From struggling Fowler student to successful businessman and educator
By: Kathryn Banzer
Google the name Dr. Emad Rahim and a list of his academic and employment achievements appear. You can easily see that Rahim is a successful educator and leader in the business world and he is the Dean of College and Business Management at Colorado Technical University.
But Google only tells part of Rahim’s story. In order to fully know and understand Rahim, you need to know his background. A survivor of the Killing Fields in Cambodia and a troubled, learning disabled teen in the 1980s, Rahim has had his share of adversity and hardship. That past, however, did not prevent him from achieving a great deal of success.
Rahim and his family came to Syracuse around 1985 and he enrolled at Frazer K-8 School. There he found great teachers and a diverse student body that acted as a support system for him. Rahim was in both English as a Second Language (ESL) and special education classes for several years. He finished at Frazer and moved on to Grant Middle School.
After Grant Middle School, Rahim attended Fowler High School, which proved to be a challenging time for him.
“My mentality changed, my environment changed. I started interacting with a lot of people my age who were engaging in gang-like activities. School was not the main priority for them. Many of my friends dropped out in tenth and eleventh grade,” Rahim said.
In tenth grade, Rahim was diagnosed with dyslexia. That diagnosis had a major impact on his self-esteem and changed his outlook on school. What it didn’t do was lessen Rahim’s resolve to graduate from high school. There were other bumps in the road too. During his junior year, he was so far behind in the curriculum that his academic advisor told him to drop out.
“At the end of the day, I think they wanted to get rid of me. After that conversation, I realized how badly I wanted to get my high school diploma,” Rahim said.
It was then that a hero entered his life. Willie Dowdell, a school administrator, noticed that Rahim was struggling and pulled him aside for a conversation one day.
“He asked me what I wanted out of life and out of school. He helped me to create a plan to graduate high school on time and introduced me to the Occupational Learning Center,” Rahim said.
OLC, although no longer in existence, was a program that allowed high school students to graduate while learning a vocational trade. Rahim took up auto mechanics and earned his high school diploma on time.
For Rahim, Dowdell was a father figure who went beyond his role as a school administrator lending an ear and offering Rahim the guidance he needed to overcome his obstacles.
“He explained dyslexia to me in a way that showed it was an opportunity. Now that I knew I had this problem, there were solutions available. He showed me examples of how I could get the same quality of education as everyone else by using these resources. He was the resource linker that I really needed in my life at the time,” Rahim said.
As a mentor, Dowdell conveyed sound advice to Rahim. He reminded him that high school was only four short years and although the situation seemed overwhelming, a lifetime awaited. He could pursue his dreams; create opportunities for a career and family. Rahim needed to figure out what he wanted and the best way to get it.
After high school Rahim continued his education at various universities. To date, he has earned a Post-Doctorate in Marketing and Management Research and Doctorate of Management in Organizational Development in addition to two graduate degrees. His career has expanded to include professorship at several schools as well as leadership in a handful of business enterprises. Today, he is married and has a young daughter.
Rahim continues to live by the advice he was given while he was a student at Fowler. He is an accomplished educator and leader and attributes his success in the classroom to his open and engaged approach when dealing with his students. He shares his own story to add a personal element.
“I remind my students that if they need anything outside of what is being taught, to please let me know. I don’t speak to students like I’m the all-knower.”
A project close to Rahim’s heart is working with Cambodian farmers and business owners. His goal is to educate them as entrepreneurs and provide them with resources for funding. The project includes raising Cambodia’s education rate by developing scholarships so young people can go to school. As he explained, education is costly and for that reason, many students do not advance beyond elementary school.
For those in Syracuse interested in helping Dr. Rahim’s initiative, he suggests getting involved with organizations like the Northside Learning Center, CYO and Catholic Charities. All of these programs help the local refugee population.
Learn more about Dr. Rahim’s life in this video, Against the Odds.
Click here Northside Learning Center to learn more about the organization.