"Each course presented a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow as a teacher."Nizar Zaarour started studying at Northeastern before some of his undergraduate students were born. Over the last 18 years, he has progressed from a BS in Civil Engineering through two MS degrees – one in Information Systems and one in Operations Research - and on to his PhD, in Industrial Engineering with a focus in Operations Research, while witnessing the campus change and grow.
As the University grew, so did Zaarour, the 2011 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award winner in the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, by gradually coming to love a profession he didn't expect: teaching.
"I never thought I was going to get into this field,” he admits, “I was thrown into it and I liked it a lot."
Zaarour started tutoring as an undergraduate and became a Teaching Assistant while earning his first master's degree. He then began teaching part-time classes, primarily mathematics for engineers. In 2006, he was awarded the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Teacher Award. Positive reviews meant he was assigned more classes, which lead him to teach probability and statistics – an area closely related to his research interests.
With each class, teaching won Zaarour over. "That was one of the main factors in terms of deciding to get a PhD," he says, "I like teaching a lot and they said I did an okay job, so I continued. Year after year I started thinking that maybe this was something I could actually do for a living."
In September, Zaarour will do just that when he begins his full-time teaching career at Northeastern. "It helps that I was a student at the same time I was teaching my own classes," he reflects, "the transition is not going to be that much different."
As a "quadruple Husky," Zaarour will bring a deep understanding of the University to the faculty. He was one of the first students to start the Dog Pound student section at hockey games, and he remembers when Northeastern had fewer research centers. As a graduate, he is proud to say "the school is moving up."
Zaarour will also bring passion to the role: on addition to being a classroom instructor, he has volunteered helping incoming minority and first-generation engineering students, and conducted extra review sessions for students preparing for the first exam towards becoming a professional engineer. In these projects as well as in his courses, Zaarour is consistently highly-rated.
Feedback gives Zaarour satisfaction and pushes him to be his best. "Teaching is one of those things that you’re not doing for glory or money," he affirms, "you can only teach if you really like to teach."
More information on the Outstanding Graduate Awards can be found online, http://www.northeastern.edu/gpsa/gradawards/.
Northeastern's Department of Mathematics, in conjunction with the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, offers programs in Operations Research leading to the MS and PhD degrees. Details can be found at http://www.math.neu.edu/graduate-programs and http://www.mie.neu.edu/.
Submitted by Beth Giudicessi, May 2011