Diverse Perspectives, Inclusive Future: Prof. Rana Sobh’s Approach to Education

Prof. Rana Sobh
Prof. Rana Sobh

Qatar University’s College of Business and Economics is a vibrant hub where academic prowess meets global perspective. Nestled within these corridors is a leader whose journey is marked by transformative experiences and a commitment to fostering an enriching educational environment. Prof. Rana Sobh is an inspiration for purpose-driven excellence and resilience in the landscape of higher education leadership.

As the Dean of the College of Business and Economics, Prof. Rana’s leadership is distinguished by a holistic approach integrating insights from diverse academic engagements. Her philosophy transcends routine teaching methodologies, embracing dynamic strategies inspired by faculty research. The infusion of purpose into students’ learning journeys is not just a theoretical concept—it’s a commitment that yields tangible improvements in student outcomes.

Beyond the academic realm, Prof. Rana’s commitment to diversity and inclusion transforms the college into a microcosm of global perspectives. Her advocacy for diverse hiring practices and the establishment of a committee for diversity and inclusion demonstrates a leadership style that goes beyond educational realms impacting the broader community.

Let’s dive into the leadership philosophy based on resilience navigating challenges with a sense of tranquility and perspective!

Beyond the Title

As the Dean of the College of Business and Economics, Prof. Rana sees her role as more than just a title. “It fills me with immense fulfillment,” she says. Her focus goes beyond the academic curriculum—it’s about shaping the futures of aspiring minds. “Witnessing students evolve into capable professionals is incredibly rewarding,” she adds.

For Prof. Rana, the joy in her role comes from knowing that the college isn’t just producing graduates but shaping the architects of Qatar’s economic future. “Education is a journey,” she emphasizes, “and as a dean, I get to be a guide, a mentor and a witness to incredible transformations.”

Being in this position is a daily reminder for Prof. Rana of the privilege and inspiration that comes with it. “It’s more than a jobit’s a privilege to play a part in the journey of empowering individuals with knowledge and a sense of purpose,” she shares. It’s a role that keeps her motivated every day.

Empowering Teams, Inspiring Growth

In her role as the Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing and the Director of the Core Curriculum Program, Prof. Rana emphasizes creating an inclusive environment where “everyone feels heard and valued, where new ideas are welcomed and failure is not punished.” Her focus extends beyond directing the course—it’s about fostering a space where diverse perspectives converge generating a creative energy that breaks traditional boundaries.

Prof. Rana believes in empowering teams to take ownership fostering pride and accountability. “This approach enhances individual growth and contributes to the overall success of the academic unit,” she notes.

Leading the Core Curriculum Program strengthens Prof. Rana’s belief in the transformative power of a well-rounded education. “It’s not just about mastering specific disciplines but instilling a holistic perspective that encourages interdisciplinary collaboration,” she explains. Connecting the dots between different fields empowers students with a comprehensive and innovative mindset.

The experience reinforces the need to promote education as a force for social good. Prof. Rana advocates for graduating responsible citizens with a moral compass who stand up for justice everywhere and make a positive impact in their communities. It’s about creating a ripple effect of positive change through education.

Academic Ascent

Embarking on the journey from earning a Ph.D. in Marketing to becoming the Dean of the College of Business and Economics, Prof. Rana reflects on a transformative experience marked by personal growth and resilience. “Undertaking doctoral studies as a new migrant to New Zealand with two children added a layer of complexity to my academic pursuits,” she shares.

The challenges of pursuing a Ph.D. in a new country while shouldering the responsibilities of parenthood were not easy. Prof. Rana acknowledges moments of doubt and times when the balancing act felt overwhelming. Yet, she emphasizes that it is precisely these challenges that stand out as transformative moments.

This journey has shaped Prof. Rana’s leadership style instilling in her a deep sense of empathy for the diverse journeys of those within the academic community. “Navigating the intricacies of academia while adapting to a new cultural and educational landscape sculpted my approach,” she notes.

Her personal experience forms the cornerstone of a leadership philosophy that recognizes and values the resilience displayed by individuals facing unique challenges. “It’s about understanding and appreciating the diverse paths people take,” Prof. Rana explains.

Additionally, her experience as a migrant pursuing a Ph.D. with familial responsibilities has heightened her appreciation for work-life balance. This awareness permeates the culture of the College of Business and Economics, where, as Prof. Rana puts it, “We strive to create an environment that not only encourages academic excellence but also values the well-being and personal growth of every member.” It’s about fostering an environment that supports both professional success and personal fulfillment.

Global Reach, Local Pride

Leading Qatar University’s efforts in implementing the teaching and learning strategy has been a transformative journey for Prof. Rana. “It’s an enriching journey, filled with challenges that transformed into valuable learning experiences,” she shares.

