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Public School Initiative Honored by Ministry of Education

January 16, 2024


On December 31st, 2023, the Ministry of Education celebrated the success of the School University Partnership (SUP) at the Abou El Enein school in New Cairo. The Minister of Education expressed gratitude to AUC for their pivotal role in the initiative's success, and announced plans to integrate SUP into the national strategic plan, extending its reach across all Egyptian educational directorates.

Initiated by the Middle East Institute for Higher Education, the SUP project involved the collaboration of undergraduate and graduate students, AUC faculty from various disciplines, and government school teachers and pupils in order to leave a lasting impact on nine neighboring government schools. Throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2023, the team dedicated their efforts to developing student citizenship, leadership and participation, supporting sustainable development in schools, and opening doors for digital literacy.

The event, attended by the entire community-based learning team, featured Malak Zaalouk, who provided a historical background of the initiative. School pupils presented their accounts of the transformative impact SUP had on their schools. As a result of this successful collaboration, the Minister of Education recognized the program's potential to shape the future of education in Egypt.

Read more about the SUP initiative in AUCToday

Header photo (taken by Ahmad El Nemr): A new outreach initiative from AUC’s Middle East Institute of Higher Education is creating school-university partnerships that promote community engagement, empower public school students and foster sustainable development.


A group of participants at the SUP honoring event
SUP participants pose with Ministry officials at the event held at Abou El Enein school.



A Digital Symphony

David Rafferty
January 16, 2023

Hear from David Rafferty, associate professor of practice in music technology, about AUC's first laptop ensemble, where students explored the intersections between music and technology. Participating in this ensemble exposed students to the creative potential of laptops in music making, culminating in an innovative live performance.

Why a Laptop Ensemble?

The laptop ensemble was motivated by the many explorations integrating computers with  music. The idea of working on a laptop collective is not a new concept in music programs. These creative experiments had their origins in the early 2000s in institutes like Princeton and Stanford, where students and professors created laptop orchestras like the Princeton Laptop Orchestra and the Stanford Laptop Orchestra. 

These days, it is generally expected that music students are somehow working with computers, programming in some environment and experimenting with the technologies at their fingertips. So establishing a laptop ensemble at AUC is intended to expose students to what most institutes already have implemented for years. Why laptops? Laptops and mobile devices are ubiquitous, and it is logical to get a deeper understanding of our relationship with these portable devices. These are powerful tools and have extreme potential for new areas of creative work.

Creating the Ensemble

The Laptop Ensemble was not a course, but an ensemble, designed to meet weekly and build several concepts to be performed at the end of the semester. In our weekly meetings, the students were introduced to various technologies that are commonly used in this field. The laptop ensemble this semester was an ‘onboarding’  into real-time signal processing in performance practice rather than a direct hands-on experience to the programming environment itself. This was due in part because the foundation to learn interactive programming environments would require a deeper dive – a full semester dedicated just to programming with a visual programming environment like Max – built in to Ableton Live – or any of their counterparts (i.e. PureData, Supercollider, Processing, OpenFrameworks, etc.). In our case the students were exposed to the various technical possibilities using Max. Throughout the semester, we examined several collective and individual projects to work on. It was more of a dialogue and experimental process where we discussed technicalities, hit some instruments, and then I would take the concept and program a project for the student to perform with Max. The hope was to motivate students to accept that the world is changing rapidly and these devices, programming environments, and software they always work with can open a world of unique creative opportunities – something I strongly encourage them to embrace in their own pursuits.

In this ensemble, the most interesting part of teaching and working on the projects was the challenging problems that students presented. During the experimental phase, we discussed ideas and established a framework for the performance by students interacting with the computer. Then using the Max programming environment, I would take these concepts and program the complex system. In each project, the problems were unique, whether it was managing wireless accelerometer data as a trigger for samples, finding the most accurate pitch detection function or managing the complexities of pitch-shifting, sampling and mapping them to an eight-channel audio system. These were challenging ideas that kept the work refreshing – frustrating and rewarding – which is always a healthy experience. 

