“Disability is in fact the inability to make progress and achievements. The achievements that people of determination have made in various spheres over the past years are proof that determination and strong will can do the impossible and encourage people to counter challenges and difficult circumstances while firmly achieving their goals.”

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

On Sunday, October 6, 2019 I engaged my tolerance and diversity students at the American University in the Emirates (AUE) in an exercise about disability which I adapted from an activity from my Bryan School of Business & Economics at UNCG PhD orientation program in July 2019.

In the exercise, which was designed to simulate communication and confusion within an organization, there are typically three roles (I added a fourth to facilitate the exercise in my classroom):

  1. The CEO (who can see, but not talk).
  2. The Manager (who can talk, but cannot see).
  3. The Employee (who is blindfolded).
  4. The Goalie (who holds an object that will be retrieved or interacted with; in this case, it was a service bell you would find on a desk).

The participants are situated as follows:

  • The CEO is facing the manager and the employee (who is placed at some point behind the manager).
  • The manager is directly in front of the CEO, facing him or her with their back to the employee.
  • The employee is behind the manager, blindfolded, but able to move freely in response to instructions from the manager to find it.
  • The Goalie is positioned somewhere in the room; either in a fixed location or is instructed to move at will.

Ideally, the CEO and the manager will develop a way to communicate with each other; the manager also needs to think about how to translate the CEO’s nonverbal communication to the employee. This gets especially confusing when the issue of who’s left or right comes into play. The employee is blindfolded and must listen to the voice of the manager to know where and how to move.

When I participated in this exercise as part of the orientation program for my PhD in Business Administration at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, I was outdoors with my 17 cohort members at the university’s Piney Lake recreational area. We conducted this experiment with several teams going at the same time, creating further confusion and misunderstanding.

In my tolerance and diversity class, we conducted the exercise twice with two different sets of students (who volunteered and agreed to allow themselves to be video recorded).  Both versions are included in this video, one after the other. For the first group the Goalie did not move and remained in the same position; for the second group I instructed the Goalie to move evasively as the Employee got closer to her — thus creating further confusion and frustration.

Following the exercise, we discussed what the experience was like for those who participated (and later, for those in the class who were observing). We then bridged that exercise into a conversation about individuals with disabilities in the workplace or at our university. Students shared their experiences either as an individual with a disability or their interactions with people of determination in their personal or professional lives.

After this, I introduced an article analysis assignment of a Harvard Business Review article titled, “The Case for Improving Work for People with Disabilities Goes Way Beyond Compliance.” The assignment asked them to do three things:

  1. Summarize the main idea of the article.
  2. Identify and Paraphrase the four ways a company can create a culture of support and inclusion.
  3. Propose how you can personally create a culture of support and inclusion in your organization.

During our next class we then discussed their insights and ideas from the article while engaging in a thoughtful dialogue about the topic.

On Tuesday, September 24, 2019 I gave the first public presentation of my Dr. Seuss style poem “The Ball and The Wall: A Tale of Tolerance,” to my Tolerance and Diversity class at the American University in the Emirates (AUE).

The poem shares the story of a grandfather who, while fishing with his grandson, uses an unexpected encounter to tackle a teachable moment concerning compassion for others in addition to accepting people with different perspectives.

In invite you to watch a slightly edited version below (via YouTube) of the original Facebook Live video I broadcast while performing the poem; you can watch the original recording here.

I was first inspired to write this poem during the last meeting of my History 4C class at UC Santa Barbara in March 1996. At the conclusion of the class, the professor, Harold Marcuse, PhD, invited his teaching assistants to share any closing remarks. My teaching assistant, Kimber M. Quinney, PhD, asked us all to imagine that a large ball was floating over the lecture hall in the Isla Vista Theater (where the lectures for our class took place).

Encouraging us to accept that people have different perspectives, she explained how one side saw that the ball was red and the other side of the class saw that the ball was blue. Moving forward she asked us to accept that a perception that was not the same as our wasn’t necessarily better or worse, but that it was just different, and that was perfectly acceptable.

