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

I wish you all a healthy, happy and successful 2019. I would like to take this opportunity to share a comprehensive look back at AUB accomplishments in 2018, and send my thanks to each of you for the tremendous effort you have expended to achieve them—you are all inspiring ambassadors for AUB's values and mission of service.

Academics, awards, and arrivals
Like the phoenix on our athletes' jerseys, AUB is rising and competing with the best. Two future stars were awarded our first Rhodes Scholarship (Joumana Talhouk, sociology and anthropology ) and another Fulbright Award for AUB (Omar Tantawi, chemistry). We raised our reputation to greater heights, coming among the top two Arab Universities for the fourth year in QS rankings, again being among the top 50 worldwide in graduate employability (one of only two Global South institutions outside China), and rising in THE rankings by an order of magnitude. We have stellar programs, which QS judges as globally competitive, including top Arab ranks in accounting/finance, English, economics/econometrics, and medicine/public health. We also ranked regionally in business studies, computer science, and electrical, and mechanical, engineering. Overall, arts and humanities was AUB's top ranking globally, with philosophy and architecture showing strongly.  

At senior administration level, our new dean of agricultural and food sciences, Rabi Mohtar, has pushed energetically to put the interdisciplinary Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus at the center of our approach; adding Health to this triad (thereby creating the concept of WEFRAH, or “abundance" in Arabic) promises to mark AUB out as a innovator in the global resource security conversation. At the Office of Protection, the ultra-safe hands of Fadi Ghorayeb—former commander of the LAF Military Academy and Presidential Guard chief of protection —took the controls to keep our community secure, but as open and vibrant as it always was. Mitra Tauk took over our increasingly impactful Equity and Title IX Office, an impeccably qualified leader with her background in law, health rights, and student engagement. In our New York headquarters, Ada Porter became university secretary, a key role coordinating the activities of the Board of Trustees (BOT). The Rafic Hariri School of Nursing (HSON) became AUB's seventh faculty after EVP Mohamed Sayegh, as dean of medicine, presented a compelling case—enthusiastically endorsed—for independent status at the June BOT meeting and erstwhile director Huda Huijer became founding dean.

AUBMC significantly upgraded its physical space with the phased move into the Daniel ACC building and a landmark was reached on November 3 with the launch of the electronic AUBHealth patient information system. Three academic medical events stand out, the Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance annual conference on the Health of Palestinians Inside and Outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the ​first MENA region conference of the Association of Academic Health Centers International entitled Transformation of Medical Education in the New Era, and the Middle East Medical Assembly which focused on Mental Health across the Lifespan. Meanwhile, the Global Health Institute continues its impressive rise, holding its first biennial Global Health Forum, which explored innovative approaches to global health challenges in LMICs.

Across the university, our scholars continue to make an impact on the global stage. Alan Shihadeh and Elie Akl were placed in the top one percent of researchers in their field according to Web of Science. Ten recent papers lead-authored by AUB researchers were classified among the top one percent of cited papers in their respective fields.  These are of course the tip of a giant iceberg of innovative research at AUB making an impact across the spectrum of human knowledge.

Among many notable awards, Sari Hanafi was elected president of the International Sociological Association, Brigitte Khoury was elected president of the international division of the American Psychological Association, EVP Sayegh received the 2018 Kuwait Prize for Fundamental Sciences, Dean Mohtar was elected to the World Water Council board of governors, Nagi El Saghir was named a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and Bassam Tabshouri was awarded the Antonio Hernandez International Clinical Engineering Award. Lamis Jomaa and Pierre Karam were selected by the World Economic Forum among the world's top young scientists to participate at the Annual New Champions Meeting in Tianjin, China. OSB was awarded the Wharton Research Data Services-SSRN Innovation Award for its impact-driven research, while FHS received the Global Health Leadership Award at the summit of ACCESS, the largest Arab American non-profit community organization. AUB itself was recognized by the Middle East Institute in Washington with the Issam M. Fares Award for Excellence. In a year when we took the step of making AUB tobacco-free—as all educational spaces should be, in my view—we received the WHO World No Tobacco Day 2018 award for the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Collaborations for impact and major grants
As AUB shines on the world stage, we also extend our hands to institutions knowing that humanity faces common challenges that can only be fixed by working together. The landmark signing of an umbrella memorandum of understanding between AUB and USJ got the year off to a stellar start. AUB also teamed up with Texas A&M to pool expertise capitalizing on the MENA's ecological similarities with the Lone Star State. We signed an umbrella MOU with Emory University in the spring, and others are in the pipeline. I also visited Peking University President Lin Jianhua hoping future collaboration can open up an important channel for cultural understanding and scholarship with China. At home​, FHS launched the Policy Support Observatory within the Ministry of Public Health, with patronage by the WHO, to support informed decision making and good health governance. At the cutting edge of discovery, AUB has been accepted as a cooperating institute in the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at CERN's renowned Large Hadron Collider.