Final Thoughts

Working with computers in a creative space is finicky and working with programming environments and devices is not without challenges. During the dress rehearsal, we had a device behaving erratically for the first time –– something that never happened once during the prototyping phase. I think it may have come as a surprise to the students, but I reminded them throughout the semester that “there are always problems”. Troubleshooting during times of pressure is an essential skill in my field, and we discussed collectively and resolved the issue. In the end, we found a workable solution, not ideal, but kept a flow to our concert. Engagement in a process is a powerful learning experience from the beginning of the semester until the intense last moments to complete the task. For me, this is a key takeaway from working on a project of this nature, constantly being engaged in the “doing” and less on the chatter.


AUC, Tübingen Launch Joint Degree

By Katie Marie and Dalia Al Nimr
December 2, 2023

The Master of Arts in comparative and Middle East politics and society (CMEPS), a joint program offered by AUC and Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany, marks the first official joint degree between AUC and another university and the first master’s degree in political science accredited in Germany, Egypt and the United States –– a distinct offering of its kind. 

Founded more than 500 years ago, in 1477, Tübingen is one of the oldest and most prominent universities in Germany. It is ranked among the world’s top 100 and is known for its excellence and innovation in research and teaching, as well as its longstanding research expertise in the Middle East and North Africa. Likewise, AUC’s political science academic programs leverage Cairo’s position as a key political, intellectual and cultural hub at the heart of the region and center of the Arab world. 

“Our collaboration with Tübingen spans 10 years, and this is a vote of confidence in AUC,” said Nadine Sika ’97, ’00, associate professor of comparative politics and director of the CMEPS program at AUC. “The international structure allows students to be exposed not only to a wider variety of course topics but also to different classroom dynamics and cultural exchange.”

Exchanging International Expertise

The CMEPS program stands out for its immersive approach to teaching comparative political science. Students in the two-year program study at both universities, completing one semester away from their home university at the partner institution, which includes Arabic and German language study. 

 “My time as a CMEPS scholar was an unforgettable experience that I am very thankful for,” said Yasmina Elazazy ’16, ’21, coordinator of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Graduate Program at AUC and a CMEPS alum. “I really appreciate the interactive learning experiences offered through course workshops and field trips. I attended all of them and didn’t want my exchange semester to end.


Woman smiles overlooking a city and lush green trees

Yasmina Elazazy

“Our collaboration with Tübingen spans 10 years, and this is a vote of confidence in AUC.”

Echoing the same sentiment, Leonie Mühlbauer, a CMEPS alum from the University of Tübingen, said, “The exchange semester at AUC and staying in Cairo allowed me to make friends worldwide and practice my Arabic daily. Classes were challenging but incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.”

Program cohorts are small, with a maximum of 20 students per year. “This facilitates opportunities for closer exchange between students and the many out-of-classroom learning experiences organized throughout the program,” said Sika. 

“Over the past couple of decades, a truly transnational community of knowledge has emerged in social sciences that had long remained nationally based or at most transatlantic scholarly dialogues. CMEPS not only profits from that emergent community; it develops and fosters it in ways that future generations will benefit from deeply.”

Transnational Connections

Joint classes allow for dynamic interactions between Egyptian, German and other international students, and the University of Tübingen's Institute of Political Science ­­–– one of Germany’s top-ranked political science institutions –– teaches some of the modules. The program highlights the relationship between societies and states in the MENA region as well as the dynamics of social and political transformation, focusing on comparative politics and development with an emphasis on the politics, society, cultures and languages of the Middle East.  

“Over the past couple of decades, a truly transnational community of knowledge has emerged in social sciences that had long remained nationally based or at most transatlantic scholarly dialogues,” said Nathan Brown (CASA@AUC ‘84), professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University and an AUC trustee. “CMEPS not only profits from that emergent community; it develops and fosters it in ways that future generations will benefit from deeply.”

