Hockey Night in Abu Dhabi: Spotlight on an Emirati Hockey Queen

*updated with a documentary film made about Fatima, who is also the first Emirati female sports photographer! Against the Wind documentary

A few months ago I realized a former female student of mine played hockey - like a lot! All winter (well, winter is a relative term here in Abu Dhabi) I have been planning and meaning to go to one of her games and something always got in the way...

But tonight no! I made it to the Abu Dhabi Storm's game against a Dubai women's team. The Storm's are an all but three Emirati ladies team - and they played hard against a team made up of new players (like Fatima) and women who love the game (and they pay for their own ice time!). It was an interesting game to watch - but the best part was talking with Fatima after.

Yes, there is an ice rink in Abu Dhabi and it is well used!
The Abu Dhabi Storm were formed in 2010 and from the beginning, because of a love of hockey, Fatima has been the official team photographer. After much encouragement from her second family she laced on her skates and joined the team in May 2011 and started learning how to play hockey! Of course, now she says hockey is her life - and truly, it is... (I introduced her to the term rink rat!)

Lots of passes and shots

Abu Dhabi Storm in the white and pink!

The Dubai team scores!

Fatima is number 7 and plays centre (and the wings)

Team gathering after the final whistle

Good game ladies!
Fatima Al Ali - Emirati hockey queen!

After only two years of playing hockey Fatima is on the first line, coaches the second string men's team, has played on the men's team (only woman and only one of two Emiratis) and has learned how to referee and does it on a regular basis.

She is well supported by her family, and tonight her Mom, brothers and cousins were there to cheer her on. She said "I enjoy playing hockey and I can't imagine my life without playing.".

I taught Fatima in Introduction to Management a few years ago and she graduated in Management and Information Systems last year. Three of the ladies on the team are currently students at Zayed University - but I don't have the pleasure of teaching them.

Fatima is super serious about hockey, she has been to training camps overseas and four international tournaments (two with the men's team) and leaves this Saturday for a fifth in Hong Kong.

In a year or so hopefully there will be a women's National team - and Fatima's dream is to be the Captain and she has a plan to get there! Her goal is to be the best player on the team and always improve her skills and her game.

I hope one day I will be able to take her to a game in Canada to watch her favorite player - Alexander Ovechkin or even better, her second and third favorit players on the Vancouver Canucks!

Bravo Fatima - you break every stereotype and do it as the most natural thing in the world - I am super proud of you - and one day, when you are team captain of the National Team I will want an autographed team photo!


One year of blogging - top five lessons learned

So, in a few days I will have been blogging for a year. Promoting my blog through social media and getting feedback from around the world. All in all a totally positive experience that lets me share my experiences and projects with my awesome students, my research and my collaborations with other great professors and students.

I have learned a few things along the way, which in fact have improved my teaching to some extent, as I have become more understanding of the need to express some things visually. Now i encourage students to incorporate photos and videos to support their written projects - to make the project more interesting for the students, but also to inspire them to think in different ways.

Here are a few things I have learned in the past year of blogging - in list form:

  1. People like lists - seriously, I do not use them enough, but the times I have done those posts get more views
  2. People like photos - and I swear some people don't really read my fine words, but just look at the pictures - I am fine with that now!
  3. Disseminating research to the outside world is hard - but I will never give up trying new ways and new methods
  4. Students research projects on blogs - I am sure some of my models have ended up in assignments from India to Germany and beyond!
  5. I love when people read my work - the visitor count makes me happy and the country count makes me constantly wonder at the power of the internet.
I will continue to blog, even after I leave the UAE. This summer I will be driving the Alaska Highway with my Mom and Dad and will start a blog shortly about our planning process and then write daily posts about the trip (need to buy a new phone with a better camera). I have my smile and courage blog and adventures of Auntie as well. 

I guess blogging is in my blood now!
Most common view when writing my blog posts! (Except it is usually sunny)


Strategy class trip to Emirati family photograph art exhibit

Yesterday I took both my men's Strategy classes to an photography exhibit developed and organised by the College of Art and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. You can read The National's story on it here.

The exhibit displayed what was first a very creative assignment given by Dr.Michele Bambling who invited students to bring in family photographs and over the past three years it grew until there was almost no choice but to do an exhibit. The book (which is truly stunning) was designed by David Howarth, an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design. In the words of Marco Sosa, who designed the show:

"This is the first exhibition and accompanying book that examines family photographs produced by Emiratis during the second half of the 20th century.

The photographs and video footage in this exhibition differ dramatically from better known and widely distributed professional photos taken by early explorers, missionaries, oil companies, government agencies, the media, and royal family photographers. These are snapshots focused not on official events or protocol, by virtue of being taken by amateurs; they are candid, clicked for private viewing and lasting memories.

