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:

Based on TEDTalks from the world’s most remarkable minds, the TED Radio Hour is a podcast co-produced by NPR and TED that take listeners on a journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, and new ways to think and create. TEDTalks Based on TEDTalks from the world’s most remarkable minds, the TED Radio Hour is a podcast co-produced by NPR and TED that take listeners on a journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, and new ways to think and create.

The TED Radio Hour  was created and is hosted by editorial director Guy Raz, who is similarly involved two other popular NPR programs: How I Built This and Wow In The World. The show is fastest-growing NPR radio program in history and the third most-downloaded podcast in the United States. Common questions asked (and answered) include “Why do we have the capacity to imagine?” “What animates us?” “What does it mean to live in the Anthropocene?”

In this episode, Press Play, TED speakers describe how forms of amusement — from tossing a ball to video games — can make us smarter, saner and more collaborative. It was originally broadcast on March 27, 2015.

Guests include:

  • Neuroscientist Jeff Mogil who reveals how playing a game can make you more empathetic.
  • Comedian Charlie Todd who explains how his group, Improv Everywhere, creates moments of urban whimsy to bring people together.
  • Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play in California, who says humor, games, roughhousing, and fantasy are more than just fun.
  • Primatologist Isabel Behncke Izquierdo who explains how bonobos learn by constantly playing, and how that play can offer insights into human laughter, creativity and our capacity for wonder and exploration.
  • Researcher Jane McGonigal, a researcher of games and Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future, who says virtual games can improve our real lives.

I am proud to announce that I have been selected by Education Influence as one of the education influencers in the United Arab Emirates.  I join the ranks of one hundred other professionals around the world in a virtual collaborative community of practice. If you are you a parent, teacher or school in UAE needing guidance on education, I am in an ideal position to be of service to you.

Founded by Gavin McCormack, principal at Farmhouse Montessori School, Education Influence is a non-profit community of practice that connects teachers from all walks of life to resources, courses, and each other to bring about educational change on a global scale. The organization acknowledges those who are making innovations in the classroom and beyond to provide a network of highly accomplished teachers who can pave the way for others.

Each country has a highly skilled representative willing to go that extra mile to bring high quality education to those who need it. All influencers have access to a huge database of resources for teachers and schools. Educators need help, assistance, and resources; we want them to get answers. Equality in education for everyone is the greatest gift we can offer the future of the world; together we can make this dream a reality. If you need help or you know someone who does, please contact your nearest influencer.

The organization just launched a robust website to provide teachers, schools and parents a place to find support and help. As teachers we are all striving for the best foundations for the children in our care, but do we all have the resources to make this happen? We do now! Many months were spent building the site so that others can find assistance easily. When you visit the website, you can:

There is a revolution happening in the field of education and Education Influence is here to help make positive change happen. The organization unites teachers, schools and parents from all corners of the earth to find resources, advice and support as they strive for equality in education.

I invite you to join us on this journey and encourage you to visit EducationInfluence.com for free teaching information, advice, and resources!

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:

According to a quote attributed to Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Given that my personal motto is “learn continuously, live generatively,” teaching and training are a fitting profession for me: I learn something every day about myself, the people in my life, the world in which I live, and the subjects in which I am interested.

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Learning isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding intrinsically. It is for that reason that, when asked why teaching is my tenure, I explain, “I embrace education as my profession because it empowers me to help shape the lives of others, while giving my own life greater meaning.”

Occasionally, however, teaching is extrinsically rewarding as well: On Thursday, February 23, 2017 it was announced that I had won the “College of Business Administration (COBA) Program Development Award” for the 2015 to 2016 school year at the American University in the Emirates (AUE).

Notably, I was personally selected to receive this award by Professor Muthanna G. Abdul Razzaq, President and CEO of the American University in the Emirates (AUE).

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Reasons for my having been chosen for this honor include:

  • Contributing my editing, writing, and organizational abilities to COBA’s accreditation efforts with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
  • Designing “INV 300, Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” a new compulsory undergraduate course in compliance with Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) requirements.
  • Developing the syllabus for a proposed new Mobile Marketing course for our MBA program.
  • Editing a 300 page report for the reaccreditation of College of the Business Administration (COBA) with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA).
  • Enhancing my classes with interactive exercises, class discussions, and worksheets that challenge students to actively engage the course curriculum.
  • Launching two university level guest speaker series, “The Business of Marketing” and “Management Matters,” — and inviting other speakers to my COBA classes.
  • Managing large undergraduate classes of up to 49 students efficiently and effectively.
  • Reviewing and revising syllabi for undergraduate management and marketing courses every semester to ensure they present the most current and useful information.
  • Suggesting improvements to COBA policies and procedures, along with overall enhancements to the student experience.

