American University of Beirut

A Tribute to Outstanding Educators: The AUB Teaching Excellence Award 2024

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications,​

At the American University of Beirut (AUB), the annual Teaching Excellence Award stands as a testament to the university's unwavering commitment to academic distinction. This year, the award honored two AUB educators who have significantly impacted their fields and the lives of their students, embodying the essence of AUB's educational values: Dr. Youssef Tawk, tenured associate professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (MSFEA), and Dr. Zeina Kanafani, associate professor of medicine at the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine (FM).

The AUB Teaching Excellence Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional teaching at the American University of Beirut. By recognizing these educators, AUB underscores its commitment to teaching as a scholarly endeavor, highlights the importance of outstanding teaching, and encourages faculty to enhance their teaching abilities. The award is based on evidence of teaching effectiveness and contributions to the advancement of AUB's educational programs, reflecting the university's teaching mission.

In a room filled with colleagues, family members, and students, AUB President Fadlo Khuri opened the 2024 Teaching Excellence Award ceremony with words that echoed the institution's mission and the importance of exceptional teaching. He emphasized the significant role of educators in transforming not just individual lives but entire societies. "Here at AUB, we know that great teaching transcends the transmission of knowledge. It inspires, it transforms, it endures in the minds and accomplishments of our students long after they leave our halls and our labs," he remarked.

Khuri highlighted the remarkable contributions of the awardees and praised their exceptional dedication. He stated, "Professor Tawk, your innovative approaches in teaching electrical and computer engineering have not only elevated your students' academic journeys but have also significantly engaged and inspired them." He emphasized Tawk's exceptional ability to simplify complex concepts into engaging insights and the impact his curriculum enhancements have had, providing students with invaluable hands-on experience and well-rounded knowledge.

He added, "Professor Kanafani, daughter of AUB and the community. Your steadfast dedication to our medical students at every level has been instrumental in shaping their future in medical practice." Khuri further commended Kanafani for her contributions to medical education, clinical excellence, and antibiotic stewardship, which extend far beyond the classroom and clinic. He noted her profound impact on both students and patients, highlighting her role as a community role model. "You not only exemplify professional, personal integrity, but absolute commitment to the institution that you love."

Dr. Youssef Tawk's journey from a small town in Lebanon to Albuquerque, New Mexico, eventually led him back to Lebanon and to the academic corridors of AUB. "Here, I decided to take an oath. An oath, to become boundless. Nothing should stop me, and no ambition is out of reach. I started by tackling my classes as a daily opportunity for creative interaction with students. Teaching became a vocation. Classes became temples," he stated in his acceptance speech, reflecting on his journey and the profound influence of his surroundings on his teaching philosophy.

Tawk's innovative teaching methods and his ability to make complex concepts accessible have significantly enriched the academic journeys of his students. "Electromagnetics is not just a course material, it is a passion, it is a tool to wield, it is an art to inspire and make a change," he remarked. His approach to teaching was described by his students as not just about imparting knowledge but about fostering an environment where students can thrive and explore their potential.

Dr. Zeina Kanafani's journey into teaching was inspired by her mother, a mathematics teacher who was dedicated to her craft and her students. Kanafani, a physician and educator, has spent over three decades at AUB, committed to excellence in education and patient care.

In her acceptance speech, Kanafani credited her success to her students, colleagues, family, and her alma mater AUB. She emphasized the reciprocal nature of teaching, where educators learn from their students, as they teach them. " To my students, present and past, thank you for entrusting me with your education. Your curiosity, zeal, and resilience inspire me every day. You are the reason I strive to better myself continually and the true reason I am standing here today, not just as a physician but as an educator worthy of this honor," she said, highlighting the deep bond she shares with her students.

The AUB Teaching Excellence Award is more than just a recognition of individual achievements; they are a celebration of the collective commitment to excellence that defines the university. President Khuri's remarks underscored this sentiment as he praised Dr. Tawk and Dr. Kanafani for their “exemplary, extraordinary, and inspirational service," and for their “devotion to our students, our university, and community." He concluded by urging everyone to uphold these values, saying, “Let us all commit to what Zeina and Youssef have done to inspire, teach, and uphold that legacy of unalloyed excellence that defines AUB."


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