Meet Zafar Syed, Dean of FHASS

Photo: Zafar Syed

Zafar Syed has worked in educational development in Japan, Hawai‘i, the UAE, and Canada for the past nearly 30 years. As an educator, Zafar is passionate about creating and sustaining quality learning experiences that address social justice and equity issues in order to nurture global citizenship in individuals and communities. Over the course of his professional career, he has held leadership positions in the areas of educational technology, organizational learning, academic development, SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning), and English language teaching.

As a first-generation immigrant settler to Canada, Zafar spent a year in a ‘new Canadian’ class (LINC) learning English before beginning high school in East Vancouver. Those early years were difficult. The learning curve both cognitively and emotionally was quite steep. Yet those lived experiences would later feed into research interests in language, identity, and educational practice. 

Zafar has a strong bias towards community colleges and the important role they play for individuals and within society. He is proud to note that his own educational journey began at a community college in Vancouver under the mentorship of a gifted English professor who saw possibilities in an otherwise quiet and underachieving student. Zafar would go on to earn degrees from SFU (BA in English) and the University of Hawai‘i (MA, in Second Language Studies) and got to the dreaded ABD stage in a PhD program at OISE/University of Toronto. Zafar is an avid squash player and has played 9 different sports competitively including completing two marathons (Hawai‘i and Vancouver).

Zafar answers Alchemy‘s Proust Questionnaire

My favourite virtue: Ehsan (Arabic) – difficult to translate into English but essentially it refers to beautify through action or words; it also speaks to aspiring for perfection/excellence

Most important lesson I’ve learned this year: Having had to live away from my wife and children for the past 4 years, I’ve rediscovered the immense blessing of being with my family.

My favourite qualities in a student: Focused on learning not grades

My favourite qualities in a teacher: Negotiates course content and processes and ensures learners see themselves in the curriculum

Moment in my life I’d like to re-live: Not asking Bobby Orr to sign the #4 Boston Bruins jersey I was wearing when I met him (my boys never let me forget this).

My idea of perfect happiness: Gratitude

In my opinion the secret to success is: Looking beyond worldly gains and ends

My favourite word: Exigency

My favourite quotation, motto, or phrase: It’s hard to pick one for a student of literature and a closet poet, but recently I’ve been reflecting on this one from Khalil Gibran: “Pain and ignorance lead to great joy and knowledge because the Supreme Being has created nothing vain under the sun.”

The word/phrase/expression I overuse in life: It’s all about getting the balance right.

If I weren’t a teacher/administrator I’d be: Producing documentaries

Talent or skill I wish I had: Ability to draw

Language I’d love to be able to speak: Arabic

Country/place I’d like to visit: Not only visit, but would love to live/work in Morocco

On my bucket list: Make it at least to Everest basecamp

My favourite historical, literary, or cinematic character(s): Thomas Hardy’s Tess

My favourite food/meal and drink: Mangoes  

My favourite singer/musician and song: Peter Gabriel (English) and Mukesh (Hindi/Urdu)

My guilty TV/film/gaming pleasure: I’ll mention two: watching Eastenders (got hooked on this when we were living in the UAE) and more recently This is Us.