Appendix 1: Major Organizational Initiatives at LUMS
Among my foremost service contributions at LUMS are the LUMS Learning Institute (LLI) and the LUMSx initiative, establishing both of which I consider ‘once in a career’ opportunities and experiences. In addition to these two, I set up the state-of-the-art LUMS AV Studio, and founded the first formal Media Unit at LUMS. Overall, I have introduced a wide range of new departments, labs, student societies, teams and working spaces at LUMS over the last five years.
LUMS Learning Institute (LLI)
During late 2019, after a university-wide open call and a rigorous selection process, I was tasked with establishing and leading the LUMS Learning Institute as its faculty director. As part of my new role, my first and most important responsibility was to design and set up a purpose-built space. I, in collaboration with the architects, formally designed the LLI space, keeping in view the needs of our learning center. This included physical layouts, furniture, co-working spaces, multimedia, and all major touch points. I also led the hiring process and hired the initial administrative team. Once the institute was officially inaugurated, and a small team recruited, I, together with the Associate Director, worked to establish five main verticals in line with my long-term vision for the institute. These verticals included (1) Faculty development (2) A pedagogical partnership programme (3) A ‘Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’ (SoTL) (4) Strategic initiatives beyond LUMS, and (5) Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL), including the LUMSx initiative. In order to achieve this, I negotiated with school deans and recruited two faculty members as vertical leads. I further took charge of the TEL initiative, and began working as its vertical lead.
Faculty development, a key programme at LLI, has evolved from a one-dimensional instructional skills workshop to now offering multiple pedagogical skills training and course-design workshops. Over the last two years, over 200 faculty and graduate students have participated in these workshops, making the program a major success. The Pedagogical Partnership Programme is another initiative that has garnered wide recognition while aiming to establish meaningful partnerships between students and faculty across a varied spectrum of teaching and learning projects. The programme has supported 25 partnerships spanning more than 38 student partners (accorded grants of more than PKR 3 million) and 27 faculty/staff partners to date. I personally led the transformation of the ongoing LUMS Student Summer Research Program, bringing it under the LLI umbrella in collaboration with the Office of Research. We made this program more interdisciplinary, improved its reporting mechanisms, offered greater assistance to young researchers, and diversified it by supporting several different types of projects (including course redesigns, field studies, documentary productions, policy papers.) We have supported over 70 student projects (150+ students) and have awarded grants of more than PKR 5 million over the past two years.
I also spearheaded the strategic initiative vertical, and established partnerships with other universities and organizations to expand our outreach, especially within the realm of K-12 teacher training. We procured an MoU with an EdTech industry leader, and are now within the final stages of launching a K-12 teacher training program for over 5000 teachers. Another LLI initiative I consider especially high-impact is the VC Award for Excellence in Teaching. I joined forces with a colleague to design a rigorous and comprehensive nomination process aligned with international standards, and the resulting first-of-its-kind award was a resounding success at LUMS. Other pioneering initiatives I have personally led include (1) a comprehensive teaching assistants (TA) training and mentorship program, (2) creating and designing LLI’s monthly and quarterly newsletters, (3) introducing a seminar/webinar series on innovation within teaching and learning, (4) designing the LLI website, (5) organising LLI’s biweekly faculty meetups, and (6) creating biweekly Student Pedagogy Circles focused on Inclusion, Equity and Accessibility.
With the onset of COVID, LLI was among the first in LUMS to provide timely support to faculty by delivering multiple webinars on adapting assessments, feedback, and teaching tools to the new and unfamiliar online learning environment. Moreover, the summer of 2020 saw 100+ faculty members participating in our online pedagogical skills training workshop, designed to equip them to meet 21st-century learning-skill demands. Ten faculty members, including the VC and myself, participated as part of the teaching team. Moreover, the leadership at LLI spearheaded TA training sessions, alongside delivering multiple workshops to support faculty and students transition seamlessly into the online learning space. Finally, I participated in numerous panels, LUMS Live sessions, and orientation sessions addressing the rapidly changing landscape of education during the pandemic.
