Dear friends and colleagues in the AUB community,
I have spent substantial time since my last communication on the move, working to increase
awareness of our strategic vision among engaged alumni and friends in North America. As well as
events in Houston and Los Angeles, I was proud to attend, with the VP for Advancement Dr. Imad
Baalbaki, and half a dozen Trustees, a reception at the home of the Consul General for Lebanon in
New York, Mr. Majdi Ramadan, who is an AUB graduate. Such events present, under the banner of
anniversary celebrations, a unique opportunity to highlight our students’ needs and AUB's mission
and vision for the next 10 to 15 years. I ask our community to stand up in support of our future, by
pledging to create a sustainable network to empower and enable AUB so it may continue to play its
leading role as an academic center of excellence and service.
I also participated in the MasterCard Foundation (MCF) University Presidents’ Meeting in Toronto,
along with other leaders of top institutions in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas, where we
discussed our role in educating the next generation of exceptional societal leaders who come from
some of the most underrepresented groups in higher education today. Back in Beirut on Monday, I
had the privilege to gather with the new cohort of 24 MCF scholars entering AUB this semester, at a welcome reception in the home of Dr. Rima Afifi, associate dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and program co-director. These students’ excitement about coming to Beirut was infectious and it was remarkable to see how quickly diverse individuals from sub-Saharan Africa, Palestine and Syria, as well as Lebanon, undergraduates and post-graduates together, were settling in as a dynamic and cohesive group at the outset of the incredible voyage that is an AUB education.
Yesterday, I was delighted to join the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences’ superb celebrations for our 150th, organized by Dean Nahla Hwalla and team; a combination of engaging presentations, distinguished guests and of course great cuisine.
With the spiraling costs of world-class higher education, I believe one of the greatest threats to
AUB’s future relevance is to become a university for the economically elite, rather than the
intellectually elite; that it reinforces exclusivity rather than fosters diversity. Institutional
scholarships are powerful weapons in countering that threat. In addition to the above-mentioned
MCF, our lineup includes the USAID University Scholarship Program (USP) and the US–Middle East
Partnership Initiative - Tomorrow’s Leaders (MEPI-TL). What is so striking about these programs is
how they go beyond the traditional provision of financial support for the most excluded groups, by
adding civic engagement and leadership elements, with targeted academic support, psychosocial
support, and career education. And all three are at an exciting stage of expansion.
AUB’s successful submission of a $26 million grant application last year has enabled the MCF
program to push the envelope beyond FHS and undergraduate education this semester, making it a
model for successful interfaculty growth planning and administration. USP’s crowning achievement, in addition to graduating its first cohort, has been to reach agreement with the US Agency for International Development to fund it not just from year to year, but to pledge $42 million for cohorts over the next five years. MEPI-TL, meanwhile, has just received its largest award to date
($4.8 million) to bring in 26 students from across the MENA region in 2017-2018. One cannot talk
about these outstanding programs, without mentioning the transformative leadership training which they receive from our international award-winning Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS), which hosts workshops, provides volunteering and service-learning opportunities, and helps access community based-projects.
LEADing on Equity and Diversity
One of my early initiatives with Interim Provost Dr. Mohamed Harajli and his team was to seek ways to support and empower these institutional programs by unifying, standardizing and consolidating their administrative, academic and pastoral responsibilities. Through the great work of a fantastic team—Interim Associate Provost Dr. Hala Muhtasib, USP’s Dr. Malek Tabbal and Dr. Samar Harkouss, who also directs the indispensable University Preparatory Program
(UPP), Dr. Afifiand Maha Haidar-Makki of the MCF team, Hani Hassan who manages MEPI-TL, and Rabih Shibli of CCECS, among others—this idea has blossomed into the Leadership, Equity And Diversity (LEAD) Initiative, which hit the ground running this summer. Dozens of new faculty and staff are now engaged in crosscutting work, whether on the level of committees to consolidate oncampus expertise and decision making, or in individual mentorship, career advice, etc. This new, structured, systematic approach also transforms AUB’s ability to showcase its stand-out contribution as a leading center for life-changing scholarship programs.
Not only is the LEAD initiative a promotional enhancement, important though that is, or a growing
structural imperative, with 360 such scholars currently enrolled, rising to 404 in 2021; Dr. Muhtasib
and colleagues have also shown us the multiplying power of collaboration and synergizing at this
University. The learnings and expertise they have channeled together will have far-reaching
implications beyond scholarship students, helping all students, faculty and administrators to focus
on solving present and future challenges. I’m talking about admissions selection procedures, better counselling and pastoral care provision, academic support, programs to train students in
transformative leadership, to name a few. We have already seen the first indications of the effect of
this new way of doing things. I urge the whole community to take note of this refreshing, silobusting phenomenon and ask themselves what else can be done.
New Home at Reynolds Hall
Candidly, I can say that the spaces provided for these outstanding scholarship and civic engagement programs have not been worthy of the difference-making work and value which they bring. That is true of numerous highly respected units and departments around our campus; and it is one of our most prioritized challenges to be solved in the Campus Master Plan work that many of our community have already engaged with. I am pleased to recognize, however, the LEAD Initiative’s most visible achievement in its first few months, which is the agreement to locate the three scholarship programs, plus the UPP, together in new premises in Reynolds Hall. USP has already taken up residency in a bright new space on the third floor, while MEPI-TL and the expanded MasterCard Foundation team will follow in the coming year as the building is refurbished. This enables the programs not just to be aligned strategically, but to physically bring together students and all those involved with them into far more appropriate and inspiring surroundings.
Thanks to the work of top-grade academics, talented administrators, dedicated staff and the
indomitable students themselves, institutional scholarships have a bright future at AUB, which can
only encourage further growth and potential expansion. By so doing, AUB is rewarded with greater
socio-economic diversity and inclusion—one of our top priorities—and the positive impact is threefold benefiting the students, their communities, and the University itself.
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD