American Univesity of Beirut

​​​​Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,

Study abroad to leave your comfort zone
The people of this region are well-known to be world-savvy globetrotters. Yet when it comes to the AUB student population, fewer than five percent take advantage of our excellent exchange and study abroad programs. A true liberal arts education is about getting out of one's comfort zone, challenging oneself with new ideas and new experiences. That is when we learn the most about the world and about our own characters. Counterintuitively, spending a semester, a year, or even a summer abroad may be the best thing you do while at AUB.​

AUB has exchange agreements all over the world and the list is growing. One of their outstanding features is that students pay the usual AUB tuition while studying abroad and those on financial aid continue to benefit from that support. Elite US institutions like Amherst, Reed, and Pitzer charge annual tuition of $50,000-plus, which means our students get a tremendous deal. International exchange agreements are also growing each year, with new bilateral agreements in Australia (U. of Sydney), Canada (HEC Montreal), Japan (Nagoya U.), South Korea (Hanyang U.), the Netherlands (Radboud), and Ireland (Trinity Dublin).  

Many exchange agreem​ents require that students cover their travel and living expenses, but other programs cover additional stipends for travel and living, through Erasmus+ or at the discretion of host universities. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad as a visiting student at any institution they get accepted to, paying that university's tuition. The motivated staff and peer advisers at AUB's Office of International Programs can help any student find the right place and program for them.

Last year, about 100 students went on exchanges or study abroad during fall and spring, and more than 160 went abroad during the summer. The ones who went away this past fall are now back and sharing their experiences and adventures which show how enriching this opportunity is. They encountered new styles of education and teaching methods, took courses not offered at AUB, tried new extracurricular activities, like fencing and racquetball, immersed themselves in unfamiliar cultures, and met new people from wildly different backgrounds. One business student who spent a semester at IE in Spain had only one regret: not going abroad for the full year.

Without exception, returning students argued that the culture of studying abroad should become the norm at AUB. Incoming students need to hear about these opportunities early on so that they can begin discussing with their parents and advisers on how to plan for it. Professors can also help by encouraging students to go abroad, and assisting with the all-important course equivalency paperwork.  Together, we can help our students get the most out of their time at AUB, which can—and should—include some time studying outside AUB. 

Tackling celebratory gunfire 
​​Second-year AUBMC resident Dr. Maria Abou Nader was on overnight duty at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in July 2017 when an eight-year-old boy A.K. was brought to the emergency room with sudden loss of consciousness. He was clean and well-dressed and the only mark on him was a small pimple-like mark on the top of his head. Both the doctor and A.K.'s parents were horrified to learn from a CT scan that it was a gunshot wound and the bullet was lodged deep in his brain. He never regained consciousness and died five days later from cardiac arrest.

The boy had been struck by a stray bullet fired during an engagement party, one of dozens of casualties in Lebanon who fall victim to live ammunition fired randomly and recklessly into the air to celebrate festivals and exam results, or to mark political events and funerals. It was the first time Dr. Abou Nader or Dr. Rana Sharara-Chami, director of the pediatric residency program, had encountered such an injury and as the body was taken to the morgue Dr. Sharara-Chami promised the boy's grieving father, an AUB employee, that she did not know how, but she would do something about this preventable, tragic phenomenon.

The result of this promise is a nascent campaign called “Stray Bullets". Its goals are to raise awareness of the brutal effects of celebratory gunfire and its disproportionate impact on children and the senior population, to lobby for a change in the law, and to encourage community engagement to help tackle the problem. The campaign volunteers conducted a thorough literature review and data gathering of casualty figures, injury types, and the application of the law, liaised with the Internal Security Forces and politicians, and planned out a communications campaign.

It may surprise people to hear that firing into the air is not necessarily illegal in Lebanon, only if someone is injured as a result and the shooter is shown to be responsible. That can be an impossible burden of proof when the injury can occur kilometers away and more than a minute later.  What the campaign needs now is financial and political support to be able to run TV commercials, viral social media campaigns, forums, and activations to galvanize public opinion and policy-makers alike. Drs. Abou Nader and Sharara-Chami received enthusiastic responses at their well-attended “grand rounds" presentation of the Stray Bullet project at AUBMC last week and I hope that using this platform today will also help translate the team's outstanding work into concrete results.

Broader audience for academic research
As a community of scholars, our training impels us towards academic writing, the purpose of which is to provide detailed, dispassionate, evidence-based arguments in discourse with fellow specialists to push forward the frontiers of knowledge. Writing for mainstream media requires a different—almost contradictory—skillset in which succinctness, emotional intensity, and trenchancy are key. Where the two genres overlap is the necessity for authors to know what they are talking about and to have something of value to say. That opens a unique opportunity for civically engaged researchers—especially here at AUB where we have accumulated unparalleled understanding of the conditions and challenges of the Middle East region—to bridge the divide between the pages of academic journals and the mainstream media.

In collaboration with the Knowledge to Policy center (K2P) and the media studies program, AUB adjunct professor of journalism and journalist in residence Rami Khouri has piloted a new participatory workshop for academic researchers to share the secrets of op-ed writing— their gateway to wider audiences, including policymakers, donors, civil society, and the private sector. It is a masterclass drawing on Mr. Khouri's 50 years' experience as a newspaper editor, columnist, and media commentator. Participants are shown how to build a persuasive pitch, often the biggest hurdle for would-be op-ed authors. They follow that by drafting their own short opinion pieces that can shape the debate by informing and engaging readers and impacting policy-makers through the media. These op-ed-focused techniques are part of a wider introduction and training on how to communicate generally, whether in writing, doing interviews or in face to face meetings.  


The pilot took place at K2P's host faculty, Health Sciences (FHS), and unearthed some of the vital investigations being conducted by the participants, in alcohol and prescription medication abuse among youth, the toll of traffic accidents on children, awareness of medical cannabis treatments, the benefits of nurturing a healthy, active senior population, and more. We look forward to seeing their valuable findings being translated into op-eds to reach a wider audience, showcasing the breadth, relevance, and impact of AUB research.

A 20th century statesman once offered this bon mot: “Give me a one-handed economist. All my economists say, 'on the one hand… on the other hand.'" Op-eds are not published to analyze the pros and cons of research evidence; but they can be highly effective in galvanizing readers by presenting powerful opinions based on credible evidence about issues that affect millions of people. To all researchers who feel strongly about your research and are looking for ways to amplify its impact, I encourage you to sign up to the workshop when it is rolled out to your department or unit. 

Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD

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