It is fairly common for students to visit their professors’ offices to discuss issues they may be having with class. Occasionally, students converse with their professors about their hobbies or ask questions about their favorite items. Such conversations bring the professors and the students closer to one another, develop the mutual understanding between the professors and the students and facilitate the collaboration between them.
All of the international business majors at Elizabethtown College know Dr. Hossein Varamini, who is the director of the program, because all of them must take the Introduction to International Business course (BA197) with him at some point during their first year. Varamini was born and raised in Iran. He discovered his interest in teaching while tutoring his relatives and neighbors when he was still in school.
Growing up in a nation that is rich in literature, Varamini loves composing poems and short stories. At one point, his parents thought he would pursue a career in writing, but his passion for business led him to Tehran Business College, located in Iran’s capital city, Tehran. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in business, he left the country for the United States to attain his master’s degree in business administration at Phillips University in Oklahoma.
Varamini initially planned to return to Iran after getting his MBA, but the Iran-Iraq War, which was occurring in the 1980s, steered his life onto a different path. He realized that the unfriendly environment in his home country was unfavorable for the development of his career, and, therefore, he decided to stay in the U.S. and seek his Doctor of Philosophy degree in international economics with a concentration in finance at Kansas State University.
Prior to coming to Etown, Varamini was a professor at St. Norbert College, a small, private institution similar to Etown, in Green Bay, Wis. During his last ten years there, he was the director of the international business program at the college. He lived a few blocks away from Lambeau Field, the home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, and consequently, he fell in love with the team. Nowadays, he sometimes goes to Packer’s games.
Since his relatives live on the east coast, Varamini was looking to move there. His goal was to obtain a job at a small private college like St. Norbert College. Coincidently, Etown was looking for a person to fill the director of international business position, and he began working at the College in 2000. Now, besides being in charge of the international business program, he is the director of the internship program for the business department. He manages all internships in the field of business, with the exception of those in accounting.
Varamini explained the reason he prefers small colleges to public universities, saying that private institutions like Etown provide him with valuable opportunities to interact with and to positively impact his students. He loves working with students on research projects, which prepare the students for graduate school as well as for their future careers. He thinks a liberal arts education gives students broad knowledge in a variety of fields, especially that of their majors. It really helps students to understand the influence of their decisions on other people and the environment.
Varamini focuses his work on energizing his students in self-discovery and prioritizing their goals so that they can have meaningful lives. He wants his students to see themselves as parts of the society, do the right things for the global society and feel happy about themselves.
Varamini is an ardent educator. He does everything for his students. On the morning of our interview, he got up at 5:30 a.m. to go to Philadelphia to meet with executives of several businesses in order to secure internship and job opportunities for his students. Furthermore, the meeting was a chance for him to recruit the executives to the advisory board of the business department, who give students helpful advice for their future careers. His passion for teaching is so great that he has passed on several opportunities to go to administrative positions. Varamini is proud to be trusted by his students, and they have shared with him their challenges and achievements. He believes nothing is better than seeing students succeed, which is proof of the success of the professor.
Varamini’s office is tidy and full of sunlight. He proudly showed off the souvenirs from his business trips as well as from his students. There are mugs, statues, pictures and hand-made crafts from many countries in the world, such as India, China, Vietnam, Russia, Columbia and Peru. They demonstrate the diversity of people with whom he has interacted.
Min Han Tun, junior and international business major, thinks Varamini is a funny and friendly mentor. In his sophomore year, Tun struggled with finding an internship and purchasing a car, and Varamini assisted him through all the difficulties, for which Tun was grateful. Through conversations with his mentor, he found out that Varamini was interested in fixing cars and cooking. Tun’s impression about the office is that it is organized in spite of the tremendous amount of data related to the international business program. Varamini also keeps pictures of different international business classes in the room.
Dr. Thomas Hagan, associate professor of chemistry, obtained his bachelor degree in chemistry from Villanova University in Philadelphia in 1985. During his years in college, he studied abroad for one year at the University of Fribourg, located near the border between France and Switzerland, which was such an interesting experience for him. Skiing, one of Hagan’s hobbies, was nurtured during his days in Switzerland.
In 1992, he achieved his Doctor of Philosophy degree in bioinorganic chemistry at the University of Delaware. His research topic was the utilization of enzymes to make sugar. The process is known as carbon dioxide dehydrogenaze. He spent his postdoctoral time focusing on research in neuro-biology and chemistry, which is related to the processes of the brain, at Hershey Medical Center. Hagan spent some time as a sabbatical replacement in inorganic chemistry at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., before working as a sabbatical replacement at Etown. He heard about the job through a friend in graduate school, who graduated from the College. He left the College after his term was over, but later returned to Etown and is currently an associate professor of chemistry and the assistant dean for the First-Year Program.
In his spare time, Hagan enjoys cooking and baking. As a hobby, he grows vegetables himself and cans them to use in the winter. Furthermore, he makes jams and bread. Hagan loves biking, traveling and photography. He is interested in capturing the beauty of nature with his camera.
Hagan’s favorite item in his office is the artwork of his five children. He also treasures the picture of a glass of wine and a chemistry journal, which he took during his time in graduate school. He shared that he was taking a break from studying, the light was right, and he ended up capturing the scene. One side of his office is full of books from the bottom to the top of the room. He created a small library in his room so that his students can conveniently borrow the books for their research.
Khin Aye San, junior and chemistry major, said that Dr. Hagan is a good professor. He goes deep into each concept, rather than skimming the surface of multiple concepts. His charisma inspires his students; Hagan often tells jokes in class and tries to get his students’ attention. He is a fun teacher, but his exams are very challenging, and he is a tough grader. During her advising session, he asked San about her hobbies as well as what she usually did during her free time. In addition, they talked about sports, hobbies and food. Hagan likes authentic food, especially Thai and Vietnamese food.
Hagan is as passionate about his hobbies as he is about teaching. It is interesting to learn about a professor outside the classroom and the office is a good way to start.