That last lesson stuck with me and marinated in my mind until 2003 when I wrote the first draft of what would become “The Ball and The Wall.” It has undergone edits and updates since, and will likely continue to be refined, but overall the intent and the idea are intact. It is my plan to publish this as an illustrated children’s book — for adults.

I hope you enjoy this spoken word performance and welcome any ideas it might inspire!

Time flies when you’re having fun — or at least when you’re blogging, right?

Image by profivideos from Pixabay

It was on this day in 2007 — September 19 — that I launched this blog, Doctorious, with my first post, “Welcome to Doctorious!” This anniversary is unique in that it is the first during which I finally find myself enrolled in a doctoral program that fulfills my December 2008 “PhD-Day” declaration.

Despite having a desire to pursue doctoral studies since embracing my scholarly side during my MBA program, professional concerns and personal challenges twice delayed my dreams. My personal challenges began in 2006 and have, thankfully, started to subside.

The first interruption to my doctoral education occurred in April 2007 after I completed two semesters in an EdD program in Organizational Leadership at Pepperdine University. My doctoral journey was again diverted after starting a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems at Fielding Graduate University during the fall of 2007. Interestingly, this blog was launched during my New Student Orientation at Fielding.

Despite my many challenges, I never lost sight of my dream to earn a doctorate; it has always been the one goal that keeps me focused and positive — even during the darkest of days. My circumstances led me to explore the expat option which has been my life since 2014.

Living and teaching in Dubai provided me with the readiness, resolve, and resources to earn my doctorate. In Dubai I was further fortunate to find my fiancée, Sylvia, in Dubai; her support and sensibility is the foundation of my faith and fortitude. Living and teaching in Dubai provided me with the readiness, resilience, resolve, and resources to earn my doctorate.

Notably, it was through my affiliation with the American University in the Emirates that I learned about the PhD in Business Administration offered by the Bryan School of Business and Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in which I am now enrolled. I have long searched for a PhD that was credible, affordable, and flexible — and this program is perfect in every way!

Designed to prepare students for an academic career at a major college or university, this 60-hour, research-focused, cohort-based program provides a broad overview of all areas of business, while also customizing their area of focus on strategy, international business, or organizational behavior. Impressively, this is the first — and only — AACSB-accredited online PhD Program in Business Administration.

I plan to conduct my research under the guidance of the expert faculty at UNC Greensboro to ascertain the significance of education in preparing entrepreneurs to conquer challenges that they will face in the future and to design strategies that enable them to do so. While most existing literature seeks to understand how and why entrepreneurs innovate, it has often neglected the role of education and the significance of the environment in which entrepreneurs operate.

In the long-term, the economic growth of a region depends largely on whether the students of today are properly prepared to develop innovative solutions for the future. It inspires me to consider that my doctoral research might contribute to the success of UAE’s efforts to establish itself as a hub of innovation, not just in the region, but worldwide.

Langston Hughes, in his powerful poem, “Harlem,” asks “what happens to a dream deferred?” Fortunately, my determination during the previous decade resulted in a reversal of fortune; I am now finally ready to resume – and, more importantly complete – my doctoral journey.

Previous posts celebrating an anniversary of this blog include:

“Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don’t be mean; we don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” — The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Four years ago today — on September 8, 2014 — I stepped off a United Airlines 777 at Dubai International Airport (DXB) and took the first step on my journey as an expat in the United Arab Emirates. The 1,461 days since have been filled with exponential personal development as I have continuously challenged myself to be a better version of me. Not every lesson has been successful; some took several tries to get right and others are still a work in progress.

Nevertheless, I am progressing personally and learning to reframe a challenging situation. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have plans to improve my present state, but it means I work towards achieving them while embracing the “art of possibility.”