I am thankful to have received such an honor and am grateful for the opportunity to have made the above contributions to AUE, COBA, and, most of all, my students.

Yesterday, as the world remembered the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986, I reflected about the impact it — and the entire Space Shuttle program — had on my life. I also wondered to what degree it has influenced the direction my life has taken.

Certainly, the January 27, 1967 death of the Apollo 1 crew and the February 1, 2003 loss of Space Shuttle Columbia also impacted me, but the Challenger disaster has affected me more. I think it had a lot to do with my age at the time and the context in which the events unfolded.

STS-51-L-Patch.svgJust 73 seconds into its flight Challenger disintegrated, taking with it seven STS-51L crew members:  Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, and, most poignantly for me, Christa McAuliffe.

That morning I was in the “early bird session” of my 6th grade class when a classmate burst in shouting about what happened. Since he was a bit of a troublemaker nobody believed him at first.

I still wish it was another one of his jokes.

Aside from it being my first “where were you when?” moment, I was going to give a speech about Christa McAuliffe. She had planned to present six recorded lessons (plus two live lessons from space) for elementary kids like me.  How cool was that, right? I felt like I was a part of this Space Shuttle mission; not just watching it.

Due to the circumstances, I was permitted to change my topic, and instead discussed the events that transpired; I think it was a means of coping to some degree. This was the days before YouTube and digital devices, so I remember recreating the “Challenger, go with throttle up” command.

Fortunately, the curriculum for those recorded and live lessons were reconstructed by NASA in 2007 for Barbara Morgan — McAuliffe’s backup.

Morgan was about to fly aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour (which launched into orbit for STS-118 on August 7, 2007), and wanted to perform some of McAuliffe’s lessons. Her role was different than McAuliffe’s however; she was trained as a full fledged member of the crew, with teaching as one small part of her role. According to an article on Biography.com:

Aboard Endeavour, she was load master, responsible for the 5,000 pounds of supplies that was transferred to the station. She also operated the shuttle and station robotic arms during three planned spacewalks. On the seventh day of the mission, she was scheduled to participate in an educational interactive video broadcast with students gathered at the Discovery Center of Idaho in Boise. Morgan planned to teach some of the same lessons that McAuliffe was supposed to teach more than 20 years previous, as part of a wider curriculum.

Video of Morgan aboard Endeavour with Scott Kelly —  who is currently the Commander of the International Space Station on a one year mission — follows:

Using archival footage, notes and whatever documents that could be found, NASA reassembled the lesson plans and made them available in a PDF document titled “Challenger’s Lost Lessons.”

Below is a  summary of McAuliffe’s planned recorded lessons; they are explained further in the article “Christa McAuliffe’s ‘Lost Challenger Lessons’: Photos.”

  • Hydroponics: demonstrate a closed environment in which you could grow plants in microgravity.
  • Magnetism: show how magnetism works in space using a compass, a bar magnet, and a container full of iron fillings. Watch a video of McAuliffe demonstrating this lesson prior to the launch.
  • Newton’s Law of Motion: explain Newton’s laws of motion, especially the 3rd law where an action causes an equal and opposite reaction.
  • Bubbles (Effervescence): demonstrate how microgravity affects bubbles.
  • Chromatography: put ink on a piece of paper, hang it up, add water, then watch the water dissolve the ink.
  • Simple Machines: answer the question: “What are the applications in space for simple machines like the wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, wedge, and pulley?”

The two planned live lessons were:

  • The Ultimate Field Trip: a tour of the Space Shuttle, asking students to think about living and learning aboard the Space Shuttle.
  • Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going, Why? This lesson was designed to: 1. explain some advantages and disadvantages of manufacturing in a microgravity environment; 2. describe spinoffs and other benefits which have evolved from the space program; 3. list ways in which the modular Space Station would change the lives of human beings.

Despite the tragic loss of Challenger, McAuliffe’s lessons lived on (in part) through Barbara Morgan’s historic trip on Endeavour. The innovation and determination both displayed inspired countless lives, including mine. While I don’t teach science, I was indirectly influenced to become an educator by McAuliffe and the Space Shuttle program.