Kamal Masri’s teaching bring community engagement into the classroomFeb 03, 2016
Beedie School of Business lecturer Kamal Masri has never been afraid to take chances.
According to Masri, his first foray into using real world projects in order to engage his students was an experiment – one that he was unsure as to whether it would be a success. Yet several years later, Masri’s dedication to both teaching and to community has benefited not only his students, but also cancer research.
Masri is the founder of the 25toLife project, which for the past three years has tasked students in his Bus 361 Project Management class with running a series of diverse, innovative events to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Working as both one large group and within smaller teams, the students have raised over $80,000 in just three years through events such as a sponsored climb up the 35 flights of stairs at Vancouver’s Harbour Center, sponsored obstacle courses, corporate speed networking, and pub nights.
For his part, Masri was awarded the Canadian Cancer Society’s Community Champion Award, in recognition of his remarkable fundraising efforts for the Society. As a firm believer in the merits of using experiential learning as a teaching tool, Masri believes that the program is an ideal way to engage his students.
“I wanted to do something in my class that had more meaning and was challenging for the students,” he says. “When I first started with this project I had no idea what I was getting myself or the students into – and I told them that – but it has worked out better than I could have hoped for. They are not only challenged, but they make a difference in people’s lives.”
Unlike many teachers, Masri never aspired to be an educator, instead focusing on running his own software company for much of his career. Indeed, it took considerable effort from Beedie Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs Andrew Gemino – who had studied for his MBA alongside Masri – to persuade him to teach his first class. But despite being coerced into teaching his first class, Masri now says that it has defined the rest of his career.
“I had no interest in teaching to begin with, but when I had a chance to stand up in front of 150 students I discovered it was fun,” he says. “Teaching then convinced me to do a PhD, and then after teaching for three or four years I decided it would be a fun career choice, so I switched from developing software to teaching full time.”
As a firm believer in student engagement, Masri dedicates much of his time to coaching undergraduate students in case competitions – often with great success. Under his watchful eye, BBA students have placed at some of the most prestigious competitions across the globe, including the McGill Management International Case Competition, and the APEX Business-IT Global Case Challenge.
“I see case competitions as an extension of the classroom, and working with the students on them develops their skills and boosts their confidence,” he says. “The only way to develop these skills is through constant training. Seeing the students improve is very rewarding, and I get a sense of pride when they do well.”
In 2015 Masri won the TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest teaching honour available at the Beedie School of Business. As a now two-time winner of the award, Masri joins a group that contains some distinguished names from across the School. Yet the most meaningful aspect of the award for him comes from the fact that it is based primarily on student feedback.
“Winning the TD award mean that the students appreciate what I have done in the classroom – that, to me, is the biggest recognition,” he says. “Getting the thumbs up from the students shows that my teaching is impacting them in a positive way.”