Being in Dubai has also allowed me to develop professionally in ways that would not have been possible in the United States. After teaching marketing and management classes for the past three years in the College of Business Administration at the American University in the Emirates, the start of this academic year marks my shift into the College of Education. I will now teach five sections of the following three courses:

  • HAP 200, Happiness Studies
  • INV 300,  Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • TOL 200, Tolerance and Diversity

In related news, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education selected me as one of 30 educators from a pool of more than 400 applicants to join “Cohort 3” of the “UAE Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program.” The program provides curriculum, programs, and networks to equip the next generation of UAE leaders with an innovation and entrepreneurship mindset to ensure the country’s ongoing economic achievement (this is directly linked to the INV 300,  Innovation and Entrepreneurship course I am now teaching).  It also included an educational visit to Stanford University this past July 10 to 13, 2018 for specialized training in design thinking, the conceptual foundation of the initiative.

Unfortunately, while being overseas opens opportunities that were not possible for me in the United States, it minimizes the time I can spend with my two amazing sons, Jacob and Max. Despite being far from my sons physically, they are always close to my heart. It is my sincere hope that one day I can make amends for my physical absence in their lives. For now, I make enthusiastic efforts to participate in their lives virtually while maximizing the moments we can share physically.

Overall, I remain grateful for my expat experiences in Dubai. I also look forward to the future with optimism and excitement, despite not being fully clear about what it has in store for me.

If you want to learn more about my expat adventure, I suggest the following posts:

Innovation is the engine of opportunity. At its core is a commitment to experiential learning that encourages critical thinking and creative problem-solving while also engaging soft skills.

uae_innovates_qrThis mindset is fundamental to the future of the United Arab Emirates. So much so that, it is part of the ‘United in Knowledge’ pillar of Vision 2021 which focuses on innovative Emiratis building a competitive economy.

Emphasizing it’s importance, H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum explained, “Innovation is not an option, but a necessity. It is not a culture, but work style, and governments and companies that do not innovate risk losing their competitiveness and falling far behind.”

Having taught INV 300, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the American University in the Emirates since 2018, I am fortunate to actively participate in this process. In support of my engagement in entrepreneurship education, on May 31, 2018 I was selected as one of 30 educators from a pool of more than 400 by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education to join “Cohort 3″ of the “UAE Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education Program.”

Some background on the program:

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What is design thinking?  According to Coe Leta Stafford, Managing Director of IDEO U, “design thinking is a process for creative problem solving.” Fundamentally human-centric, it encourages organizations to focus on their customers first; this leads to the development of human-centered goods, services, and processes.

Design thinking is about solving problems for people by asking questions differently. Essentially, it provides a pathway through which you can improve your creative process — and turn an idea into action.  The entire design thinking process is comprised of five stages: 1. Empathize, 2. Define, 3. Ideate, 4. Prototype, 5. Test.

According to the Stanford d.school publication. “An Introduction to Design Thinking: PROCESS GUIDE,” the five stages of the design thinking process can be explained as follows:

1. Empathize: Learn about the audience for whom you are designing. Empathy is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process; it is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge. It is your effort to understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about world, and what is meaningful to them.

2. Define: Construct a point of view that is based on user needs and insights. The Define mode of the design process is all about bringing clarity and focus to the design space. It is your chance, and responsibility, as a design thinker to define the challenge you are taking on, based on what you have learned about your user and about the context. After becoming an instant-expert on the subject and gaining invaluable empathy for the person you are designing for, this stage is about making sense of the widespread information you have gathered. In a word, the Define mode is sensemaking.

Ideate: Brainstorm and come up with creative solutions. Ideate is the mode of the design process in which you concentrate on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes. Ideation provides both the fuel and also the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.

3. Prototype: Build a representation of one or more of your ideas to show to others.The Prototype mode is the iterative generation of artifacts intended to answer questions that get you closer to your final solution. In the early stages of a project that question may be broad – such as “do my users enjoy cooking in a competitive manner?”

