My soul in Academia

Reflection on the Soul of Academia

As the last assignment for the BC4DCP course on 29 August 2021 (Sunday), we were asked by Prof. Ts. Rose Alinda Alias ​​to share our reflections and plans on the topic of the talk entitled Academic Soul.

Prof. Ts. Rose Alinda Alias stated that in the process of achieving the KPIs, the soul of academia is always left behind by scholars. KPI is created to understand the performance of scholars so that they can make critical adjustments in scholars execution to achieve the university’s strategic goals. Knowing and measuring the right KPIs will help scholars achieve results faster. However, what happens now is that the scholars felt ‘empty’ despite all the successes. This hollow excellence will result in unsatisfactory success throughout the scholars’ careers. Thus, the meaning of academia should be refined by scholars on what is the true purpose of being in academia. To me, the purpose of academia is to seek truth and new knowledge that enhance social development through effective teaching and learning. To quote William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This indicates that the education purpose has less to do with material pursuits than igniting the spirit of humanity in students so that they can be held accountable as responsible citizens of the world. Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas said that “Man is like a Kingdom i.e a state. He governs his soul, heart, and his intellect acts as an agent. The senses are their departments. But if the soul is perverse, the government is corrupt”.

Soar high in academia without losing my ground

I plan to soar high in academia by building a foundation of my soul with sincerity and integrity. Academic integrity means putting those values into practice by being honest in the academic work scholar do at university, being fair to others, and taking responsibility for teaching and learning.  My philosophy in terms of teaching is based on the proposition that all students are unique and different. All students must be educated with absolute equality, regardless of their intellectual ability, race, gender, and age. One of the important roles in my teaching is having interaction with students. I will try to help them to understand the relevant topic. This method can be implemented by caring for and knowing the status and background of the students. With this, it can help me understand students and in turn, I can help them to learn better. I will try my best to know the names of my students and know a little about their interests. With this knowledge, I will be able to figure out how to motivate my students accurately and plan my teaching techniques in a more engaging method.

Besides that, in my opinion, teaching is a learning experience. Teaching is a process of learning, not only from our students, but also from colleagues, parents, and the community. This is a lifelong process where I can learn new strategies, philosophies, and ideas. I learned that each student has their own story, and therefore, I have to be more flexible in my teaching methodology and approach to overcome their differences. I learned that by observing their behavior, I could gain knowledge about their personalities. I also learned that by being aware of their personality differences, I will be able to make the class more fun by involving more students in my class activities.

My goal as a lecturer is to help my students grow as critical thinkers. I would like my students to gain the ability to always ask questions and to discover logic and facts in everything which I believe are effective ways to comprehend any subject. Besides, logical thinking is an essential problem-solving skill that I want my students to develop not just for problem-based engineering-related subjects, but, also for their real-life experiences. I will approach this goal by encouraging more independence, creativity, and thinking in my class through innovative projects. Moreover, by creating projects, I will strive to motivate my students to look beyond tests or exams. I will conduct and construct class activities and assignments that oblige my students to explore new ways of thinking about the topics of my lecture.

Online Seminar Series 6: Topic on Utilities Design by Mrs. Norlizayani binti Mohamad Akhir from PETRONAS.

In terms of research, I aimed to collaborate with other universities from all over the world. My target is to have collaborations with other universities in the same field of study. Currently, I have made close collaborations with various researchers from:

  1. Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Malaysia
  2. Universiti Terengganu Malaysia (UMT), Malaysia
  3. Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UNIMAP), Malaysia
  4. Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Malaysia
  5. Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTEM)
  6. Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Malaysia
  7. Technical University of Liberec Czech Republic
  8. National Textile University, Faisalabad, Pakistan
  9. Andalas University, Padang, Indonesia
  10. University of Mataram West Nusa Tenggara Indonesia, Indonesia
  11. University of Jember, Indonesia
  12. Politeknik Pertanian Payakumbuh, Indonesia
  13. King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok, Thailand
  14. Kalasalingam Academy of Research and Education, India
  15. Universidade Estadual de Londrina, Brazil
  16. University of Gambia, Gambia
  17. University of Mataram, Indonesia
  18. Universiti of Padjadjaran, Indonesia
  19. Mahatma Gandhi University, India
  20. Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), United Kingdom
  21. Seoul National University, South Korea
  22. Supméca Institute of Mechanics of Paris, France
I will be the Chairman of this international conference. Collaboration between other universities is a must.

By making good collaborations I am able to know how they apply their research findings to the industry and community. Besides that, I can maximize the outputs by combining expertise and resources, which can be used to answer bigger and more complex scientific questions and expand the breadth of my research, especially in the composite field. Besides that, it can maximize the impact of the research conducted, attract more funding, expand networking, and opportunities to learn new skills, gain new perspectives, and join stimulating discussions with experts in my field or complementary fields. To me, it is all about gaining more knowledge and experience and transfer this knowledge to the students, community, and industries. I will keep sharing new ideas or technology with my students so that the class would be more attractive without neglecting the values ​​of humanity. Besides that, I used to invite other lecturers from different universities, especially from overseas to share their ideas and innovations with my students. Thus, the students may get different perspectives of view in the subject they are learning.

For the community, I joined Persatuan Pembangunan dan Industri Enau Malaysia, through this society we managed to bridge the gap between sugar palm farmers and academicians. We organized a program in Kampung Kuala Jempol, Negeri Sembilan in April 2019, which was the Seminar Enau Kebangsaan and Hari Terbuka Persatuan Pembangunan dan Industri Enau. Through this event, we managed to get support and attention from the government to nurturing the sugar palm as one of the commodity plantations in Malaysia. Before this, the sugar palm farmer in Malaysia only harvest palm sugar from the tree and the trees were burned when the tree cannot produce any more palm sugar. Thus, our team conducted research to investigate other potential products development from the same tree. Thus, we came out with additional 11 products, such as palm sugar, broom, brush, roof, brush for cleaning bottle, rope, fiber, starch, sugar block, sugar palm fruit, vinegar, fine sugar, and liquid sugar. Through this, the sugar palm farmers can generate their income and upgrade their status of living.

The quest in search of knowledge is never-ending and has always been close to my heart. I hope this will keep me grounded when I am successful in my career. Hopefully my journey can inspire someone to pursue their dreams and not be held back by social constructs.

Open Day Persatuan Pembangunan dan Industri Enau Malaysia, Kg. Kuala Jempol, Negeri Sembilan.
Demonstration of making rope from sugar palm fiber.
11 products from sugar palm tree.