FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Mustafa Menai

The South Asia Center is proud to feature  Mustafa Menai, Lecturer of Urdu in the Department of South Asia Studies.
 

Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Can you share with us something about your childhood, and what decisions or choices led you here?

    I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan but have spent the last 15 years in the United States. I came here (like many Pakistanis) to attend college. From an early age, I was drawn to education as a career. To me, it was a basic and essential element in trying to solve the many challenges faced by the people of Pakistan.

   I therefore chose to focus my graduate studies in International Education Development at Columbia University, and worked for ten years leading domestic and international health and education programs, in the US and Pakistan.

    Having seen the need for language proficiency as a crucial component for sustainable development, I supplemented my educational training in foreign language instruction, and began teaching Urdu at UPenn. Transmitting appreciation of the literature and language that I grew up with to students of all ages has been a lifelong passion and dream.

 

What are your research interests? Where are these interests rooted?

   My interests lie mainly in local language education in the context of South Asia - the history of language teaching, curricula and methodology, and how these have evolved over time.  This is also the broad topic of my ongoing doctoral studies.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

   I am currently exploring the role of Sufi thought in the work of the Progressive Writers movement in the first half of the twentieth century in South Asia.

 

What sort of transformations or developments do you hope to see within your field in coming years?

   I hope to see collaborative relationships grow between South Asian studies programs and policy makers in South Asia. The impact of scholarship needs to be felt on the ground in terms of evidence based education, economic and socio-political policies.

 

What courses are you teaching this semester? What courses are you teaching in future?

   I am teaching Intermediate and Advanced Urdu, as well as a topics course on Urdu literature in Translation. The emphasis is on communication and student centered learning using  a diversity of text and audio-visual media.

   Next year, I plan to teach Beginning Urdu-Hindi along with Intermediate and Advanced Urdu and more topics courses on modern Urdu-Hindi literature.

 

Can you share with us some of your experiences and thoughts of Penn and the city of Philadelphia?

   Penn really satisfies my thirst for an academic environment. The beautiful buildings and minds at Penn replenish the soul and inspire the spirit. The highlight of my time at Penn has been my interactions with my students, whether in the classroom or over dinner from the Afghan food trucks.

 

What are some of your other interests, outside of academics?

  I enjoy playing squash, table tennis, and badminton. Along with my 9 year old son Faiz, I am learning to play the harmonium as well. When I’m not teaching, I spend most of my time in Princeton, NJ where I live with my wife Subuhi and three kids (Faiz, Suroor, and Anarkali).