To be a Professor – part II

Volume 8 Issue 12 News & Resources | December 2015


To be a Professor - Part II

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     1. The time to be…

If one is patience enough and execute all the necessary tasks as expected in an academic set-up, one will gradually climb the career ladder, of course, via persistent application for promotion and the readiness to tolerate failures. Time may not be on our side, but we will get the promotion sooner or later as we grow older and occupy the senior staff’s position, barring the guaranteed end of mortal beings. One may not qualify to fill-in the so-called fast promotion track, but one will certainly arrive to that same end-point in the career promotion milestones, albeit having to take the longer route. The time to become a full professor will arrive sooner or later. One has to hold to this belief no matter how bleak and discouraging are the situations we may be in. The post of a professor has always been linked to much better pay and also being deserving for the envy among peers in the academic circles. Nevertheless, one must know there are always different sides to a story. To me, becoming a professor is just a start of a whole journey to new academic experiences and new responsibilities. As the expectations from our surrounding grew in somewhat exponential fashion, the newly minted professor must bucked-up and move forward the soonest. There is no time to waste. As time is the main commodity which we seriously are lacking.

     2.The Utopian’s Journey

To me, a professor should be an inspiring beacon to his academic circles, i.e. becoming the beacon of knowledge, and her most trusted protector. The main motivation should no longer be about getting more promotion, i.e. strictly, but to ensure the specific body of knowledge in which he or she professed will shine as bright as the sun. The task of guarding the sanctity of knowledge and ensuring its acculturisation in the community at large must be embraced, wholeheartedly. A true and genuine professor should embody the noble purpose of knowledge in his attitude and behaviour. A sincere appreciation of the roles which are entrusted on the shoulders of professors must be transfomed into real actions of asistance to others. This is an utopian dream which translate into an utopian journey to many. In real life, a professor will just compete with other younger academics. The spirit of cooperation and collaboration has been super seeded by plain competition such as greed and self-centredness, and the urge to grab any opportunities which come into the scene. There is nothing wrong in wanting an ideal situation to happen. The mistake is to hope too much and opening ourselves to be frustrated.

     3. What type of Professor?

Given the options, what kind of professor would you like to be? I would certainly prefer to be a professor who is known for his generousity in sharing his knowledge, and being humble enough in admitting that he knows much less that what people assumed. The act of admitting to be less knowlegable has its elegant merit. As Socrates once wrote to the effect that he was better than the others because he knew what he did not know. For example, the statement - “La Adri”, which is in arabic, means “I do not know” is very common among the learned in Islamic intellectual traditions for hundred of years. There is no shame in not knowing. But, it became an embarassment when we allow ourselves to be stuck in the same situation without any effort otherwise. A professor should not be hesitantin his journey to really understand/appreciate the world around him via observation and experimentation. Learning will never stop. As much as we will stop living when we stop breathing, similar tragedy will occur if we stop learning. A profesor must be the trend-setter with regards to knowledge development and enhancement. If this is not the case, better stop calling themselves professor, as one must gain respect and not expect them. Knowledge is a livind and keep moving.

     4. How to play leader?

A professor is one who professes in a specific knowledge domain/discipline. His or her expertise in those specific domain of knowledge would have been recognised via internal and third party endorsements. Hence, the award of professorship was granted. This was no small feat. Not many will get the honour and privilege to be promoted to become a full professor. This is the time to play “leader of knowledge”. A professor who is too laid-back and always prefers to become a follower should not have be promoted in the first place. At least this is my take on the matter. Who else would have the proper credentials to lead the younger academics others than a professor? And yet we see many professors around on campus, and we also see many young academics having to struggle on their own without any mentors. It seems as though nobody is willing to do something to change the current conditions. The unhealthy eco-system in career progression in the University needs a thorough scrub. All professors must now take charge in leading the pack. Professors are supposed to bear the academic leadership. The bad experiences which one has been forced to endure before the promotion should motivate the professors to be more sympathetic to the other budding researchers. Someone needs to break this unhealthy cycle.

     5. A self-reminder

I felt very honoured to be promoted to a full professor position. It was a very nice “icing on the cake” after many years working in my university, i.e. USM. The promotion to the post of professor, after more than 16 years, was certainly welcome and has been a great boost to the efforts in promoting the Underwater System Technology R&D themes, including underwater robotics and sensors. I also realised the need to carry the title as best as possible. I truly believe a profesor should provide assistance to others and not to add more competition to the younger staffs. The role of a professor is certainly very challenging and ever-encompassing. One should not forget the importance to be useful to others and always strive to leave a lasting and beneficial legacies.

“You don't say to a university professor who is immersed in a particular subject that they should get a life. They are encouraged to enjoy their subject and to pass it on.” - Magnus Magnusson


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Written by :
Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
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