At the age of 29, Noah Kasraie has been quite the traveler. Originally from Pennsylvania, he left the United States as a child and has lived in Belgium, the Netherlands, Iran and United Arab Emirates. He has traveled to more than 40 countries and speaks five languages. Every summer, he travels overseas, mainly to third world countries, to do service and teach in rural areas as a volunteer. Students at the University of the Incarnate Word know him as an assistant professor in the Dreeben School of Education, one of the school’s newest faculty members, arriving in Fall 2008.
Kasraie has graciously shared some reflections of his first semester with the UIW community. In his own words, enjoy the experience of a first-timer on campus.
By Noah Kasraie
Edited by Ashley Festa
“The Universe is Yours!” When I first received my offer letter, these four words grabbed my attention more than anything else. What a beautiful motto. As a person who had lived most of his life overseas, this motto was very interesting to me. In fact, when I was applying for a teaching position, one of the most important factors to me was to join an institution that not only respects diversity, but also promotes diversity and global thinking. The first time I set foot on the campus of UIW, I felt I had found my home.
When I first walked into my class, I was surprised by the diversity of my students. Students from different cultures, nationalities, religions and backgrounds all sitting under one roof for one purpose: to learn. When I asked them what they wanted to learn in this course, I was amazed to see so much diversity of thought. In one of my classes, one-fourth of the class was international students. They hailed from many different countries, among them Jordan, Taiwan, Nigeria, Ghana and Turkey. This is something we as educators must value, take advantage of and appreciate. International students bring an important perspective to the classroom that strengthens the value of our learning model for all our students.
Today something interesting happened in one of my classes. As I was walking into class, one of my students called me and said her little daughter stuck a foreign object in her ear and it had become lodged. I advised her to immediately seek medical attention. Before starting the lecture, I informed my students about the situation. One of my students who is a nurse practitioner asked me if she could contact the absent student. When I asked the reason, she replied, “To help her.” She then called the student and gave her first-aid instructions. Most of us remember some beautiful moments in our classes; that was one of them. Did I create an environment in my class that promotes such actions? I think it is our responsibility to create the element of trust in our classes. Imagine a class in which students are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another. Without a certain comfort level among our students, a foundation of trust is impossible. And without trust, how can they learn?
I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already. I am buried with papers. The semester is ending, and still I have not had the opportunity to bring my books to my office. When my students come to my office, the first things they notice are two bookshelves with no books and an empty frame hanging from the wall. It has been a very challenging semester for me. However, I am enjoying every second of it. I really get motivated when I see my students motivated. One of my goals this semester is to promote the culture of research in our program by encouraging my students to write quality papers for my class and then submit them for an international conference that will be held in San Antonio. So far, most of my students have shown interest to submit their papers. I am hoping that they all get accepted.
Tonight when I was standing on the bridge while our graduates were walking by, I had a very good feeling. I felt like I am part of this community. I felt that I had positively contributed to UIW. By the way, so far 90 percent of my students have been accepted to present in the international conference. I am so proud of them. My first impression of the UIW campus was true: This is home.