A standout project in this effort is the development of three MOOCs on edX, an initiative that goes beyond a professional endeavor. “Crafting ‘Arabic for non-Arabic speakers,’ ‘The Human Being in Islam’ and ‘Qatar History and Heritage’ aimed at creating awareness and affirming the Arabic Islamic identity,” Prof. Rana notes with pride.

The collaborative effort behind these MOOCs brought together expertise from various domains impacting not only the university community but also reaching a global audience online. Prof. Rana emphasizes that these courses go beyond sharing knowledge—they foster a deeper understanding of Qatar’s identity, values and cultural diversity.

Developing these MOOCs aligns with Prof. Rana’s deep sense of pride in the Arabic Islamic identity. She emphasizes the importance of preserving and sharing cultural heritage with the world. “Facilitating initiatives that contribute to the affirmation of our identity brings a profound sense of fulfillment,” she adds.

Ultimately, this project reflects a commitment to shaping perceptions and building bridges of cultural understanding. Prof. Rana takes pride in knowing that the efforts contribute to a broader narrative sharing the richness of cultural heritage with a global audience and leaving a lasting impact on how Qatar is perceived worldwide.

From Adversity to Resilience

Life’s adversities have been catalysts for Prof. Rana’s evolution. “I stand not as one who is inherently resilient but as someone who learned to weather storms and emerge stronger on the other side,” she shares.

Rather than seeing challenges as roadblocks, Prof. Rana views them as detours that offer new perspectives and lessons. This outlook enables her to approach difficulties with curiosity, believing that each obstacle presents an opportunity for personal and professional development.

In facing challenges, effective communication and collaboration are prioritized. Prof. Rana emphasizes that seeking input from diverse perspectives unveils innovative solutions and fosters a collective sense of ownership in overcoming obstacles. She recognizes that a shared effort not only lightens the load but also strengthens team bonds.

Continuous learning is at the core of Prof. Rana’s approach. “Whether through formal education, mentorship, or self-directed exploration, I actively seek opportunities to expand my knowledge and skill set,” she notes. This commitment to ongoing development ensures adaptability and being well-equipped to tackle new challenges.

Reflecting on setbacks is another crucial aspect of Prof. Rana’s resilience strategy. “I do not dwell on mistakes but rather extract lessons,” she says. This reflective process helps refine strategies making her more resilient in the face of future challenges. It’s a continuous cycle of learning, adapting and growing that defines Prof. Rana’s approach to both personal and professional development.

Versatility in Education

Engaging in diverse academic pursuits has been instrumental in shaping Prof. Rana’s professional journey. These engagements serve as windows into varied approaches, methodologies and cultural nuances, as she notes, emphasizing the significant impact on her professional landscape.

The insights gained from these academic collaborations have not only enhanced her capabilities but also fostered a global perspective that enriches both research endeavors and the learning experiences she provides for students.

In the realm of teaching, these collaborations have expanded Prof. Rana’s toolkit, incorporating global perspectives into her methods. Exposure to different educational systems inspires her to adopt versatile strategies creating a more inclusive and dynamic classroom environment that caters to diverse learning styles.

On the research front, collaborating across continents acts as a gateway to myriad perspectives and heightens awareness of global issues within her field. Each collaboration brings forth unique insights, methodologies and cultural considerations enriching both the depth and breadth of her research endeavors.

Working with scholars with varied perspectives has made Prof. Rana more flexible in navigating the ever-evolving academic landscape. It is about embracing change and being receptive to new ideas, methodologies and paradigms that transcend geographical boundaries. Engaging with diverse perspectives becomes a key element in her approach contributing to the adaptability required in the evolving world of academia.

Inclusive Leadership

Prof. Rana’s immersion in studying consumer culture in the Arab Gulf has significantly influenced her role as a Dean and educator. “The insights gained from delving into the intricacies of consumer behavior in this region have provided me with a nuanced understanding of the local culture and its impact on students,” she shares.

Consumer Culture Theory has equipped her with a unique lens to comprehend not just purchasing patterns but also underlying values and social dynamics at play. This understanding goes beyond the marketplace extending into the educational realm. Prof. Rana finds that the intersection of consumer behavior and educational strategies is profound.

Recognizing cultural influences on consumer choices allows Prof. Rana to tailor educational approaches that resonate with Gulf students. “It’s about creating an educational experience that aligns with their cultural context and values,” she emphasizes. This approach fosters a more engaging and effective learning environment.

