Developing tomorrow's leaders

Jade speaks to students at An Najah National University At An-Najah National University, students in Professor Mohammad Dweikat’s class are wrapping up their sixth and final week of working in partnership with TYO interns. Over the course of this session we have had the opportunity to work alongside Professor Dweikat in his Leadership Development course, helping students to hone skills such as public speaking, teamwork, and self-introductions. These types of topics are not usually considered by students, whose exams often demand their full attention and infringe on time and focus to develop other necessary skills critical to success in the workplace.

In the beginning of our time with students at An-Najah, Claire and I were surprised by the immense size of the Leadership Development class. With over 150 students in both the Sunday and Thursday sections, we were nervous about how we might implement strategies to get students engaged in class activities. Because large classes often pose a barrier to learning, we had to think of strategies to ensure that students at An-Najah were engaging with the material and benefitting from the course.

Claire and I have often used group activities as a means of getting students to work together on a given topic in the course. At first, there was hesitance from the group. For many of them, university is their first experience mixing with people from other communities and of the opposite gender. This type of dynamic can be challenging to overcome at first, but over our time with these students we have seen a significant improvement in engagement and an increase in individual student participation in a group of their peers. The increase in their capacities for teamwork bodes well for a future of engaging with diverse coworkers and communities in their future careers.

We have also seen improvement in students’ confidence levels. In the first couple of weeks at An-Najah we were hard pressed to find volunteers, especially young women, in the class willing to come on to the theatre stage and share their work. However, in the past several weeks we have seen more and more students willing to take that leap. Additionally, where women made up just one or two of and entire group of these volunteers in the beginning of the course, they now consistently make up about 30% of the group willing to present for any given activity. These gains are encouraging indicators of the progress students are making on and individual level.

Despite the challenges, working with An-Najah students has been incredibly eye opening to both the struggles and talents of university students in Palestine. In conversations with individual students, I have consistently left each class with a stronger sense of students’ passions, dedication, and desire to succeed. Through continued participation with courses and programs that challenge them to build upon individual skill sets, students will soon be ready to take on the world as community members, innovators, and the leaders of tomorrow in Palestine.

-Jade is a Fall 2014 International Intern at TYO

This program is funded by the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation (AHSF)