At LLI, we are working on capacity-building and launching new initiatives in line with our long-term vision to make the institute a hub for scholarly research and excellence, both within LUMS and beyond campus walls. To achieve this goal, we are constantly exploring, innovating and expanding into different areas of teaching and learning.. Currently, I am leading the establishment of a Fellowship Programme (Provosts Fellows at LLI) that collaborates with faculty members to produce scholarly research and to contribute towards the various LLI verticals. I am also heading the launch of our K-12 Teacher Training Programme with the School of Education, which involves collaborating with external stakeholders to develop customized training modules. Under my purview, LLI is further playing a central role in designing a groundbreaking student and faculty exchange program with the University of Baltistan.
LUMSx, an online education technology platform, is a project very close to my heart, as I have always considered blended education a vital tool for learning and improving access to education, especially within Pakistan. LUMSx is envisioned as a space where design ideas are explored and combined with education technology to enhance the human learning experience. Although the project was conceived before Covid-19, the ensuing pandemic only strengthened our belief in the importance of carefully designed and learner-driven technology for promoting education in resource-constrained countries. It is the product of many laborious months of earnest collaborative effort during an especially difficult period.
As director of the LUMS Learning Institute and LUMSx project lead, I have conceptualized and spearheaded the development of massive open online courses for students across Pakistan. For this purpose, I have: (1) set up a team of instructional designers, media professionals and software developers, (2) coordinated across departments and centers to identify key roles, responsibilities, and processes for course development, (3) defined course agreement policies and course quality standards, (4) negotiated software contracts, (5) devised an initial marketing plan, (6) established a financial roadmap, (7) undertaken numerous initiatives to raise external funds for the project and (8) overseen the development of nine exemplary online courses. The LUMSx and LUMS Media teams were among a small handful of those who visited the campus regularly during the pandemic, and we recorded two exemplary online courses as a proof of concept.
Over the past year and a half, my team has piloted and tested the platform’s first deployment, and is now deploying the second version of the marketing site and the learning management system. During this time, we have developed a brand identity for LUMSx, identified key product features, and negotiated an agreement with key industry players to ensure the online learning platform is informed by the latest developments in educational technology. We have also iteratively tested and improved procedures for assisting faculty in conceptualizing and developing content for their online courses. We continuously research, revisit, and refine our strategies for improving courses in terms of accessibility, engagement, active learning, and overall quality.
LUMS Media Team
In light of my role as project lead for LUMSx and the Digital Learning initiative, the university’s higher management appointed me to establish a formal LUMS Media Team, convert it into an independently functional unit, and draft new SOPs to enable the unit to collaborate closely with the LUMSx team. Under my leadership, the LUMS Media Team (LMT) has grown both in size and the variety of services it offers. I have established a new, concrete HR structure with job descriptions, roles, responsibilities, and career paths. I evaluated the financial sustainability of the media team, established new procedures to improve internal and external project coordination, and delineated its internal charging mechanism in collaboration with the LUMS Finance and Provost offices. I have additionally introduced a student partnership program in this unit, allowing students interested in multimedia development and design to acquire valuable experience executing media-based projects while contributing to their alma mater. For greater visibility of the university's media services, there is a new LMT website in development that will enable LUMS departments, centers, and schools to submit service requests online. Furthermore, LMT has introduced a mechanism for documenting completed projects by maintaining a portfolio of learning videos, general photography, videography, screen-recordings, voice-overs, and other marketing material developed for the university. I have also overseen the reconstruction of the LUMS AV studio and the LUMS Radio Station. The former has been upgraded and expanded with a new, larger green screen, a light grid, a photobooth, and a space for webcasts, interviews, and voice-over-recordings.
In spite of the ongoing pandemic, I successfully ensured that the Media Team continued to provide critical services and coverage for major university events and activities, including the online 2020 and 2021 Convocations, O-weeks 2020 and 2021, Alumni Homecoming 2021, and LUMS Live Sessions. In addition to providing coverage for internal events, as well as external marketing efforts, LMT has undertaken a wide array of other projects. This includes a biographical video series about Syed Babar Ali, LUMSx instructional videos (video-recording and developing animations and graphics), tutorial videos, and animation-based videos on sexual harassment for SAHSOL. Moving forward, LMT plans to continue offering an ever-expanding range of media services to the university while producing more innovative media content. We are broadening our student partnership initiatives in particular, through mentorships and student society collaborations focused on music, photography, and videography projects.