Our partnership with the Global Conference of Higher Education Associations for Agriculture and Life Sciences, supported by a $1.5 million grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, will take AUB expertise to universities in Mexico and Haiti to extend the educational model of EARTH University, our partner in Costa Rica). This is one of seven $1 million-plus grants finalized in 2018, including: the expansion of the transformative Digital Skills Training for Syrian refugees, led by the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (with funding by WFP and the German development ministry), in partnership with the our Computer Science department and University Preparatory Program, which will now take place across Lebanon supported by local NGOs Ruwwad Al Tanmeya, Kayany, and LLWB; the creation of the KIP Index, funded by USAID, aiming to strengthen women's contributions to economies in the MENA; and a WHO grant to the Knowledge to Policy Center to act as a lead mentor institute for developing evidence-informed decision making in LMICs. December brought further good news: two large grants totaling $1.5 million from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to support archives and interdisciplinary research in the humanities, continuing the transformation of our bedrock Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

AUB's consulting and professional training arm, the Regional External Programs, has had another year of impressive achievement. The latest cohort of the new Leaders for Democracy Fellowship, funded by the State Department, was implemented by offering a four-week training to 21 fellows from nine Arab countries in areas of governance, leadership, community engagement, and conflict resolution;​ the Syrian Refugee Training Program was implemented, to help 215 Syrian refugees become more productive members of their communities; in addition to AUB's ongoing project with Sudan's Ahfad University, REP expanded its outreach in Africa from Abuja to Zanzibar, and is currently implementing a project management training program for Nigerian engineers.

Remarkable new ground was broached when we partnered with An-Nahar newspaper to produce a special edition with myself as guest editor outlining practical solutions for the revival of this nation by gathering 123 essays across disciplines. Since publication, editor-in-chief Nayla Tueni and I have followed up to draw up a roadmap that we hope will translate the ideas into strategic policy development. 

These projects only scratch the surface of multifarious external collaborations at what must be one of the world's most outward-looking, community-focused universities. But I cannot ​​move on before crediting the Neighborhood Initiative for bringing recycling-friendly garbage sorting to Ras Beirut in the Btifroz initiative, the work by the NCC to create Daskara, a digital platform to celebrate Lebanon's rich natural and cultural assets, or the University for Seniors which was selected as one of the 10 most innovative community-based interventions for senior populations in MICs by WHO and RAND Europe.   ​


Faculty recruitment and tenure
We welcomed more than 85 new members to our faculty in 2018, including the inaugural Jabre Khwarizmi Chair of Arabic and Islamic Science and founding director of the Farouk Jabre Center for Arabic and Islamic Science and Philosophy, George Saliba. The Jabre Center was memorably launched by Dr. Saliba on November 26 with his lecture on the need for evidence-based study of Arabic and Islamic science and philosophy in the modern world, and we look forward to transformative scholarship coming from the center. We welcomed distinguished leaders in their fields: incoming chair of economics, Sumru Altağ; new Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery Ramzi Younis; and the acclaimed photojournalist and filmmaker George Azar, who takes over as instructor in journalism and digital media at the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies—among many others.

