A Transformative Experience
Fulbrighter Rahul Verma Reflects on Teaching & Research in the UAE
By Ashley Kilday
Dr. Rahul Verma, Professor of Finance and Fulbright Scholar, embarked on a life-changing experience during a semester abroad teaching in the Emirate of Ajman. Centered just up the coast from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Verma’s Fulbright journey was filled with cultural immersion and valuable research opportunities, which left an indelible impact on his professional and personal growth.
A Warm Welcome
On arriving at Ajman University, Verma learned he was the only Fulbright Scholar to visit the UAE in 2022 and the first Fulbrighter to partner with Ajman University. He felt embraced by the warm hospitality at Ajman and marveled at the diverse expatriate population in the UAE. “It’s a country of expatriates,” he observed. “Only about 10% of the population is local.”
As classes began, Verma discovered exceptional curiosity among the students, particularly regarding the U.S. The UAE students were keenly interested in topics ranging from university operations to the intricacies of the U.S. banking system and the U.S. Federal Reserve. “They were very curious and asked many questions,” he shared. The students’ eagerness to learn and their respectful attitudes greatly touched Verma.
The academic landscape presented Verma with the opportunity to navigate cultural variations in academic freedom (e.g., gender-segregated classrooms were the norm), systems of governance, and research resources. “Understanding and embracing the differences makes these experiences valuable,” he said.
Collaboration & Research
Driven by his interests in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments, Verma collaborated on research with a colleague from Ajman University’s Finance Department, Dr. Rajesh Mohnot. They explored behavioral finance, which deals with how emotions and biases influence financial decisions and how these decisions are reflected in the financial markets. Their findings, published in the International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy, provided “empirical evidence of the relative impact of energy market sentiments on the stock and ESG index returns in the U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies.” (Read the full article online.)
A ‘Transformative’ Experience
Reflecting on his Fulbright experience, Verma described it as “transformative.” The exposure to a different academic environment and the cultural exchange refined his research focus and teaching approach. “The Fulbright experience not only expanded my academic horizons but also instilled a profound appreciation for diverse perspectives and the importance of curiosity and understanding in a global context,” he said.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.