PhD persistence leads to sustainability success for Western Sydney family

PhD candidate Taghreed Aljaffal, her husband Dr Haitham Abdelrazaq and children Amir and Zina

For PhD student Taghreed Al-Jaffal, a chance meeting at an academic conference was the ideal connection that brought together her experience and skills, along with her own dash of entrepreneurship. Today, Taghreed has found success as a research unit developer at The Hotel School in Sydney, devising content and learning methods that promote sustainability and best-practice use of resources for aspiring hoteliers.

Her journey has become a wonderful story of supporting each other and finding success as a family at Western Sydney University.

Taghreed’s journey begins in Jordan where she completed qualifications in finance and worked in export logistics. When she arrived in Australia, she established a project that took sustainability and environmental learning to early education centres, encouraging young children to learn about food origins and care for the land.

“Even our kids came and helped – they’ve been part of our journey learning about sustainability education,” Taghreed said.

With a growing passion for sustainability, Taghreed took on a Masters of Research at Western’s Graduate Research  School, investigating the extent to which Australia’s Middle-Eastern restaurants used sustainability practices such as reducing energy consumption, disposing of food waste appropriately and saving water.

“Many restaurants try to reduce their environmental footprint but they haven’t yet really embraced the circular economy idea and made use of food composting or food gardening on premises,” Taghreed said.

As her husband Dr Haitham Abdelrazaq worked on his own PhD through the School of Business, Taghreed started to help with some of the data collection and analysis, quickly showing her skills in research and statistics. Haitham’s supervisor at Western Sydney University’s School of Business, Dr Pheroza Daruwalla, also noticed Taghreed’s skills and growing confidence and encouraged her to consider a PhD of her own.

“My PhD project aims to find out the current state of sustainability education within the hospitality and tourism undergraduate curriculum – we’ve all seen how many events still put out plastic cutlery and tip food waste into the land bins.

“I was at an academic conference presenting my project and a colleague from The Hotel School, based in Sydney, came up afterwards and we starting talking about the best ways to build better sustainability thinking into undergraduate hotel and tourism courses. If we change practices earlier, the impact on reduced waste could be significant!” Taghreed said.

It was not long after that this connection turned into a job offer, with Taghreed invited on to develop postgraduate research unit for The Hotel School as she continues with her PhD project at Western. Now, she is coordinating the teaching and learning of the unit and inspiring the next generation of hotel managers and professionals to more seriously plan for improved sustainability outcomes. Meanwhile, her husband Haitham continues to teach at Western’s Sydney City Campus and The Hotel School Sydney.

“It’s been an interesting, and at times challenging, journey. Western has supported our family and encouraged us every step of the way. I am grateful to the endless support of my supervisors, Dr Daruwalla, and also Associate Professor Terry Sloan and Dr Karina Wardle in the School of Business.

“We are a Western family, myself, my husband and my children!”


4 September 2020

David Thompson, Research Communications & Media Officer