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First name: Ivan
Last name: Jerbic

ijerbic@zsem.hr

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Interview with professor Karmela Aleksic-Maslac

16/04/2012 17:00:23

Interview with professor Karmela Aleksic-Maslac

Tell me something about youself!

I am the Head of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies, in charge of the 1st and 4th academic years, active athletes and a few more things. Basically, the more you are willing to work, the more work you get. Before coming to ZSEM, I worked for 10 years at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER) in a great team which was the first in Croatia to use new technologies in education such as videoconferencing, e-learning and similar.

 

Why did you decide to come to work for ZSEM?

I'm hyperactive and full of ideas. ZSEM is a fertile ground, because the management of ZSEM can recognize good ideas. I am proud that I have been involved in the development of ZSEM from the beginning. During the first two years of my engagement at ZSEM I was a part time teacher of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) course while at the same time I was still working full time at FER. In 2004 I definitely moved to ZSEM.

I always tell the story of the dean telling me at the beginning of 2002 that ZSEM would soon open its doors to students for whom he wanted a platform for continuous communication with their professors. That was two years before Facebook and I was quite impressed that the idea came from an economist. At the same time, a student of mine at FER was working on his graduate thesis on LMS WebCT (Learning Management System) and, as soon as he graduated, ZSEM hired him. We were the first in Croatia to start with the consistent use of e-learning. Today, ten years after the foundation of ZSEM, we are veterans with over 150 advanced e-learning courses, first on the WebCT and now on the Blackboard platform.

Professor Karmela with her students at the monument of the scientist Nikola Tesla at Niagara Falls

How satisfied are you with the program that ZSEM offers?

The curriculum was created following the example of the world's best business schools. The AOL (Assessment of Learning) process is continuously measuring the learning outcomes and controlling the quality. What is essential is that ZSEM has a dynamic environment that easily adapts to rapid changes in the age of globalization and to the rapid development of new technologies. We can survive only with high-quality standards, and I am sure that most of our students will quickly learn to adapt whether they are in China, USA, Brazil, Russia or elsewhere in the world.

 

What is the biggest advantage of ZSEM compared to other educational institutions?

The slogan "Commited to quality" says a lot, it's all about the quality – the quality of programs, of students, of teachers. As a result, ZSEM is currently in the process of the prestigious AACSB accreditation.

I could talk for days about other benefits of ZSEM, but here I will give just a few examples:

                -The student mobility in Croatia does not have a great tradition, and only with the implementation of the Bologna   process it became one of the priorities. Today only about 0.3% of Croatian students participate in some form of international exchange. ZSEM has cooperation agreements with over 90 universities around the world and about 7% of its students participate in the exchange. Our ambition is that every student, during his or her studies, takes part in the international exchange

                 -Certainly one of the advantages of ZSEM is teaching in small groups and the possibility for students to be in contact with their professors 24/7. The candidates we interview during the enrollment process often say they want to be a part of ZSEM because „they do not want to be just a number“. Needless to mention that I know the names of all my students, their activities and other interests. As the head of the first academic year, I look forward every year to „The orientation day“, which is the official introduction of the new generation of students. But I also look forward to the traditional „Brucošijada“ on the island of Rab, where we hang out with the first-year students for three days on more casual terms.

                -Since our foundation in 2002, aside from high-quality standards and new technologies, we also implement best practices in teaching and learning. Thus our students do a lot of practical assignments in the form of simulations, cases, projects, exercises, seminar papers, and we especially encourage teamwork. 

                -I have already said that we are the leading institution in Croatia, but also in the wider region, in the systematic use of e-learning.

                -With my colleagues I have published and presented about 60 peer-reviewed papers about the quality management of e-learning systems in the world-renowned journals and conferences. We had the opportunity to present our achievements on 5 continents and the interesting thing was that our work attracted the attention of experts even though we come from a small country and from a small institution. Last summer our paper about Netspeak won the best-paper award at an international conference.

The day of orientation 2011

How are students involved in the work of ZSEM?

There are many possibilities, and it is up to students to recognize and exploit them. All students are members of the Student Union (SU) whose various sections deal with activities such as journalism, PR, IT, finance, etc. The SU regularly organizes voluntary blood donations, the journalism club publishes an excellent student magazine „Sixsigma“, and the IT club, for example, organizes a day-long "LAN party" catering to fans of computer games. The Student Sports Association (SSU) organizes the participation of our students in various sports competitions.

Among numerous student activities we should point out the mentoring program SPOT which is designed for freshmen students. When freshmen arrive at ZSEM and they are a bit “dazed and confused ", senior students (mentors) guide them through their entire first year, helping them to more easily adapt to their new surroundings.

Students participate in various projects and conferences. For example, within the  4th -year course of Management Information Systems (MIS) we organize a competition of student projects. The authors of the five best projects present their work at a large student conference in front of the experts from practice, their teachers and student colleagues. I am proud when my students are so convincing that professionals wonder why they have not heard of the companies students are talking about. And of course they have not heard of them since they are fictitious companies which were invented for the use in the project of the ERP system implementation.

But you are wrong if you think that my students are just "nerds". They know very much how to have fun at parties regularly organized by student associations. And these parties are very popular all over the city so extra tickets are always in demand. Sometimes I come around at least to greet the students. Although I'm a fan of rock, and particularly heavy metal music, I’m trying to adapt. :)

Third MIS conference -Top 5 projects

What is success for you?

Well, this is a relative notion, but I will try to evoke some situations when a professor feels very proud of her students:

               -Success is when I see my former students at very responsible positions in well-known companies, both in Croatia and abroad.

               -Success is when students encourage teachers to explore. On the forum of the ICT course four years ago, a student opened the topic of Netspeak. I was intrigued by it so I started to research it and connected it with discussions, which are a very important part of e-learning. The project included a few colleagues and so far we have published 10 papers on Netspeak.

                -For me success is when my former student says that thanks to the knowledge acquired in my course he had a comparative advantage while looking for a job.

                -And, of course, I feel happy and successful when my students at the end of the semester write in the evaluation sheets that I am the "icon of ZSEM." That's an extra stimulus to be even better at what I do.

 

What has ZSEM acchieved so far?

​In those 10 years we have gone from “the age of diapers and through prepuberty".

In such a short time we have managed to create a distinctive brand and position ourself as the leading business school in Croatia. Today ZSEM is a school that each candidate who wants the best education in business and economics would want to enroll to.

 

And in conclusion, what would you advise your students?

In life you should do what you love. Only then you will be able to fully use all your capacities. It is important to continue your education throughout life. Life is composed of ups and downs. Learn how to fight, accept defeat and thanks to it become even stronger.

Learn and travel - every trip is a new experience and opportunity to explore a variety of people and cultures which is a priceless treasure.

 And finally – “Per aspera ad astra” (To the stars through difficulties).

 

Thank you professor for this informative interview.

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