Dear friends and colleagues in the AUB community,
I have long been keen to create a space to share my thoughts on progress towards AUB's major goals and to discuss issues of the moment with you. I think it is important the whole community gets regular updates on my administration's activities and is also given the opportunity to feed back about the developments that are taking place. I am therefore starting to publish this “AUB President's Perspective" message approximately twice a month, and I stress it is not a one-way street—all your thoughts, questions and suggestions for topics that I might cover in this new space are welcome.
Let me start by congratulating everyone who contributed to AUB's impressive rise in the QS World University Rankings for 2016-17 announced recently. It feels good to be able to say that AUB was the most-improved university among the top 250 institutions in terms of ascended ranks. I also congratulate sister universities in the Arab world which achieved stunning improvements, notably Qatar University and our Beirut-based peer, Université Saint-Joseph (USJ), demonstrating that positive developments are occurring across the board in the Arab academy. Of course, one hears misgivings, even skepticism, in educational circles about university ranking methodologies, and no one sincerely believes that Quacquarelli Symonds—or Times Higher Education (THE), which releases its rankings next week—have all the answers when it comes to comparing the quality and social, economic, and intellectual impact of one distinguished academic institution with another. However, the world outside does take notice of these standings, mainstream and social media converges on them, and who knows how much they inform or clinch the deal on career location, undergraduate or postgraduate study choices, or—believe it or not—the destination for unrestricted multi-million dollar endowment bequests. Therefore, I am asking especially our talented and dedicated Faculty to give thought to ways in which to influence AUB's scores on actionable ranking indicators; University Librarian Lokman Meho is very keen to discuss with you which small but meaningful adjustments could have the greatest impact; and I reassure you, he and I are talking about tweaks on existing practices, such as where it is best to publish a paper, what are the most effective publishing formats, and how to make one's research more visible, valuable, and impactful. We are certainly not interested in a reckless pursuit of rank at the expense of academic excellence, immeasurable service to the community or inspiring pedagogy. Instead, the goal is to ensure that your and AUB's work is given more due credit and is more appreciated and used worldwide. My thanks to all, which in this case is literally everyone, faculty, staff, trustees, students, alumni and supporters, for this outstanding numerical achievement!
Strategic planning and leadership appointments
In the last part of August, we gathered about one hundred of our most dynamic faculty, students and staff together under the banner of academic strategic planning for a sustainable future for AUB. Discussions centered on a number of key topics, not least of which was investment in people over buildings to foster scientific research, how to revive the reputation of humanities and social sciences, revitalizing general education, strategic engagement via the digital revolution, and options and feasibility of opening new programs and schools. But those are just headline topics among the tremendous amount of new and positively disruptive ideas that accrued in those highly energized and energizing few days of meetings and discussion groups. The next steps are for us to collate all of the thinking generated by faculty, students and staff to develop and refine academic and infrastructure strategies, transparently, deliberately and inclusively. Our goal is nothing less than to make AUB more intellectually and environmentally sustainable, not just for the balance of my tenure as president, but for twenty, thirty and more years to come. (Please click here to read my closing address at the sessions, giving more detail as to where the strategic planning process has reached and where it goes next).
In this context, I am delighted to announce two promotions that exemplify the start of this long and transformative journey. You will already know that Dr. Shadi Saleh has made great progress in a short time leading the Strategic Health Initiative (SHI), which is tasked with turning AUB into a globally recognized hub for first-class research, education and service in health, capitalizing on the exemplary work of our academicand medical units. He has been tireless in involving administrators and faculty members from across AUB to steer the different components. The effort has developed a strategic vision we are calling Health 2025, which aims to establish the first Health Sciences campus in the Arab region that will allow AUB to become a global player in health with global relevance and impact. To recognize and empower his leadership, Dr. Saleh is being appointed Associate Vice President for Health Affairs effective September 1, 2016. In his capacity as AVP, Dr. Saleh will report to Executive Vice President Mohamed Sayegh and will coordinate his efforts closely with the Deans of FHS, FAFS, and the HSON Director, in addition to other institutional leaders engaged in moving forward AUB's vision for health.
I am equally excited to unveil a brand new initiative to reformulate our mission to have positive impact on communities, beyond education and healthcare, which will be spearheaded by the remarkable Dr. Dima Jamali whom I am appointing as Executive Director for Strategic Partnerships, reporting directly to me, effective September 1, 2016. Everybody recognizes that AUB community members have done groundbreaking work to improve the lives of those around us through impressive but individual pockets of activity such as the Neighborhood Initiative, Center for Civic Engagement andCommunity Service, Nature Conservation Center, and Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, in addition to a veritable proliferation of equally inspiring Faculty- and non-Faculty-based outreach programs and student clubs. It will be Dr. Jamali's role to lead the drive to consolidate these efforts and amplify their effect so that we can really start to “move the needle", in her words, in having positive community impact at the national and regional level. What she brings, in addition to her outstanding academic, teaching and research credentials, is a profound understanding of where the strengths lie within the AUB community, the ability to identify the potential synergies with external partners among the private sector network, NGOs, government, and other universities, and the talent to motivate those constituencies to form cross-cutting strategic partnerships. To focus this colossal mission in the most inclusive way, I am instituting a steering committee with Dr. Jamali, that will begin to identify the most impactful and actionable areas for AUB's formidable community of engaged individuals to address, which can reap the most engagement from external partners.
A Legacy of Service
It was heartening to see the strong turnout at the Opening Ceremony where I had the moving duty of honoring our longest-serving senior faculty, a distinguished corps of two dozen full professors who together have notched up more than a millennium of service to this University. I wish to honor them again here by name with the year of their first appointment, and I hope if you have not already taken the opportunity to congratulate these modest, eminent individuals of service you will do so now. Consecutive service: Joseph Simaan, MD (1960); Makhlouf Haddadin, PhD and Munir Bashour, PhD (1964); Abel Berbari, MD (1966); Samir Seikaly, PhD (1967); Jean Gebran Rebeiz, MD (1968); Nabil Dajani, PhD, George M. Ayoub, PhD, and Ibrahim Salti, MD, PhD (1970); Nassir H. Sabah, PhD (1971); Laila Faris Farhoud, PhD (1972); Murad Jurdak, PhD (1973); Farouk Abi Khuzam, PhD, and Mohammad-Zuheir Habbal, PhD (1975); Helga Seedan, PhD (1976); Alexander Abdelnoor, PhD, and Jabir Sawaya, MD (1977). Non-consecutive service: Samir Khalaf, PhD, and Tarif Khalidi, PhD (1960); Adib Saad, PhD (1965); Adnan Mroueh, MD (1967); Karam Karam, MD, (1972); Abdo Jurjus, PhD (1976); Shukrallah Zaynoun, MD (1977). Fittingly, my Opening Address took the theme of AUB's “legacy of service" in which I called on all of us involved in higher education to re-commit ourselves to the original ideals of societal betterment that this institution was founded to uphold. It is the goal of everything I outline here, to renew and sustain our University's relevance and preeminence in education, research, and service, and to ensure them for future generations. Let me conclude with the words of Mikhail Naimy, whose dedication to service was the inspiration for my address. "Aye, fight! But not your neighbor. Fight rather all things that cause you and your neighbor to fight." And fight not for glory but to serve.
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD