Dr. Abdul Hamid Hallab (left) negotiating initial REP Projects
AUB’s Regional External Programs, initially established in 1975 as the AUB Services Corporation (AUBSCO), was the brainchild of the late Dr. Najib Halaby, who was then Chairman of AUB’s Board of Trustees. As the civil war broke out in Lebanon, Chairman Halaby worried about how AUB would be able to preserve its regional position. Prior to the war, almost half of the University’s students came from countries other than Lebanon, and there was widespread agreement that this diverse student body was an important part of what made AUB unique. Chairman Halaby and others - including Professor Abdul Hamid Hallab of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences who has been involved with REP since the outset - knew that the University would no longer be able to attract students from the region. They hoped, however, that by creating the Office of Regional External Programs (REP) they could open a pathway for AUB to extend its presence into the region. This decision resulted in strategic advancements for the university with various institutional benefits.
Establishing REP was seen as a feasible way to help the University remain locally viable and regionally engaged during the war. The rationale was that by putting the professional skills of its academics to work, AUB would be able to hold on to as many of its faculty members as possible and simultaneously retain its regional stature.
Already existing at the time was the AUB Services Corporation (AUBSCO), which Chairman Halaby viewed as the ideal organization to serve the region as the precursor for REP. AUBSCO, which had been created in 1975 as an independent legal entity and incorporated in the state of Delaware, was solely owned by AUB but had its own Board of Directors chaired by AUB BOT Chair Halabi, and included Trustees Kamal Shair, Ali Ghandour, and Fouad Bardawil as members.
In taking action to realize his plan, Chairman Halaby asked Professor Hallab to become one of AUBSCO’s two vice presidents, along with Professor Nadim Haddad of the Faculty of Health Sciences. In the late 1970s, the Board of Trustees decided to dissolve the AUBSCO affiliate and place its activities under the auspices of the University. What eventually became REP was first formed in 1979 as the Research and Development Administrative Center (RADAC) under the directorship of Professor Hallab. By the early 1980s, as Halaby’s operational planning took shape and prospects for work in the region began to emerge, the name of the organization was changed once again from RADAC to the Vice President’s Office for Research and External Programs (1980) headed by VP Hallab, and then finally and permanently to the Office of the Vice President for Regional and External Programs (1997). This resulted from exporting REP’s operations pertaining to the research component to a new independent Office of Grants and Contracts (OGC) that reports directly to the Provost.
The first contracts were concluded in 1976 in Bahrain with the Ministry of Health and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) with the government. The Bahrain contract was to help establish the Ministry of Health’s College of Health Sciences, Office of Professional Standards and Systems Analysis, and the Family Practice Residency Program. The contracts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia culminated in a US$30 million, four-year (1982-86) contract to assist the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in the development of regional agricultural research centers, and to provide ongoing advice to individual department heads in the Ministry. The on-site team grouped over 50 professionals possessing expertise in agriculture, engineering, and economics.
Although REP was initially established to provide services to the region, it has always had an extensive presence in Lebanon. In addition, REP manages AUB’s Continuing Education Center (CEC), a community outreach program offering courses at an affordable price since the 1970s and hold training seminars and workshops in various disciplines for Lebanon and the region. REP’s CEC upholds AUB’s motto “so that they may have life and have it more abundantly” by extending the resources of the University into the community and region to provide high quality educational opportunities for people of all educational and professional levels.
Furthermore, AUB’s strategic plan states that CEC will play a role in revitalizing AUB’s commitment to serve its local and regional community by attracting more regional students from diverse backgrounds through professional programs. Today, in addition to the 15 full-time REP staff and the 130 consultants that REP oversees, REP also administers the Continuing Education Center which includes over 720 students and 30 instructors.