We are well on the way to comprehensive implementation of our plan to restore tenure after a 30-year hiatus. Senior administrator-academicians had tenure bestowed after an independent external review, and applications were submitted by more than 100 full professors, of whom 73 outstanding individuals were successful. With a critical mass of tenured faculty, the final stage is set for associate professors to submit their applications for review by their own faculty colleagues, and we look forward to another well-supported round of tenure discussions. Given that AUB has taken this unusual, ambitious course against the current, the tenure design committee exceptionally allowed applicants to reapply if they were initially unsuccessful, having built up stronger portfolios of research, teaching, and service activities, and we wish them future success. It has been a complex and challenging undertaking, and I must thank everyone involved, particularly Provost Mohamed Harajli and the AUB Board of Trustees, for making it such an overwhelming success.

 

Educational standards, accreditation,​ and student affairs

AUB's application for reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education represents the highest expression of confidence in our mission, goals, resources, governance, and performance. The Provost's Office has mobilized a monumental effort with more than 145 community members drafting the self-study report which is now being finalized for submission to the accreditation agency. The report is a remarkable deep dive into how this university operates and contains a list of insightful recommendations from the working groups that covered different dimensions of AUB life. I would like to personally thank those who undertook this effort. The report will be shared in full with the community after submission, and the six-member Evaluation Team, chaired by Dr. John DiNardo (who has already made one upbeat visit to AUB) will visit campus on March 3-7 to make the final decision.

 

In addition to academics, accreditation depends on the quality of student experience that universities provide, and the AUB experience remains one of our key selling points. Clubs and societies continue to be the regional benchmark for civically engaged students to discover their passions and develop leadership skills. The past year has seen the growth of student services, with the launch of the Career Hub to facilitate the successful transition from the classroom to professional and business life, the Accessible Education team's continuing drive towards inclusivity and equity for students with disabilities, the Counseling Center—despite sustaining the tragic loss of its admired co-founder Antoine Khabbaz—which has expanded its operations to students dealing with stress, anxiety, or struggling to adjust to life's ups and downs, and an enhanced Student Wellness Outreach program raising awareness about how to stay happy and healthy.

Despite rising costs, we have kept our pledge to hold annual tuition increases to three percent for the fourth consecutive year, while increasing financial assistance by approximately 27 percent over the last three years to reach $32 million. Additionally, the Advanced Student Scholarship Initiative has launched, offering 80 percent support on a merit basis. Our comprehensive scholarship programs, overseen by the LEAD (Leadership, Equity, and Diversity) team, continue to mature and extend their impact; indeed three of the four prizewinners of the Founders Day essay contest were scholarship students.  The University Scholarship Program, funded by USAID with AUB sharing costs, is now in its eighth year, a life-changing opportunity for more than 450 currently enrolled and graduated students, who have now formed their own alumni chapter of extraordinary vibrancy. The current admixture of 239 USAID, 74 MEPI-TL and 99 Mastercard Foundation scholars—this year joined by 87 STEM students under the scholarship program funded by the Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, whose distinguished CEO Maysa Jalbout was our Founders Day speaker—continues to transform our mini-society with students from around the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa. Following the deal closed with the US Embassy in Kabul in 2018, we await with eager anticipation the arrival of 16 young Afghan women in fall 2019 under the Education for Leadership in Crisis program.

AUB Sports continues to go from strength to strength, offering some of the most exhilarating as well as healthy and beneficial pursuits at our university. We dubbed AY 2017-18 “the Year of Women's Sport" with teams winning their leagues in futsal, rugby league, tennis, track, and volleyball, and in the interuniversity basketball cup. Our men triumphed in the tennis and swimming leagues and at junior varsity league-level in basketball, football, and rugby league. This season we are on course for further triumphs, with 600 athletes competing for Phoenix varsity teams in 28 sports. Good health remains a priority with our first-of-its-kind Diet and Sports Performance Nutrition Clinic in Lebanon working with colleagues in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science to improve athletic performance for varsity players and provide weight control consultation for all. 

