Sincerest congratulations to Humayun, my batch mate, for reaching the pinnacle of success as Vice Chancellor. The timing of the announcement coincided with the One Hundred Year celebration of the establishment of Dhaka (previously Dacca) University (DU) in 1921 (Image 1). Dr. Syed Humayun Akhter’s high-profile appointment to such an esteemed public university in Bangladesh is very significant; he is perhaps the only known geoscientist ever to assume the leadership position in the upper echelon of an academic institution of higher learning. His previous role as an educator, research supervisor (both internal-and-externally funded projects), and administrator (Chair Professor and Provost) will certainly speed up the process to train individuals often left out from attending or completing higher education due to financial and personal reasons (Image 2 and Image 3).
Since the inception of the Dhaka University-supported geoscience program in 1949, thousands of students have graduated with well-rounded educations, and are currently working as professionals, academicians, consultants and technocrats. The remarkable change that became quite evident in the last decades was the narrowing down of gender gaps, where female students’ representation either reached or exceeded equilibrium! It is very encouraging to notice the current workforce with an increasing number of female representation (Image 4). BOU’s selection of Humayun to lead this core mission to bring STEM education and technical skills to the women population in Bangladesh will ensure greater participation and financial upbringing to the Bangladesh economy.
The selection of Humayun to spearhead the mission of the Bangladesh Open University is very timely, as the COVID-19 related learning loss and knowledge gap needs to be addressed and mitigated. As an innovative thinker who possesses broad-based societal knowledge, Humayun is prepared to bring many practical ideas and strategies to the Open University for implementation. I am confident in Humayun’s vision to expand upon continuing adult education, particularly with financially distressed and underrepresented women in STEM fields.
Other public academic institutions involved in offering geoscience, environmental science and applied geosciences program in Bangladesh include Rajshahi University – Geology and Mining, Barishal University – Geology and Mining, Jahangirnagar University – Geological Sciences, University of Chittagong – Forestry and Environmental Science, and Jashore University of Science and Technology – Petroleum and Mining Engineering. DU remains as the lead geoscience and disaster management science programs in the country.
“The need for an open university in Bangladesh was felt long ago. The history of distance education in Bangladesh dates back to 1956 when the Education Directorate was assigned with the responsibility for distribution of 200 radio receivers to educational institutions. This led to the creation of an Audio-Visual Cell, which was upgraded to the Audio-Visual Education Centre in 1962. After Independence (1971), Bangladesh faced the challenge of meeting the educational needs of the masses. The necessity for a new mode of education was widely felt to meet this challenge. As a sequel to that feeling, the School Broadcasting Pilot Project was launched in 1978. The project was transformed into the National Institute of Educational Media and Technology (NIEMT) in 1983. The plan became a reality in October 1992 when the Bangladesh Open University Act 1992 was passed in the Parliament.” https://www.bou.edu.bd/index.php
Being greatly focused on distance learning, BOU is striving to provide access to its students with the tools and content to become educated and job ready, and eventually foster economic growth to situate Bangladesh as a developing country in the world in the next two decades. BOU – with 12 regional centers located in various parts of Bangladesh – is engaged in providing students with education including social science, health science, applied science, and engineering technology. Currently BOU is working in close collaboration with other Open Universities located in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. BOU also affiliates with the Association of Commonwealth (ACU), the Global Alliance for Transnational Education (GATE), the Commonwealth Open Schooling Association (COMOSA), the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), the South Asia Foundation (SAF), the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU), and the SAARC Consortium on Open and Distance Learning (SACODiL).
As a close friend, I have stayed in direct touch with him for over four decades since graduation, and witnessed his successful upward progression in academia, research and geoscience outreach (Images 5 through 7). I admire the Bangladesh Government, particularly the Honorable Chancellor and the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid, for selecting Humayun for the position and focusing on his stalwart services including teaching, research and geosciences outreach that crossed domestic boundaries and reached the international arena. Being a highly acclaimed tenured professor at Dhaka University, Humayun outspent his time in building a geoscience community by encouraging students to take part in international activities through the Geological Society of America (GSA), American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), and Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). The recent outcome of over 20 geology students earning the L. Austin Weeks Scholarship testifies to his able leadership (Images 8 through 11).
Aside from being an internationally known researcher on structure, tectonics, and geohazards associated with the Bengal Basin, Humayun is a high profile geoscientist in the country and local news and digital media always seek his opinions and consider him as a credible source of information related to natural hazards. Thumbs up to Humayun!