To promote the link between theory and practice, the program includes study trips to international organizations, development agencies as well as political and cultural institutions in both countries. “This allows our students to network with leading scholars in the field as well as professional experts and career diplomats,” said Sika. 

Real-World Experience

Besides the semester abroad, the program also constitutes a practicum module whereby students complete an internship with a public or private organization working in the field, usually in the host country –– gaining firsthand and cross-cultural experiences as well as boosting their employability and career readiness. In addition, the program includes a joint international research colloquium.

“CMEPS caters to both academia and practice, providing students with hands-on learning and a unique international profile, which paves the way for their success in a variety of professional pursuits,” Sika added. 

Indeed, program alumni have gone on to pursue careers in academia at respected universities in Egypt and around the world. Many have joined the ranks of global entities, such as the International Labour Organization and various UN agencies, while others have pursued careers in government, media, banking, research and civic service. “The focus on Middle East politics and societies paves the way for students to work in a wide range of careers, from development and diplomacy to NGOs and think tanks,” said Sika.  

And alumni testify to that. “Being a CMEPS scholar really opened doors for me in my professional and academic careers,” Elazazy said. “Earning a degree from two prestigious universities was a huge bonus. I built the connections and knowledge that enabled me to begin working as a research assistant in AUC’s Department of Political Science after graduation, publishing research with leading professors in the field.” 


Graphic reads: 6 Things to Know About the University of Tubingen, Ranked among the world's top 100 universities, Oldest and pioneering political science department in Germany, One of 11 German "Universities of Excellence", 500+ years old, 200+ academic programs, 11 Nobel laureates

Msh Zanbik Anti-Sexual Harassment Arts Project Awarded by Times Higher Education

Local to Global
Dalia Al Nimr
November 19, 2023
Dina Amin and Jilliam Campana, principal investigators of the award-winning Msh Zanbik anti-harassment research project

Photo caption (Banner): Dina Amin and Jillian Campana, principal investigators of the award-winning Msh Zanbik anti-sexual harassment research project

AUC’s Msh Zanbik (It’s Not Your Fault) initiative to combat and raise awareness of sexual harassment received the Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences award from Times Higher Education

“This is an inspiring demonstration of the agency of a university to contribute to such an important social topic; produce new, high-quality research and disseminate it to achieve strong impact,” commented the judges. “It also highlights the unique value of the arts as a framework to address a complex issue and make it accessible and understandable to many.”

Msh Zanbik is a collaborative research project whereby a series of original plays about sexual harassment and assault in Egypt were created in order to understand the issue from the perspective of Egyptian university students and educate people about it. 

“The ultimate goal is to change behavior, curb incidents of harassment and encourage reporting,” said Jillian Campana, theatre professor; associate dean for undergraduate studies at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and principal investigator of the project along with Dina Amin ’84, associate professor and director of the theatre program.

Both Campana and Amin worked with more than 60 AUC students and alumni to write, perform and publish the plays, which were turned into an AUC Press book, available in both English and Arabic, along with research commentary and resources –– marking the first published plays in Egypt that deal directly with sexual harassment.

Campana continued this work with Reem El Mograby ’09, director of the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) and AUC’s Title IX coordinator.

 “We worked with students to research and develop a series of anti-sexual harassment training videos in Arabic,” said Campana. “These are being used as part of the First-Year Experience program and in other OIE and Title IX workshops. They are the first Arabic videos in the region that educate university students about sexual harassment.”

The team’s ethnographic Participatory Action Research model relied on playwriting as the means of collecting and analyzing data as well as sharing the results of the study. Performances of these plays are royalty-free. 

“This project has been a true integration between performance and social science research,” said Amin. “We are fortunate to have found a forum to articulate creativity and social awareness and to also align with the #AUCSpeakUp initiative.”

As Times Higher Education puts it, “The Msh Zanbik: It’s Not Your Fault” project at The American University in Cairo exemplifies how a university can achieve big impact in a very important area that affects all of society while demonstrating the unique power of the creative arts to reach people.”

