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Half a world away, MSU professor engages students in global awareness

The country of Malaysia is immediately north of the equator, bordered by the waters of the South China Sea, assorted smaller seas and the countries of Brunei, Singapore and Thailand. To get there by airplane requires over 30 hours of travel and thousands of dollars. And yet, for Minot State University students taking online business courses from adjunct professor Rosmini Omar, Malaysia is merely a mouse click away.

Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Omar's early years of education were heavily influenced by British standards. After finishing high school, she received a government scholarship to study abroad. She considered Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. However, Omar ended up traveling to the United States to obtain an associate degree through a collaborative program between the Malaysian government and the University of Maryland. Omar then completed a bachelor's degree in international business at the University of Toledo, Ohio.

"My interest has always been in the U.S., probably due to exposure from my readings, movies and music, and being a teenager at the time," Omar said. "I always had the perception, even at that age, that Americans are friendly, easy-going, open and simple people."

"I chose IB (to study) because I saw the combination of courses as more interesting, and indeed they were. Thrown into classrooms with students from various backgrounds, I learned about self-esteem, confidence, working with others and more importantly, understanding differences, while leveraging strengths."

She returned home in 1990, and after a few years working in the family's landscaping business, Omar returned to academia to pursue her master's and later her doctorate in management.

"I grew up with almost everyone in the family involved in entrepreneurial ventures. I was raised with income derived from business. It is in the blood," Omar said. "Yet, teaching will always be my central focus and passion. It generates that significant power to motivate others, especially young people to grow further in life."

In early 2001, while teaching undergraduate business courses and pursuing her doctorate at Universiti Tun Abdul Razak in Kuala Lumpur, Omar met MSU professor, Mohammad Saeed, during a visit to Malaysia. With her dean and Saeed's support, Omar came to MSU as a visiting lecturer in the College of Business during the 2001-02 academic year.

"Minot was a great place to live. It was peaceful; the people were gracious, helpful, supportive and positive in so many ways. I felt strongly accepted by the community despite my different background and nationality," Omar said. "My Ph.D. was primarily done under the supervision of my dean at Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, Dr. Saeed and Dr. (James) Ondracek at MSU. The entire team in the CoB, along with the rest of the MSU community was helpful in guiding me."

During her year on campus, Omar was given the opportunity to develop an online class for the CoB international business degree.

"Teaching online for MSU has had a significant impact for me. The threads of students sharing reflections and research from their local settings in Minot and other places increased my knowledge base. In turn, I share my own research findings from my side of the world, and the class becomes a transnational knowledge sharing arena. People are saying the next growth may come from emerging economies in Asia, so it's important for students to increase their cross-cultural literacy."

In addition to her responsibilities at MSU, Omar is an associate professor and deputy dean of research at the International Business School, University Technology Malaysia, and a business consultant for government ministries and private corporations.