six visiting egyptian faculty sit on enchanted rock in austin

Egyptian Faculty Develop Skills at UT To Better Their Own Institutions

  • Oct 11, 2019
  • Jenan Taha

To help her all-female department grow and become self-sufficient, Assistant Lecturer Sahar of Al-Azhar University in Cairo applied to the Fulbright Junior Faculty Development Program to improve her teaching and administrative skills. 

The 10-week program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by AMIDEAST, invites faculty members from around the world to learn from and build connections with U.S. universities. This summer, Texas Global hosted six renewable energy and engineering junior faculty from Egypt, including Sahar, an assistant lecturer of architectural engineering. 

“I'm going to be promoted to be a lecturer very soon, and I thought it would be perfect to participate in this program at this stage of my career,” Sahar said. “I taught for several years but I didn't get a chance to learn more about teaching methods, especially how to engage the class. This can be a very positive thing for the students and help them in their success, so all these things I hope to take back home to my university.” 

As the first Ph.D. holder in the women’s architectural engineering department, Sahar learned the critical skills needed to support her classes independently. The 1000-year-old Al-Azhar University's engineering school, previously open only to men, recently opened an engineering branch for women on a separate campus. Sahar was one of the first to teach in the new branch and she is committed to improving resources for her students. 

Sahar stands on a cliff overlooking the river in Austin, Texas

“In the past, we used to have only an engineering school for boys,” she said. “We started with only two departments—architecture and computer science—but because it was recently started, all of the support we got was from the boy’s branch. We're still getting the support from the boy’s branch but in the near future I hope that we will be independent and have our own structure.”

During the program, Sahar and her cohort studied teaching methods, research tactics and other important academic skills throughout the summer. As she will soon have to design and teach her own course, she said she wanted to learn as many skills as possible. 

Her experience in the program not only gave her vital teaching and research skills, but also led her to develop connections with other faculty in her cohort like Mohamed, an assistant professor at Pharos University in Alexandria, Egypt.

Mohamed, who specializes in communications technology, applied to the Fulbright program after teaching and doing research at his university for several years. Mohamed said he hopes to use the skills he learned to improve the way students engage in class. 

“You must try to stimulate students’ thinking and put yourself in their place,” he said. “You must engage students more and more and think about them. We must try to change this concept and not just stay in our own box.”

Mohamed said he quickly made strong connections with his fellow Fulbright faculty, and they spent nearly all their free time touring different Texas sites together.

“Before, we didn't know each other and we came from different universities and we're even different ages, but I think all that vanished and we became friends (through) our activities we did together,” Mohamed said. “I don't think this will end with the end of this program; I think it'll last for a long time.” 

mohamed stands next to longhorns in texas

 He says the team at Texas Global were committed to helping him and his cohort get the most out of Texas during their time here.

 “I felt that people are very dedicated at Texas Global,” Mohamed said. “They were very eager and put in a lot of effort and passion.”

 After working with and meeting people from all different backgrounds in Austin, he believes the best way to learn about other cultures is to get to know people in other countries.

 “I think one of the most interesting things a person can do in his life is travel,” Mohamed said. “If somebody has the opportunity to travel and see new places and meet new people, I think you should not hesitate to do that. It's a life-changing experience. I'm not the same person from two months ago.”

Learn more about specialized programs and opportunities available at the University of Texas through Global Customized Programs.