National Incubation Center (NIC), Lahore/Quetta
I served as part of the core implementation team of the National Incubation Center (NIC) in Lahore, which oversaw the development of the National Incubation center (Sep 2017- Dec 2017) at LUMS. My involvement spanned the first five months of the implementation phase, wherein I and my team members led developmental efforts in terms of policy making, infrastructure planning, and team building. After the NIC was inaugurated, my team members and I were appointed as members of the center’s Foundation Council, tasked with selecting the incubation cohorts for its first three years of operation. This included attending presentations, assessing and selecting cohort members, advising them, conducting workshops, and working with them during the cohort cycle.
I have now joined the NIC as a Faculty Member, and have been delivering training sessions on design thinking within Quetta and Lahore. I have also actively contributed to the development of NIC Quetta, and regularly conduct advisory and design-based workshops for the incubation center.
Facebook Innovation Lab
For this first-of-its-kind Facebook innovation lab in Pakistan, I collaborated with NIC Lahore and the Facebook Singapore office to develop the lab’s conceptualisation, design, and launch plan. This Innovation Lab offers a platform for young entrepreneurs to envision and pursue new ideas, and to help them solve complex problems using AR/VR. Under the umbrella of this project, we have conducted a number of highly successful hackathons in collaboration with Facebook, as well as celebrating VR Days and directing AR/VR Game Design training sessions. We are currently designing a new ‘crossover’ program where NIC will be selecting and organising a special cohort for VR-based startups.
LUMS Usability Lab
As part of our proposal for NIC, I was asked to develop a sub-proposal for establishing Pakistan’s first Usability Lab at LUMS. Shortly after this was accepted, I joined forces with the CS Department to install the first state-of-the-art Usability Lab at LUMS, boasting an observation room, a participant room, and highly advanced sensing equipment including brain-computer interfaces, physiological data and eye tracking, and VR/AR headsets, among other key tools for observing and exploring human behavior. This lab is a joint venture between the NIC and the LUMS CS Department, and has already provided scores of students and startups a platform for evaluating the behaviour of both research and testing participants. Furthermore, the lab has extended its services to external parties, including Jazz & OLX, who have used it to understand customer behaviour.
Open Data Pakistan Initiative
Open Data Pakistan is a pioneering open data platform and initiative launched under my leadership, and is supported by the National Center for Big Data and Cloud Computing (NCBC), a project funded by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan. I am currently working as principal investigator and project lead for the groundbreaking initiative. It is a collaborative effort aimed at providing open data to a diverse cluster of users, including researchers, policymakers, communities, and businesses. The platform’s goal is to engender a culture of data-sharing and data dissemination across both public and private sectors in Pakistan, which includes striving to bring all major national datasets onto the portal, by encouraging different institutions to sign up and publish data and visualizations.
The portal now offers several interesting showcases and data blogs created by students. We are now working towards our goal of unlocking the value of data by being able to analyze it in machine-readable and open formats. We have also developed a first-of-its-kind open data policy, published on our portal.
Design and Data Foundry
Partners: Google, Facebook, NIC Lahore, Systems Ltd, Arbisoft Pvt. Ltd, DAAD
In my research statement, I have provided a detailed account of the numerous research projects currently underway at CHISEL, my HCI & Design lab. Besides research, the CHISEL team has remained engaged in outreach activities, community projects, projects with the government, and design/STEAM education-related initiatives. In 2020, I decided to create a clear distinction between my core HCI research conducted at the CHISEL Lab, and my multidisciplinary applied design and data-related projects, outreach activities and design education-related initiatives. As a result, the Design and Data Foundry was established at LUMS with its own vision, mission, and a new brand with a unique visual identity.
Design and Data Foundry is a transdisciplinary lab, and a community of faculty, practitioners and students working at the intersection of design, data and technology to co-create solutions that are indigenous, fundamental and transformative. The Foundry organizes a number of conferences, workshops, and meetups. It also offers a wide range of design and data internship programs, workshop series and masterclasses on design and data education, a student-run design consultancy, hackathons, competitions, and summer & winter bootcamps. Later in this statement, I will highlight a few high-impact initiatives and projects commenced at CHISEL that were later moved to the Design and Data Foundry.
Technology for People Initiative
Partners: WorldBank Pakistan, Google, Facebook, UK-Aid, US-Aid, European Union-Access to Justice, US-Institute for Peace, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), United National Organization on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Higher Education Commission (HEC)
Since having joined LUMS, I have actively worked with the Technology for People Initiative (TPI) as one of its principal investigators (PI). The lab piqued my interest on my very first day at LUMS, and under the umbrella of TPI, I, together with three colleagues, have since undertaken a number of high-impact projects. TPI is a research and design center, focused on designing innovative, low-cost, and practical technological solutions for the public and development sector. TPI’s original vision was to bridge gaps between the worlds of academia, industry, and government, in an effort to incubate innovative and out-of-the-box ideas.
