How well do you know your Professors as a “person”? I bet there are some mind-blowing facts about them that we may fail to acknowledge as it takes more than just “transactional” conversations to understand people as a whole. In the celebration of Vietnamese Teacher’s Day, I am glad to have a cozy chat with Professor Zarrin Siddiqui from College of Health and Sciences. This office hour is one of the best ones I have so far not because it enlightened me on particular subjects but simply because I felt a deep human connection and her sharing traversed gently through every bit of my cells.
How do you usually start your day?
I would kick off my day with a cup of tea, enjoy “the calm before the storm” upon checking emails, catching up with global news, and running through the schedule of the day. The highlight of my day often links to interactions with students as I learn a lot from their insightful questions that encourage me to rummage for answers.
What led you to pursue a career in the education field and come to VinUniversity - a very young university?
As a person who loves talking to people and having a great impact on their life, I believe education is a powerful tool to convey my expertise to the community effectively. Besides, I am also an advocate for human rights, one of which is education because I aspire to pay it forward by empowering young minds to follow their ambitions. Being the founding head of the Medical Doctor Program, I see a lot of potential in VinUniversity to develop a top-notch curriculum in this field since I am given a blank canvas to sketch, draw, paint, and adjust according to students’ response.
Can you share some of your interests besides your professional life?
I really enjoy writing, especially making up stories out of mundane incidents. Storytelling is a form of art assisting me in terms of delivering knowledge in an engaging and enticing manner. Students often greatly resonate with stories from personal experience; therefore, I always try to conduct my lectures under the format of video clips and real cases.
How do you balance your work life with your personal life?
I think it is crucial to set boundaries for work time and freetime. As for me, I make it clear that weekends are dedicated to my own interests and I will not reply to work-related emails during this time.
What are some core values that matter to you?
“Integrity” - to never compromise distorted acts. As an educator, my teaching philosophy is based around the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly. This is an internal process and only we can facilitate this transformation.
Wearing too many hats, have you ever felt discouraged to continue with what you are involved in and what kept you going?
The passion and thorough understanding of my work’s impact tremendously motivate me to manage the tasks. I am often asked how to do this on top of teaching four courses. My response is that’s what the leaders do and if you are able to delegate and develop a great team, it is easy. Furthermore, I am lucky to have supportive colleagues and students who never cease to inspire me.
Are there any assumptions that people often have about you?
People would not think that I am sociable as they hardly see me around campus hanging out with students or other lecturers at Fresh Garden or lunchtime. However, that is because as a Muslim, I have different dietary choices and rarely partake in casual events.
Can you share some of your thoughts or feelings about Vietnamese Teachers’ Day?
I am very surprised at how Vietnamese Teacher’s Day is celebrated in such a dedicated way as in many other parts of the world, they do not usually put great significance on this occasion. I think Vietnamese students, especially VinUnians, respect and show gratitude to their teachers consistently. It also encourages me to send thankful messages to my professors back in Pakistan who are the reasons behind my success. During Covid, the support from students was overwhelming and I could not resist to write a piece for the journal https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0142159X.2021.1881465
Is there any advice that you want to give to your younger self?
Dare to do things out of your comfort zone as you can unlock a lot of potential and learn immensely despite unavoidable failure and hardship. Failure is part of the process, and it is better to try and fail rather than to regret not trying. What matters is how one emerges from the failure.
Huge thanks to Professor Zarrin Siddiqui for this insightful conversation. On behalf of VinUnians, I would love to demonstrate our gratitude to each and every Dean, Faculty, and Staff for being part of our college life and supporting us tremendously!
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