Jillian Campana (third from right) with President Ahmad Dallal, Associate Provost Ahmed Abdel-Meguid and Sustainability DirectorYasmine Mansour at the awards ceremony



When Passion Meets Excellence

Em Mills
November 13, 2023

For someone who wants to do everything, AUC rises to the challenge. “I was really, really happy to have the option to study a lot of different things. I couldn’t choose one specific aspect to focus on because that just wasn’t fulfilling to me,” says Mona Nasr, a member of the first cohort of AUC’s Excellence Scholars. 

“Without the Excellence Scholarship, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to study here,” Nasr adds. “I love that it focuses not only on academics, but the person as a whole. You can show your strengths in more ways than one, like in leadership, talent or sports.” 

Nasr’s strengths fall across the board. Already in a host of co curricular activities alongside planning a psychology major and political science minor, the ability to engage in different academic and non-academic endeavors at AUC lets Nasr fully explore her overall interest: working with people. 

“I love the idea of knowing how the world works,” she says. “Psychology allows me to study how our minds function and why we behave the way we do. Political science adds another layer, as politics affect everything about how we live and integrate in society.”. 

What she learns in the classroom is instantly applicable in the many student organizations she has joined, one being Mashroo3 Kheir, a student group that leads educational and aid initiatives focused on giving back to the community. “Working with student groups has been a really great experience,” she says. “Being able to get involved is a big part of why I was so excited to attend AUC.”.

While she’s not studying, Nasr manages to find time to pursue her non-academic passion which is singing. “I've been singing for as long as I can remember, ever since I was 3 years old. It's something that's very much a part of my family,” she says. 

Nasr’s mother is a recording artist and owns a music production company, and they even recorded a song together. “It's always been something that's very related to family for me and a big part of who I am,” she says. “It helps me feel balanced with my academics, like it completes my personality.”

What advice helps guide her during her journey at AUC? 

“I feel like for so many people my age, in this part of our lives, there are so many decisions to make,” she says. “You don't know what you should study, you don't know what's going to make you more successful, and sometimes I see people choose things they don’t actually like just to do things that they think will get them a high-paying job. But for me, the advice that I've gotten from many older family members is that if you do what you love, you'll be happy with what you're doing. And you will eventually, with dedication, find success.”

For someone who does as many things as Nasr, AUC is a great place to showcase her strengths in every discipline – no need to sacrifice any piece of her passion.


Marleen De Meyer on Interdisciplinary Archaeology

Em Mills
October 24, 2023

What do geographers, anthropologists, artists, engineers, botanists, pottery experts, photographers, Egyptologists and archaeologists have in common? Every single one has an important place at an excavation. 

“You know, excavations nowadays are no longer just an Egyptologist with a brush. It's a huge, interdisciplinary team,” laughs Marleen De Meyer, the William Kelly Simpson Visiting Professor in Egyptology at AUC.

De Meyer appreciates this aspect of her job: There’s a place for everyone, and the more diverse your team is, the more detailed and fascinating the portrait of ancient civilizations can become. From the various medical conditions they had down to the type of paint used for their coffins, an amazing amount of detail can be deduced from the barest remains. But how exactly do all the pieces come together in the field? The answer is in a lot of expert, detailed teamwork.

Focusing on a site in Middle Egypt called Dayr al-Barsha, De Meyer co-directs an archaeological project that is the first major excavation at this location since 1915. “The necropolis has been in use from the beginning of Egyptian history until the very end. Nearly every period is represented there,” she explains.

Marleen De Meyer stands in a rocky desert

The team’s research question is much broader than just documenting individual tombs, but rather engages in a full chronological analysis of the area from beginning to end. “What we want is to understand how this site developed through all this time,” says De Meyer. “We're talking several millennia here, not just centuries.” 

De Meyer’s interest is in funerary culture, and Dayr al-Barsha hosts a rich archive to analyze. “Even a plundered tomb is very interesting to an Egyptologist. I mean, just the smallest piece of a coffin is enough to tell you which type was once present,” she says. “The climate here in Egypt is amazing– everything is preserved, even materials that would decay in other circumstances such as wood, textile, human remains, plant remains, and more. This year I excavated a rare Middle Kingdom embalming deposit in which 4000 year old linen bags of natron were perfectly preserved. These materials were used in the mummification process to desiccate the body.” 

