AACSB Celebrates International Volunteer Day by Sharing Volunteer Voices
Posted December 04, 2017 by Lee Davidson
- Editor, Digital Content - AACSB International
December 5 marks International Volunteers Day, and because AACSB is an organization largely supported by the many and varied contributions of volunteers around the world, we wanted to share the stories of some of our volunteers. They discuss their motivations for volunteering, how they got started, and what volunteering for AACSB has meant to them.
Rihab Mohd Osman Khalifa, Director, Emirates Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (EILOA), United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates
My experience of volunteering with AASCB, from Vienna to New Delhi and Berlin to Beirut, created a happy congruence of my desire to be of service to the academy, as well as enabled me to reap the non-pecuniary benefits of volunteering.
Having grown up in the developing country of Sudan, obtaining my first degree from Ahfad University for Women, and finding myself later as I obtained my doctorate among an elite group of researchers, at schools such as the University of Manchester, London School of Economics, and Warwick Business School, I often questioned how much benefit my research focus has given to¬ the community at large. Because research was a prime focus for my career, to an extent it limited the scope of my engagement with the academy to the typical attendance at academic conferences where relevance to community was not the prime focus. As I moved to the United Arab Emirates University, my involvement with accreditation efforts at the business school, as well as my directorship of the Emirates Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, taught me a great deal about the many aspects of accreditation and piqued my interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities.
My AACSB volunteering began by attending a volunteer training session at an AACSB conference. The session demonstrated to me how seriously AASCB takes the training of new volunteers. After I completed the training, I was invited to initially co-facilitate some Assurance of Learning Seminars, as well speak at a couple of AACSB conferences. It was only then that I learned I was the first Arabic-speaking woman to act as a volunteer for AACSB. It meant a lot to me to be recognized as the first Arabic-speaking woman mentor for AACSB and serve the academy by guiding business schools through their accreditation applications.
Central to my volunteering experience was the support and professionalism of AACSB staff who managed the entire experience from the point of contacting me, to the hands-on management of the seminar, to the organizing of post-event activities. Now, when the time for the seminar comes, I am free to focus on delivering the content and addressing the specific concerns of participants.
Through volunteering I found a new and different voice that engaged me in diverse and challenging contexts. Furthermore, I met like-minded colleagues who shared my passion for high-quality education and student learning combined with a desire to create more synergies between the academy and the community. I am very grateful to the colleagues from whom I have been able to learn on those occasions.
Julie Perrin-Halot, Associate Dean and Director, Quality, Strategy and International, Grenoble Ecole de Management, France
I am what one might describe as an unwaveringly enthusiastic volunteer for AACSB. Not only do I think it is important that AACSB recognize its volunteers through stories like these, but I also believe we, as volunteers, should take advantage of this opportunity to recognize the rich and rewarding experience we are offered through engagement in our various activities.
I discovered volunteering for AACSB in January 2013. Despite all the preparation, online classes, and workshops I went through to ensure readiness for my mission, initiation only really happened by way of my first mentor visit. Where I think we reach a certain level of comfort with the standards after years of applying them within our own schools, I found that suddenly being confronted with completely different contexts—institutional, regulatory, procedural, cultural—was both a humbling and highly motivating challenge. This manifested most the moment I stood up in a roomful of academic and professional staff who were looking at me as though I actually knew what I was talking about in regard to the standards, the accreditation process, and my recommendations for moving forward together. In that moment I became so acutely aware that they were counting on me, the “expert,” to accompany them from point A to point B and to help untie any knots we encountered in between.
Fortunately for all involved, it turned out that I did know what I was talking about; and yet, I am quite certain that I learned as much from them as they did from me. And beyond that, I developed friendships that still exist today.
It has been a few years since that first mentor visit, and I’ve since had the pleasure of mentoring at a number of schools and of broadening the scope of my volunteering activities with AACSB, including facilitating seminars and planning and speaking at conferences, among others.
It is mentoring, however, that continues to challenge my assumptions and remind me each time I work with a new school that there are many excellent ways of accomplishing the same goals. It also has reinforced my belief that the work in support of continuous improvement, while grounded in organizational practices, is fundamentally linked to organizational culture and the way each school gives meaning and motivation to their staff. As mentors, we build upon these efforts and help to federate around the pursuit of excellence in its many different forms.
Fortunately, I don’t feel quite so nervous now when I arrive at an institution for the first time to present, but I have realized that I never stop learning from each school and from the individuals who make them what they are. This is where I have found such value in the role of a volunteer. Being able to participate in the journey a school undertakes to reach accreditation is for me a gift. Accreditation, as I have witnessed again and again, can be such a positive force for growth and change, and the people carrying it within institutions never cease to surprise me in their motivation, devotion, and ability to rally people around this common objective. This has been my own fantastic form of professional and personal development.
But volunteering is not only the experiences had within the institutions we work with, it is also the greater community in which we interact. There is a real art to bringing people into a community as volunteers and giving them a sense of belonging and of value, especially as most volunteers have demanding jobs outside of the activity. I believe this a real strength at AACSB. The interaction with staff, with other volunteers, and with schools has continued to be an extremely positive experience. I am very fortunate to be a part of the circle of volunteers, one that I hope will continue to grow, and I thank AACSB for allowing me this opportunity.
Qasim Zureigat, Sulaiman AlRajhi Colleges, School of Business, Saudi Arabia
When I first received an email from AACSB requesting my help in mentoring a business school pursuing accreditation, it seemed at first like just a new task to be added it to my calendar. I asked myself, what value could such a task bring me that requires committing significant time and effort to traveling, back-and-forth communicating, and reading and writing complex documents? Looking back at the accreditation journey that we just finished at my school and remembering how our mentor helped us to continuously improve our academic and strategic process, I accepted this task, knowing it would lead me down a new path where I could connect with people in other schools experiencing different challenges, in environments outside of my own, and with unique opportunities for innovation. At that point I realized I would be engaging in an educational experience of my own in which I could learn about others, explore new situations, engage with international academic peers, and stay updated on accreditation issues.
Holding volunteer positions at AACSB member schools and with AACSB events and conferences has brought value to me personally as well as to my business school by helping me gain an understanding of how other academicians think about their business schools and innovations, and how academic directors in different parts of the world lead their organizations and people.
In one regard, I felt very pleased when I first guided a business school through setting an achievable and measurable mission and then through establishing faculty qualifications and research impact matrices; I felt I was helping the 3,000 students at that school, and moreover their families who looked forward to the students successfully earning their degrees, which in turn would enable them to help financially support their families. But further, I found that my boss and colleagues were coming to my office every time I came back from an AACSB volunteer trip to ask about new ideas that each of them could implement in his or her daily and strategic operations. These takeaways gave me the answer to my initial question of what value such volunteering efforts would give me in return. The ability to help students, families, and peers was reward enough in itself.
Reflecting back on my experiences, I can easily say that the AACSB volunteering experience has brought a great sense of achievement and pride to me.
We thank Rihab, Julie, and Qasim for sharing their stories, as well as all of AACSB’s volunteers for their hard work, dedication, and sheer desire to learn from and give back to the business education community! These are the people who help bring meaning to the term goodwill.
If you are interested in becoming an AACSB volunteer, visit the Exchange Volunteer Portal to complete your profile and learn about ongoing volunteer opportunities.