American University of Beirut


​Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community, ​

Welcome spring 2020

It is uplifting to see our beautiful green campus once again fully inhabited by students coming from near and far to resume their exacting journeys of knowledge and self-discovery! The beginning of every AUB term is a special moment. The reintegration of a talented and diverse community united by shared values; the smiles and gestures of recognition and reconnection; the sense of turning a new page and opening doors to new learning opportunities and experimentation. 

​The start of the spring 2020 term feels particularly special. This feeling arises out of our certainty that the values and skills nurtured at AUB are those most needed to lift our society from its present political and economic circumstances. Integrity; compassion; innovation; resilience; non-violence; open debate; generosity; and optimal decision making based on sound evidence. What we learn at AUB is exactly what Lebanon and our region require to course correct and steer a way out of our precarious predicament. Nor is our optimism mere wishful thinking. The crises we face are fundamentally of human creation and it is therefore within our power to reverse them.

I would like to remind you of the watchwords that guided us during the fall term—putting the safety of our community first; fostering unity, freedom of expression, critical thinking, and dialogue; and forging ahead with our twin missions of education and healthcare. As the situation in Lebanon is prolonged, and its complications become more apparent, these imperatives underpinning the cohesion and purpose within our university become even more important so that we may hold together and keep to the path that has served AUB so well over more than 153 years.​

In the coming months, we can assume that new stressors will emerge. It is vital we understand what our community is going through and make accommodations accordingly. We will not attempt to wrap our students in cotton wool, however. Instead, AUB will offer what the late William Sloane Coffin, chaplain of Yale College during the Vietnam War, described as “minimum protection, maximum support." A university cannot protect people from the realities and hardships around it. After all, it is through struggle that people become wiser, stronger, and more resilient. But we must offer maximum support to our students, faculty and staff as they and their families experience what the daunting period before us holds. That way our students will learn to offer support to others when they in turn take up their roles as future servant-leaders. 


Innovation Challenge

History shows us that periods of great volatility tend to be those that produce the most visionary pioneers and give birth to the greatest innovations. One of the roles that a university fulfills is to empower its community to develop and grow innovative ideas to solve pressing local, regional, and global social issues. It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce today the launch of the first edition of the AUB President's Innovation Challenge, a flagship inter-disciplinary program of the Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park that is led by Dr. Salim Chahine.

The Innovation Challenge prize money has been set at $30,000 for the winner and $15,000 for the runner up, which we hope will incentivize our community to share their innovative and creative solutions for a more inclusive and human-centered future. For this year's challenge we are seeking business ideas and social enterprises that address the following challenges: 

Education & Skills: 27% of the people aged between 15 and 24 in MENA are unemployed, compared with a global average of 13%. How can technological innovation fundamentally transform education and update the skills required for the contemporary workplace?

Future of Food: Approximately 800 million people go hungry every day around the world and more than 2 billion lack the nutrients required for a healthy life; meanwhile one-third of the population is expected to be overweight or obese by 2030. What innovations can address this challenge?

Future of Health: The global population is expected to increase from 7.6 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050 while the number of people over 60 will increase to roughly 2 billion. How can we ensure that an expanding global population can live better and healthier lives?

Waste Management: 2 billion people do not have access to waste collection services and 3 billion people lack access to controlled waste disposal facilities. It is estimated that the total waste generated in the world will double by 2050. What innovation can help mitigate this challenge in a cost-effective manner?

Circular Economy: The current “take, make and dispose" economic model is not sustainable. The circular economy offers significant opportunities to boost economic growth, job creation, and innovation. It is projected that as much as $4.5 trillion in economic value could be created by the year 2030 by rethinking the traditional business models in ways that eliminate waste. 


The President's Innovation Challenge is open to all AUB students, alumni, faculty, and staff to propose innovative business or financially sustainable solutions that can have a considerable impact on people's lives. In addition to the cash prizes, winning startups will benefit from full incubation and mentorship.



In this age of complex and multifarious problems, the most successful submissions are likely to come from cross-disciplinary teams that span different departments and faculties. The Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park team will be organizing hackathons and mentorship workshops to help you put teams together and refine concepts and applications until you are ready to submit before the deadline of March 31. So, please visit the President's Innovation Challenge website now, and help us help YOU change the world!


Photography of Rania Matar

Although AUB has been compelled to dial back on campus events owing to the security situation, I am delighted that we have been able to realize one extremely important commitment that has been a personal dream for some time. An Image and Her Woman—The Photographs of Rania Matar can be viewed at the AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery at Ada Dodge Hall until February 15, featuring the intense and intimate work of the Lebanese-Palestinian-American photographer and former AUB student.


Rania has been a friend of my wife, Lamya Tannous Khuri, since childhood​ and we have watched her emerge as a major figure in 21st-century photography, recently receiving the most prestigious grant in the arts world, a Guggenheim Fellowship. We were very pleased that Rania's schedule enabled her to join us for the exhibition opening and gallery talk which coincided with our well-attended Board of Trustees meeting on January 20. ​

With typically ingenious curation by the director of AUB Art Galleries, Dr. Rico Franses, An Image and Her Woman highlights the interrelationships between several projects from Rania Matar's oeuvre, A Girl and Her Room, L'Enfant-Femme, SHE, and Unspoken Conversations, in a way that was praised enthusiastically by the artist for its originality and the fresh perspectives it provides.

Rania Matar studied architecture at AUB (1982-84) before completing her degree at Cornell in the midst of the Lebanese civil war. The medium she has made her own, portrait/documentary photography, did not draw her in until she had her own children and started attending workshops “to take better pictures" of them. She was also spurred on by her experiences as an Arab-American in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington and the divisive rhetoric the attacks engendered in the US.   ​

Focusing on the biological and emotional transformation and maturation of women from pre-teenage years into adulthood, Matar shoots subjects in Lebanon and the United States in a way that is so universally human and personal it can be hard to guess where the photograph was taken. The exhibition reveals her as an extremely collaborative photographer, who builds trust with her subjects and works up close, using a wide-angle lens, allowing them to share in the creative process as much as possible. The women and girls gaze into the camera with a bewitching combination of poise and awkwardness. In contrast to the “decisive moment" of Cartier Bresson, ​Rania Matar's moments are simple, even mundane ones, but there is rare beauty and rich storytelling in each frame.

It occurs to me that, in our community of the best and brightest scholars and learners, we rarely allow ourselves the opportunity to show the vulnerability that is captured in this exhibition. We strive instead to be seen as confident masters of our spaces and our undertakings. While there is a place for bravado, we would all do well to spend some time contemplating and emulating the vulnerable and insightful world that Rania Matar presents us with her unique vision.


Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD


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