”

Khan doesn’t play sports and team rivalries make little sense to her. Yet, she’s a valued member of the Rec Center team and helps create a welcoming environment for everyone who enters the building, says Melanie Alverio, assistant director of marketing and member services. Her first semester with the center, Khan received the Core Values Award, given to an employee dedicated to student development, quality, service and relationships.

“Naveen’s customer service is awesome. She’s very enthusiastic, energetic and caring. She’s able to find a connection with everyone,” Alverio says.

Her Rec Center work has taught her a tremendous amount about leadership and mentorship, says Khan, who received the Thurgood Marshall Outstanding Student Leader Award presented by SJICR. She also earned the Outstanding Student Leader Award from Leadership Rowan.

“I strive to be like the Rec Center staff—personally and professionally. They’re amazing role models—very loving, very easy going. They give me solid, real-world advice and they have an amazing sense of style,” says Khan, who even got into the act of the Rec Center’s yearly “Santa calls” to young children during the holidays, portraying a spirited elf named Winky.

Khan has been offered a graduate assistantship with the Office of Service Learning, Volunteerism, Community Engagement and Commuter Services. She’s excited to continue her Rowan work…and leadership.

“To me, leadership is very much teaching,” says Khan, who will organize student volunteer and service learning projects while also serving commuter students—a cause exceedingly close to her heart.

“With this position, I can keep working within most of the same departments that I do now while also broadening my horizons,” she says. “I love volunteering and giving back.”