Libyan Women Paving the Way for Educational Development and Transformation: Meet Professor Yusra Mouzughi, the Vice-Chancellor of Muscat University
The progression of any society is not fully accomplished without the contribution of both males and females. Education is key to further develop countries and communities. Women have been taking leading positions worldwide and they are part of the change-making process and I believe that Libyan women now are contributing more and more due to the circumstances the country is going through and also due to personal advancement and progression which has been apparent in many fields. As the year comes to an end and in the highlighting journey I started earlier this year to put amazing Libyans under the spotlight and give them some sort of recognition.
In this article, I am highlighting another inspiring Libyan woman in a leading position and she is making progress and development in a higher education institution and her name is Yusra Mouzughi. I reached out to professor Yusra a few weeks ago informing her of my interest in writing an article about her as I have been personally inspired by her work and lovely personality and she was very welcoming of the idea and we had a lovely conversation to come up with this piece.
I first asked her about herself and her childhood, she grew up in a typical Libyan family and left Libya when she was only 7. She described herself and I quote ”I was quite studious as a child but was definitely not the cleverest of my siblings.” However, they moved to England because of her father’s work and it became her home away from home for 34 years before moving to Oman four years ago.
You can tell from her tweets and her openness in replying and engaging with people that she is quite outgoing and social. Professor Yusra has a Bachelor’s degree in business and management and then went on to do an MBA from Heriot-Watt and finally a Ph.D. in Knowledge Management from Liverpool John Moores University.
She had a major car accident during her Ph.D. which left her in a wheelchair for a while but with multiple operations, she managed to pass that period with lots of support from her husband and loved ones and gain her full recovery at all levels. We always have to be reminded of downtimes because achieving people are normal people, the only difference is that they don’t give up but instead, they push through life struggles and events to come out stronger and better.
Throughout the interview, I asked her about her dream. Defining a dream is different from one person to another, a dream is made up of the individual’s personality, hopes, life-changing events, lessons, etc. A dream grows with us from an early age and it is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, with every step we take, we get closer and closer to it. It can also be described as a growing tree, it starts as a tiny seed and the more we take care of it and water it, it will grow into a big tree. We can define a dream in many ways. It was a bit surprising to know that professor Yusra never thought about being an academic or a vice-chancellor.
She didn’t have a very clear career path but she knew that she wanted to be recognized for her own independent identity and not by being someone’s daughter or sister or wife. I admired her answer so much and it reminded me of myself and the paths I took or I am currently taking and the journey of growth so far.
We also talked about her career paths and her beginnings early on. She started off working in an insurance company in Bristol and worked her way up in that sector but then she realized that some research in the area of Knowledge Management in Financial Services was much needed and therefore asked her then-boss to sponsor her on a Ph.D. He agreed and she started her journey in a Ph.D.
Shortly afterward, the University offered her a position to do some teaching and she switched careers and moved into academia. She also had to do some certification to allow her to teach so she was juggling a new career, a Ph.D., a postgraduate certificate in teaching and a 3-month-old baby. And she described this as fun! She is a superwoman for sure!
After this, she joined Muscat University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Affairs in January of 2016 but was then promoted to Vice-Chancellor in August 2017. She has had and continues to have the most amazing time. As a new university, She has been fortunate to oversee the development of the university literally from scratch and very few people have that kind of opportunity. This though does mean that you have to multitask and be very flexible and willing to think outside the box. It has also exposed her to Arabic culture which she had not really experienced before.
Though she has left Libya from a very early age and she didn’t experience work nor studying there but she has a bit of general advice she would give to working women in Libya and also to those pursuing careers or academic paths and that is to believe in three simple principles: Always be open to new challenges and opportunities. Always ask – the worse that happens is that they say no. And finally, believe in yourself but also remember to be kind to yourself. These are very important reminders to keep in mind throughout the journey of life and I will personally keep them in mind. One of her favorite mantras is “look, listen and learn – before you open your mouth to speak’’. This is a reminder that listening is an essential skill to keep and develop because it is not always about speaking or giving an opinion if you are not open enough to listen to people’s opinions and ideas.
This interview was so much fun thanks to Professor Yusra. I would like to thank her for being open to the questions and the advice she gave. She is truly a role model and an amazing woman who managed to prove herself on her own with the support of her loved ones which is important as well. You can follow her through Twitter on her journey as a vice-chancellor: Mouzughi