Saturday, May 30, 2009

Don’s indelible mark - Star

Yap credits his favourite teacher, Dr Shaari, for showing him that the life of an academician doesn’t revolve purely around research.


ALTHOUGH the industries may seem disjointed, television personality Owen Yap has his professor to thank for his on-screen and off-screen success.

Yap clearly remembers how he got close to the professor who changed his life.

And no, it wasn’t through one of those after-lecture pep talks or a detention dressing down.

“It was actually through chill-out sessions at clubs and cafes in Bintang Walk,” says the television host. “He is a very special teacher.

“Although it happens overseas, it’s rare to find Malaysian teachers who will let their hair down and be honest with their students like him.”

The teacher concerned is Prof Dr Shaari Abdul Hamid, currently Open University Malaysia’s (OUM) faculty of business and management director.

Prof. Shaari (2nd from left)

Their acquaintance dates back to 2000 when Yap was preparing his postgraduate thesis on Oriental Customer Behaviour at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). Dr Shaari was a UPM professor then and he had the pleasure – or discomfort – of supervising Yap’s MBA thesis. Although he comes across as the smooth operator on screen, Yap admits his shortcomings and certain things never seemed to click until Dr Shaari came along.

“I wasn’t very good at finance-based subjects,” he admits. Part of the problem, he feels, is that he never felt inspired by “lecturers spoon-feeding their students in class” and Dr Shaari struck him as a breath of fresh air.

“He made an instant impact as he was just so different,” Yap says. “He was like ‘No notes, guys. Just listen to me.’

“His reasoning was that while notes have a purpose, flashing too many words on power point was an excess and that could actually distract students from the gist of the lecture.

“He has that ability to make concepts appear simple and they really are the moment you get them. His personality also attracts you to the subject matter.”

Spending time with Dr Shaari also led to Yap shedding misconceptions about the teaching profession.

He used to think that the life of an academician revolves purely around research but his mentor showed him that academicians don’t necessarily retreat to their ivory towers.

“There was a genuine concern between him and his students,” Yap enthuses. “He’d meet us informally and we really appreciated that.

“Learning from him was and is fun because although he takes work – and not himself – seriously. He’s very down to earth and there are no fronts.”

Yap’s experience of learning from Dr Shaari took on a new dimension when he decided to teach part-time at Nilai International College and Tunku Abdul Rahman College.

The students responded well to the informal modus operandi and Yap now sees that as a distinct feature in his life.

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