Although TPI is housed in our School of Science and Engineering, it is a university-wide center, and faculty from all five schools at LUMS join forces with TPI on different projects in the areas of healthcare, education, governance, and accountability. TPI also offers an excellent platform to collaborate with the government, and to build digital solutions for tackling local challenges. TPI houses a technical team of skilled software developers, data scientists, statisticians, and designers.
Together, we have created a diverse portfolio of successful and award-winning projects. PI’s at TPI have won over a million dollars in competitive research grants. My personal research interests align well with TPI’s vision – I am especially passionate about ICT4D, specifically for practicing human-centered design to develop applied technologies and systems in the areas of education, health and female mobility, and about experimenting with new research methods to examine patterns and behaviours within the local context. Later in this statement, I will briefly outline some of the major projects I worked on.
In 2016, when I commenced my design-related outreach activities, I realized one of the best ways to promote an improved understanding of HCI and design-driven innovation – within LUMS and beyond – is by establishing a student society. In Jan 2017, INDEX, The Design & Innovation Society, was established, powered by a team of 5 handpicked design enthusiasts previously working in my lab. Since its inception, INDEX has grown into a thriving community of innovative and collaborative individuals and mentors. Although the social focus of INDEX has always emphasised a close-knit group of individuals interested in the innovative sub-disciplines of design – no matter the numbers – the society has achieved an estimated average induction growth rate of 25% over the past 5 years, along with an ever-increasing retention rate exceeding that of most student societies. This student endeavour is close to my heart, and I have played an integral role in cultivating its leadership, committing much of my time to the society. I meet the executive council of INDEX regularly, and among our shared success stories is that most of the people that have served enacted leadership roles at the society are now actively contributing to the world of design, both in Pakistan and abroad.
INDEX aims to foster a design community across Pakistan, instilled with the values of good design and innovation. It aspires to provide students all over the country with a platform to discuss and explore design thinking and design-driven problem solving, and does so by hosting regular workshops, seminars, tutorials, awards, and networking opportunities, encompassing multiple design fields, including UX/UI Design, Game Design and Development, Animation, Graphic Design, Architecture, and Product Design. INDEX continuously connects students with design internships, design projects, freelance opportunities, and potential career opportunities. In collaboration with the CHISEL Lab and the LUMS CS department, INDEX has initiated and organised 5 successful iterations of the UXPakistan Conference, launched the Lahore Design Festival, a new illustration conference and a new interactive design exhibition. INDEX also launched INOVA in 2019 – a design competition for high school students, Vulcan in 2021 – an online art and graphic design competition for young digital and traditional artists, Redesign LUMS competition in 2021 for designing a safer campus) , and a networking platform (LUMS Design Discussion Forum) – to help members of the design community explore both the local industry and international opportunities.
LUMS Women in Computing (LWiC) Society
LUMS Women in Computing began its journey in October 2020, under the patronship of Dr. Mobin Javed and I. The primary impetus underlying the conception of this society was a persistent and ubiquitous underrepresentation of women at all levels of the computing field – a perturbing trend I have witnessed from schools to industry leadership roles that I have always wished to address. LWiC aims to both encourage greater numbers of young women to pursue careers in computing and in STEM, and to address the fragmentation within the existing female CS student body at LUMS by serving as a much-needed communal space. In its first year of operation, LWiC organized mentoring events such as Grad App Wars, Doctoral Dilemma, and The Great Transition to guide students regarding graduate school applications. To promote gender inclusivity at the grassroots level, we launched the LWiC School Ambassadorship programme and conducted a 7-week long python bootcamp mentoring 50 schoolgirls in Lahore.
Moreover, in order to better prepare young women for careers within the computing industry, we organized ‘Debugging the CS Industry’ with 19 speakers and 6 panel talks. LWiC also organized events such as That’s How We Enroll and CS-Sproj Apps to assist students with their academic planning. Lastly, in order to inspire young girls, LWiC celebrated Women in Science Day with a panel of 6 extremely accomplished women speaking about their achievements and personal trajectories. The society continues to act as a platform allowing female students to support LWiC through volunteerships and to become part of a like-minded community offering support, mentorship, networking, and great fun.
