From Theory to Innovation: Dr. Munir Majdalawieh Bridging Academia and Industry

Dr. Munir Majdalawieh
Dr. Munir Majdalawieh

Dr. Munir Majdalawieh is a dynamic, forward-looking individual with a Ph.D. in IT and an E.M.B.A. from George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA and a Master of Computer Science and Applied Math from Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. As we delve into the intricate roads of his career, it becomes evident that his journey is an exceptional blend of academic prowess and real-world industry experience, creating a powerful synergy that defines his expertise.

Dr. Majdalawieh’s academic credentials are nothing short of impressive. But what truly sets him apart is his multifaceted approach to education and technology. Since August 2014, he has held the role of Associate Professor at Zayed University (ZU), United Arab Emirates and from 2016 to 2017, he served as an Advisor to the Provost at ZU. It was in 2017 that he stepped into the pivotal position of Head of the Information Systems and Technology Management Department at the College of Technological Innovation, marking a turning point in his career.

Presently positioned as the Chair of the Information Systems and Technology Department, Dr. Majdalawieh stands at the forefront of technological innovation and academic leadership. With a rich blend of academic prowess and real-world industry experience, he navigates the complex landscape of Information Systems and Technology Management with finesse and vision.

In recognition of his remarkable contributions to the field, Dr. Majdalawieh was honored with the prestigious Digital Transformation 100 (DT100) award in 2023. This accolade acknowledges him as one of the top 100 technology leaders in the UAE, a testament to his profound impact on the technology landscape. The DT100 award, organized by Exito Media Concepts, serves as a fitting tribute to his dedication and vision.

Let’s explore how Dr. Majdalawieh’s unique blend of academic expertise and real-world industry experience creates a transformative narrative, shaping the landscape of Information Systems and Technology Management!

Catalyzing Change

During Dr. Majdalawieh’s tenure at Zayed University, he is particularly proud of the significant evolutions and initiatives within the Information Systems and Technology Management Department. One of the standout achievements has been the exponential growth in student enrollment and faculty, which saw a remarkable increase from 2017 to 2021. This surge is a testament to his department’s commitment to providing high-quality education and meeting the evolving needs of the students and the market. The ISTM program is ranked by subject in Computer Science at 301-400 by the Times Higher Education International University Rankings for the year 2022. This positioned our program to be the first in the country, and the ISTM program is ranked at 501-550 by QS World University 2021 Ranking by Subject in Computer Science and Information Systems.

The department’s ongoing evolution of the Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management (a joint program between the College of Technological Innovation and the College of Business) program ensures that the curriculum stays current with industry trends. Dr. Majdalawieh highlights that it has earned accreditation from the United Arab Emirates’ Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) affirming their commitment to world-class education.

A major milestone is the introduction of the Master of Science program in Information Systems Management (Digital Transformation). Dr. Majdalawieh believes it addresses the demand for tech-savvy professionals in today’s ever-changing landscape.

The cutting-edge NextGen Center bridges academia and industry, providing students with hands-on experience in innovation, startups and entrepreneurship. “It prepares our students for the workforce,” Dr. Majdalawieh notes.

Dr. Majdalawieh’s department also boasts an effective governance structure that actively involves faculty in decision-making. “Collaboration empowers our educators,” he affirms, fostering a shared responsibility for the department’s success.

Dr. Majdalawieh, a pivotal member of the executive team at the College of Technological Innovation, actively shapes the institution’s strategic, operational, and risk management plans, alongside contributing to the development of the college implementation plans and the budget. Leveraging his extensive industry experience, he emerges as a valuable and effective contributor, influencing key aspects of the college’s success, such as the introduction of new programs, fostering students’ success, promoting industry collaboration, establishing state-of-the-art research labs, fostering research collaborations, and steering accreditation activities.

At Zayed University, he takes great pride in spearheading transformative initiatives within the Information Systems and Technology Management Department and the College of Technological Innovation. From a remarkable surge in student enrollment to the accreditation of the Bachelor’s program, the establishment of a cutting-edge NextGen Center and the introduction of a forward-looking Master’s program, their focus remains on delivering a world-class education. This, coupled with a collaborative governance structure, ensures our department continues to thrive and excel in preparing students for the dynamic tech landscape.

Pioneering Progress

Dr. Majdalawieh’s strategic vision for the Information Systems and Technology Management Department is evidence of his expertise in bridging the gap between academia and industry. “The NextGen Center is a dynamic hub,” he says, describing his brainchild. It’s not just a space—it’s a thriving ecosystem where workshops, hackathons and dialogues converge. By aligning it with the university’s objectives and the nation’s vision, he ensures his students are at the forefront of technological advancements, ready to meet the challenges of the job market.