Every surviving detail holds significance to a different expert. Botanists, for example, can determine the type of wood used to make a coffin and through this deduce information on the social class of its occupant. Physical anthropologists can look at the way human bones have healed, and at Dayr al-Barsha they were able to determine that successful amputations were performed to manage conditions like diabetes. Geographers examine where the Nile flowed in the past, artists are essential to draw detailed renderings of artifacts, while engineers help with digital scanning and 3D modeling. 

“I sometimes tell students that the best thing to do if you want to end up working on excavations is not necessarily studying Egyptology specifically but rather whatever interests you. Then you can come into the field with a specialty that Egyptologists don't have,” De Meyer says. “Basically, any discipline can help when it comes to archaeology.”

Aside from uncovering historical artifacts that bring us closer to understanding how ancient societies operated, evidence of the more recent past sometimes surfaces during excavations in Egypt as well. “Because of the excellent preservation, anyone who has ever been present at the site often leaves a record of themselves too, even unintentionally,” De Meyer explains. She found newspaper clippings reporting on World War I, left by American Egyptologist George Reisner in 1915. Between 1891 and 1893, a 17-year-old Howard Carter, who 30 years later would be credited with discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun, left his traces: paint tubes and edges of watercolor paper testifying to his work of copying the decoration of several of the tombs on site. 

Alongside the historical records of communities dating back millennia are the century-old traces of researchers who, in the grand scheme of things, might as well have been there yesterday. It all becomes part of the history of the site.

For more information, see https://www.arts.kuleuven.be/dayr-al-barsha 


Current Gender Scholars, Future Change Agents

October 17, 2023

The Tomorrow’s Leaders Gender Scholars (TLS) program welcomed its third cohort of students from various academic backgrounds. Through the program, the students apply a gender lens to their areas of study, engage in civic engagement activities, pursue professional development opportunities and give back to their communities.

“We have selected students who have shown great potential to become gender-sensitive leaders on campus and in their communities in the future,” said Helen Rizzo, associate professor, sociology unit head and TLS academic director.  

Initiated two years ago, TLS  is a joint effort between AUC,  U.S. Department of State and Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. It grants a one-year scholarship to current AUC students who have leadership potential and are interested in studying and incorporating gender across academia as well as the public and private sectors.

This year's recipients are keen to embark on their academic journey.

“When I heard about the opportunity of applying to a scholarship that provides knowledge about gender and also equips us with all that we need to be agents of change, I felt like it’s calling me," said Amina Boudah, psychology major and a member of the third cohort. "Being in something bigger than myself, spreading awareness of gender issues and reaching policymakers are things  I’ve visualized and manifested my whole life.” 

Just like their predecessors, the current cohort will undertake projects in civic engagement and mentored research, attend a series of specialized workshops covering various aspects related to gender, and organize TLS and Tomorrow’s Leaders events on campus.

TLS for me is a chance to outgrow my gender biases,  challenge them and  absorb cultures that I haven't witnessed before," Boudah reflected.

Graduates of the program also testify to its impact.

"TLS played a major role in shaping my perspective of major issues going on in my academic and social life. In doing so, this scholarship has helped me become a better learner, leader and an overall better human," said Moustafa Sherif, TLS graduate and biology major.

As part of their initial activities this year, students engaged in team-building exercises, an introduction to gender studies, and discussions about emotional intelligence and types of leadership. 

“Being with good company unleashes your abilities and can break barriers you've been trying to overcome for a long time,” said Hammad Omar, electronics and communications engineering major and a member of the third cohort. 

In addition to exploring gender themes, the program also connects students to different networking opportunities, such as attending international and national conferences, where they can engage with a wider community of specialists. It also gives them the chance to interact with civil society organizations working in the field of social development with a gendered lens.

