American University of Beirut

Universities and their Neighborhoods: An AUC-AUB Conversation


Cairo 5-7 November 2015

Urban universities in the Arab world, like their counterparts around the world, possess intellectual and economic resources that can be channeled to make a positive difference to their ‘place.’  In the wake of the Arab uprisings, many institutions in this region are asking how they can contribute to the wider social good beyond their distinctive mission to educate the next generation of citizens.

The question is not just about meaningful engagement but how an urban university might play a potentially transformative role in its neighborhood and city.

The aim of the meeting was two-fold:  to raise awareness in Egypt about urban universities and their roles in their neighborhoods and cities, and to recommend specific next steps for AUC and AUB. The symposium had two parts: a public keynote address and panel discussion, and a smaller two-day “ideas lab.”

For the public opening event on Thursday November 5th, Hilary Pennington, Vice-President for Education, Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation in New York, gave the keynote address, followed by a panel composed Dr. Lisa Anderson, President of the American University in Cairo; Omar Blaik, Co-CEO of U3Advisors in Philadelphia, and two representatives from the office of the Governor of Cairo.

The smaller “ideas lab” took place over two days, Friday November 6th and Saturday November 7th. The ideas lab format encourages the intensive discussion of cases studies and the generation of creative solutions to their challenges.

The ideas lab considered three dramatically different cases: the ‘old campus’ of AUC at Tahrir Square in central Cairo; the new campus of AUC in New Cairo, a developing desert suburb to the east of the city; and the walled campus of AUB in Ras Beirut, a gentrifying neighborhood overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Beirut, Lebanon.

Ideas lab participants included a team from AUC and other Egyptian scholars, planners and activists; a team from AUB composed of leaders of Neighborhood Initiative projects, all of whom reside in Ras Beirut; and a number of international resource persons who brought the best current thinking about urban community development and university-neighborhood engagement.

Several international resource persons viewing the exhibition of AUC and AUB cases, with Professors Magda Mostafa and Khaled Tarabieh

Professors Khaled Abdelhalim and Khaled Tarabieh with Omar Blaik, U3 Advisors, Philadelphia

Exhibition coordinator Christina Jiménez Mattsson with Dr. Mohamed El Shahed, Cairobserver​

International resource persons Carol Coletta and Deborah Cullinan at the AUC Press exhibit​

AUC President Lisa Anderson with Professor Magda Mostafa

The opening session on Thursday November 5, 2015

Panelists at the opening session (left to right): Professor Mostafa, Hilary Pennington (Vice President of Ford Foundation, New York), President Anderson, Omar Blaik, Deputy Governors of Cairo​

Tour of the AUC campus in New Cairo

Tour of the AUC campus in New Cairo

AUB and AUC symposium teams

Taking a lunch break

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