Dr. Dalia Sherif: The Accomplished Executive Dean Making Waves in Higher Education

Dr. Dalia Sherif
Dr. Dalia Sherif

In the realm of higher education, marketing, media, business development and communication, Dr. Dalia Sherif stands as an exemplary expert with an illustrious career spanning several decades. With her extensive knowledge and expertise, she has left an indelible mark on the industry.

Throughout her journey, Dr. Sherif has held various influential positions, including her tenure with the U.S. Department of Commerce. In this role, she meticulously researched industry trends and closely followed related events, allowing her to identify ground-breaking ideas that could shape the future of international trade.

Her keen eye for opportunities led her to forge connections with potential partners, actively proposing and closing multi-million-dollar deals with fortune 500 companies including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, GE, Bell Helicopters, Disney Imagineering, and many more. Driven by her entrepreneurial spirit, she fearlessly explored untapped avenues, making remarkable contributions to the field.

Below are highlights of the interview that showcases Dr. Sherif’s contributions to the realms of education,

Brief our audience about your journey as an educational leader until your current position at Lone Star College. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

Most people think it is very difficult to restart your career journey, especially when you are almost at the pinnacle of your career. Restarting a career as an immigrant who packed her life in a few suitcases can be challenging but also transformative. This decision often requires careful planning, adaptability, and resilience.

When the Arab Spring broke out, it had far-reaching effects on the economy and personal life. We navigated unemployment and other restrictions due to stay-home orders. We thought about relocating in pursuit of educational opportunities and economic mobility.

The United States has long been a destination for individuals seeking a fresh start and the chance to pursue their dreams. I didn’t know if a restart was even possible, and my options seemed very limited. The first interview I had was in a photocopier repair shop.

Talking about serving as a coordinator for global conferences or meeting with world leaders in person seemed to be a huge exaggeration during my interview. My interviewer was laughing the whole time and did not give me the job thinking I made up all of these stories.

My journey as an immigrant presented me with distinctive challenges that extended beyond the typical language barriers and cultural adjustments. The most significant hurdles I faced revolved around differences in professional qualifications and expectations.

Nonetheless, higher education became a welcoming sanctuary, offering a myriad of opportunities to help me reintegrate into the workforce and pursue my dreams. Through its embrace, I found a path to fulfill my aspirations.

An essential aspect of relaunching a career involved assessing one’s current skills and qualifications while identifying any gaps in one’s toolbox. It was during my time in higher education that I discovered the vast opportunities available to pursue a doctorate degree. This became my next goal—a terminal degree that I eagerly aspired to achieve.

Throughout the arduous journey of balancing school, two jobs, and caring for three children, my family provided unwavering support. The moment of my graduation swept away years of stress and the lingering regret of missing important deadlines. Furthermore, I recognized the significance of networking and establishing professional connections in propelling my career.

Engaging with professional organizations, community service, attending industry events, and utilizing online platforms helped me expand my network and tap into a broader range of job opportunities. It’s also essential to update one’s resume and tailor it to the expectations and preferences of the dynamic job market.

Enlighten us on how you have impacted the education niche through your expertise in the market.

Coming from a background in marketing gave me a unique niche in higher education. A deep understanding of marketing tools and tactics is a valuable asset to any industry. Higher education institutions often have specific needs and challenges when it comes to promoting their programs and attracting students.

The experience in marketing that I gained during my tenure with the U.S. Department of Commerce gave me a textured understanding to develop effective strategies to reach and engage various target audiences.

It’s important to leverage your expertise to identify key opportunities and differentiate your institution or program from competitors. Understanding the needs and preferences of prospective students, as well as trends in the higher education landscape, can give you a competitive edge in creating targeted campaigns that resonate with your prospective students.

Additionally, your unique niche can allow you to tailor your messaging and branding to highlight the specific benefits and value propositions of your institution or program. This can help attract the right students who align with your offerings and increase enrollment, retention and completion rates.

Undeniably, Technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your education resourceful?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) are emerging as the most powerful agents of change in higher education. AI can be used to create adaptive learning platforms that tailor educational content and personalize delivery methods to individual students’ needs and preferences.

AI-powered virtual tutors can provide students with personalized assistance and feedback, helping them to better understand complex concepts and improve their problem-solving skills. Similarly, VR can provide students with immersive and interactive experiences in virtual laboratories or simulated environments. This allows learners to practice and apply their knowledge in a safe and controlled setting while enhancing their understanding of real-world scenarios.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the education sector? How is you are preparing to be a part of that change?

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift towards online learning in higher education. This trend has been further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has necessitated remote learning for all students.

There are several reasons why more students are opting for online modalities and showing less willingness to take face-to-face classes, including flexibility, work-life integration, convenience, cost-effectiveness, extended access, technological advancements and changes in lifestyle. Online learning provides students with the flexibility to access course materials and participate in classes at their own pace and according to their own schedule. This is particularly appealing to students who have work or family commitments or prefer a more self-directed approach to learning. As a result, online learning eliminates the need for commuting or relocating, which can be a significant factor for students who live far from campus or have other logistical constraints.

It allows them to study from anywhere with an internet connection. Online programs often attract a diverse range of students who may not have been able to attend traditional face-to-face classes due to geographical, financial, or personal limitations. Online learning provides greater access to education for individuals who may not have been able to pursue it otherwise.

The advancement of technology has made online learning more engaging and interactive. With the integration of AI, VR, and other innovative tools, students can now have immersive learning experiences comparable to face-to-face classes.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Lone Star College?

My dream is to start a non-profit that I will call ‘Find My First Job.’ I have seen so many devastated students who struggle to find their first job after graduation. During economic contractions like this one, the industry is less willing to give a chance to fresh grads with limited industry experience.

Some of them get so frustrated that they quickly deviate from their life and career goals. The non-profit will provide a mentorship program that connects experienced professionals with fresh graduates.

Mentors can provide guidance, support, and industry insights, helping graduates navigate the job search process and build their professional network.

Additionally, I will establish partnerships with local businesses, companies, and organizations to create opportunities for job placement. I will help with resume building, interview preparation, and career counseling to enhance graduates’ chances of securing employment.

The non-profit will also help organize networking events, workshops, and seminars to facilitate connections between graduates and potential employers. These events can also provide skill-building opportunities and career development resources.