American Univesity of Beirut

Group Photo of UFS

Dr. Khuri addresses AUB’s University for Seniors community on their 10th anniversary

​​Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications,

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the University for Seniors (UFS)​ program at AUB, and marking the launch of their fall 2020 term, Dr. Fadlo Khuri, AUB president, gave an online talk titled “(Re)Imagining the Long Road Home.”

The road back home

In his talk he spoke about key challenges in the Arab world, as well as those in AUB. He then moved to reminding the audience of AUB’s “history of relevance and resilience” that has reached the “Arab world and beyond,” with its alumni of world leaders and change makers.

Khuri mentioned US Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s words when he said, “More world leaders have been educated at the American University of Beirut than any other institution I can think of – even Harvard. There were more graduates of the American University of Beirut at the establishment of the United Nations than from any other institution.”

Khuri spoke about his family and the influence of his father, Dr. Raja N. Khuri (1935-1996) who was a scientist, a physician, and an inventor. He also spoke about his voyage of “lessons in aerodigestive cancers and life through Beirut, New Haven, NY, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, and back.” He continued talking about his career and how his path led him from a 20-year rewarding career in America to moving back to Beirut and talking on the role of leading the American University of Beirut as its 16th president in 2016.

The AUB journey

Talking about the beginning of his journey as AUB president, Khuri said that his vision was “education as the path to a more abundant life; expansion and empowerment of the research mission; a better, fairer, healthier, and more sustainable workplace; and an alma mater for the 21st century.”

In his presentation, Khuri mentioned a number of AUB leaders of different backgrounds who were committed to create change. He also spoke about the strategic planning framework that was “underpinned by the mission, vision, and values” of AUB.

Khuri talked about VITAL 2030, AUB’s strategic vision, which was the result of three years of intensive engagement with stakeholders across the institution. VITAL stands for “valuing our community and sharing our values; integrating a humanities, technology, and purpose based education; transforming the university experience; ascendency of research towards advancing a world-class research agenda; and lifting the quality of health and medicine across our region – LIFE.”

In his talk, Khuri also mentioned the presidential initiative announced in March 2017 to make AUB tobacco free. On January 1, 2018, and thanks to the efforts of a high-level task force, this goal was achieved.

Tomorrow’s leaders

He then spoke about the university’s “tomorrow’s curriculum” which is “team based, educating teams, civically engaged, interactive and digitally empowered,” as well as AUB’s liberal arts education. He also talked about how the university is “changing the world for the better” through “empowering tomorrow’s citizen leaders,” its students. Khuri said that this is done through integrating athletics to teach team building and leadership in society; having successful and active elections which encourage individuals to be engaged citizens from a young age, and thus helps build a better civil society. He spoke about inspiring, engaging, and enabling students, through finding the best infrastructure: “inter or intra-faculty collaborations.”

He also spoke about the efforts of AUB and its students in “helping those less fortunate, at the heart of the humanitarian storm” facing Lebanon, in addition to tackling prejudice and promoting equity and inclusion.

Khuri then talked about the “culture of lifelong learners” at AUB’s University for Seniors.

Dialogues and engagement

In addition, Khuri mentioned how AUB is engaged in dialogue with other universities around the world to ensure a better tomorrow for higher education, giving as an example, the university presidents’ roundtable hosted by AUB’s New York Office on March 13, 2019.

Moreover, Khuri listed additional initiatives and steps taken during his presidency including the reinstatement of tenure; the funding for priority projects through the BOLDLY capital campaign; and the President’s Undergraduate Leadership Scholarship (PULS) Initiative, which is committed to “create a $100 million fund to bring the best and the brightest from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen to study at AUB and bond together as leaders.”

Khuri spoke about the importance of maintaining communication and engagement with the AUB community through the “AUB President’s Perspective” issues sent regularly, in addition to his speeches and messages and interviews. He then moved to talking about the AUB Board of Trustees, and how they moved from being “donors” to being “partners.” He spoke about the “record-breaking gift” that was received for the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, for supporting research and educational facilities.

Khuri explained how VITAL 2030 and the campus master plan for 2030 were “developed in tandem with multi-stakeholder engagement, with each framework able to inform the other,” providing AUB’s “diverse student body and excelling faculty with spaces and resources for a transformative educational experience.”

Realigning strategies in light of crisis

He then spoke about how VITAL was realigned in response to ongoing crises in Lebanon and the region, and about AUB’s urgent strategic priorities by 2025 which focus mainly on “exploring programs in terms of viability and importance; leveraging new revenue-generating activities such as telemedicine and e-learning; becoming a leaner, more efficient, and more sustainable university; identifying cost saving measures; and reviewing student outcomes, employability, staffing plans, financial papers, flow of funding.”

“Despite the many disruptions and instabilities, we continued with the saga of survival, keeping in mind our urgent strategic priorities,” Khuri said, speaking about the improvement that AUB has had in the world university rankings, as well as the global media attention it has been receiving in addition and the international recognition for impact and excellence (for example, AUB students in Forbes Middle East's 30 Under 30 – 2020).

Khuri also spoke about the work that has been done with increasing endowment and establishing solidarity funds, in its efforts to adapt and respond to the Lebanese crisis. 

He talked about AUB’s efforts in “utilizing social media platforms to open a window onto the situation in Lebanon and the region through the eyes of our experts and researchers.”

When it comes to e-learning, Khuri spoke about the support AUB provided for faculty to ensure a smooth online delivery for courses, in addition to the eLearning strategy that was developed. In addition to continuing the engagement with AUB’s alumni though the university’s first ever E-Class Reunion.

Also, he spoke about AUB’s collaboration with 10 other universities to call for urgent steps to save higher education in Lebanon; the different programs at AUB that ensure expanding diversity of learners; and AUB’s response to the August 4 explosion in Beirut, which includes providing treatment for 500+ trauma patients, providing relief through the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service, launching the Beirut Recovery Project for quick impact and relief, announcing an emergency engineering dispatch center for Beirut residents and businesses to deal with post-disaster building structure safety, in addition to confirming solidarity and collaboration with sister hospitals in Beirut.

Khuri said that AUB is “focusing on research areas where AUB can excel and be more relevant,” such as the 14 out of 29 CNRS-L grants for COVID-19 projects that AUB researchers received. The university is also exploring challenges and opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and “developing and implementing resilience and risk mitigation strategies” especially those related to AUB’s Medical Center​ operations. AUB is also “exploring how to leverage new revenue-generating activities such as telemedicine,” and is “participating in first aid stations,” and “launching the trauma assessment and support clinic free of charge.”

About the University for Seniors (UFS)

The University for Seniors provides adults (aged 50 and above) with educational and cultural opportunities in a sociable environment.  The program offers a variety of activities: study groups, lectures, cultural travel programs, and intergenerational activities with AUB students.

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