The exhibition begins by showing the process through which students collected, researched, curated and authored a book of photographs. The oldest photograph found in a home was dated 1958; the most recent one was made in 1999, after which the students could ‘see’ the world into which world they were born.

The second part of the exhibition explores student responses to these photographs through a series of experimental installations that draw on them with an aesthetic sensibility of their own generation.

These inter-generational works consider a critical issue: the capacity of photography to evoke memories and stir the imagination."

But why take my "strategy boys" there? What interest do they have in art? Or taking the long outside trek to the exhibit space on the exact other side of the campus from our class? Because, as I have written about before, their first assignment is an essay on the subject "Strategy is..." based on an interview with an Emirati older than 60 years young. You can read a post about the assignment here and some results here.

I wanted them to be inspired by the photographs themselves to remember family stories, legends and other oral history that teaches about how people reached their personal and professional goals - about the strategies they used and the tactics they employed.

The students found it interesting, some were very keen to learn more about ways to celebrate and preserve heritage and culture and that was exciting to all the professors there (thank you Marco, David and Michele for volunteering your time for the tour!). We also used the Polaroid camera to fill the map of visitors to the exhibit... 

Teaching "business" subjects is not about just using techniques invented by old (white, sorry but true) men in the 50s and 60s. Teaching strategy, management and human resource management can be done in any number of ways - and to be relevant to today's generations, and especially to be relevant to Emirati students we need to find ways to teach that are relevant to them - not people who lived in another era and century! 

Mr. Marco explaining the exhibit and the heavily student involved process

Dr. Michelle, Mr. David and Mr. Marco

Trying out the old typewriters and looking at the book

A student from Ajman being photographed for the map

And I live about here! Using google maps to pinpoint exact location!


Entrepreneurship and employment clubs: needed here and abroad

I just spent the most remarkable and memorable ten days in Rwanda. I was there to visit a beautiful country that is still healing from a genocide 19 years ago that killed over one million Tutsis and left thousands of orphans. I was also there to witness the graduation of my foster daughter Berthe, who had survived the genocide with her younger brother but who lost her father, mother and elder sisters and brothers.

The link to our story is here I supported Berthe studies in Rwanda and she has graduated with a degree in International Development and wrote her thesis on recycling waste. I am extremely proud of her - and want her to build a life and a family for herself and help to continue to build her country.

Berthe is still looking for work though, as were most of the 22 students our charity Ibuka Education supported. They have overcome great personal and societal defeats to obtain degrees in Accounting and Sociology and International Development, but like more than 25% of young educated people in the Middle East North Africa and Africa they are jobless - and many are hopeless of ever finding work.

Some graduating students from Ibuka Education

As we drove around Kigali I would look at the names on buildings and the names on the "fancy" cars and I saw Government and NGOs - very few private companies in fact. I did see enterprising young people washing cars and delivering fruits and vegetables - and even running vegetable stands - but I saw very few thinking of starting their own company or working in a young company.

Most of the students wanted to work with government or NGOs (which are run like semi-government organisations) and of course that reminded me of my students here in Abu Dhabi. Then I remember myself when I graduated with a degree in history... and well, I guess I wanted to work for government too (and as a professor I guess I will always work for government in one way or another!).

I saw though that government jobs are saturated, NGOs hire the best and brightest, but many/most come from other countries and there is little "local capacity development" which could be possible with internships (again, this is only what I saw). What can these bright young students do - who fear failure not because life has been too easy, but perhaps because life has been too hard.

Speaking with them I felt hopeless - as a large collective we had supported them in their studies and now they graduate with few opportunities. So I thought, well, they could start a club - call it the Employment and Entrepreneurship Club. They could write up a simple charter, elect/select an executive and members at large and write up their goals.

Then, they will need to organize their first event - I told them I would sponsor it and I truly hope they take me up on it. They could invite someone they admire, a business woman or man, to talk about how they started. They could knock on some doors to find a venue (with a written proposal that many wonderful people in Kigali would help them with), perhaps contact a newspaper to cover the event and just do it.

Each month they could organize an event, and hold weekly meeting to talk about job opportunities and free networking events they could attend. They could have CV writing workshops and interview practices... but at the end of the day it has to be organised by them for them. Yes, these clubs and events are held everywhere in the West... but I think it is in the developing world we need them most.

NGOs serve a great purpose of course, but there needs to be more focus on local capacity development through sponsoring such grass roots clubs... through help with writing press releases, finding venues, looking for local sponsors...

I hope the fresh graduates take me up on the challenge and use the Canada notebooks I gave them - one to write dreams and the other to write actions. We never reach our dreams in one days and the path to achieve them is rarely (if ever) straight and narrow... but if we do something each day or each week eventually there is an accumulation of effort that actually amounts to something.

I wish them luck and I hope they know how proud I am, how proud the over 100 foster parents are of them from Canada, Europe, the US and Rwanda... Bravo!