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

Let me wish you happy International Women’s Day and International Teachers’ Day, which were observed on March 8 and 9 respectively.

Revitalizing our general education

Depending on the length of their degree programs, AUB undergraduates spend up to one-third of their time fulfilling general education (GE) requirements. Founded on the principles of liberal arts education—a distinction of our institution going back 150 years—this key program has been in growing need of revision, so I am delighted to share news of plans taking shape in the hands of Drs. Lina Choueiri, associate provost, and Nader Bizri, director of the GEprogram. After months of wide-ranging research and consultation, a “draft work-in-progress dossier” for a new Core Curriculum is being handed over to faculties, schools, departments, and offices to turn into a workable plan. Dozens of invitations went out last Friday to potential members of task forces that will design new components, account for different departmental and accreditation requirements, manage the transition, and solve problems arising along the way. It will be a massive undertaking needing several years to implement, so my heartfelt thanks to everyone taking up this challenge.

In its current form, GE focuses on lending breadth to the undergraduate experience. But while enriching individual students’ intellectual lives, it is still far from being a genuinely shared experience or a transformative one. We now know it is not enough for undergraduates to try out different disciplines and expect interdisciplinarity to occur spontaneously. We have to engineer syllabi to make sure it does. We now have the opportunity to launch a new liberal arts era at AUB based on our own model, unique in our region and locale, one that can make us stand out on the global stage. It will enable students and faculty to address the big questions our societies face and will encourage—indeed require—deeper collaboration between faculties and schools, that will without doubt shape and differentiate this university for generations. 

The Core Curriculum is a whole university project, whose scope and logistics must be painstakingly negotiated—so it is not for me to define boundaries or talk in detail yet. However, two components of the Choueiri-Bizri dossier bear consideration. We already have world-class orientation and civic engagement programs, but the proposal to bring them under a core curriculum umbrella is transformative. Enhanced orientation would go beyond practicalities, to introduce students to the university’s incredibly rich resources, our museums, archives and special collections, our botanical garden, the diverse culture and community of campus. Meanwhile, volunteering opportunities would be expanded towards experiential learning for all undergraduates, as a way to connect what they study in class with their engagement in communities as citizens. The big questions of our age—political, economic, social, environmental, intellectual—are far from simple and cannot be tackled from just one perspective. The ultra-specialization of our outstanding professional schools lets us address the pointed, specialized, and urgent questions, but it takes a whole university, united in the production and transmission of knowledge to make the most lasting impact.

Archaeological treasures

It perplexes me how many students may go through an entire degree course without once stepping into our world-renowned archaeological museum—if a core curriculum can lower that number, so much the better! The museum collection is 150 years old this year and Dr. Leila Badre, its director, and her dedicated team, are rolling out a number of activities to raise the profile and celebrate the quality of this extraordinary facility. The academic highlight will be an international colloquium bringing together directors from some of the world’s most important museums, include the Metropolitan, the British, the Louvre, Berlin, Brussels, Athens, Istanbul and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. That so many influential museologists are heading to Beirut for this sesquicentennial is a mark of the power of an invitation from the impressive Dr. Badre, who has cherished and nurtured our own archaeological collection under nine presidents, in additional to her groundbreaking work in the field of excavation (pun intended). Another superb anniversary initiative is the 360-degree virtualtour allowing anyone to inspect the treasures via smartphone or desktop.



In the abstract sense, a museum is a collection of stories, of civilizations, of technologies, of belief systems, of people’s communications with one another and interaction with the world around them. It is through stories that we learn lifeenhancing—even life-saving—skills and information from others. To visit the AUB archaeological museum is to be exposed first-hand to some of the greatest stories of human experience. Indeed the museum makes a compelling story in its own right. Created in 1868, two years after its host university, the collection started as a repository of purchases and donations, before Dr. Badre’s predecessor, Dr. Dimitri Baramki began excavating at Tell el-Ghassil in 1956 (conveniently on AUB’s own property, AREC, in the Beqaa), yielding 11 archaeological levels dating from 1800 to 600 BCE. Further fieldwork led by Dr. Badre in Beirut, Tyre, Syria, and more, have advanced our understanding of this region’s past. Then there are the museum treasures themselves: to name just three, the Ford Mandible, the Palmyrene Relief, and the glazed architectural fragments which—after laying in storage for a century before being recognized as parts of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem—take pride of place in the Islamic gallery. If you have not immersed yourself in these stories before, it is time to head to AUB archaeological museum. While the museum is our archaeological showpiece, AUB has a rich tradition in the discipline, centered in the Department of History and Archaeology. Sitting squarely in one of the most intensely studied areas in the world for research, the department is a hub for international collaboration with global impact. A new partnership with Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum links AUB to a new initiative to prepare the largest and most comprehensive open access database of all coin hoards from the Roman Empire, between 30 BC and AD 400. The study of these hoards extends far beyond a history of coin production to shine a light on trade, diplomacy, ideology, technology, and economic conditions.

