5Q with incoming Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Nauman Farooqi
1- What are you looking forward to most about your one-year term as Dean of Social Sciences, beginning July 1, and what do you hope to accomplish?
I look at the University as a community with different communities inside of it. In another role a few years ago I did a service stint for the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) on the negotiating team and I enjoyed the experience; I learned a lot. In a similar vein, I look at this as a service opportunity to contribute to another part of the University. My own take is that all of us together are one unit and we need to move in the same direction. Just like in a family, we have different takes on ideas and opinions, but families move together, they decide on a plan, and they execute it. I am looking at it as an opportunity to move the agenda forward.
I understand it is only a one-year assignment, so I think there has to be a process of defining a short-term plan that everyone is on board with and then moving in a positive direction as a community. What that direction is, I don’t know yet. Ideally what I would like to see is that whatever is accomplished in the short term contributes in some shape or form to the overall longer-term growth and progress of the Faculty of Social Sciences and the University. I think it is better to listen than to say something first. Overall I am thinking more connection within the Faculty and with the other Faculties of the University, celebrating the achievements of our students and faculty members, and trying to find opportunities in which we can link different disciplines together. That is one of the main strengths of a liberal arts university.
Our students are now more digital and communications savvy and I think we can change the format to make it really interesting and engaging for the students. Content is important and academic rigour is important, but I firmly believe that instead of the traditional ‘push’ methodology, which is a lecture and assignments, that it should be more of a ‘pull,’ where students are pulling the information out. That’s the way I look at the courses I teach.
2- You are the academic advisor for Enactus Mount Allison and you teach entrepreneurship. Why do you believe these entrepreneurial skills are important for students?
The way I Iook at entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial education is that it is not just for students who are looking to become entrepreneurs. My philosophy is that the whole framework of an entrepreneurial education is a mindset and how you solve problems, how you think on your feet, how you engage with a problem and come up with a creative way of making a decision. I think those skills — people skills, communications skills, work ethic — are hallmarks of a good entrepreneur. If you are able to embody those characteristics, leverage those traits, and encourage those in students, they are a valuable skill-set irrespective of whether a student is going to become an entrepreneur, get into public service, corporate sector environment, or the social sector. The whole idea behind experiential learning is to empower the students to take charge of their learning and there are different ways and means of doing that; one size doesn’t fit all.
3- What are you working on now in your research?
I was working on a three-year, $150,000 hawala (informal money transfer system) project. As always happens in research, we found another area of interest from that project. I am now working with a few other professors in Dubai and Qatar on another three-year, $174,000 grant through the Qatar National Research Foundation in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries because that’s where a lot of the informal money transfer business takes place — in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, etc. We are looking at the element of trust in the informal money transfer networks, as there is no documentation.
4- What are your hobbies outside of work?
I love to find out how things work or D-I-Y. I also love reading about cars and in the good old days I liked to fix cars. My pet project, if I can ever get to it, is to buy an old car and fix it up.
5- What are you most proud of during your 16 years at Mount Allison?
I think that what I am really proud of is the opportunity to work with some brilliant students and see them become successful. I see their success as my success. I had a student get into MIT and it was as if I got into MIT. I want our students to see more of the successes of our alumni, so they know they can someday compete for these jobs too.