Professor Rathna N. Koman
A guiding hand
Rathna Koman has practiced law as a partner in a firm for close to a decade, but now sees herself as a partner of a very different sort—one who walks alongside her students as they navigate the undulating and oft-unforgiving path of intellectual and emotional development.
“My hand is there for them to hold if they need it,” says Rathna, who teaches criminal law and advocacy. “There’s a huge leap from [junior] college to university… and it’s very tough for students in the first year to adjust.”
The solution, argues Rathna, is to imbue students with the confidence they need to participate actively in class. That’s where the value of SMU’s smaller class sizes and interactive pedagogy become clearly evident: “I’ve always believed that learning is enhanced in a smaller classroom… when you’re in a lecture, it’s very difficult to ask questions, particularly in the first year which is most important because you learn by asking questions.”
Rathna nurtures her students’ potential to think out of the box by creating a safe learning environment where all questions are entertained, and no one is ridiculed. She extends this beyond the classroom by maintaining an open door policy with her students, with the promise that everyone can speak freely in her presence.
During lessons, Rathna is no stranger to employing innovative teaching methods to aid in students’ understanding and retention of the subject matter, for which she has won numerous awards at both the university and school levels.
“Everyone is taken in by cartoons. So I was toying with the idea of using cartoons as a teaching aid,” explains Rathna, highlighting the approach that she has become best known for. She teamed up with SMU’s Centre for Teaching Excellence to animate a real-life legal case, and the resultant cartoon was an instant hit with students.
“Cartoons have a very simple way of getting across the message,” says Rathna. “[Students said that they] learnt the case in a way which they’d never done before… It stuck to their minds so well that they never forgot the facts and the legal principles.”
While a sharp intellect is indubitably needed to read law, Rathna assures prospective students that they needn’t shoulder the pressures of varsity life on their own.
“Try whatever you can, and where you can’t, we will be there to assist. But where you can, we can only commend you.”
Come experience Rathna’s teaching for yourself, and Discover a Different U.