 

Advancement and philanthropy
The BOLDLY AUB campaign, aiming to raise $650 million has passed 70% of its target as we move into the third year of the campaign. During FY 2017-18, we broke the AUB fundraising record for the second year running, receiving $80 million, and securing 

$105.5 million in new gifts and pledges. Philanthropy enables us to fund research by creating more doctoral programs, such as the new nursing science PhD and build new infrastructure and facilities that will allow us to foster innovation, interdisciplinarity, and to provide for student facilities. Eleven years after founding the Masri Institute of Energy and Natural Resources—bringing cutting-edge thinking to address the energy challenges faced by Arab societies—we were proud to be able to inaugurate the Munib and Angela Masri Building, completed on time and under budget. Next year we look forward to reopening Penrose Hall, currently undergoing renovation to make the dorm rooms larger, with private bathrooms and kitchenettes, as well as enhanced common recreation and study areas. ​

Innovative approaches to engaging philanthropic activity, and appreciating its value, were launched through two new activities, Philanthropy Week, held in mid-March, and Giving Day, in September, both of which had a major impact on our campus and broader community. Giving Day attracted more than 1,000 donors, raising $0.6 million, with nearly a third of donors giving for the first time. ​

We are continuously looking to connect with our extraordinary cohort of 68,000 living alumni. Last summer, more than 2,000 of them and their families converged on campus for a joyful four-day festival of concerts, parties, awards ceremonies, visiting their old haunts, and rekindling friendships—our biggest and most joyous reunion yet. The Office of Alumni Relations also created the Alumni Mentoring Platform to support graduates on their professional journeys. I also want to mention the landmark cooperation agreement between our official representative in alumni affairs, WAAAUB, and the university's oldest and largest alumni chapter, the AUB Alumni Association (AAA). Healing a rift between siblings is a gratifying achievement, and we are looking forward to the reemergence of a proud and vibrant alumni association here on AUB's doorstep.

 

A staff of exemplary service
2018 saw us come to another amicable agreement with our Syndicate of Non-Academic Workers, and in collaboration with our wonderful staff, a substantial reform of benefits began with the coverage of several previously uncovered items through HIP. The Service Excellence Awards went to four outstanding winners, Henry Matthews (Communications), Maha Hamad (Comptroller's), Maher Kassab (Libraries), and Rawad Jamaleddine (AUBMC) and 76 individuals were recognized for 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 years of service. Our staff prepare campus for all events, which get bigger and better year-by-year, and everyday activities that keep AUB ticking over. To these remarkably dedicated individuals, we all owe a sincere and profound debt of thanks. Special gratitude goes to three staff members who engineered a pre-Christmas miracle at the Charles Hostler Center by saving the life of a student who collapsed with heart failure on the basketball courts, bringing him back with prompt use of a nearby automated external defibrillator.

 

Of visitors and honorands
​I would like to end this review with mention of the stellar cast of visitors who passed through our gates in 2018, including three Nobel prizewinners: Muhamad Yunis, the guest of honor at 

the first Raji and Fawzieh Sinno Promising Leader in Agriculture Award; Sir Fraser Stoddart, who came to deliver the 2018 Makhlouf Haddadin lecture and was guest speaker at the Opening Ceremony; and Wole Soyinka who gave the Anis Makdisi Memorial Lecture. Our honorands at the 149th commencement exercises in June—when we graduated 13 PhDs, 411 master's students, 100 new medical doctors, and 1,708 candidates for bachelor's degrees—were no less illustrious, the mesmerizing Isabelle Adjani, the pioneering Nemat Shafik, the inspirational Ali Fakhro, the cosmic George Helou, and the incomparable Howard Koh. We ended the year with the legendary Freeman Dyson, recipient of AUB's inaugural Science and Humanism Award, who at 94 was not able to visit us in Beirut but gave an unforgettable lecture via satellite from our New York Office, which proved that age is no barrier to rapier-sharp wit and wisdom and profound humanity. ​

We are all profoundly fortunate to serve this magnificent university, that educates the best and brightest  future leaders and  assists those less fortunate and in greatest need. We must maintain the momentum of 2018 to kindle hope for a better tomorrow for Lebanon, the Arab World, and beyond. I am convinced that, working together as a team, we can ensure 2019 will be even better than what has gone before.

 

 

Best regards,


Fadlo R. Khuri, MD

President​