Hyowon Park, '16 and Abby Johnson, '16 listen to Professor Khurram Hussain during his Philosophy of Religion class on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 in Maginnes Hall. Hussain is a new professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. (Kari Moffat/B&W photo)

Professor Hussain reflects on career, Lehigh campus culture

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Professor Khurram Hussain joined Lehigh as an assistant professor of religion studies in 2012. Although he is a relatively new professor on campus, that has not hindered his views on ways in which the university can improve.

Hussain spent the first 18 years of his life living in Pakistan. When it came time to chose a college, his all-boy’s English-speaking prep school set the standard that he would not be attending a university located in Pakistan. Hussain spent time looking at colleges in both England and the United States before deciding on his future home: Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts college located in Maine. The largest transition for Hussain had nothing to do with being half way across the globe from his family and home, but rather the differences in climates.

After Bowdoin, Hussain decided to pursue further education at Yale University. He went on to begin a career in business. Deep down, he knew that his heart was set on teaching and higher education, but he needed to appease his parents with a career that was considered a “legitimate profession” back in Pakistan.

Hussain made a deal with both of his parents that he would try entering the business world, and if he decided he did not like it, he would get to go back to school for academia. He worked for multiple companies, including Coca-Cola, before his time in business was complete.

“The corporate world is somewhat dehumanizing,” Hussain said. “It is also very excessive. It is not designed to create harmony in lives. Bottom line is it is all about money, which these days is not even about cash but is about numbers on a computer.”

Hussain now loves the environment at Lehigh, and he said that it is much less competitive among peers and much more focus is put on forming relationships with colleagues. For Hussain, it was not all about the money.

“You get such a more rewarding and better feeling when teaching young people,” Hussain said.

Hussain feels there are many differences between his experiences at Yale and Bowdoin and those that his students are going through here at Lehigh. He feels that students at Lehigh are much harder working, claiming that he would never have seen students in the library at late hours of the night at either of his previous universities.

Although the amount of effort most students put in at Lehigh is seen as a good thing, Hussain takes a somewhat different approach, constantly noticing his students seem to be stressed out. He makes it a point to constantly remind his students to make sure they are eating properly, also telling them to “chill out” here and there and to take it easy on all the caffeine.

“There is a lot of excess here at Lehigh” Hussain said. “Excess in terms of working hard and studying, excess in terms of coffee, (and) excess in terms of alcohol consumption. It is not very good in terms of student’s mental well being.”

In order to try and make a difference, Hussain also takes the time once a semester for each of the classes he teaches to give a health talk to all of his students, informing them of good practices. Hussain feels he is personally responsible to try and help change the culture of excessive behavior on campus, even if it is just in his classes. However, he does wish this issue was something that the administration as a whole would take a grasp of.

Hussain also feels there are a few changes that can be made for the university that would really benefit all of the students. For example, he believes that Lehigh needs to put much more emphasis on the College of Arts and Sciences as a whole.

“(The College of Arts and Sciences) is the college where you learn to live your life,” Hussain said. “These are not just subjects to learn about something else — they are subjects where you learn about yourself and the human condition.”

Hussain feels that too much of the university’s center of focus tends to be on the professional schools, especially business and engineering in the undergraduate level, and that focus is extremely lacking when it comes to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Reflecting back at his time spent at Bowdoin and Yale, he felt things were much more integrated, explaining that here at Lehigh is seems like the engineering and business requirements are so extensive there is absolutely no way to truly integrate them.

Hussain may be new to Lehigh, and he may have traveled an extremely long way from home, but with his new ideas and extreme passion for teaching, he believes that he can help to make an impact on Lehigh’s campus.

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