What a bright day on April 8, 2020. The lovely mango tree through my window was leafing arms to pray. Then my Writing 101 instructor, Ms. Emilienne Idorenyin Akpan, announced that she had finalized preparations for our online interactive session with our counterparts (first-year seminar students) at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA), Kyrgyzstan.
The topic that we had agreed with peers in Bishkek before the lockdown was, "Does money motivate people more than any other factor in the workplace?" To actively participate in the discussion, I needed to read a little bit more about workplace motivation to understand both sides of the argument.
My initial response was, "Yes, of course, money is an influencer. Money makes people happy in every workplace." But I had no justifications.
On the morning of the session, I was ready to engage with my peers at AUN and AUCA. So, I waited to be admitted into the Zoom forum where smiles welcomed me. Students at AUCA introduced themselves and so did we. Afterward, Dr. Ekaterina Galimova introduced herself and shared promotional videos from our respective schools. Dr. Galimova teaches English at AUCA. She and Ms. Akpan are AMICAL colleagues and good friends. They both directed the session after Ms. Akpan had explained the rules for the structured discussion.
The hand icon determined who would be called on to speak and there were many ideas we could relate to in spite of the different contexts presented. For example, Ratibor from AUCA said, "Money does not motivate employees, but happiness does. If an employee is passionate about what he or she does, and if he or she has a good boss, happiness makes the employee carry on, and not the money."
There were divergent opinions though about still working to earn as much as possible even when the supervisors were nothing short of nightmares. Ms. Akpan mentioned at this point that mental health also contributed to workplace fulfillment, and Dr. Galimova concurred.
When it was my turn, everyone quietly waited. I sat up, smiled, and said, "I believe that money does not motivate some people at the workplace. I think so because I know a teacher who has been working at a private school here in Yola and has not been paid for the past five months. This dedicated teacher has not quit because his students' development is his motivation, and he takes pride in being a part of their progress. He lives a relatively poor life, and his mantra is that he will get paid someday."
My colleague, Farida, related the topic to the commendable sacrifices healthcare front liners are making in the battle to contain and overcome the agonizing effects of Covid-19. She stressed that if money was the motivating factor, many of these selfless workers would have stayed at home to protect only themselves and their family members. For AUCA sisters Anisa and Zuhailo, while money helps parents meet the needs of their children, there are other motivating factors that make the workplace conducive.
When the 90-minute session was over, we had shared many views and broadened our conceptual understanding of how money is regarded by our peers in a different cultural milieu.
We also wondered what our driving forces would be when school resumes and when we eventually leave school for the industry. It was a class discussion to help us organize our thoughts on a subject and know how to effectively communicate our position in the English language to a different audience; we also learned that everyone wants to be treated with respect no matter how much they earn.
Dr. Galimova appreciated the teamwork between AUN and AUCA and looked forward to enhancing our partnership through a future session. However, because we have different academic calendars, a different AUN section will benefit from the next engagement.
Later that day, when I was talking to my father (Bill Hansen) about the success of the discussion, he excitedly revealed that he had taught at AUCA from 1998 to 2004. It was from there that he joined AUN as one of the pioneer faculty members. He is one of the founding fathers of the International & Comparative Politics (ICP) department at AUCA, and it was amazing how a class discussion revealed a connection I may never have known. He was all smiles as he recollected his days at AUCA and applauded Ms. Akpan for arranging an interactive session during this lockdown. Needless to say, my father looks forward to participating in the forthcoming collaboration.
Contributed by Phillip Bill Hansen (Law major)