A professor who inspires

Jody Johannessen

Professor Jody Johannessen in her office.


By Salama AlSuwaidi

Dubai—Before registration day, students at Zayed University feel obliged to recommend teachers to their friends; teachers who are good in their personal opinion. Some students listen to those recommendations and experience what their classmates had experienced. Other students acquire a completely different opinion, making them wonder why they chose to listen to those redundant judgments in the first place. That’s what happened to me.

Finding out that I would have her as my professor this semester intimidated me. The most communal thing said about her is that she’s strict. They say the word strict with such emphasis, stressing the last two letters of the word. When students talk about her, they make her seem so intimidating and so hard to approach. So going into her class for the first time, I was afraid, naturally. Adding to the fear, her first few words that I clearly remember, “I just wanted to let you all know that I’m very strict.” Her words basically confirm those rumors.

Professor Jody Johannessen wasn’t always known as a professor. She started out planning her career path wanting to become a veterinarian due to her love and passion for animals. Although as she grew older and went to high school, she realized that science wasn’t as interesting to her as things having to do with writing, leadership and the international world. She thought maybe journalism would be a great path for her, although going to college of journalism is not an easy path.  Changing her career multiple times shows how much she’s passionate.

She continued college and at a point in her college life, Jody went through a tough time due to personal family related issues. It is time where she felt so down that writing a paper on leadership made her feel that she wasn’t good enough. With the help of her very close friends and her professor Oprah Winfrey, she was able to overcome that challenge. She felt that she wasn’t at a good position in her life to lead, so she spilled out the truth into her paper, in hopes that Oprah would be understandable. Oprah was able to bring Jody out of that tough time by encouraging her and reinforcing her belief in herself as well as letting her know that she had faith in her.

After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Public and International Affairs (PIA) and two graduate degrees, one in BA (Business Administration) and the other in Organizational Behavior and Entrepreneurship (OBE), Jody experienced multiple career paths. From working in government, industry and high tech, she finally settled into academia.

Not expecting her path to go the way it did, Jody had to move to Dubai because of her husband’s job.  Moving from San Francisco which was two hours away from mountains, the countryside and the greenery, to a city with the complete opposite description was tough. She came into a side of the world that she was taught to be afraid of. Through time, Jody was able to adjust to the living here. She had never taught before, but everyone surrounding her expects her to teach.

She has learned so much from this culture and she learned to really love her Emirati students.  Her reward is to see students’ eyes lightening up.  “If I’m not seeing eyes light up, I go home at night and I think okay, I need to see more eyes light up, because that’s what makes me happy,” said Jody.

Learning all that about her in just a semester completely changed my perspective on her. It is true that Professor Jody is strict, though not the kind of strictness you would expect.  She has a mission and her mission is to educate her students properly. She wants her students to exit the class having learned something valuable, and she has accomplished that. Jody has had so many experiences, from being in government to working in industry, settling down in academia felt natural to her. Her personality and her passion for education all shined through within just a few months.  Students learned so much from her and now, as this semester is coming to an end, I realized that leaving her class will be one of the saddest things I would have to experience this semester.

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