Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,
On December 3, we celebrate Founders Day with the conviction that we cannot honor AUB's founding fathers without also honoring the practice of philanthropy which they exemplified. In 1862, Dr. Daniel Bliss sought to raise $100,000 to endow a college of higher learning in Lebanon that would include medical training. In 1863, the first two donors, Mr. and Mrs. William E. Dodge, gave $15,000 and $10,000 respectively. Many donations would follow in order to build the institution of higher learning that today represents the finest university of the region.
The word philanthropy in the Greek means a love of humanity, but more than trying to alleviate the pain of human suffering, the practice of philanthropy seeks to address the deepest causes of humanity's ills. That impulse was also built into the Syrian Protestant College, now AUB, from the beginning, and continues to resonate in our medical center, dormitories, classrooms, and across the paths and green spaces where our students congregate today.
On December 3, philanthropist Maysa Jalbout will address us as the Founders Day speaker. Maysa is the founding CEO of
Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, the largest privately funded foundation in the Arab world, working to educate 15,000 young people in 10 years. A former refugee herself, Maysa seeks to help other marginalized youth reach their potential.
This Founders Day also marks the first time AUB will take part in an organized Giving Day. Students, faculty, alumni, and friends are being invited to donate to AUB to celebrate its founding and to honor the gifts and principles that started the university. Once again, like Dr. Bliss, we're looking to raise $100,000, but—given the effects of inflation—this time we want to do it in a single day. Generous friends and alumni have already agreed to match each dollar up to a total of $50,000, giving us a magnificent start.
The faculties have also thrown out a challenge, and the faculty with the highest percentage of gifts will receive $15,000 toward its work. December 3 may be one of the longest days on our calendar as we start raising money in Beirut and end thirty-one hours later in North America. Throughout this process, I shall keep my eye on the
Giving Day website to watch the live tallies of gifts build in different countries in real time. We expect AUBites across the world to show their support for the transformative education at AUB and the work of our students and faculty toward improving the health and wellbeing of the region.
We are currently in the largest fundraising effort in the history of the region,
BOLDLY AUB: The Campaign to Lead, Innovate, and Serve. Over 150 years after Daniel Bliss raised his first donations, we are still celebrating the principles of our founders—unity, the pursuit of truth and knowledge, and a dedication to pluralism. December 3, Giving Day, will be a day to invest in this matchless institution of higher learning, whose graduates still so ably lead, innovate, and serve.
Transformative university preparation
One of AUB’s most transformative educational activities is the University Preparatory Program (UPP)
, which gives intensive courses for incoming students with good grades but inadequate training to make it in our demanding English-medium environment. It was founded in the English department under the directorship of Reem Rashash-Shaaban in 2002, and four years later it moved to Faculty of Arts and Sciences
administration with a revised brief and new director, Dr. Ghazi Ghaith. Under the directorship of Dr. Samar Harkouss since 2011, UPP plays a key role mediating the smooth transition of students from the most underrepresented communities into rounded AUB undergraduates.
UPP furnishes students with soft skills—like research, presentation, critical reading and thinking, civic engagement, and time management skills—and technical and IT skills for young people who may have never sent an email, let alone registered for a course online. It also provides enrichment activities to integrate them into campus life with introductions to libraries, museums, centers, galleries, and so on. It is no surprise that UPP students often go on to win awards and claim top honors throughout their AUB lives.
UPP is a key enabler of programs under our
Leadership, Equity, and Diversity (LEAD) initiative, led by Dr. Malek Tabbal, which connects the organizations of comprehensive institutional scholarships in order to promote and increase the opportunities they provide. All
USP/USAID scholars (from underrepresented public schools in Lebanon) start their AUB journeys at UPP. They are joined by
MEPI-TL scholars (from other Arab countries),
MasterCard Foundation scholars (from sub-Saharan Africa and underrepresented Lebanese and refugee communities), and
Ghurair Foundation scholars (from Arab countries in STEM subjects) who require extra English teaching. The program also includes non-scholarship students with top grades who are accepted at AUB conditional on improving their English, in addition to intensive English courses for graduate students accepted at AUB from other universities.
As a mark of its energy and determination to make a difference through education, UPP has teamed up with the
Center of Civil Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) to spearhead a truly remarkable effort called
“Tech for Food" sponsored by the
World Food Program to teach digital skills and basic English to improve the employment prospects of Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in Lebanon in the growing international data services sector. Piloted at UPP in 2016, the initiative has since been extended to the Beqaa (at our
AREC center), Aley, and new teaching centers open up in Tripoli and Sidon. It has already enrolled and graduated more than 1,000 people, a majority of them women.
Continuing on the theme of female empowerment, UPP will facilitate the ground-breaking “Education for Leadership in Crisis" (ELC) project, announced last week, by designing a special seven-week summer course to introduce the 16 young Afghani women scholars who will be joining AUB to their new academic and cultural surroundings—indeed one cannot imagine this university creating such ambitious educational opportunities without this outstanding foundational program. If you are interested in learning more about the remarkable UPP students, you can read their inspiring stories on the UPP website published as part of its innovative
reflective e-portfolio initiative.
Let inclusivity be our goal
The pluralistic vision of Daniel Bliss. The diverse community enabled by UPP. Both speak to values that make AUB a special place on this earth—a leader and role model in a society whose history has exemplified both tranquil coexistence and horrific chauvinism and civil strife. We do well to remember Bliss's own words in 1871 at the inauguration of College Hall, that people of all creeds and colors “may enter and enjoy all the advantages of this institution for three, four, or eight years; and go out believing in one god, in many gods, or in no god." Remarkable words for an American missionary whose greatest legacy was to establish liberal arts education in Lebanon rather than the Protestant faith.
Today this institution remains true to Bliss's guiding principle. Indeed the passage of time has brought more opportunity for peoples of different backgrounds, beliefs, and ways of life to coexist here, to learn more about the things that unite us and differentiate us, in an atmosphere of respect, openness, and curiosity. But hardened attitudes remain, and it is that which I wish to address here.
After introducing our new
equity and Title IX coordinator, Ms. Mitra Tauk, to the community earlier this week, it is worth mentioning that one of her office's responsibilities is to gather reports of harassment and discrimination that occur and take action to sanction, or preferably if appropriate to educate, perpetrators of such acts. Reports have been increasing since the Equity and Title IX Office has started focusing on raising awareness of everybody's right to protection against discriminatory behavior based on their gender, skin color, age, sexual orientation, or disability status. But ultimately we want those figures to go down again, as discriminatory attitudes are changed.
We need to educate ourselves that Title IX is fundamentally not about prohibiting certain behaviors, but rather directing us to see beyond other people's differences and treat them as fellow human beings, deserving of
the same respect and courtesy as ourselves. It will take time to cultivate this attitude among everyone in our community, but we must as a priority. Think of the impact of sexual bullying on a vulnerable young women just out of school, the intimidation felt by members of the LGBTQ community, the humiliation felt by African students who experience exclusion or stereotyping as they go about their lives, or the student who feels defined by their white cane or wheelchair, rather than their incredible capacity to be creative or inspiring to others. No one should have to go through this at AUB and we look forward to a day when they will not have to, for everyone's sake.
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD