Leaders in the Civic Engagement Movement December 2013

Professor Mohd Fauzi, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

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Professor Mohd Fauzi, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

By Amy Newcomb Rowe

Professor Mohd Fauzi Mohd Jani is the current full-time Director of the UKM Centre for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprise Development (UKM CESMED) at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Bangi, Malaysia just outside of the central city of Kuala Lumpur. Dr. Fauzi has taught Agricultural Economics and Marketing in the Faculty of Economy and Management at UKM since 1985. He served as Dean from 2006 to 2011 and was appointed Director of the specialized consultant-based research Centre, a UKM Pakarunding Sdn Bhd, a private wing of UKM, established in 2003 until 2005. UKM was named one of eight award universities in 2013 for the Talloires Network Youth Economic Participation Initiative Demonstration Grant (YEPI). Dr. Fauzi and his staff are overseeing the award program, which seeks to develop shared service-learning methods to support graduates who are working with small and medium businesses in their communities, both urban and rural. I sat down with him in person at the Talloires Network Welcome Workshop last week in Cape Town, South Africa to learn more about his vision for the program.
When asked why he is committed to civic engagement, Dr. Fauzi recalled his childhood in a rural village where his father was a primary school teacher, and where he observed his father’s commitment to the community and public services. “My father taught many subjects, including language and mathematics, and he used a lot of his time beyond the classroom connecting with young people, for instance working with a chicken production project in the village. I was impressed with his work.” he explained. “I realized that every single person, no matter their origins, can achieve great things in life,” Dr. Fauzi said. Detailing how he eventually made his way to university, Dr. Fauzi received a diploma in Animal Health and Production from Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, and afterward was given an opportunity to study abroad changing his course to Economics, receiving his Bachelor of Science and PhD in Agriculture Economics from Washington State University in the United States. He describes the abundant benefits of merging two powerful areas of research, both sciences and the arts, which he uses in mentoring students in both sciences and humanities programs.
Malaysia is a rich multicultural and multiethnic society with a large youth population. One of the areas of civic life that Dr. Fauzi and his team are working with is youth economic development through the channels of higher education. They are looking for innovative ways to empower students to start small businesses and be employed after graduation. To do this, they are working to develop a healthy ecosystem that supports small businesses and also gives back to the community. Many students in the Malaysian higher education system are purposely directed toward an area of study based on their exam results, and not necessarily based on their choice of career. Dr. Fauzi wants to help students reconcile this; by guiding them toward careers they are both passionate about and good at. As lecturers, Dr. Fauzi and his engaged colleagues are learning to blend high expectations of students’ hard work and good marks with a certain amount of praise and encouragement that motivates students toward successful entrepreneurship. “Young people have all the energy in the world, but are sometimes not guided or directed in a way that makes them feel good about their ideas. I believe everyone in society has helpful knowledge and every student has good ideas. It is our job to give students a chance to find a vision toward success, and to enjoy life and developing their career along the way,” Dr. Fauzi explained. To date, UKM students are engaging their communities in several disciplines, including health and environmental sciences, engineering, applied sciences. One of their most successful programs is in accounting and called TechnoCount. The idea is to connect accounting students with small businesses that are required to follow certain federal filing procedures. The students learn about federal requirements in class and transfer the knowledge by way of service to a community business. The students set up templates and software that provide an increase in income enabling business to be sustainable. “When our students meet their goals and the small businesses are generating income, we know we have increased both the students’ and the communities’ abilities to solve problems for themselves. The challenge of convincing students and community leaders to be open to collaboration and receiving help from others continues to be in our learning agenda,” says Dr. Fauzi.
Teaching students how to use their accounting skills to engage the community is only one example of CESMED’s work at UKM. The founding of the Centre is considered by the team one of their greatest achievements in civic engagement work with the university. It began with a small research grant from Waseda University in Japan, from which they received about $10,000 dollars to start a project called “COBlas” working closely with the SME Corps, a government agency and consultation program that helps small and medium enterprises launch in the early stages of development. After successfully managing COBlas, it acquired additional funds for a national outreach campaign to 14 Malaysian universities. Dr. Fauzi described the outcomes of the program, “we saw many students going into successful internships and learning how to start, manage and operate small businesses. What started as a simple project with SME Corp developed into a larger centre for our graduates as well as 14 other universities in the region!” The Centre has received the SME Internship Program National Award for the last two years.
UKM is a model for rewarding engaged faculty and staff by offering incentives such as training programs and small allowances, which are based on staff mentoring, advising and administrative work as department coordinators. They have 14 fellow coordinators, as well as strong interdepartmental support from top university leaders. The Centre also supports staff with acknowledgments and certificates of appreciation. Dr. Fauzi brings a wealth of experience in staff development and states, “one area of incentive that I have noticed over my career is connecting senior faculty leaders with junior lecturers. When I engage the senior members, the juniors follow. The younger lecturers also enjoy travel opportunities and professional development, which we include as support for their engagement work. These opportunities advance networking and resources.”
However, positive staff support may not always translate to good recruitment numbers, says Dr. Fauzi. From the perspective of a former dean, his primary concern is to increase the number of engaged lecturers at UKM. When the core group of engaged lecturers committed to the Centre, they worked together very well and established common understandings; there were about 10 core lecturers initially. When they formalized the Centre within the university, of course the members grew, and the core group became worried and that the Centre would lose its original vision. Dr. Fauzi allowed the core members lead the new members to transfer the same vision and passion, as well as creating new ideas for civic engagement. Now they have 130 staff that contribute to the expanding agenda and who have important leadership responsibilities thanks to the efforts of our original group. In a little over three years, they built a cohesive group of engaged faculties across campus by bringing together lectures for a similar vision. They have many more lecturers to recruit in the future, says Dr. Fauzi.

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