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MEPI Tomorrow’s Leaders program offers transformative opportunities
9/26/2017
Jennifer Muller  |  Office of Communications  |  media@aub.edu.lb  | 

​MEPI-TL scholar Nada Ben Jemaa addressing the UN General Assembly​

AUB has a long tradition of producing leaders and it remains a vital part of the University’s mission to educate young people to be engaged citizens.​ For the past decade, this goal has been augmented with support from the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)-Tomorrow’s Leaders scholarship program. AUB recently signed off on a new award of $5 million from the US State Department to continue and expand this inspirational program.

“Improving geographic and socioeconomic diversity of the student population at AUB and making education affordable to bright, young students are two of the most important strategic goals of the institution,” said Provost Mohamed Harajli, who signed the agreement on behalf of AUB. “The MEPI-Tomorrow’s Leaders program serves exactly these goals, and is nothing less than a transformative opportunity for young women and men from the MENA region, both academically and personally,” he added.

Since 2007, the Tomorrow’s Leaders initiative has brought 138 students from underserved communities across North Africa and the Middle East with the aim of building “a cadre of university-age leaders who are civic-minded, intellectually able, and professionally skilled” and who are committed to giving back in their home countries.

One of these MEPI-TL scholars is Aws Al-Kadasi, a junior who comes from Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.  Although his neighborhood is not a frontline battleground, there are many challenges in his country arising from the ongoing conflict, including a lack of general security, economic uncertainty, and major health concerns. 

After spending some time at AUB, Al-Kadasi decided he wanted to learn more about how the mind works and so, ended up in Psychology.  Now he wants to specialize in childhood trauma and hopes that he can eventually work with children from conflict zones such as Yemen or other Arab countries. In fact, he is already working in this field by volunteering for a project that offers psychosocial support for school-age Syrian refugees in the Beqa’a.  Speaking about the MEPI program and AUB in general, Aws said that it has been a “life-changing event.”
 
“You start to see how you are developing as a leader once you are on the ground, doing something practical, and you see how this knowledge comes into practice,” Al-Kadasi told us. “That’s when I started to realize I am growing and developing as a leader and that’s when I understood the effect of the program.  I hope I gain these things and can do something for my country.” 

Another current MEPI-TL student is Nada Ben Jemaa, a senior in Business Administration who comes from Tunis. This past summer, she was selected to attend the UN Global Youth Forum in the US where she addressed the UN General Assembly. Nada has also helped start a women’s roller derby league in Beirut with some of her friends from the MEPI program.  In addition to all of these and her academic pursuits, Ben Jemaa has found her volunteering experience to be truly rewarding.

“I work with the Jusoor program where we teach English to Syrian refugees. The refugees want to learn and AUB offers a space for them to have classes and arranges for students to teach them,” said Ben Jemaa.  “Our students are amazing people and they have wonderful stories and you get really close to them as they start sharing these stories with you.  So my students and I have been friends for about a year now,” she added.

Civic engagement is one of the foundations of the MEPI-TL program, which requires students to volunteer throughout the year and do two internships. As director of the MEPI-TL program, Hani Hassan told us how he hopes their example will help in promoting a culture of volunteerism and service learning in the broader AUB community.

“This program is not just about academics, although that is obviously a big part. The students have to do civic engagement, volunteerism, and workshops and that’s where they really blow our minds,” said Hassan. “The idea behind the program is that it’s not just about getting a degree. The idea is that it will spillover, not just to the scholarship program but to the general AUB mindset,” he added.

The most recent award of $5 million for the MEPI-TL program is the largest to date and will mean that 29 deserving students coming from underprivileged backgrounds in the MENA region will be admitted to AUB with full tuition and expenses paid in fall 2018.
Story Highlights
  • ​​AUB has a long tradition of producing leaders and educating young people to be engaged citizens remains a vital part of AUB’s mission. 
  • For the past decade, this goal has been augmented with support from the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)-Tomorrow’s Leaders scholarship program. AUB recently signed off on a new award of $5 million from the US State Department to continue and expand this inspirational program.
 
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Email: media@aub.edu.lb
 
 
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