The Master of Science in Information Systems Management (Digital Transformation) stands as another milestone, exemplifying a research-focused program. Dr. Majdalawieh’s passion for staying ahead in the digital landscape is evident. “We cover it all,” he enthuses. The curriculum is comprehensive, from IT Architecture and Digital Business Models to AI, Big Data, Business Intelligence, Blockchain and IoT. It’s not just theoretical—it’s a practical toolkit equipping students to drive real change in today’s fast-paced tech world.

In Dr. Majdalawieh’s pursuit of excellence, student success takes center stage. “It’s about bridging theory and practice,” he emphasizes. Collaborating with industry partners, he opens doors for internships, offering students a taste of the real world. But it doesn’t stop there. Dr. Majdalawieh believes in constant learning. “We bring industry experts to our students,” he states. These seminars become windows to the industry offering insights into current trends and emerging technologies.

Active involvement in faculty-led research projects is another feather in Dr. Majdalawieh’s cap. “It’s about nurturing innovation,” he remarks. By working as research assistants, students not only enhance their skills but also contribute to a culture of inquiry. It’s hands-on, stimulating critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

And then there are the competitions, hackathons and showcases. Dr. Majdalawieh’s eyes light up as he talks about them. “It’s where creativity thrives,” he says. These events are arenas for students to apply their knowledge, collaborate and showcase their talents. It’s more than a competition—it’s a celebration of innovation.

For Dr. Majdalawieh, these initiatives are more than just strategic moves. They are a testament to his dedication to transforming the department. It’s about enhancing relevance and influence for students to help them build confidence and prepare them for the industry world that stands in front of them. His strategic planning can be described as a transformative journey shaping the future of his department and, in turn, the lives of his students.

He proudly shares, “Through strategic initiatives like the NextGen Center and the introduction of the Master of Science in Information Systems (Digital Transformation), we’ve propelled our department’s growth and relevance.” By aligning with university and national objectives, they not just preparing the students for today, but for the future of technology and industry.

As the Principal Investigator (PI), leading the successful outcomes (numerous publications) of our Research Cluster Award, a $136,000 project titled ‘An Intelligent Data Fusion Model and Predictive Analysis for Proactive and Effective Response, leveraging Semantic Technologies and Artificial Intelligence,’ Zayed University (ZU) received an exclusive invitation to serve as a Founding Organization contributor for the launch of the newly established International Semantic and FAIR Knowledge Graph Alliance (KGA).

Strength in Diversity

Dr. Majdalawieh’s wealth of experience in managing culturally diverse teams shines brightly in the academic realm. “Every team member, regardless of rank, deserves to feel valued and empowered,” he affirms, drawing on his more than 35-year journey, having held leadership positions at prominent organizations such as DEC, HP, Compaq, and Booz Allen Hamilton. His approach, rooted in fairness and consistency, has become a guiding principle in his leadership philosophy.

In the intricate world of academia, where faculty members of varying ranks bring unique needs and perspectives, Dr. Majdalawieh champions active listening and open communication. “Inclusivity starts with understanding,” he emphasizes. By fostering an environment where ideas flow freely, respect and understanding flourish, creating a strong foundation for collaboration.

Dr. Majdalawieh’s keen insight led him to celebrate the diverse strengths within his team. Each faculty background and rank, he notes, brings specific expertise, forming a powerful synergy. “Appreciating these differences fosters a dynamic working environment,” he remarks. Recognizing these strengths bolsters team cohesion and ensures everyone’s contributions are valued.

Additionally, Dr. Majdalawieh’s experience in leadership and soft skills, honed over the years, plays a crucial role in building trust and establishing a sense of belonging within the team. Through mentorship and continuous learning opportunities, Dr. Majdalawieh nurtures growth regardless of rank. Empowering individuals to thrive is key, underscoring the importance of providing avenues for professional development and career path.

The experience of over 35 years coupled with Dr. Majdalawieh’s tenure as Senate President at the American University of Sharjah, has provided him with a deep understanding of inclusive leadership. He shares, “It’s taught me that creating an environment where every voice is heard and valued is key to unlocking the full potential of a diverse team.”

Dr. Majdalawieh’s journey spanning both academia and industry has equipped him with the knowledge and skills to lead diverse teams effectively. He states, “I firmly believe that an inclusive and collaborative environment not only cultivates innovation but also empowers individuals, regardless of their rank, to reach their full potential.”

