Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,
Vision is the ability to conceptualize and plan a future with wisdom and imagination. A vision is therefore essential to any successful organization and its sustainability strategy. AUB came into being because of the vision of
Daniel Bliss, and it has thrived when his successors have refreshed it with their own visionary and strategic input. The current leadership team has been working determinedly in the realms of vision and strategy since 2016, and I would like to share with the whole community our latest thinking, which was shared with the
Board of Trustees in November and discussed in faculty-staff town hall meetings in December. We intend to present this strategic vision for final approval to the Board in 2019.
Strategic vision VITAL 2030
We inhabit a world of challenges. The MENA region suffers unsustainable inequality, massive displacement and growth of populations, failing states and health systems, environmental unsustainability, and threats to personal freedom. In Lebanon and the Arab world, we suffer from weak national infrastructure in many countries, chronically low investment in research, a persistent brain drain, marginalization of evidence-based policy, all set against a background of upheaval and instability. Our university skirted oblivion in the mid-1970s and it has been a sporadic road to recovery, with rising costs, infrastructure deteriorating, the humanities undervalued, and a competitive environment that proliferates in new ventures, if not quality.
The strategic vision we have called VITAL 2030 takes these challenges and lights a path through them to ensure AUB's future success, relevance, and sustainability over the next decade and beyond. The letters are a mnemonic for five priorities which allow us to focus our energy and resources, strengthen our operations strategically, bring all stakeholders together towards common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes, and course-correct when necessary. The priorities are:
V – Valuing our community and validating our values
I – Innovating and integrating humanities, technology and purpose-based education
T – Transforming the university experience for all
A – Advancing a world-class research agenda
L – Lifting the quality of health and medicine across our region (or Life)
Thanks to the efforts of faculty, students and staff across the university, each of these strategic themes has been invested with specific broad goals and specific objectives that converge on delivering those goals. Each objective in turn has actions, responsible actors, resource allocation, and key performance indicators (KPIs) so that we can measure progress and agree improvements along the way.
mission statement is widely circulated and should be familiar to most of you. Its 104 words speak about excellence, advancing knowledge, and service, our foundation in American liberal arts education, freedom of thought and expression, tolerance, respect for diversity and dialogue. It concludes with the aspirational statement that our graduates will be committed to creative and critical thinking, life-long learning, personal integrity, civic responsibility, and leadership. The first priority is about “walking the walk," as the saying goes, so that every aspect of our shared mission is translated into measurable reality.
The goals we have set ourselves include working to distill the common core values of the university—integrity, accountability, diversity, transparency, fairness, and more—and doing more to affirm them in everyday practice. We must validate those values and share them externally as well as internally, to enhance and communicate our relevance in the world, by building
partnerships, assessing our programs critically, seeking alignments, and avoiding duplication. We must become more academically elite and less economically elite, by expanding
scholarships, diversifying revenue streams, and tapping new philanthropic resources. We must assure the sustainability of our strategic path and of our values and manage our future growth accordingly.
Integrating the humanities, technology and purpose-based education is our priority to ensure that AUB is able to provide its students with knowledge that is as deep as it is wide. For this we need to innovate in pedagogy, and develop the best possible curriculum that is consistent with our values in order to create additional opportunities wherever we can identify them. We must ensure that our students are strong communicators in the wide—and widening—range of media that they will need to master in a different professional landscape than we see today. The key will be to continue our move away from the one-way street that considers students as vessels to be filled with knowledge, and towards enabling collaborative and engaged learning and working environments that will allow them to excel in the world outside.
This requires real innovation in teaching. We envision thematic cross-disciplinary courses all over campus; computer coding and technological literacy as part of the learning experience; theater to enhance communication skills, cultural exchange and self-confidence; cross-disciplinary team-based entrepreneurship; promoting healthy lifestyles; and creating adaptive learning spaces for multimodal learning. We have already taken many first steps towards revolutionizing traditional educational approaches, whether with the task forces looking at a new core curriculum, entrepreneurship competitions, or going
tobacco free, among many others. And there will be more to come, not just involving our students on our campus. We need to go out and create the world that we want to live in, and we need to re-imagine our own campus to make it more open, creating amenities here to engage the public and celebrate the arts, theater, and music, transmitting the potency of our mission and message to all.
