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First Pakistani professor hired by Harvard

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BOSTON: Pakistani professor, Asim Khwaja, has become one of the first Pakistanis to achieve tenure at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Tenure guarantees academic freedom as well as job security. Tenure is offered to the best and brightest of the professors who show the most promise in increasing the university’s reputation through their research, books and unique ideas. Tenure protects teachers and researchers when they dissent from prevailing opinion, openly disagree with authorities of any sort, or spend time on unfashionable topics. Khwaja’s areas of interest include economic development, education, political economy, and contract theory/mechanism design. His research combines extensive fieldwork, rigorous empirical analysis, and microeconomic theory to answer questions that are motivated by and engage with policy. It has been published in the leading economics journals, such as the American Economic Review, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and has received coverage in numerous media outlets such as the Economist, NY Times, Washington Post, BBC, and CNN. His recent work ranges from understanding market failures in emerging financial markets to examining the private education market in low-income countries. He was selected as a Carnegie Scholar in 2009, for his compelling ideas and commitment to enriching the quality of the public dialogue on Islam. Khwaja was cited for his research on how the pilgrimage to Mecca affects individual pilgrims’ economic, social, ethical, and cultural outlooks. “I hope that my research on the impact of the Haj pilgrimage on the pilgrim will inform the wider academic debate on the nature and interaction of religious and non-religious beliefs in Islam,” said Asim.

He received high school degree in Pakistan and then received his BS in economics and in mathematics with computer science from MIT and a PhD in economics from Harvard. Asim’s parents, Ijaz and Zahida Khwaja, were proud of their son. “What can we say? Today he is every Pakistani parent’s son,” said Dr Khwaja. Harvard’s tenure process is known to be very confidential and strict. Individuals do not apply for tenure but are recommended and then go through a series of vetting processes which include soliciting recommendation letters regarding the candidate from top faculty. The process culminates in a final ad hoc meeting where the president has veto power. Harvard’s tenure rates are fairly low, and, therefore, it is not common for an assistant professor to ever get tenure from Harvard. He started his academic career from Harvard and was an assistant professor before he got promoted as an associate professor and finally full professor. He also has offers of tenure from Dartmouth, Vanderbilt and Berkeley. When asked how he was feeling he responded, “I hope this will open more doors for future Pakistanis to pursue academia and reach our potential.”

Courtesy: The News

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