Leadership has to be built through practical experience that transcends beyond the capacity of any textbook
Dr. Md. Golam Samdani Fakir is the Vice-Chancellor of Green University of Bangladesh (GUB). He was Director BRAC Training Division. He served as the Pro-Vice Chancellor and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) in BRAC University and visiting Professor of SIT Graduate Institute, Vermont, Brattleboro, USA. Dr Samdani Fakir was the co-founder of Global Partnership Program and served as Academic Chair for the courses offered under the partnership. He was the facilitator of BRAC University Initiative for Learning and Development (BUILD) program.
You have been the director of various university leadership programs in Bangladesh. What are the challenges when creating new educators or leader?
In 1995, when I was working as Director of BRAC Training Division, we realized that the leading NGOs in Bangladesh were suffering from what is known as founding Executive Director Syndrome. By this syndrome, I mean to say that the founding leaders did not have an idea about who would succeed them to lead the entity. The challenge was to make it interesting and interactive; there was a need to merge course knowledge with interactive applications. To address this issue we developed a postgraduate Diploma Program for NGO Leadership and Management and Master in International and Intercultural Management which were conducted till 2003. The NGO professionals from 35 countries of the world attended this program. The program was closed when BRAC University started offering course on Master in Development Studies in 2003.
When I joined BRAC University in 2009 as Pro-Vice Chancellor, my experience was that teachers who were joining in the tertiary level universities had no idea regarding teaching procedures. The general perception is that they are the top tier of their class therefore they have all the knowledge to teach and require no type of training. In Bangladesh we have 92 private universities, 38 public universities but only one Graduate Training Institute associated with Mymensingh Agricultural University of Bangladesh has been offering training courses for the teachers. In Green University we have established Center of Excellence for Teaching and Learning and offering certificate courses for the newly recruited teachers.
What is the common perception of the youth in the regards to being a leader? How is education changing this perception?
Our students have the ability and required potential to become a leader however they lack the vision of what kind of future they would like to create. It is the teaching system that needs to make them a visionary. They need to fulfill three criteria, they need to be academically competent and they also need non-academic competence. In terms of non-academic competence, they must know where they are value driven and they must demonstrate competency in communication skills, fluency in both Bangla and English, effectiveness in problem solving and decision making and they must be socially responsive citizens of the country. It is the responsibility of the university to prepare them to acquire those competencies; the university along with academic courses should emphasis on extracurricular activities for the students.
You greatly emphasize the need for extracurricular activity. What are some of the extracurricular activities offered in Green University?
We have created 17 clubs on different areas, our Center for Career Development is offering professional life skills development programs for the graduating students and which are mandatory. It is our belief that these tools are essential for our students to learn these skills and build their confidence. The program teaches students to prepare their resume, present themselves in the job market, face interviews and tackle the challenges of an actual working scenario. Our clubs offer everything from sports, humanitarian activity to debate. We want to instill confidence through activities that they excel in. For example, we have created the Moot Court Society for students who study law. The club is catered to teach them how to articulate themselves during different types of cases, a skill that is essential in their vocation. Our Debating club has been instrumental for strengthening analytical skills of the students. Senior student of the university are involved through student mentorship program to provide mentorship support to the fresh students in every semester. GUB has also undertaken a special Program known Green University Initiative for Future Transformers (GIFT) for the mid level undergraduate students to develop their leadership skills. Leadership has to be built through practical experience that transcends beyond the capacity of any textbook.
How has your extensive research helped you develop programs such as BUILD that trains future leaders?
BUILD was raised when I was with BRAC and BRAC University with one question in mind in which way BRAC University would be different from other private universities (in 2001 Bangladesh only had 8 private universities). It was observed that there is a lack of strategic thinking programs for learning and development. We conducted research from various universities to find what else must be added to the curriculum in order for students to meet society’s needs.
Here, in Green University we have created the Center for Research, Innovation and Transformation (CRIT) for promoting research culture among the faculties and students. We offer advanced research methodology courses for our faculties so that they are innovative and apply new knowledge with the progress in time. We are also continuously educating through our Center of Excellence for Teaching and Learning (CETL) our teachers for ensuring interactive and collaborative teaching and learning.
Are you creating any new programs or courses that you will direct in the future?
Last year on 4th May, we organized a consultative workshop to discuss the emerging needs of professional capacity development of teachers those who are joining in teaching profession at the university level. The Vice-Chancellors and Pro –Vice Chancellors from 25 universities attended this consultative workshop and came out with an idea to create a platform, named Foundation for Learning, Teaching and Research (fLTR) through which we could address needs of professional development of teachers in Bangladesh. I am currently working as a Secretary from Green University of Bangladesh (GUB) for this foundation. The other founding members involved with fLTR are Vice- Chancellors of University of Asia Pacific, BRAC University, Independent University of Bangladesh, United International University, Eastern University, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Daffodil International University and Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology. The official registration for the Foundation for Learning Teaching and Research (FLTR) is in progress. We are planning to offer several types of certificate courses in teaching learning and research.
You have served as a professor abroad. How are they effectively teaching leadership skills? What can we acquire from them to make our dynamic better?
They have certain environmental facilities that we do not provide. They have tremendous opportunities in order to apply the knowledge from their education into their prospective occupational life. While I was teaching (SIT Graduate Institute) a course on strategic management that helps them prepares a strategic plan to implement growth of a company/organization. We asked the students to go to the local organization and ask them for permission to create a strategic plan for their organizations. In groups of four, they were to convince executive directors of these companies and ask them if they would purchase a strategic plan (if they find it useful for their organizations) prepared by the group. At the end of the semester, they were required to present this strategic plan to the faculty and the respective director. The director’s acceptance of the plan would determine whether the group would pass or fail the course. Our students have immense potential and our faculties need to nurture them in the right way. Teachers must give their students an environment that helps them build their confidence and find ways to increase the scope for practical experience.
What can programs such as Global Partnership offer to academics? How did it help your academic career?
The program created for managers and leaders. The idea was that we needed a more comprehensive program that is beyond a 1 or 2 weeks short training courses. The program involved four months of course work and three months of practical work to apply that knowledge to develop a professional practicum. They were required to work with an organization to indentify, diagnose and find solutions for the problems within. These program not only offer theoretical information and solutions, it allows student to apply it. We had two teachers for each course, one was a practitioner and another one was an academician for ensuring more life and practical oriented learning. This allows for students to acquire relevant knowledge, case studies, and the application of practical experience.