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On the right track


Prof Mushtak says the university aims to develop graduates who are ready when change happens.

Prof Mushtak says the university aims to develop graduates who are ready when change happens.

Newly appointed head of Heriot-Watt University Malaysia shares his plans for its continued growth and development.

SUCCESS in life isn’t solely based on academics.

It includes a dose of emotional intelligence and happiness.

“I see success as making a positive impact that goes beyond a lifetime of an individual, and one must learn how to adapt to change to achieve it,” says Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi.

He is Heriot-Watt University Malaysia’s newly appointed chief executive officer and provost.

He says he is honoured to lead the institution’s Malaysian branch, and feels a sense of responsibility to help students excel in academics and life.

Prior to his new role, which he took up on Aug 1, Prof Mushtak was the Senior Deputy Provost of Heriot-Watt Malaysia.

He has been in the education industry in Malaysia for over 18 years, and is best known for his role at Taylor’s University where he led the School of Engineering.

He will be in charge of leading the continued growth and development of the university in Malaysia and across Asia, as well as delivering innovative strategic initiatives for all five of the university’s global campuses.

The 47-year-old Iraqi will also play a leading role in growing the university’s international research and building on links with industry and university partners to deliver real benefits to students and the Malaysian economy.

He says he has high hopes that the institution’s graduates would emerge as great individuals in the future.

“We aim to develop graduates who are not only mentally sound and job ready, but are emotionally intelligent so they can succeed in whatever they choose to pursue, as well as be ready when change happens.

“Education needs to play a role in training the young to face life, not only focusing on academics,” he says.

Besides adaptability, he adds, the university will ensure that its students have the habit of wanting to learn, willingness to collaborate, and most importantly self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and relationship management skills.

“These values makes up the key to obtaining a happy and successful life.”

He adds happiness is defined by the presence of positive emotions, which is proven to be impactful in one’s life.

“Successful people always put themselves in situations where positive emotions are promoted. They are resilient in the face of adversity and have a strong sense of purpose.

“Our education will promote these good qualities in students we are responsible for,” he says.

Prof Mushtak, who feels strongly about impact-based learning, intends to do things a little differently to achieve the institution’s goal of wholesome graduates.

“Before making improvements in our students, my team and I have to first improve ourselves,” he says.

He shares that he and his executive team plan to “go to the ground” to help students realise the great potential they hold and how they are capable of impacting the world, even if they start small.

“We are coming up with our own impact statement and will print them on t-shirts. We will wear them and interact with our students to make them realise their own clear impact statement.

“Students need to know that though we expect high-quality results from them, we are always there to support them in the thing they are passionate about.

“We want them to pursue and commit to it so that they can leave a positive impact on the world,” he says.

He adds youths need to be nurtured and trained to see that they have a role and purpose in life, as this mindset would allow them to be the best in whichever field they pursue, rather than define their existence and importance through a professional role.

“People often say the sky is the limit. But I say the sky itself is not a limit because the human potential is always expanding.

“The moment you do X, you realise that you can do Y, Z and much more. The notion of a glass ceiling or a limit only exists in our heads,” he points out.

He adds that by “upgrading” the students and staff of the university’s Malaysia branch, it would help in improving its world ranking as well.

Heriot-Watt Malaysia is one of the few universities that offers a truly global education experience, through its inter-campus transfer programme, Go Global.

Prof Mushtak says students from all of its campuses can spend time in any of the institution’s campuses for any period of time through the programme.

“Even for those who can’t afford to travel, they would still get the opportunity to have cultural interaction and work with international students who enrolled in it.

“We also constantly have academic staff from our other campuses to conduct guest lectures here on a weekly basis,” he says.

He adds that the global nature of the university provides plenty of opportunities for staff as well as students to interact, develop and push their limits on what they can do.

Besides nurturing university students, Heriot-Watt also places its focus on school-leavers to help them identify and achieve their full potential in areas such as creativity, innovation, critical thinking and communication.

The two-week long Youth Transformation Programme features inspiring speakers, highly interactive events and engaging projects to spark students’ interest and participation.

“During the programme, the students work on projects that allow them learn about themselves, how the brain works, how to develop their self awareness.

“Educating children on how the brain works enables them to understand emotions, which play a big role in all decision-making processes,” he shares.

For more information on Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, visit https://intake.hw.edu.my.

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