In these early stages, you should create low-resolution prototypes that are quick and cheap to make (think minutes and cents) but can elicit useful feedback from users and colleagues. In later stages both your prototype and question may get a little more refined. For example, you may create a later stage prototype for the cooking project that aims to find out: “do my users enjoy cooking with voice commands or visual commands”.

A prototype can be anything that a user can interact with – be it a wall of post-it notes, a gadget you put together, a role-playing activity, or even a storyboard. Ideally you bias toward something a user can experience. Walking someone through a scenario with a storyboard is good, but having them role-play through a physical environment that you have created will likely bring out more emotions and responses from that person.

4. Test: Return to your original user group and testing your ideas for feedback. Test mode is when you solicit feedback about your prototypes from your users and have another opportunity to gain empathy for the people you are designing for.

Testing is another opportunity to understand your user, but unlike your initial empathy mode, you have now likely done more framing of the problem and created prototypes to test. Both these things tend to focus the interaction with users, but don’t reduce your “testing” work to asking whether or not people like your solution. Instead, continue to ask “Why?”, and focus on what you can learn about the person and the problem as well as your potential solutions.

Ideally you can test within a real context of the user’s life. For a physical object, ask people to take it with them and use it within their normal routines. For an experience, try to create a scenario in a location that would capture the real situation. If testing a prototype is not possible, frame a more realistic situation by having users take on a role or task when approaching your prototype. A rule of thumb: always prototype as if you know you’re right, but test as if you know you’re wrong—testing is the chance to refine your solutions and make them better.

To further understand design thinking I invite you to view the following video, “The Design Thinking Process;” it cleverly and clearly explains the five stages in just under four minutes.

The main priority of the Year 3 project is to ensure the sustainability of the innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum in the UAE, with an additional focus on developing a core group of Program Ambassadors to deepen the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship education in the UAE. Year 3 program components are organized into 3 categories:

  1. Create and Develop an I&E Curriculum
  2. Support the Teaching of the I&E Curriculum
  3. Facilitate the Growth of the I&E Ecosystem

It is my honor to represent the American University in the Emirates as a pivotal part of this initiative and I am excited to contribute to innovation and entrepreneurship educational efforts in the UAE!

It’s  rewarding to get recognized for your role in education.

Case in point: I was selected by Maggie Williams to step into the June 2018 “Spotlight” of Chief Learning Officer Middle East. The Spotlight is a short interview completed virtually, face to face and can be written or video.

Through this profile I was invited to share my insights into education with the Chief Learning Officer Middle East community of educators, learning and development professionals, and human resources practitioners. 

Presented in question and answer format, I  addressed each of the following inquiries:

  • How would you describe the culture of your business?
  • What are the biggest challenges in the next 5 years?
  • What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the region’s talent requirements?
  • What is your Philosophy?
  • What’s next on your agenda?
  • How can people connect with me?

Of the seven questions above, the one I found most interesting was the second one: What are the biggest challenges in the next 5 years? My answer to that question follows:

I envision three big challenges facing higher education and corporate training in the next five years; they are broad in scope, but specific in application and can be characterized as: pedagogical, practical, and portable.

The first, pedagogical, means that all learning activities should be anchored to educational objectives; these provide parameters for the development of curriculum and metrics against which assessments can be measured. As educational offerings continue to embrace entertainment, it is essential to ensure there is still value to that experience.

The second, practical, acknowledges that learning should be useful and applicable to the real world; it might not be immediately actionable, but it should be relatable to the learners taking the course. Giving a nod to the influx of entertainment in learning, learning should leverage all technology and tools to make it as engaging and entertaining as possible — without sacrificing the integrity of the instruction.

The last challenge, portable, speaks to increased use of mobile devices as delivery devices. At the most basic level educational offerings should be developed using responsive design principles to ensure their accessibility on as many devices as possible. Ideally, learning modules will be specifically designed for mobile devices via customized apps, technology, or tools. Consideration should also be given to making content available offline and for users with low-bandwidth connections.

Do you agree — or disagree — with my predictions?

