American University of Beirut

Howayda Al Harithy and Hazem Hajj recognized as outstanding educators

​Jennifer Muller, Office of Communications,​​​

For the sixteenth year in a row, two professors have been singled out for their exceptional accomplishments as teachers, mentors, and role models.  The 2018 Teaching Excellence Awards were given this year to Dr. Howayda Al-Harithy, professor in the Department of Architecture and Design, and Dr. Hazem Hajj, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, both from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA).

At a ceremony in AUB’s West Hall attended by President Fadlo Khuri, deans, colleagues, students, and the awardees’ family and friends, Provost Mohamed Harajli commended the awardees and read excerpts from the glowing testimonials written about them. 

Howayda Al-Harithy: inspiring generations

Al-Harithy holds a BArch from the Oregon School of Design, MS in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA in art history from Harvard University, and PhD in history of art and architecture from Harvard. She began teaching at AUB in 1992, initially in the Civilization Sequence Program of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), but moved to the Department of Architecture and Design in 1997, where she has been ever since.

A colleague said of Al-Harithy that she has “mentored and inspired generations during her 24 years of teaching at AUB,” and described her as “one of a handful of academics to excel in both research and teaching, accepting that the two go hand-in-hand.”

In another testimonial, a former student said, “I believe Dr. Howayda’s educational background and strong personality are qualities that not only qualify her for the Teaching Excellence Award, but also make her an exceptional teacher, mother, and human being.”

“Teaching design is a total privilege because we get to interact with our students on a daily basis,” said Al-Harithy in her remarks upon receiving the award. “We really get to know them, which is the most important privilege of all because that gives us the opportunity to really learn from them. For that I am very grateful.”

Hazem Hajj: transformative mentor

Hajj joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2008 after working for 12 years at Intel Corporation on automation research and development. He graduated with distinction from AUB in 1987 with a bachelor of engineering and earned his MS and PhD degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

One former student who went on to a career in academia said of him: “Dr. Hajj is a superstar teacher and educator whose transformative impact on his students’ careers extends far beyond the boundaries of the classrooms or their undergraduate and graduate education.” 

Another former student and current colleague said, “his selflessness, reliability, strength, and honesty are factors that inspire students and colleagues to view him as a role model.”

In his remarks, Hajj said that he was “humbled and honored” to be receiving this award and noted that, “teaching success does not come from one faculty alone. It comes from a complete ecosystem, where family, faculty colleagues, staff, and great students play a very important role to make it all happen.” 

Celebrating the importance of teaching 

In closing the ceremony, Provost Harajli noted that there was an extremely strong field of nominees this year, but that these two faculty members were “far ahead of everybody else.” He also thanked the selection committee, which operates anonymously, and applauded the efforts of the Center for Teaching and Learning for their numerous activities aimed at promoting and supporting high quality teaching and learning at AUB.

Professor Saouma Boujaoude, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and associate dean of FAS, talked to us about this award and about how central teaching is to what we do. “Students come here to be taught,” he said, “and we are here to serve the students,” adding that this means that recognizing the importance of teaching is something that should be done throughout the year and in multiple ways.

Hajj echoed this sentiment in his speech, when he thanked the students who have been the source of his inspiration, saying: “without ’them’ there would be no ’me’ and no ’we’.”

The AUB Teaching Excellence Awards started in academic year 2002-03 and 32 faculty members have been awarded thus far: ten each from FAS and MSFEA, six from the Faculty of Medicine, three from the Olayan School of Business, two from the Faculty of Health Sciences, and one from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences.​

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