We seek to transform the university by providing an innovative and progressive campus-wide experience for students, building more fulfilling lives for faculty, and creating a happy and productive culture among AUB staff, while more actively engaging our incredible corpus of 68,000
alumni. To this end we are redesigning classrooms, renovating our dorms, restructuring our alumni association (WAAAUB), trying to encourage more sport for all, recreating transformative teaching opportunities outside the classroom, and planning upgrades for faculty and postgraduate housing and a student center to provide a nerve center for student life.
We believe the creation of a more engaging AUB culture will be founded on two-way communication, through open forums like traditional town halls—which need to attract more attendance through the efforts of the university leadership and a more receptive, engaged community—as well as bespoke briefings and Q&As. Having personally delivered more than 200
speeches since rejoining AUB, 40 media interviews, and 47
President's Perspectives, I am convinced that the AUB community needs to hear less from the president and more from the outstanding and distinguished university board, leadership, faculty, students, staff and alumni, all of whom already serve as exceptional ambassadors and advocates both inside and outside the university. We also need to make more use of survey data to listen and learn from all our constituents, create new platforms for feedback and consultation, and we must not be remiss of showing our appreciation to our hard-working faculty and staff, and creating new opportunities for our stellar students in these difficult times.
The reintroduction of academic tenure in 2018 was a huge step towards attaining and cementing AUB's global reputation for outstanding basic and translational
research. Our faculty already publish in the top journals and take the lead in high quality research more than any other university in the Arab world. We generate more than five percent of the research output in the Arab world in some disciplines (while ranking in the top 25 institutions in the world in terms of dollars spent per paper). We will build on this by prioritizing the upgrade of our research infrastructure and administration, establishing consistent models of impact through centers of research excellence, setting university-level interdisciplinary research themes, finding new ways to make research accessible to a wider audience, and providing more human and financial resources for research.
Specifically, we plan to achieve these by creating an Office of Research whose role will be wholly devoted to advancing AUB's research agenda, ensuring world-class results and empowering researchers and disseminating their output. We will work on simplifying and speeding up the
Institutional Review Board's operations. Our unique
AUB libraries require major renovations which we are looking to fund through philanthropy, while seeking new ways to manage library resources carefully. We will be introducing several new strategic PhD programs and masters programs which will be selected on the criteria of attractiveness to applicants and their long-term viability by being useful to graduates and the wider societies that we live in. Finally, of course, research needs investment, and while we have already increased this internally by 60 percent, we are confident that setting this positive parameter is already bearing fruit by driving substantial increases in external grants.
Since its inception, this institution has been dedicated to lifting the quality of health and medicine in our city and its environs, and with the passing of time we have extended that influence across the region and beyond. Looking forward, this core contribution must be nurtured and grown—following the lead of the transformative
AUBMC 2020 Vision which is now nearing its considerable 10-year objectives. We will do this by building capacity for health professionals in all disciplines and developing innovative business models for expanding healthcare delivery and research by developing state-of-the-art technologies to support human and ecosystem health and research.
We will foster internal partnerships for collaboration and build local, regional, and international ties to facilitate health education and research in support of the widely adopted sustainable development goals (SDGs). We have many extraordinary collaborations and projects currently in operation, too many to itemize here; so this strategic priority is already a clear strength of our university and its medical center. One of our foci has to be facing understanding and addressing a key question. Namely, why are we educating a disproportionate share of the cream of the crop of students in medicine, nursing, and health sciences, many of whom are compelled to leave the region never to return? I think the answer has to be that we must develop and support a group of leaders who can make a difference here in the Arab world, where there exists a real shortage of high-quality practitioners. We plan to do this through our
Health 2025 Vision, which is to serve as a leading hub for both clinical and population health in the Global South.
The December town halls which discussed VITAL 2030 generated healthy debate among faculty and staff that gave us hope that VITAL 2030 is not just the president's vision, nor the deans' nor the trustees' vision, but a vision that the whole of AUB can get behind to build a fair, just, and more egalitarian society. That is the challenge we will put forward to our community, one I believe we can and must be prepared to address wholeheartedly.
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD