In November this year, the English Language and Literature Department welcomed Malissa Maria Mahmud, a professor who up until now has been teaching and working at Sunway University in Malaysia. Professor Mahmud will spend the winter in Sarajevo, teaching at the department and holding lectures open to the public.
1. Can you please briefly introduce yourself? (academic background, expertise, etc.)
First of all, I studied Foundation in Science, which had nothing to do with communication, language, or literature. I continued pursuing a degree in teaching English as a second language with a minor in Fine Arts. I got a double major for my master’s degree and those are Communication and English. When it comes to the PhD, again it is different from anything I studied previously. I decided to study Instructional System Development (ISD) – Blended Learning, which is a combination of teaching and developing an instrument as a form of intervention in the context of teaching and learning.
2. Can you tell us more about Sunway University, and what is it like to be a student there?
I started teaching in 2002, and I have been working at Sunway for 10 years now. Sunway University has been in the industry for more than 30 years. It’s a relatively new university in Malaysia compared to other ones, but it’s one of the leading private universities in Malaysia and South-East Asia in general.
Being a student at Sunway – the experience is tremendous and profound because there are students from almost 30 different nationalities from all over the world. The total number of students is around 20.000. Academic staff comes from all over the world, as well.
3. What are the biggest/most important projects you have worked on?
I have worked on many projects with the professors from different universities.
The project for which I received a grant from the Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia was about Spiritual Leadership and Small-Medium Enterprises. In that project, we basically developed different communication modules to help the foreign workers in Malaysia.
4. What kind of research are you conducting now?
There are a few ongoing projects. One of them is looking into the notion of identity in regards to communication.
5. Why did you choose to come to BiH on your sabbatical?
I wanted to challenge myself by being in an environment that is completely unknown to me. I initially wanted to push myself out of the comfort zone. I knew very little about BiH, and everything about it was unfamiliar to me. There are certainly many challenging things here, but that in a way fulfills the whole objective of me being here in the first place.
6. Can you compare the education system in Malaysia and BiH?
I don’t think I’m in the position to say anything about that because I have been here for only a few weeks. However, I must state this: students at IBU are wonderful, I love working with them! Their opinions and views in regards to the issues we discuss in class are extremely mature – they are very self-aware and know what they are talking about. They are also very well-read. They have a great potential and I believe in them. I really enjoy working with them, and I hope I can add some values while here. My colleagues are also very warm, friendly, and helpful.
7. What kind of workshops and seminars will you hold at ELL department?
While at IBU, I’ll be holding a couple of workshops in Public Speaking and Speech, and Oral Communication Skills. Besides that, I will hold two different seminars: one is about Malaysian Englishes, and the other one is about gender stereotypes.
8. What is the most surprising/challenging thing when it comes to teaching at IBU?
Teaching at IBU is surprisingly exactly the same as teaching in Malaysia. I thought it would be a challenge for me to work here and that I would face some kind of issues, but I haven’t had any inconveniences. Students here are just as my students at Sunway.
9. Do you think that the cooperation/partnership between Sunway University and IBU should be continued?
Yes, that’s the plan.
10. Is there any advice you would like to give to the students of English Language and Literature and the students at IBU in general?
This is what I always tell my students at Sunway: whenever you cannot decide, choose the most difficult option, choose something that makes you feel uncomfortable. The payback and reward will definitely be worthwhile.