American University of Beirut

Launch of activities for Transforming Higher Education project in Costa Rica

Transforming higher education in agriculture: Workshop focuses on the experience of EARTH University and best practices across GCHERA’s global network

Higher educational institutions have the unique capacity and responsibility to rapidly achieve the changes required to shape future leaders of the world. The vision requires that universities work to change their educational paradigms. This reality is recognized by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation through the project Transforming Higher Education, in partnership with the American University of Beirut initiative led by the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS), The Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA), and EARTH University. 

Under this project, an orientation workshop was organized at EARTH University, Costa Rica, on February 4-6, 2019. The workshop goal was to share innovative experiences and learn from EARTH University and the GCHERA network, while stimulating the university transformation processes. The workshop also provided the opportunity for interested GCHERA participating universities to firmly commit to the project goal of educational change. 

All workshop activities focused on the key elements of success of EARTH University, namely experiential, participatory learning, community engagement and student learning, social entrepreneurship, ethical and value based leadership, dialogue and resolution of conflict. AUB’s delegation to this workshop constituted of Drs. Rabi Mohtar, Dean of FAFS; Huda Huijer, Dean of Rafic Hariri School of Nursing; Fadia Homeidan, Director of Office of Grants and Contracts; Saouma Bou Jaoude, Director of Center for Teaching and Learning; Nader El-Bizri, Director of General Education Program; and Roula Bachour, Project Manager of Transforming Higher Education. 

The highly successful workshop represents an essential milestone towards transforming the higher education system around the globe. 

Objectives of the workshop included: 

  1. Discovery and greater understanding of EARTH’s academic model, which is characterized by the identified key elements of success;
  2. Learn and assimilate the project’s goals and expected outcomes;
  3. Learn from other educational innovations congruent with project goals and the key elements of success; 
  4. Identify transformation experiences which can be incorporated or adapted to each institution´s own conditions;
  5. Create a sense of partnership among the participants around the project vision of university transformation;   
  6. Instill the commitment, in each participating institution, to adapt their own educational systems accordingly.

Thirty eight participants from 17 academic institutions participated in the workshop, sharing their experiences and commitment to the transformative project vision. Participants were introduced to the comprehensive EARTH educational model and its complex system. EARTH University faculty are committed to enhancing student learning and their students are dedicated to becoming truly remarkable, professional, agents of change using the educational model whose process goes beyond traditional classrooms to effectively reach into communities, impact student life on and off campus, and enhance continuous student-faculty interaction.


Participants were exposed to a multitude of programs and efforts taking place around the world, each aiming at creating innovative transformations in higher education and understanding the complexities of creating a truly innovative student centered learning system. These experiences will be instrumental in helping each institution improve their current practice and better address the challenges of the transformative process. Participating universities committed to presenting identifiable action plans to be implemented as each works toward the transformation of their respective institutions.  

This project, Transforming Higher Education, will continue to work closely with each participating institution, stimulating and supporting the processes of change within their respective educational systems. Project partners, including AUB, will work closely with the pilot universities to ensure success.  Through GCHERA additional universities globally continue to create and promote innovative, student centered, educational systems for educating future ethical, value based leaders with the skills to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The 10th GCHERA Conference will take place on April 24-26, 2019 in Bucharest, Romania. AUB and other participating universities will participate, continue to promote the transformative process within the GCHERA network, and report on their progress and achievements. Institutions committed to the project and who attended the workshop include:

Project Partners:

  1. American University of Beirut (Lead institution)
  3. EARTH University
  4. W.K. Kellogg Foundation 

Pilot Universities:

  1. University of Quisqueya, Haiti 
  2. Technological Institute of Conkal, Mexico
  3. Technological Institute of Higher Education of Calkini, Mexico

GCHERA Members and Other Institutions:

  1. Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School, Honduras
  2. Purdue University, USA
  3. Iowa State University, USA
  4. UniLaSalle University – Beauvais, France
  5. Australia National University, Australia
  6. RUFORUM, Uganda
  7. Ashesi University, Ghana
  8. Wageningen University, The Netherlands 
  9. University of Costa Rica, Costa Rica
  10. University of Commercial Sciences, Nicaragua

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