The Art of Equilibrium

Balancing the academic and administrative aspects of a department is indeed a multifaceted task. It requires a strategic approach that prioritizes both faculty development and departmental efficiency. One key strategy Dr. Majdalawieh employs is fostering a collaborative environment where faculty members are encouraged to contribute to administrative decisions. This not only empowers them but also ensures that administrative processes align with academic goals.

Additionally,” Dr. Majdalawieh shares, “I believe in setting clear objectives and priorities for both academic and administrative responsibilities.” This reflects Dr. Majdalawieh is an advocate for transparent communication and firmly believes in addressing challenges head-on. “By establishing open lines of communication,” he emphasizes, “we can promptly tackle any hurdles that come our way.” But he doesn’t stop there. Dr. Majdalawieh recognizes the importance of nurturing his faculty, empowering them through workshops and mentoring. “Professional development is key,” he affirms. “It not only enhances skills but fuels the department’s growth.”

In the intricacies of teaching, research and service, Dr. Majdalawieh employs strategic resource allocation and workload distribution. Efficiency is vital, ensuring each faculty member receives ample support to excel. As a dynamic member of the college’s executive committee, Dr. Majdalawieh actively shapes the institution’s future. Active participation is crucial, underscoring the importance of aligning departmental goals with the broader vision.

Dr. Majdalawieh’s approach isn’t just about interpersonal finesse—it’s also tech-savvy. He advocates for streamlined systems and data-driven insights. “Technology empowers us,” he enthuses, enabling effective resource allocation and informed decision-making. Continuous assessments and feedback loops fine-tune strategies ensuring a harmonious balance between academics and administration.

Balancing the academic and administrative aspects of a department is a nuanced endeavor. Dr. Majdalawieh states “My approach centers on fostering collaboration, setting clear priorities and leveraging technology for efficient operations while prioritizing faculty development. This ensures a thriving academic environment that supports both our educators and the department’s overall efficiency.”

Navigating the Dual Role

Balancing his personal research interests with leadership responsibilities is a dynamic process that Dr. Majdalawieh has refined over the years. He emphasizes, “With a portfolio of over 80 research publications, I’ve come to appreciate the symbiotic relationship between teaching, research and leadership.”

Drawing on his extensive industry experience, he has steered his research towards an interdisciplinary path. This strategic choice not only broadens the scope of  Dr. Majdalawieh’s research endeavors but also allows for a more holistic approach to addressing complex challenges in the field.

Furthermore, Dr. Majdalawieh has demonstrated proficiency in uniting cross-disciplinary teams that serve as a vital link between academia and industry, propelling collaborative research endeavors. This dynamic approach not only enhances the scope of his personal research pursuits but also fortifies the connections between the university and the broader professional landscape.

Dr. Majdalawieh shares an example serving as a motivation for all in terms of maintaining the right balance between responsibilities and personal endeavors. He says, “In my role as the principal investigator (PI), I orchestrated the collaboration of over 30 local and international partners in response to a proposal from the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge Virtual Research Institutes (VRI/ADEK).” Together, they endeavored to submit a comprehensive proposal titled ‘Smart and Optimized Indoor Farming as an Ecosystem for a Holistic and Sustainable Food Security in Abu Dhabi and UAE.’

To maintain a seamless integration of research and teaching, he incorporates the most recent discoveries and methodologies into his assignments. This approach not only keeps Dr. Majdalawieh’s students updated on the forefront of developments but also imparts to them a firsthand grasp of how research underpins practical application. Dr. Majdalawieh shares an illustrative instance, stating, “I seamlessly integrated my published paper titled ‘Paradigm shift in information systems auditing’ into the course curriculum of IT Audit and Control, a subject I’ve been instructing for numerous years.

Ultimately, the key lies in finding synergy between these domains. Dr. Majdalawieh’s leadership responsibilities provide a platform to cultivate an environment that encourages innovation, collaboration and a culture of research excellence. In turn, the insights gained from research further inform and elevate his approach to leadership creating a virtuous cycle of growth and development.

Dr. Majdalawieh shares, “Balancing my personal research pursuits with leadership responsibilities has been a journey of harmonizing innovation and administration.” With a robust track record of over 80 research publications and a focus on interdisciplinary approaches, he has discovered that integrating research into teaching and fostering collaborative projects between academia and industry not only advances his own scholarship but also enriches the academic environment as a whole.

