Following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) and the University of Dayton (UD), Ohio, USA, each year, the Visiting Professor Program promotes the presence in NDU of distinguished professors and representatives from the UD.
The Program allows faculty and students to experience different and innovative teaching methods. On this occasion, an interview was conducted with Professor of Mathematics and Member of the Graduate Faculty at the UD, Dr. Youssef Raffoul to shed light on the program.
Dr. Raffoul joined the faculty at the UD in 1999, after earning a B.S. and M.S. from UD in Mathematics in 1987 and 1989 respectively. After earning his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1996, he joined the faculty of the Mathematics Department at Tougaloo College, in Mississippi. He then became the department chair for two years until he came to UD in 1999. Dr. Raffoul has published in the areas of differential/difference equations, integral equations, and boundary value problems.
Q: What was the purpose of the MoU signed in 2009 between our universities, how was the collaboration initiated and how does it benefit both universities?
The MoU was initiated when the former president of NDU Fr. Walid Moussa visited the University of Dayton in Ohio, I believe it happened in 2009; we hosted a reception dinner and joined forces along with our president, our board of trustees, and some of our VPS and deans. The dean of the faculty at the time was Dr. Joe Saliba, of Lebanese origin, and was interested in establishing a MoU between Dayton and NDU. Both institutions will encourage direct contact and cooperation between their faculty members, departments, and institutes. It is beneficial for both universities; professors exchange ideas and see how things are done on both campuses.
From my experience, it has benefited me greatly to see how things are done in Lebanon, I’ve never really worked in Lebanon, I went to the U.S. in 1984 and been there since then. When I left Lebanon, there were only three major universities (AUB, LU and USJ). I wasn’t aware of the flourishing of new educational institutions, such as NDU, and I was pleased to know that NDU was one of the few universities that adopted the American system and encouraged research within its programs, which is beneficial for faculty and students.
Being away from Lebanon for such a long period, I was very excited to learn that a student in Lebanon is receiving the same level and quality of education as a student in the U.S. To me it’s really amazing! I’ve noticed that NDU focuses on developing a student’s capacities and invests in their potential; it also has a graduate assistantship, which other universities in Lebanon do not offer.
Q: What would you most like our students to take away from the lectures you have given at NDU?
I want them to understand that professors are human, we are just like them! They shouldn’t put us on a pedestal. I want them to know that good teaching comes with good research; I don’t believe you can separate the two. And I believe if I am doing a lot of research and not benefiting my students from it, then my research is wasted, which is why I encourage graduate students to pursue research and that there is life after a Master’s degree, it doesn’t end there!
I have a passion for teaching and for aiding my students in pursuing their higher education, whether it is with their Master’s thesis or their Ph.D., I am there for them.
Good grades and a good recommendation is the key!
Q: Being a professor in the Department of Mathematics in the UD, what in your research or teaching has made the biggest impression on you?
We, at the University of Dayton, offer eleven graduate classes and I teach seven of them. I get students with different educational backgrounds: Math, Science, Engineering, Physics, and Chemistry etc. The biggest impression on me is when I see the interaction with my students when they really understand something; I look at their feedback at the end of each semester and try to improve myself. Had I not had this passion for teaching I wouldn’t be here, all I care about is sharing my research and knowledge with the students to help them reach their full potential.
Q: Following your experience abroad and your yearly experience at NDU, what are the commonalities and differences between what a student experiences in the U.S. and at NDU?
After working closely with Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences (FNAS) at NDU Dr. George Eid, who I found to be extremely passionate about his profession and students, I have found such minimal differences. One thing I really did appreciate is the financial support offered at NDU, this is a big, big help for students here in Lebanon!
I have come to find that most NDU professors are U.S. educated and that the quality of teaching is very good and similar to there. I would suggest a development program for faculty members to keep them updated, because once you withdraw from research you can’t easily pull yourself back in.
Technologically, NDU is as advanced as any university in the U.S., very well equipped. Students are getting free internet all over campus, they register online and so on. Everything is almost the same, I do believe that.
Q: You’ve taken a closer look at NDU, what do you think of the research projects that the Faculty is undergoing?
As I said, when you put yourself out of research, it’s really hard to put yourself back into it, so you need to constantly think about it, and after working side by side with Professors like Dr. Bassem Ghalayini, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statics, Dr. Roger Nakad, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statics, and Dr. George Eid, Dean of FNAS, I’ve come to learn that research comes first and foremost.
Let me tell you a funny story, people ask me, ‘how is it that you keep this interest in research, how do you come up with new projects?’ My answer is simple; I have twenty thousand square meters of lawn to mow in my U.S. home, I get on my tractor and it takes me about five hours, so I have nothing else to think about but Mathematics. They say the rich get richer right? I believe this applies to research, the more research you do, the more you can’t get enough.
Twenty years later, you should look back at every paper you did, and at every paper you did, you should write one or two papers, because you will have gained more experience. This is the importance of research.
I believe NDU is on that path, and as mentioned before, a development program should help faculty members stay on track. I believe this will be much more emphasized under the new administration. A professor is like a surgeon, he or she needs to be updated within his or her area.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am on the verge of writing a book, my worry is while I am writing the book, and I won’t be able to do any research.
I am putting all my research into value; I will be collecting all the literature and mostly mine into a book about certain topics, and putting them into a book so that people could benefit from it. The title of the book will be “The Qualitative Theory of Volterra Difference Equations, Periodic Solution, Stability and Bounded Solutions”, hopefully this book will be out in a year, and I will bring a copy to NDU next year!