From Dishwasher To Doctor

Kabir at NRAEF Gala Awards Dinner.
Kabir at NRAEF Gala Awards Dinner.

It was 1990 when Jahangir Kabir and his sister came to America from Bangladesh to join their nine brothers, all of them seeking, he says, “a better life.”

For 19-year-old Jahangir, that life began as a cook and dishwasher at a White Castle in Elmhurst, N.Y. It was the best job he could find because he didn’t know a word of English. “But you don’t have to know English to cook a hamburger,” says Kabir.

He began picking up the language from TV and his nieces and nephews, and then took some ESL courses. From there, it has been a steady climb up the academic ladder as well as the ladder of life.

Twenty-six years later, Kabir is an award-winning hospitality and restaurant management professional, educator, and community activist. He has stayed with White Castle, and is now a district manager for the hamburger chain in the boroughs of Queens and Manhattan, with 300 employees and $20 million in sales.

Kabir and his family have always valued education, and in 2001 he earned his BBA from Monroe College in Queens. Four years later, he had an MBA from St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn.

After a respite from the books, he decided to go for his doctorate, and this time he ventured outside the friendly confines of New York City — three hours outside, to be exact — to Wilmington.

“I did a tremendous amount of research before I chose Wilmington University,” Kabir says. He says he was attracted by the affordable tuition, which was far below the cost of New York City schools, as well as the faculty and staff. “When I visited Wilmington and met them, I decided this is the place that I wanted to be,” he says. “I saw that they really cared about the students.”

So in September of 2013, he began 29 months of making the six-hour round trip between New York and Delaware every other Saturday. “I couldn’t afford to stay overnight,” he notes.

His dissertation was a customer satisfaction study that encompassed more than 1,000 responses. He says the study demonstrated that customers’ primary concern is order accuracy. “When you order Chicken McNuggets,” he says, “you don’t want a Big Mac.”

In May, Kabir — known around the WilmU campus as “Jay” — received his DBA. “He had a tremendous desire to succeed, and he had an incredible ability to take feedback and improve his study,” says Dr. Robert Rescigno, director of the DBA program. “It was beautiful to see how after each meeting with the dissertation committee  his study would get better and better.”

Kabir obviously thinks highly of WilmU. His wife, Farida, is now an online student at the University, majoring in information systems.

Kabir is helping to train the next generation of hospitality management professionals in his new role as adjunct professor at the Culinary Institute of New York at his alma mater, Monroe College. He’s also active in his community, serving as an officer for the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the U. S. and as the parliamentarian at the Community Board-5 in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, his professional career continues to flourish: he was a finalist for White Castle Manager of the Year in 2015.

He and Farida live in a gentrified section of Brooklyn, where they are raising their 12-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. WU