Future-Proofing Education

Dr. Majdalawieh’s dedication to keeping the Information Systems and Technology Management Department at Zayed University abreast of industry needs is staunch. “Our rigorous quality assurance program is the backbone,” he asserts, emphasizing the importance of staying ahead in the dynamic field of IT.

At the core of this program are faculty and course coordinators’ submissions, meticulously examined through ‘folder 9,’ and ‘folder 10,’ providing valuable assessment about each course at the end of each semester. Dr. Majdalawieh, along with his dedicated team, delves into this feedback, identifying areas for enhancement. It’s a process and commitment to continuous improvement ensuring the curriculum remains responsive to industry trends.

Today’s tech landscape is evolving at a fast pace and therefore requires regular refreshments. Working collaboratively, the department chair, along with the department executive team which includes the assistant chair and the graduate program coordinator, meticulously assesses the feedback and identifies any areas in need of refinement. This iterative process ensures that the curriculum remains dynamic, responsive to emerging industry trends and attuned to technological advancements.

But it’s not just about staying current—it’s about exceeding standards. Dr. Majdalawieh proudly speaks of their adherence to stringent requirements from local and international accreditation bodies. Their periodic self-study reports ensure their programs not only meet but surpass the highest standards of quality and relevance.

Recognizing the rapid evolution of Information Technology, Dr. Majdalawieh emphasizes, “We additionally undergo a thorough program accreditation review every three to five years.” This cyclical process allows the integration of the latest technological innovations and pedagogical approaches, ensuring the students receive an education that is both cutting-edge and relevant to their future careers.

Dr. Majdalawieh adds, “We adhere to the stringent requirements set forth by both the local accreditation body in the United Arab Emirates, the CAA and the international accreditation body (ABET).” This involves the periodic submission of a self-study report every five years for undergraduate programs and every three years for graduate programs’ re-accreditation. This rigorous evaluation process guarantees that the programs not only meet but exceed the highest standards of quality and relevance.

For example, just two years ago, we updated the ISTM program and added a course in Applied Artificial Intelligence to the Business Intelligence concentration and added E-Commerce course to the Management Information Systems concentration among several program updates.

Through a meticulous quality assurance program and a continuous feedback loop, they keep the curriculum in lockstep with industry needs. This proactive approach ensures the students are equipped with the latest skills and knowledge, preparing them to excel in the ever-evolving landscape of Information Systems and Technology Management.

Beyond the Books

Aspiring leaders in the Information Systems and Technology Management field have an exciting journey ahead, particularly in the dynamic era of digital transformation. Dr. Majdalawieh’s advice to them is multifaceted.

Dr. Majdalawieh’s guidance is also a roadmap to success. “Embrace the digital transformation wave with a hunger for learning and an openness to change,” he advises, setting the stage for the dynamic field they are entering. In a world dominated by AI, Blockchain, IoT, Data Science, data analytics, and Robotic Process Automation, curiosity and adaptability are the keys to thriving.

But Dr. Majdalawieh doesn’t stop at technology. He emphasizes the importance of active participation in co-curricular activities. “The college and department offer a wealth of opportunities,” he notes. Collaborative programs with industry leaders like SAP, IBM, HUAWEI, and CISCO provide students with real-world experience and a competitive edge. These opportunities are invaluable in building a strong foundation for a successful career.

As the tech landscape is constantly shifting, soft skills are equally crucial. Effective communication, problem-solving and leadership abilities are the pillars of leadership. Dr. Majdalawieh encourages students to cultivate these skills through workshops, internships and extracurricular activities.

Networking is the final piece of the puzzle. Dr. Majdalawieh believes in the power of connections. “Connect with professionals in the field,” he urges, highlighting the benefits of attending industry conferences and seeking mentorship. These connections can open doors to valuable insights, career opportunities and collaborations.

Embrace the wave of digital transformation with a hunger for learning and an openness to change. Actively participate in co-curricular activities, seize industry collaborations and build a robust skill set that encompasses both technical prowess and soft skills. Network, seek mentorship and stay curious. Dr. Majdalawieh confidently states, “This multifaceted approach will pave the way for your success as a future leader in Information Systems and Technology Management.”

Dr. Majdalawieh’s advice is comprehensive. It’s about staying at the forefront of digital transformation, actively participating in co-curricular activities, developing both technical and soft skills and building a robust professional network. With dedication and a forward-thinking mindset, aspiring leaders in Information Systems and Technology Management are poised to make a significant impact in this rapidly evolving field.