Dr Majeda Awawdeh

PhD – Mathematics and Cognitive Load Theory
Alumni

Degree: PhD – Mathematics and Cognitive Load Theory
Year of graduation: 2008
Current organisation: Global Education Academy
Title: Founder and Managing Director

1. What attracted you to studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW?

Ever since primary school I have loved mathematics. It has always been my passion. It was not until I completed my bachelor’s degree that I realised its beauty and elegance. I was always surprised that the majority of people share a dislike of mathematics. This is what sent me back to do my master’s degree after 7 years of working as a mathematics high school teacher and then again three years later for a PhD degree. My research into mathematics education and cognitive load theory at UNSW enlightened me and provided answers to my questions.

2. Did you always have a clear idea of what you wanted to do after completing your degree?

Yes, I wanted to have my own school. It is still my vision. I started by being a teacher, then I combined this with being a business woman.

3. How did your time at UNSW help shape who you are today?

I reflect on the years spent studying at UNSW as the years that had the most impact on my career, my future and my personality. Because of my study, I have the successful business I have today. It was my supervisor, my colleagues and the university environment that shaped me and made me who I am now. I look at my life before UNSW and my life after it and I see the difference.

4. How did studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW help you develop transferable skills?

After my graduation I was employed as a project manager for a mathematics assessment project. The job was financially satisfying, however, due to the lack of opportunity to apply my research findings, I left and started my own business where I was able to use my findings and live the change I wanted to see in the world. I would not have been able to do it without the skills I acquired during my study. These skills enabled me to be an entrepreneur, a successful business woman who was able to raise three children on her own, overcome many obstacles, and come through it stronger and more innovative. 

5. How did studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW help form your view on the world and the contemporary issues we face today?

My time at UNSW planted in me the belief that we all have a mission as humans to improve the world. Every small change counts. As a teacher, I know I have a mission to make a difference to students’ lives.

Considering the declining Australian results in mathematics and English on an international scale, as missionary teachers we can reverse this trend if we are determined to make the change. Every small change counts.

6. How did UNSW Arts & Social Sciences help prepare you for the workforce throughout your degree?

The most important skill I consider here is having to work as a team which was a new thing to me as an international student. To tell you the truth, I hated it. Looking back, what I learned from it is what empowers me now as a leader and a business woman. Collaboration, accepting criticism and learning from each other is an invaluable gift for team building and a better management style.

7. How did you get your foot in the door as a graduate, following the completion of your degree?

After my graduation, I was applying to every job vacancy I could lay my eyes on. It was not easy. I probably applied for hundreds of jobs and sent hundreds of resumes. My problem at that time was my limited competency in English as it is my third language. I knew I only needed one ‘yes’ so, I kept trying tirelessly until I got the first ‘yes’. Then I used it to negotiate the contract and the package for the second ‘yes’ that came a week later. Determination is the key word here.

8. What advice would you give to someone considering studying Arts at UNSW?

My advice will be “do not just follow your passion, create your passion then live it”.

Many young people do not have a specific passion or are not clear of what they want to do or be. It is okay not to have a passion. You just need to create one.

9. What is your most memorable experience from your time at UNSW?

My most memorable experience is an embarrassing one. It was my first presentation in class. My English was terrible, and my presentation skills were below standard. I was so embarrassed that I left early that day. I took a bus home where the passengers were staring at my red, teary eyes. I promised myself that day that it won’t happen again. The following day, I joined a speaking group and enrolled in a few courses to improve my spoken English and build up my presentation skills. I am a confident speaker now.

10. Why do you Love What You Do?

I left my secure job and established my own business because I wanted to put the theory I studied into practice. I wanted to see if my research findings would work in real life. I established Global Education Academy, using my own methodology and curriculum which I developed using cognitive load theory. I now employ 38 staff, together we make a difference to the lives of more than 300 students a year. How can I not love that.