A Bangladeshi who makes us proud
When irresponsible people continue to drag the image of the country deeper into the muck, a handful of Bangladeshis at home and abroad remain steadfast in their vision and mission to improve it against all odds. These good sons of the soil are the architects of positive Bangladesh and they have collectively earned a good name for the country. Better still, they have earned the Nobel Peace Prize for Bangladesh !
Asif Siddiqi is one such Bangladeshi who has been working diligently in the US to remove some of the blemishes from the name of the country and present the history, traditions and heritage of Bangladesh before the Americans in their true perspective. He is happy that he is being able to do the arduous job to his satisfaction.
Before presenting some highlights from the discussion we have had with him last week his brief resume is given below for the readers.
At present Asif is working as an assistant professor at the Department of History, Fordham University, New York. In 2004-2005 he worked as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge , Massachusetts . Asif received his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004. Earlier he had obtained his M.B.A. degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and M.S. in economics from Texas A&M University . He had obtained his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1989.
His research areas are the History of science & technology, Postcolonial Studies and Cultural History. Asif has been awarded many grants, fellowships and honors in his short but impressive career. Among them worth mentioning are: the American Historical Association (AHA)'s Fellowship in Aerospace History in 2003-2004; the Smithsonian Institution's A. Verville Fellowship in 2002-2003; the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)'s International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship in 2002-2003; the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Science and Technology Studies Program's Dissertation Research Improvement Award in 2001-2002; and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Three-Year Full-Tuition Graduate Scholarship in 1998-2001.
Asif is the author of Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974 which was published by NASA in 2000. This book of over 1,000 pages has received many national awards in the U.S. including from the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). This book is considered the definitive history of the Russian space program.
Currently, he is serving as series editor of a four volume series about space scientist Boris Chertok which is entitled Rockets and People and also published by NASA. At present, the first two volumes have been published in the U.S.
Asif also makes music and writes poetry in his free time. His first set of poems entitled Politics was published in Dhaka in 1991.
In fact, it was quite difficult for this writer to leave out many of the academic and research achievements of this young teacher because of space constraint.
Last week we met Asif to know about his teaching experience and what US students think about Bangladesh . We also wanted to know why he chose teaching as a profession. With a smile he said that he came from a long line of teachers. His father Dr. Hafiz G.A. Siddiqi is the vice chancellor of North South University and his mother Dr. Najma Siddiqui is a senior faculty at Jahangirnagar University . So, with teaching pretty much in the blood and growing up as a young man in this environment it was only natural for him to gravitate towards teaching, as he observed.
While talking about his experience of teaching in the US , Asif said it has been a unique one. There are many reasons for it. First of all, students are smart and classes are interactive. Next, academic system is regular and well organised. There is no disruption. How do they react or respond when they come to know that you are from Bangladesh ? Yes, students have many stereotypes about Bangladesh - poor country, regular floods and so on - and have a natural curiosity to know about the country. Through interactive sessions he tries to dispel some wrong notions and tells them about the real Bangladesh , its positive as well as negative aspects. He also organises roundtables with the participation of experts in different fields for the undergraduate students to talk on various issues and also on South-East Asia as there is a growing interest among the American students about this part of the world.