No one has traveled a longer route to a Ph.D. than Yusuf Nur, born in Somalia into a family of nomadic, impoverished goat and camel tenders.
As a young boy, he was expected to grow up and take his place among the elders herding animals. Then, at age five, a difficult life turned even bleaker. Yusuf’s father died unexpectedly.
An aunt who lived in a big city came to his rescue. She took him in, raised him, and saw to it that the boy received an education. “Otherwise,” he says, “I would have been a camel herder—a camel boy.”
Through his teens and into young adulthood, education drew Dr. Nur like a powerful magnet. Raising his nomadic roots to a global scale, he traveled to Russia to study, and ultimately came to the United States, where in 1986 he enrolled in an MBA program.
Marrying and deciding to remain in the US, Dr. Nur worked for non-profit organizations for several years. Then he grew intrigued by the entrepreneurial opportunities arising in newly democratized Russia. Enrolling in some courses at Indiana University to brush up on his Russian, he squeezed in a class in international business. The business professor soon asked the language student to be a teaching assistant in the business school. The offer included a scholarship. Dr. Nur accepted.
Then the professor urged Dr. Nur to switch fields and become a Ph.D. student in management. At the time, Indiana’s doctoral program was admitting two out of forty applicants. Dr. Nur told the professor he didn’t like his odds.
But the professor persisted. Further, Dr. Nur had to admit, Russia’s transition to capitalism was not proceeding as smoothly and swiftly as he had hoped. Already successfully teaching three sections in his first semester as a T.A.—“The professor just thought it would be interesting for me to share my experiences in places I’d traveled”—he took the GMAT for the first time, applied formally to the doctoral program, and was hastily accepted.
“When I started teaching, I realized it was in me,” he recalls. “The transition was very quick. I am a people person, and the best part of this job is relating with the students, helping them understand things, and sharing examples and experiences.”
In addition to his classroom teaching, Dr. Nur volunteers in a mentoring program for African-American undergraduates on his campus—an experience he finds fascinating because, as an African, he had had little first-hand experience working with Black men and women who were minorities. He has also mentored new doctoral students in his department.
In lasting and humble recognition of the distance he has traveled, Dr. Nur honors his roots in the personal e-mail address he has chosen for himself: “Camelboy.”
The dream continues…
Dr. Nur teaches courses in international business and strategic management. He has teaching experiences in both areas at the graduate and undergraduate levels. His research interests include strategic leadership, cultural aspects of international management, and entrepreneurship and globalization and their impacts on economic development. Dr. Nur has presented at numerous conferences, and his research has been published in four journals.