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I am proud to serve as advisor for the Future Business Leaders Society at the American University in the Emirates (AUE) with dedicated and determined students like Noura (President), Alyaa, Wali, and Omar (Vice President). Impressed with their business proposal for a “VIP Valet” service at the university they presented during a Student Showcase on April 18, 2018.

On Monday, March 12, 2018 I presented “Using Technology in Teaching” to my fellow College of Business Administration (COBA) faculty members at the American University in the Emirates (AUE) as part of our “COBA Scientific Session” Series.

I presented three types of cloud-based tools useful for teaching in three categories: admin, document, and media with live demonstrations of selected tools, as follows:

Admin Tools

Document Tools

Media Tools

View the Google Slides presentation I prepared and presented for this workshop at http://bit.ly/UsingTechnologyInTeachingSlides. You can also watch the video on my Facebook page or watch it on YouTube. Or you can watch the video below:

Today I celebrated my 44th birthday filled with gratitude.

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There are many different definitions for the word gratitude, both traditional dictionary interpretations and more advanced explorations from the field of positive psychology. One that feels especially insightful is offered in a Harvard Medical School article titled “In Praise of Gratitude,” which explains it as follows:

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness… Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

I have overcome a great many emotional, financial, and physical challenges in the past dozen years. I am nowhere near where I planned to be at this stage in my life; some days it’s hard not to feel frustrated with what I’ve lost and what I’ve missed. However, I am actively rebuilding my life and resetting myself on a course that will lead me to a better version of myself. Gratitude is a key concept to my achieving this goal.

As I’ve gotten older I focus less on celebrating my annual journey around the sun with things than I do with people who matter most in my life. I am fortunate that, through my expat experience, I have found true love with my fiancée, Sylvia. Through her loving guidance and sincere support I am finding faith. This has empowered me to appreciate what I have and to not dwell on what I don’t.

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With her I have discovered that, sometimes, even a simple prayer of thanks before a meal can  help me see things in a more positive perspective. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have plans to improve my present state, but it means I work towards achieving them while embracing the “art of possibility.”

I am also grateful for my two amazing sons, Jacob and Max; they are both uniquely talented musicians and incomparably exceptional individuals. I am proud of their ability to overcome developmental and physical obstacles with which they have dealt. My love for them knows no bounds; they are my anchor and my inspiration.

Unfortunately, being overseas opens opportunities for me that are not possible in the United States, it minimizes the time I can spend with my sons. This is the biggest Catch-22 of my being abroad: I am better positioned to help them while being very far from them.

I find myself frustrated that I am unable to live the lesson I learned from my maternal grandfather, Papa, “spending time with someone special is worth more than anything that person could purchase for you.” But after repeatedly trying to make ends meet while doing what I loved in the United States fell through I looked abroad for a way to meet my personal obligations while pursuing my professional aspirations.

Despite being far from my sons physically, they are always close to my heart. If I had one birthday wish it is for them to understand the myriad personal and professional reasons why I relocated. I realize that might be harder to do now, but it is my sincere hope that one day I can make amends. For now, I make enthusiastic efforts to participate in their lives virtually while maximizing the moments we can share physically.

Nothing can make up for not being “there” in person, but I pray their hearts remain open to my love and their spirits stay strong during my absence. I look forward to a time when we can celebrate our birthdays — and our everydays — together again. Time stands still for no man (or his sons) and, as I experience my “children growing up, old friends growing older,” I hope too much experience doesn’t slip away.

I recognize that life is about love; each day I strive to create more of it for others and make the most of it for myself. It is my intent to make sure the love I take is equal to the love I make. I don’t always succeed, but I try my best. Every day I plan to be better than I was the day before — for myself, for my loved ones, and for my God.

We all have a limited time in life to make the most of ourselves and do the most good for those we love. To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” I am endeavoring to overcome my past failures while focusing forward on emerging opportunities. All the while I am trying to live in the moment and remain grateful for all that I have.

I suppose that’s how the circle of life is meant to spin, right Simba?