Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
The University Scholarship Program (USP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), at AUB held its 7th graduation ceremony for 63 scholars. A virtual ceremony was held to celebrate 10 years of partnership with USAID and honor the AUB graduates.
The USP supports students with full four-year scholarships, with equal numbers of female and male scholars, based on academic merit and financial need. Starting with sponsoring 50 students, the program today supports 258 students currently enrolled at AUB. A total of 577 USP scholars have been educated at AUB since the program's inception in September 2011.
The program has expanded into the Higher Education Scholarship Program (HES), which also includes the Refugee Scholarship Support (RSS) program.
“This collaboration has been vital in putting to practice AUB's values of inclusiveness and equal access to education," stated AUB President Fadlo Khuri in a message that was read by Associate Provost Zaher Dawy. “As this program changes the lives of its scholars and opens windows of opportunity for them for a better life, it raises them to be responsible, global citizens who better the lives of others."
USAID Lebanon Acting Mission Director Patrick Goodwin commented, "The U.S. government has invested over $150 million in the scholarship program in Lebanon since 2010, because we believe that education is a key pillar of inclusive democracy, and a driver of social and economic development.... To the graduating students, we share in the pride of your achievements. We are confident that your time at AUB will serve you well in all your future endeavors and that your studies have equipped you with the skills to confidently pursue your dreams and help build a brighter future."
Despite the challenges posed by the Lebanese situation and the pandemic, the scholars engaged in volunteer work; workshops and trainings; internships; and community service that they implement in their own communities.
“Through these four years, we've been confident that we'll be able to face challenges and overcome academic, social, financial, and emotional problems," said mathematics major USP scholar Michella Saliba. “We've learned that success requires more than studying; it requires passion, perseverance, motivation, hard work, and mostly the belief in our infinite potential."
They worked with small businesses to adopt new models to overcome the economic crisis; and worked on projects in eco-tourism, gender equality, and access to education for vulnerable children who can no longer afford it. They also created virtual academies to make learning more accessible, and, after the Port of Beirut blast, engaged in reconstruction efforts in the affected areas.
“We grew up to be scientists, businessmen and women, engineers, nurses and much more," said Hadi Ayache, computer and communication engineering USP graduate. “We grew up to be men and women who are ready to take part in the community. More than that, we grew up to even be leaders in the community. And this for me is the best thing I got out of this scholarship. Building my personality, learning to volunteer and to give to the community, and living with a diverse group of friends and classmates."
The graduates also performed well academically, with 40 to 45 percent of the scholars on the dean's honors list and several who were granted awards for this academic year.
“Our scholars' exceptional achievements are all the more impressive considering that those were accomplished during the exceptionally difficult circumstances that resulted from our country's biggest ever financial crisis compounded by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic," said provost designee in USP-HES/Director of LEAD Program, Dr. Malek Tabbal.
Many of the program's graduates are today in leadership positions, continuing on the path of service in NGOs or employed in renowned companies such as Microsoft, PWC, and Murex. Many of these graduates are also pursuing graduate studies and are enrolled on scholarship basis at top universities. For the upcoming academic year, the program will be recruiting a total number of 70 students (47 Lebanese and 22 refugees).
The event included a screening of a video of USP students sharing their experiences, and student testimonials before concluding with a group photo.