IEEE LUMS Computer Science Society
I am also currently serving as the patron of the IEEE Computer Science Society, and have done so since 2018. It is the most active affinity group of the IEEE LUMS Chapter (managed by Dr. Wasif). The vision of the CS sub-chapter is to promote efficient solutions for programmable problems, and the society promotes its primary objective of leveraging technology for the betterment of human beings by conducting seminars, hands on workshops, webinars, talks and coding competitions. One of the flagship yearly events of the society is CodingGuru (more details in the appendix).
In 2016, SPADES, another STEM-focused student society, began working to develop a new observatory at LUMS, and invited me to co-lead the project, the first of its kind at LUMS. My role involved overseeing the setup of the physical infrastructure and the installation of the magnifying Celestron CGE Telescope, engaging and recruiting top professionals to operate the facility, and establishing a core team allowing students to run the observatory independently. I co-directed this unique venture for the first two years, managing its academic and outreach activities alongside my fellow co-director.
Working with Office of Accessibility and Inclusion at LUMS
I have been associated with the Office of Accessibility and Inclusion since its inception, and am currently working with the director and their team on a number of projects. The first of these involved auditing the LUMS campus for accessibility and inclusion, with regards to People with Vision Impairment (PVI) and physical disabilities. We began our audit with the Academic Block, a central building at LUMS, and evaluated its accessibility using the international accessibility guidelines we received from the American Association of Architects. Once we submitted a detailed report to the Provost, the National Management Foundation began working towards implementing our proposals, making the Academic Block more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.
I am also involved with a project for designing digital aids to raise awareness about harassment on campus. We received a Faculty Initiative Fund to support this project, and are designing training material intended as awareness guides against harassment. We are also currently developing a portal for this purpose, both within LUMS and beyond, that will provide vital information about navigating harassment, including institutional policies and support avenues, in an effort to make the campus a safe space. Lastly, I have entered a collaboration with the Office of Accessibility and Inclusion to undertake a campus wide survey aimed at understanding how different genders understand and navigate harassment, including major pain points and ways in which the university can address them. Solutions include improved and more specific policy-making, as well as developing both manual and digital interventions.
Working with Counseling and Psychological Services at LUMS
I have been working closely with the Counseling and Psychological Services at LUMS following the department’s restructuring under the leadership of Dr. Tahira. Since we both immediately wished to understand the psychological needs of students at LUMS, we designed and administered a comprehensive survey, spanning over 800 students. We are currently analyzing the data acquired, and designing new manual and digital interventions to address the needs identified.
Another important project I have been working on in tandem with this department involves designing a practice management system for counselors and students at LUMS. During the pandemic, most of their services had to be shifted online, creating hindrances for the Counseling and Psychological Services team. The shift to virtuality magnified pre-existing issues with managing clients, time, appointments, sharing data and notes, while introducing new obstacles. In response to this, we began developing a state-of-the-art Practice Management System 6 months ago. The platform has now been completed and well-received by the team, and will be delivered to the Counseling and Psychological Services office by late January. The system offers a variety of useful features, including making appointments, setting agendas, conducting online sessions using zoom, and sharing notes, data, progress, and internal chats between counselors. We are currently in the process of testing the system and evaluating its efficacy, and plan to extract research output from this project.
Video Series of Syed Babar Ali’s biography (Founder of LUMS)
One of the most fulfilling and exciting projects I have worked on over the past 6 years has been producing a biographical video series about Syed Babar Ali’s life. Syed Babar Ali is the founding Pro Chancellor of LUMS, and his extraordinary achievements as an entrepreneur, mentor, leader and philanthropist have left a lasting footprint across Pakistan. As both project lead and series director, my responsibilities have included project conceptualisation, design, production, recording team management, editorial work, and publishing. We have so far produced 24 videos over a period of 18 months, each exploring the life of Syed Babar Ali, and each about an hour long. The video series has been broadcasted on Facebook and Youtube, where they have been receiving excellent reviews, collectively reaching over 2 million views (mainly on Facebook) till today. We have also developed a personal website for Syed Babar Ali where all of the above has been archived. We are now translating the series into Urdu, and I am further leading a sub-project on compiling the series into a book.