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Farhana Akhter’s Educational Journey Exploring Academic Leadership

May 27, 2024 — 

Meet the class of 2024, Farhana Akhter will be graduating during Spring Convocation from the Master of Education program. Learn more about her education journey and experience as a Faculty of Education student.

When did you know you wanted to study Education?

I started the journey with education sector in Bangladesh as an educator. As a part of practicum in Bachelor of Education in the University of Dhaka, I taught in a secondary school in Bangladesh. From that time, I feel that how can I create a joyful and interactive teaching learning process in the classroom. When I started my career as an administrative role, I realized that I am passionate about the professional development of teachers which has enormous impact on overall education quality. From that time, I was yearning in my mind to pursue a higher education degree specialized in educational administration so that I can contribute to the professional development of teachers. In addition, during my career as an instructor in post-secondary level, I closely involved in teaching to adult learners. I have realized that the systemic change requires for the holistic development in education sector. Furthermore, I discerned that such teaching-learning approach should be learner-oriented and experiential. As professional learners are experienced in their own fields, I believe that students’ achievement can be ensured by enhancing professional learners’ quality. This experience has motivated me to choose my research area on academic leadership particularly instructional leadership in higher education.

What is the most exciting part about being in your field of study?

I would like to mention that my field of study has indispensable impact on life. The holistic growth of learners and process of lived experiences, all elements play vital role in the process of education. It may be different from young to adult. During the study of educational administration, I have discerned that to give the agency and empowering the learners is essential so that they can change the microscope as an insider of the system. As I adapt to the new learning interface, I have worked to leverage the strengths of Bangladeshi and Canadian education systems to develop a knowledge interface that could promote critical thinking, amplify student perspectives, and transform the education system. I think that to unmask the imbalances of the system is challenging. Albeit I believe that taking a heuristic approach, focusing on raising meaningful questions rather than offering immediate solutions based on contextual perspectives, would ultimately lead to more effective outcomes.

What is the best advice you have received that has helped you in your studies?

In every course, we have discussion session, group activity and presentation which helped me to develop my critical thinking skills. Furthermore, during first semester I learned about worldview and positionality from Introduction to Educational Research course with Dr. Catherine Neumann. That course helped me to make a shape about my research interest. In addition, I would like the mention that Theoretical perspectives of educational administration course with Dr. Cameron Hauseman which helped me to unmask the interrogation and deconstruction of the existing education system and find out the critical impacts on the overall national development. As a part of individualized course plan, I took Canadian school systems and their public purposes course with Dr. Merli Tamtik which provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the Canadian school system and enhance my familiarity with this education system.

Did you have any faculty mentors? How have they been valuable to you?

During my journey, I have faced several challenges in different aspects. Such as-distance from family, language barrier, cultural difference, particularly context difference. As an international student and second language speaker, I struggled to understand the new concepts and familiarize with new context here. I found all my course instructors very cordial and welcoming to me. I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Merli Tamtik, for her unwavering support and motivation throughout my academic experience in the Master of Education program journey. Furthermore, I would love to mention, my course instructors Dr. Catherine Neumann, Dr. Cameron Hauseman, Dr. Peng Liu, Dr. Heather A. Anderson, Dr. Corinne E. Barrett DeWiele, Dr. Satoru Nakagawa, Dr. Ee-Seul Yoon, Dr. Nathalie Piquemal who encouraged me and supported me by providing additional resources and their meaningful time.

Any insights about the faculty that would benefit future students?

I believe that actively engaging with university resources and continuously developing my skills was a key strategy that I followed in my journey. Transitioning to a new environment can be daunting, but I approached it as a learning opportunity. I familiarized myself with various university services, such as the academic learning center, student counseling services, career services, and international center. These resources offered workshops that proved to be invaluable in helping me navigate the university landscape more effectively. Furthermore, I particularly found the academic learning center to be beneficial in improving my writing skills. As I began my academic journey in a new setting, I experienced a mix of apprehension and optimism.  During the first semester, I engaged in numerous workshops in an effort to familiarize myself with the services offered by UoM and integrate into the university community. These experiences not only boosted my confidence but also enhanced my cultural competency.

Do you have any favourite memories from the Faculty of Education?

I have a lot of precious memories in the Faculty of Education. During my initial participation in the Greet and Meet program 2022 post Covid-19 pandemic, I was excited to have the opportunity to engage with professors, researchers, and fellow students in person. I found the experience to be quite enriching and insightful. As an international student, I believe that Meet and Greet program organized by EDGSA gives an opportunity to introduce new graduates and exchange experience with new and current graduate students. On top of that, I was thrilled when my name was announced in the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (UMGF) and Robert A. Rodgers Graduate Award in Education. All these academic achievements have encouraged me to complete this academic program successfully. One of my most valuable memories is when I have been graduated in GTP program (Graduate Teaching Program) offered by the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, University of Manitoba and accredited by the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA).  In addition, I enjoyed working as a mentor in welcome mentor program at International Centre, I appreciated sharing my personal experiences with my mentees and facilitating the exchange of cultural norms and values between us.

What’s next for you after graduation?

I am now interested in exploring potential opportunities within the Canadian education system. I believe that education is often shaped by its specific context, for which I am eager to immerse myself in an education system that is distinct from Bangladesh. I hope to apply my pedagogical expertise in a new work environment, with the intention of furthering my practical knowledge and eventually pursuing a professional degree in my future endeavour. I believe that all these experiences enable me to be meaningful contributor in my future profession.

Finally, I would like to express that this has been a worthy and an exciting journey, allowing me to engage in critical thinking through reflective learning. While there were challenges in meeting goals in a timely manner, I am grateful for the support and motivation provided by my teachers, university services, and individuals within and outside the academic setting. This has enabled me to fully immerse myself in the learning community. Thank you for having me.

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