​Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,​

​Celebrating a culture of philanthropy

Who was born as Robert Zimmerman? Who is the youngest ever goal scorer in a World Cup Final match? Two personal favorites that came up as questions during the raucous inter-faculty quiz held during Philanthropy Week, March 18-23. We also enjoyed an open-air concert, an exhibition and competition focusing on philanthropy, branding and tagging of buildings, and a frenetic faculty-student futsal match. At the core was a fascinating symposium showcasing the impact of scholarships, our international award-winning Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service, outreach and service-learning opportunities in our schools and faculties, and the humanitarian work done by student clubs and societies. It is the first time AUB has embarked on such an ambitious initiative to celebrate the role of philanthropy in our emergence as a world-class academic community and it was a great success, engaging everyone who took part and underlining the 360-degree relevance of giving, altruism, and volunteering in all our lives.



We all know this university is founded on philanthropy, but we felt it necessary to highlight that fact, especially since so many of our community take it for granted and need a reminder that AUB would not be AUB without its donors. This is not a criticism—but understandable, as students and their families already pay fees; faculty and staff give willingly of their free time and energy; and alumni are among our most generous and loyal supporters. But none of what we do would be possible without a durable culture of philanthropy, helping to build and equip our buildings, fund our programs and research, and educate students who would not otherwise be able to afford the high cost of tuition. Thank you for the dozens of people involved in staging this vital awareness raising initiative, and especially Annual Fund Officer Nadia Hassan whose brainchild it was and whose tireless organization was key to its success

 


On the subject of providing for those most in need, AUB was proud to host the ninth Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA) conference at the same time as Philanthropy Week. This initiative, co-led by the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB, the Institute ofCommunity and Public Health at Birzeit University, and an alliance of scholars under the Lancet umbrella, brings together Palestinian researchers from Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem, with their peers from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Arab world, as well as Europe and the United States, making it among the most comprehensive scientific gatherings that exist to look at the wellbeing of the Palestinian people. Although the background is inevitably political, the LPHA is a staunchly scientific and evidence-based alliance that exerts its influence and can articulate its advocacy on the health of the Palestinian population based on the most robust and rigorous academic standards. We were especially delighted to be able to host my counterpart Abdul Latif Abu Hijleh and his colleagues from Birzeit University at the event, as well as the Lancet’s courageous editor-in-chief, Richard Horton. The ties between our three institutions are strong—indeed US-educated Dr. Abu Hijleh is the first Birzeit president not to be an AUB alumnus.



Big games

Sport is experiencing a renaissance at AUB, I am delighted to say, with a packed athletic agenda and varsity teams tasting success in national university competitions in the widest range of disciplines, from basketball to tennis, soccer, running, swimming, and more. Approximately 1,200 students took part in this year’s varsity tryouts in September, and 530 were selected in 30 team or individual sports. Hundreds more are involved in sports and fitness activities at the non-varsity level, and our dedicated team led by Ghaleb Halimi strives to add more disciplines and grow the numbers of participants every year.​

In two weeks, we host our own brand of sporting bonanza—the Big Games—with contests in futsal, basketball, volleyball, and rugby league, culminating in the finales of MSFEA versus the United Faculties on the football field. If you have not tried out for teams before, now is a good chance to see if you can make the grade in what is a great celebration of athleticism and collegial competition at AUB. It is wonderful to see the passions running so high—among students, but also among faculty, staff, and alumni, at these events—although I still advocate more support for our varsity teams competing at the national collegiate level. I certainly make a point of spectating when I can. Our students’ sporting prowess is impressive and the excitement and enthusiasm the games generate is irresistible. You can get fixtures information from the AUBSports Facebook page.

In the words of Kofi Annan, “sport is a universal language that can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs, or economic status.” One can add physical ability/disability to that list, and the Charles Hostler Center and many of its facilities are accessible for all abilities, including the gyms and swimming pool, and staff are trained to assist if necessary. The professional athlete and social activist Michael Haddad, 75% of whose body is paralyzed, is currently training with us for his 100km walk to the North Pole to prove his motto that disability is a state of mind.

In all respects sport matters and—although AUB does not offer places for athletes at the expense of academic grades—we are happy the Office of Student Affairs sees fit to maintain a $1 million-plus endowment that supports up to 10 scholarships a year for our outstanding sportswomen and men, who must have a minimum percentage average of 77 in their academic work. Next year’s recipients will be announced at Athlete’s Night in May. Time and again we see good grades and great sport go together, but there are not many to match Ramzi Yehia, the A-grade engineering student featured in the latest MainGate magazine, who most recently took the gold medal at the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship for Juniors in Abu Dhabi. I cannot think of a better place to mix the liberal arts and mixed martial arts than AUB! 



Confidential student counseling for better mental health 

A recent article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education recognized AUB’s regional leadership in providing access for students to mental health support and counseling, while highlighting some challenges that exist in resources and some cultural barriers. The fact is our student counseling center has been breaking the mold for 15 years under the directorship of co-founder Dr. Antoine Khabbaz and its caring and dedicated team of five counselors has helped countless students cope with the emotional and psychological trials inherent to entering a demanding university environment. The most common issues our counselors encounter are anxiety and depression and other mood disorders—so their appointment books tend to fill up especially around exam times, when the team is happy to stretch their schedules to make sure every student is seen in a timely manner.

Happily, the social stigma around mental health is disappearing in many sectors of our society, but the counselors are very aware of the sensitivities that linger. Any student might be in need of help if they find themselves feeling unusually distracted, alienated from friends, anxious, irritable, hopeless, sad, and/or experiencing major changes in sleeping or eating patterns. In addition, the center helps individuals with difficulties pertaining to family systems and history of traumas. Our counsellors guarantee complete anonymity and confidentiality to anyone who comes to their inconspicuous offices located in a quiet corner of West Hall in need of help and no records are shared with other parties. Confidentiality may only be breached in cases of harm to self and others.



Many students also receive confidential support on issues related to sex and sexuality, whether from an LGTBQ+ or a heterosexual perspective. This is a difficult subject for many of our students given the taboos and cultural barriers that exist but they are guaranteed an empathetic and constructive series of discussions with our counsellors to help to come to terms with these normal, biological functions of everyone’s nature. Please contact the center if you wish to know more, or if you are experiencing severe symptoms, you can visit the counsellors in the West Hall to set up an urgent appointment.


Best regards,  

Fadlo R. Khuri​, MD 
President  ​​​