‘A Good Teacher Is a Good Student.’ Cultivating Success Through Patience and Openness
Alaa N. Assaf is a doctoral student at HSE University’s Faculty of Law. In addition to doing research for his PhD thesis, he teaches undergraduates. Alaa has shared his thoughts on studying international law, life in Moscow, and what he misses about teaching in person.
Alaa N. Assaf
HSE University has a wide academic outreach. I came to know HSE through research papers done by some of its professors who happened to have the same academic interests as I do. One of them, Professor Vera Rusinova, became my PhD supervisor.
After reading my project she agreed to be my supervisor and following her preliminary approval I applied to the PhD programme through the Russian Government Scholarship scheme and got admitted to the HSE PhD school at the Faculty of Law. There was a portfolio competition and an interview with PhD school academic director, Professor Rodion Belkovich.
Furthermore, for any PhD student, the library is a fundamental asset for their research. HSE University has one of the best libraries in Russia with access to many up-to-date e-sources
I study primarily the question of territory in international law, hence my area of interest includes a variety of questions, such as the application of International Law in cyberspace and the theorization of State cyberterritory—issues related to the Arctic region and the problem of ice in a world that comprehends territory as a binary of land and water. Yet because of my background, I preferred to dedicate my PhD research to an issue that is more pressing to me, namely the role of territory in the operations of military intervention.
Teaching at HSE University
I’m teaching Public International Law, which is a very important course for any lawyer. Today’s world is identified as one with more interaction between nations than before. Borders are gradually starting to lose their significance. But with that comes a new range of legal issues that require proper structuring and analysis to fit within the paradigm of law. A modern lawyer should recognize the interconnection of the world today and carefully balance this with nations’ interests.
Teaching is tough, yet very rewarding. Education is like cultivating, it needs a lot of patience to reach a good fruitful ending when all students succeed. When I started teaching, I had one key skill that I use with my students— that a good teacher is also a good student, and my job is simply to provide my students with assurances that while learning is a painful process, yet it does not need to take a toll on their mental health.
I always try to make students feel that they have a class with one of their older peers who just happened to have more knowledge and experience, and who is open to all ideas
My aim is to make the classroom a safe space for the students to share their ideas on the topical issues of international law without fearing the consequences of being judged for their methodological erroneous opinions or even if a student was advocating an unpopular opinion.
This year I was teaching online due to the pandemic restrictions. While it is true that virtual learning helped institutions keep its education processes going despite a global pandemic, online teaching showed the importance of micro-interactions between teachers and students. Sitting in one room, face-to-face communication, living the atmosphere of students group in teamwork tasks—regrettably these interactions were mostly lost because of the online format.
Living in Moscow
Moscow is a vibrant city that does not sleep. It is already my third year in Moscow. I face no issues as a foreigner. Moscow is a very big city. Your concept of distances will change, and it might take you some time to do so.
Some foreigners complain about the bureaucracy they face, particularly with regard to the registration process, as most foreigners do not have this process back in their home countries. Yet, bureaucracy is also law and order. Regardless of this, my experience living in this city so far is very positive.
The MendiT Research Lab, based at the HSE University Doctoral School of Arts and Design, will become a resident of the GES-2 Cultural Centre for a month from June 5th. The researchers will introduce members of the urban community to the lab and explore the practices of mending clothes together with them. Some of the lab participants told the HSE News Service what it's like to be searching for a method and object of research.
Doctoral Students Need the Support of Not Only Their Academic Supervisor, but Also of Other Faculty Staff
To successfully defend a doctoral dissertation, PhD candidates need not only the support of their academic supervisor and close friends and relatives, but also system-wide assistance from the university department or faculty where they study. However, HSE University researchers have found that such support can take different forms and that each has a different effect on how confident a student feels in their ability to successfully defend their dissertation. The results of their study were published in the journal Higher Education Quarterly.
Abdul-Raheem Mohammed from Ghana has recently defended a PhD dissertation in cognitive psychology at HSE University via remote procedure. Abdul-Raheem and his academic supervisor, Dmitry Lyusin, talked to the HSE News Service about their cooperation, the advantages and complications of remote PhD defence at HSE University, and the prospects of cognitive science in African countries.
International students interested in joining HSE University can apply for full-tuition scholarships from the Russian government. Applications for the 2022/23 academic year are open from March 1–11. We spoke to HSE University doctoral students about their work and about how scholarships have helped them pursue their research goals.
‘Gaining Practical Knowledge and Learning to Do a Lot in a Short Time’—The Life of an HSE PhD Student
Milica Simonovic, from Belgrade, Serbia, is a doctoral student at the HSE University Faculty of Economic Sciences. She is currently working on her doctoral thesis on corporate governance and intellectual capital disclosure. We interviewed Milica to find out more about her thesis and her experience of the university’s application process for PhD students.
HSE University continues to develop its new study format for students embarking on a research career: the Combined Master's-PhD track. This year, there will be 75 places for Master’s students on the track—two thirds more than last year. HSE Vice Rector Sergey Roshchin talks about the appeal of the combined-track option, how to enrol, and the achievements of last year’s applicants.
'When We Find Something That Doesn’t Work Well Enough, We Replace It in Order to Develop a More Effective Approach'
The winners of the third annual Ilya Segalovich Award were recently announced in Moscow. Established by Yandex, the award promotes the scientific endeavours of young researchers from Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in the field of Computer Science. Among this year’s winners were three HSE students, including Alexander Grishin, a Doctoral student of the Big Data and Information Retrieval School of the HSE Faculty of Computer Science. Alexander spoke to us about his work, research challenges, and why he was surprised to receive the award.
The British Educational Research Association, BERA, has announced the winners of its Early Career Researchers Award, founded this year to recognize emerging researchers. The new award’s first two winners are Saule Bekova, Research Fellow at theInstitute of Education of the Centre of Sociology of Higher Education, and Binwei Lu of Durham University (UK). In the announcement, the organizing committee praised them as ‘outstanding scholars’ and noted the potential significance of their research for the field of education.
At the 2021 RusCrypto Competition, HSE PhD student Anastasia Malashina (MIEM) won the student report category by the unanimous decision of the competition committee, which included the directors of the RusCrypto-2021 Association, members of the programme committee, and experts in the field of computer security. Anastasia spoke with HSE News Service about her presentation.
In 2010, HSE University launched the Full-time Advanced Doctoral Programme, an innovative programme for doctoral students at that time. At the beginning of 2021, an alumna of the programme’s first cohort became the first programme graduate to earn her Doctor of Sciences degree: Elena Vakulenko, Assistant Professor at HSE University’s Faculty of Economic Sciences. In an interview with HSE News Service, the professor discussed her academic career.