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Dima Jamali

Dima Jamali: The Dean Who Made a Difference

The Dean of a Business Administration College is a highly respected figure who plays a crucial role in shaping the future of the institution and its students. As the leader of the college, the Dean sets the tone for academic excellence, fosters a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and ensures that graduates are well-prepared to tackle the challenges of the modern business world.

Dima Jamali, the Dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Sharjah, has a distinguished career in academia, having earned multiple degrees (Ph.D. in Social Policy and Administration, a Master in Sociology, and a BA in Public Administration). With a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the industry, the Dean has become an iconic figure within the college and a role model for aspiring business leaders.

The college has made significant progress in recent years, rising to 176th in the Times Higher Education Rankings and being recognized as one of the 10 must-watch business schools for 2022 by Higher Education Digest under Dima’s leadership.

We at Insights Success interviewed Dima on her leadership and vision supporting the elevation of the college’s reputation.

Let’s delve into the intercepts of the interview!

Brief our audience about your journey as an academic leader until your current position at the university. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

Starting in 2015, I founded and served as President and National Representative for the UN Global Compact Network Lebanon (GCNL). I am also part of the Global Chapter Council for UNPRME (UN Principles of Responsible Management Education).

I feel blessed to have enjoyed an amazing career, having been in academia for over 20 years. Fast-tracking through the ranks of Tenured Professor and Associate Dean to Full Professor in 2010 and Endowed Chair in Responsible Leadership in 2014. I feel proud to have been ranked among the top 2% of most influential global scholars in the field of sustainability by Stanford University for two years in a row (2020 and 2021).

Besides this, I am also a winner of several awards and honors, including the 2016 National Council for Scientific Research Excellence Award and the 2015 Aspen Institute Faculty Pioneer Award, dubbed by the Financial Times as “the Oscars of the Business School World” for pioneering faculty who are at the cutting edge of teaching and scholarship in their field.

I have worked as an expert consultant for the United Nations on Social Policy and CSR, as well as various projects funded by the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, and major private and public firms across the region. I have been championing the UN Global Compact Network for Lebanon for the past five years. I am a strong believer in the need to mobilize collective social impact.

I enjoyed the journey and made the best of each milestone while being open to learning. The thirst for knowledge and motivation to advance my career are key drivers. I encountered many challenges along the way. Organizations across the Middle East continue to be male-dominated, which entails overcoming stereotypes and working extra hard to prove oneself. Of course, we need to be careful not to over-generalize, as some of the best experiences of my career have been working with amazing men and women from all walks of life. It is important to keep an open mind, embrace teamwork, appreciate diversity, master empathy and tolerance, and make extra efforts for the inclusion of marginalized voices and communities.

Enlighten us on how you have been impacting the education industry through your expertise in the market.

I believe that my impact at the University of Sharjah was noticed by driving the College of Business Administration as a whole towards repositioning for increased competitiveness, including Innovation and Sustainability. We have also identified four key competencies that are mission-critical and important for our students embedded across the curriculum:

  • Creativity and originality
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Leadership and societal impact
  • Resilience and adaptability.

This strategic refocus has helped us to secure our accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which places this college once again among the 5% of top business schools around the world.

In addition, the amplification of our focus on employability by connecting our students to key industry leaders embedded an ethics and societal impact ethos among them, facilitating real opportunities for meaningful and impactful engagement projects. The students get the chance to hone their skills and direct them to find innovative solutions to real-life challenges working with top-notch business leaders, coaches and mentors from across different industries.

Describe in detail the values and culture that drive your educational institute.

The University of Sharjah is a premier educational institution that values research, innovation, sustainability, engagement and collaboration. The SPIRIT Strategy drives the University guided our efforts, and we complemented this with our own set of values

  • Students
  • People
  • Innovation
  • Research
  • Industry
  • Community
  • Teaching and Learning.

Values revolving around the acronym ECCITE, which stands for

EExcellence: Delivering the best in teaching, research and service

CCommitment: Serving our community and safeguarding the environment

CCare: Dedication and commitment to work and excellence

IInnovation: Embodying curiosity, ingenuity and enterprise

TTeamwork: Respecting and inspiring one another in our collective endeavors

EEthics: Upholding the highest moral and ethical principles

These values are at the heart of everything we do and guide our every decision and action, serving as the moral compass that directs and channels our energy in the right direction.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you advancing towards technological innovations to make your educational programs and curriculum resourceful?

Certainly, the pandemic has made us even more aware of the importance of technology and the need to leverage technological resources and innovations. Being more creative in utilizing technological tools for the benefit of student learning and education is crucial.

During the pandemic, we intensified the use of tutorials to upgrade knowledge and capabilities encouraging teaching innovations using technology, including Open Educational Resources, applied and engaging learning content using videos, interactive case studies, debates, guest speakers and flipped classrooms. There is a pressing need to continue to be open to embracing advancements in Education.

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

Undoubtedly, the Higher Education Sector is changing incredibly fast, and we need to stay agile and open to learning, adaptation, and innovations. The main trends affecting all Higher Education Institutions include Digitization, the need to refocus on Public Service and Governance, the need to be attuned to the UN 2030 agenda and the imperative of Sustainability in teaching, research and service, the focus on training students around new skills and competencies to enhance employability, and the need to embrace regional and international collaboration for amplified impact.

We need to realize that learning profiles are drastically changing, and different types of learners will need different types of courses and programs. Additional courses and programs will require innovative curricula and flexible learning access modalities enabled by the effective use of digital technologies.

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

I envision myself continuing to advance in leadership roles in Higher Education and to be the voice for embracing and catalyzing changes along the lines described above and for the empowerment and inclusion of all marginalized communities.

I have dedicated my academic career to being a catalyst for change to be a pioneer in leading on sustainability and female empowerment issues, and I am willing to continue. Over the long term, I want to explore a parallel path into the real world of entrepreneurship.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the dynamic industry?

This advice may be redundant, but my advice is to never give up. Be prepared to face lots of setbacks. Entrepreneurship is filled with setbacks and failures, but the trick is to be resilient and bounce back from failure with renewed energy and determination.

Take regular breaks. Resting allows for recharging, which is important in sustaining productivity and efficiency in whichever industry you work.

Connections and networking allow you to find like-minded people and exchange best practices, skills, and knowledge. Expanding your network will open new doors and allow you to leverage and explore all kinds of opportunities.