“Gender awareness and advocacy for gender justice are critical to the development of our students, who will be future leaders. We are confident we have a strong cohort in place and are looking forward to working with them over the course of the next year,” said Fatemah Farag, TLS associate director and Tomorrow's Leaders senior gender coordinator.



Atta Gebril Wins Abdul Hameed Shoman Award for Arab Researchers

October 11, 2023

Atta Gebril, professor of applied linguistics and associate dean for graduate studies and research in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, has won the prestigious Abdul Hameed Shoman Award for Arab Researchers for his work in the area of applied linguistics. 

Praised for its focused research agenda, international reputation and impactful publications, Gebril's work focuses on second language assessment, particularly writing assessment, test validation,  assessment literacy, and reading-writing connections. His work is valuable and relevant to both applied linguistics researchers, language professionals and test developers. 

“AUC has been instrumental in helping me work on my research projects and pursue my research agenda,” Gebril said. “I owe a lot to AUC and the research support resources we have on campus. I found nothing but help and support from different AUC entities.”

Gebril’s research has broad impact, targeting participants from many different cultural and linguistic backgrounds and geographic locations. He has published as both a sole author and collaborator in top journals within his field, and has used a wide range of advanced quantitative and qualitative techniques.

“I am really honored and humbled to win this prestigious research award. I am also deeply grateful to the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation and the selection committee for recognizing my contribution to the field of applied linguistics. I have to also acknowledge the enormous support I have received throughout the years from my research partners, mentors, and of course my family. Their support and encouragement have been instrumental throughout my research journey. Finally, this award motivates me to explore new areas for my research, to continue my commitment to excellence, and hopefully make a meaningful impact on my research trajectory.” - Atta Gebril

Teaching courses on assessment in language assessment, thesis writing and research methods in applied linguistics, Gebril is a valuable member of the AUC community. He received several awards in recognition of his work, including the Scopus award representing the highest-impact scholarship in the field of education in Egypt from Elsevier and Egyptian Knowledge Bank and the Best Article Award in the field of language Testing from the International Language Testing Association in 2018. 

“I couldn't have been able to  achieve this without the excellent research environment at AUC. I am really proud to be part of the AUC community and always will be.”



No Size Fits All: Contextualizing Mental Health Care 

Em Mills
October 11, 2023

Far from one-size-fits-all, mental health care is deeply personal. Between individuals, communities and cultures, mental health and the issues surrounding it take on a variety of looks. So what can psychologists, especially those working cross-culturally, do to make sure that the care they’re providing is hitting the mark?

“Even simple things, like terms such as ‘depression’ or even ‘mental health’ itself carry different connotations across cultural backgrounds,” said Gurusewak Khalsa, associate professor of practice in the Department of Psychology. “We might have to throw these terms out completely and find a way to use not just the technical language that a community is using, but also their own description of what it means to be depressed, what it means to feel anxious, what it means to have psychiatric disorders –– everything.” 

The idea of translation in mental health care stretches far beyond language. Each society understands and addresses mental health issues in a different way, so it's important for counselors who have been trained in a cultural background different than their clients to address this potential gap in order to be able to provide effective support. To navigate this, discussing mental health must be approached flexibly and responsively. 

“A lot of people in the field of mental health have really good intentions. Those intentions can end up causing harm when we apply them without attention to the cultural context of who we’re working with,” said Khalsa. “It’s your responsibility to learn as much as you can about your clients’ values and beliefs, and develop an understanding of their experience. And then any intervention or support should be based on that understanding rather than solely your training.”

The more that mental health care can match its context and individual recipient, the more people can access support that is meaningful to them. That requires shifting away from a rigid idea of what these concepts mean and adopting a fluid, adaptive approach to how mental health care functions. 

“It’s important that we, as a profession, first try to understand and recognize the needs of the community or people we are serving from their own perspective before developing plans for support,” Khalsa said. “We can also make sure we are including a focus on the community’s strengths–things that are already working well–and help the community grow and develop those strengths to other areas, rather than falling into a trap of starting from a place where only see or recognize things that seem wrong or broken.”