In the abstract sense, a museum is a collection of stories, of civilizations, of technologies, of belief systems, of people’s communications with one another and interaction with the world around them. It is through stories that we learn lifeenhancing—even life-saving—skills and information from others. To visit the AUB archaeological museum is to be exposed first-hand to some of the greatest stories of human experience. Indeed the museum makes a compelling story in its own right. Created in 1868, two years after its host university, the collection started as a repository of purchases and donations, before Dr. Badre’s predecessor, Dr. Dimitri Baramki began excavating at Tell el-Ghassil in 1956 (conveniently on AUB’s own property, AREC, in the Beqaa), yielding 11 archaeological levels dating from 1800 to 600 BCE. Further fieldwork led by Dr. Badre in Beirut, Tyre, Syria, and more, have advanced our understanding of this region’s past. Then there are the museum treasures themselves: to name just three, the Ford Mandible, the Palmyrene Relief, and the glazed architectural fragments which—after laying in storage for a century before being recognized as parts of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem—take pride of place in the Islamic gallery. If you have not immersed yourself in these stories before, it is time to head to AUB archaeological museum.


While the museum is our archaeological showpiece, AUB has a rich tradition in the discipline, centered in the Department of History and Archaeology. Sitting squarely in one of the most intensely studied areas in the world for research, the department is a hub for international collaboration with global impact. A new partnership with OxfordUniversity’s Ashmolean Museum links AUB to a new initiative to prepare the largest and most comprehensive open access database of all coin hoards from the Roman Empire, between 30 BC and AD 400. The study of these hoards extends far beyond a history of coin production to shine a light on trade, diplomacy, ideology, technology, and economic conditions.

#OSBtransforms

Among recent hot-ticket events at AUB were the screening of FHS-commissioned documentary “We Made Every LivingThing From Water”, the visit of two top-tier UN officials to IFI under the #AUB4Refugees umbrella, and the second annual AUB-Stanford Women in Data Science (WiDS)conference at OSB. It is this last that I want to highlight here— although each deserves attention—to illustrate how much progress our Business School is making towards its strategic vision to “transform business thinking in the MENA region.” While WiDS exemplifies how we inspire future leaders to embrace disciplines that will dominate our global future, as data science no doubt will, the school also hosted an impactful family business symposium this year to start a conversion on this most important commercial sector, especially in Lebanon. Add to these the UN GlobalCompact, the Knowledge is Power initiative, and the #Mesh_Basita /# بسيطة_مش campaign against sexual harassment which sprung out of the KiP activities, and you can see a pattern emerging. Incidentally, the above hashtag (meaning “Not OK”) has since become this region’s iteration of the global #MeToo movement which emerged virally on social media in October 2017, two months after Dr. Charlotte Karam and her team popularized the Arabic prequel.




It is fitting to return to student achievement, as OSB is gaining a reputation for excellence in international business case and finance competitions. A team of MFIN and MBA candidates, plus one BBA-Finance Concentration student, recently won the Lebanese heat of the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute research challenge and will compete in the Europe, Middle East and Africa finals in Ireland in April. OSB achievements continue in international case writing competitions, with an MBA student team winning in Munster, Germany in October and another reaching the semifinals of the prestigious 37th John Molson MBA International Case Competition (ICC) at Concordia University in Canada in January for the second year in row. OSB undergraduates competed at Heavener ICC in February, and tasted more success at Concordia where they reached the final of the John Molson Undergraduate ICC. While team could not quite seize either of the JMICC titles (there is always next year!), instructor Hagop Panossian, who has been coaching OSB teams for the past two years, was the deserved recipient of the Dr. J. Pierre Brunet Coach Award in the MBA competition. 



Congratulations to all of Ali Atoui, Dalal Darwich, Karim El Fata, Mazen Jradi, Moustafa Takkouch, and advisors Lina Tannir and Nadim Kabbara; Matt Trotter, Narine Bolghourjian, Hiba Chehade, Jessica Abou Jaoude; Jessica, Hiba, Reef El Zein, and Karmah Cheaitly; Arman Khederlarian, Roya Mahfouz, Nawal Hilal, Karen Daye, and Sarah Jane Khoustekian; and of course Hagop Panossian.


Best regards,  

Fadlo R. Khuri​, MD 
President  ​​