Dr. Vafa Kazdal, Vice Rector of Academic Affairs at ADA University, writes about ADA traditions and practices that symbolize the institution’s value-driven culture.
Today ADA University hosted its 2022 Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev Award Ceremony with around 20 competing projects that cover mostly environmental and social issues. Four teams share 1 st, 2nd, and 3d places.
There are many traditions at ADA University that symbolize the institution’s value-driven culture and reinforce our fundamental principles. For example, the one we held today emphasizes social responsibility, genuine teamwork and encourages lifetime civic engagement. Our Honor Code Ceremony is held in the beginning of each academic year to acquaint new students and faculty with our emphasis upon academic honesty and integrity. Our Academic Excellence Day, which is held once each semester, recognizes outstanding educational growth and commitment to intellectual development. Our Annual International Festival celebrates inclusiveness and friendship with students and faculty from other countries and nationalities.
These are some of the visible aspects of our values. Yet, there are other practices at ADA that have taken on symbolic meaning and exemplify our cultural, pedagogical, and governing values which often are not known or visible to outsiders, for example, our unique “Lunch Chats”—a tradition established and led by our rector, Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev.
This custom is influenced primarily by the Rector’s family as well as the tradition of Azerbaijani hospitality. Ambassador Pashayev grew up with memories of his parent’s dinner table always set to welcome guests. Sometimes, these guests were doctoral students of his father Mir Jalal Pashayev (1908-1978) or his colleagues, writers, family friends and relatives. The dinner table encouraged bonding and sharing of food, ideas, and friendship.
The Rector and his wife Rana khanim continued this practice when he served as Ambassador to the United States (1992-2006), and now they exist at ADA University which he founded in 2006.
The daily joint lunch at ADA with Rector, colleagues, faculty, students, friends, and guests symbolizes a new approach to university governance, quite opposite of the educational management during the Soviet times when access to university leaders was very restricted, especially to students. ADA Lunch Chats seek to break these hierarchical boundaries. They symbolize a sense of community, equality, academic freedom, and intellectual curiosity. We consider them sacred because they involve sharing and bonding—sharing food, both physical and intellectual.
ADA Lunch Chats foster a new governance strategy. These few hours are a condensed version of ADA organizational practices: open feedback, participation in decision making, and encouragement of grass-roots leadership. Lunch Chats provide an informal platform created by the university Rector to listen to other voices. These daily gatherings provide opportunities to approach leadership and share thoughts and ideas about accomplishments, proposals, concerns, problems or simply to say “hello”.
Lunch Chats take place every day during the regular lunch hours (1 to 2 pm) in one of the three cafeterias of ADA. Everyone—students, faculty, and staff—may take their tray and join the table. Sometimes, it is the Rector who joins a table of students or faculty.
Check out the big round table in the middle of the cafeteria in Building E where they often take place. This venue creates a cozy atmosphere for socializing. Lunch Chats may extend beyond the hour. Lunch Chats can be creative. Your ideas may result in the creation of a new program, project, or partnership. They provide a rare lift in the midst of a hard day of work. People come for food and refreshment and walk away with a chance for some deep thought and reflection.