Mental health care access is a topic discussed across the world, showing up in a variety of ways transnationally. Physical and economic barriers affect access, alongside social factors such as stigma. But amidst the continuing conversation, the first step is to be able to get in the room.

“Sometimes the first step is the biggest one. If we can make that first step comfortable and supportive, then we’ve addressed a large barrier to the situation.” said Khalsa. “Meeting that [first step] with flexibility, with both personal and cultural awareness can play an important role in addressing mental health issues in any context.”

To find out more about mental health resources at AUC, visit the Mental Health and Wellbeing webpage.

Photo of Gurusewak Khalsa
Gurusewak Khalsa

Emotional Intelligence in Educational Leadership: Mustafa Toprak

Carolyn Vasquez
September 27, 2023

What is the relationship between emotional intelligence and educational leadership?

Mustafa Toprak, associate professor of educational administration and policy in the Department of Educational Studies, has studied the link between emotion and cognition, specifically how school administrators with emotional competencies are more likely to generate positive attitudes and behavior. 

“School administrators who are well aware of their emotions and those of others, who can regulate their own and others’ emotions through active and empathetic listening, and who can cultivate positive relationships with others can help teachers reframe their negative emotions in difficult times and build their ability to rebound from adversity," Toprak said.

Emotional intelligence helps educational leaders and teachers improve their positive affectivity and thereby increases their affective well-being. Toprak’s research, which has involved surveying school administrators and teachers about their workplace experience, shows that teachers' emotional intelligence significantly reduces stress, anxiety, burnout, and psychosomatic complaints, including heart disease, back pain, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances (physical), loss of concentration, and poor decision-making (mental). 

When asked why he would advise school administrators to apply his research in their daily work, Toprak noted, “School administrators feel pressure from various sources inside and outside schools. I recommend that they take care of themselves first. They should know their emotionality well by regularly engaging in a meta-emotion (thinking about emotions) practice, which requires stepping out of the moment and asking: “What is my emotion now?” and “Is this emotion helpful for my interactions with the individuals I work with?”. Donald Schön’s terms reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action are relevant and helpful for school administrators. School administrators who reflect on their emotional state during an interaction (reflection-in-action) and after an interaction (reflection-on-action) are more likely to adjust their negative emotions and transform them into positive ones. As my research shows, this practice improves the well-being of administrators and increases their capacity to create a positive work experience.”   

“Compassion, kindness, and forgiveness are other essential qualities for school administrators who want to develop a positive school climate in which people are innovative and risk-taking," Toprak continued.

The evidence-based practice of emotionality also has implications for teachers. Just like a school administrator’s emotional state and well-being set the emotional tone of the school, a teacher’s emotional state and well-being largely set the emotional tone of a classroom. 

“Students with an emotionally inept teacher may have trouble understanding and regulating their emotions because of the absence of an adult who can model the display of positive emotions under stress,” Toprak explained. “A teacher who has difficulty managing anger, who projects negative emotions, who is not empathetic, and who prefers to talk and dictate than listen is likely to create a classroom environment characterized by negativity and toxicity that is detrimental to students’ motivation to learn.”

Understanding the demands of emotional intelligence, building a knowledge base, and training are a few of Toprak’s recommendations for school administrators and teachers who seek to improve their emotional well-being. 

“Start by reading,” he advised. “Self-motivation is a significant ingredient of emotional intelligence. I recommend reading Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.”

Toprak has authored numerous publications on emotions and educational leadership and is already making an impact by providing a model for school leadership. In “Managing Emotions in Schools: Insights from Religion Sources and a Model for School Leadership”, a chapter he co-authored in the book titled Islamic-based Educational Leadership, Administration, and Management: Challenging Expectations through Global Critical Insights, he provides the details of this model and highlights the connection between culture and emotion management, demonstrating how culture influences the way educational leaders and teachers display and suppress their emotions. 

Headshot of Mostafa Toprak
Mustafa Toprak