His research has not only provided insights into diverse perspectives within the student body but has also influenced her role as a Dean. Acknowledging and incorporating these perspectives has promoted inclusivity and a sense of belonging. This inclusive approach contributes to a more holistic and culturally responsive leadership style enriching the educational experience for all students.

Infusing Purpose

Prof. Rana emphasizes a multifaceted approach to creating a positive and impactful learning experience. She integrates methodologies like active engagement, collaboration and technology, but one particularly effective strategy is infusing a sense of purpose into students’ learning journey. Prof. Rana believes in ensuring that everything students study is relevant to their lives increasing motivation and engagement.

Relevance is a cornerstone of Prof. Rana’s approach. Making the content directly applicable to the students’ lives fosters a deeper connection and interest. Contextualizing lessons within the cultural framework is her method of demonstrating the real-world implications of what students are learning providing a sense of purpose to their academic pursuits.

Her holistic approach is based on the belief that creating a positive and impactful learning experience involves addressing individual needs and cultural context. “From my experience,” Prof. Rana concludes, “this approach resonates with students, making the learning journey more meaningful and effective.” It’s about going beyond traditional teaching methods and tailoring the educational experience to connect with students on a personal and culturally relevant level.

Feedback to Action

Prof. Rana recognizes the crucial role of diversity in enriching the educational experience and preparing students for a globalized workforce. Diversity contributes to the richness of the educational experience by exposing students to a variety of perspectives.

To ensure inclusivity and representation within the College of Business and Economics, Prof. Rana advocates for diverse hiring practices, incorporates varied perspectives into the curriculum and encourages open dialogue. She also supports student-led initiatives that celebrate diversity recognizing its paramount importance for graduates in Qatar’s diverse workforce.

A college committee for diversity and inclusion has been reinforced under Prof. Rana’s leadership. Its purpose is to promote a culture of inclusivity, respect, understanding, and togetherness in the college. Additionally, it aims to foster a sense of community and build bridges with the business sector to promote the values of diversity and inclusion.

The college actively assesses policies and practices to prioritize inclusivity seeking feedback from students and faculty. According to Prof. Rana, this approach ensures that any challenges are addressed and that there is continuous improvement in fostering diversity and representation. It’s a proactive stance that aligns with the values of creating an inclusive educational environment.

From Research to Results

At CBE, teaching methodology goes beyond routine—it’s a dynamic blend of cutting-edge insights from extensive faculty research in progressive educational approaches. Prof. Rana emphasizes, “Our commitment to sustained engagement, inspired by faculty studies fosters continuous interaction with the material resulting in tangible improvements in student outcomes that speak volumes.”

The deliberate integration of lecture capture technology, supported by faculty research, allows students to customize their learning journeys, fortifying their understanding and boosting overall performance. The flipped classroom model, rooted in comparative faculty research, not only reduces absenteeism but actively involves students, translating into superior academic achievements.

Research conducted under Qatar’s national priorities projects, focusing on sustainability, power and water conservation and climate change has yielded extensive and impactful outcomes. Prof. Rana highlights that these initiatives resulted in conference papers, journal publications, intellectual properties (IPs), technological advancements, and opportunities to share insights in diverse educational settings.

In the educational domain of CBE, these projects have influenced teaching methodology by integrating a simulation and sustainability toolkit titled ‘Climate Policy, Economic Analysis and Cost-benefit Analysis’ into courses like energy economics. Prof. Rana notes, “These toolkits prove invaluable in guiding students through projects and case studies.”

Resilience and Reflection

In her leadership role, Prof. Rana emphasizes the paramount importance of achieving a delicate balance between professional responsibilities and personal well-being. “Being purpose-driven and upholding my spiritual values rooted in Islamic principles significantly contribute to this equilibrium,” she notes.

For Prof. Rana, regular prayers and moments of reflection throughout the day serve as anchors, offering a sense of tranquility and perspective amidst the demands of leadership. These practices not only contribute to her spiritual well-being but also remind her of the broader purpose behind her academic pursuits.

Maintaining a strong sense of purpose allows Prof. Rana to navigate challenges with resilience. “Knowing that my work aligns with my broader life goals and values provides a source of motivation and fulfillment,” she explains. This purpose-driven approach helps her prioritize tasks focusing on what truly matters both professionally and personally.

Prioritizing self-care practices including exercise, spa treatments, reading, and quality time with loved ones is crucial for Prof. Rana. These activities rejuvenate and energize her contributing to overall well-being and resilience in the face of challenges.

Prof. Rana’s strategy is clear, “Setting clear boundaries and embracing a structured balanced schedule allows me to be present and fully engage in each aspect of my life preventing burnout and fostering a sustainable approach to leadership.” It’s a holistic and purposeful approach that contributes not only to professional success but also to personal happiness and contentment.