American University of Beirut

Research, Teach, Mobilize, Vote: How Arab Universities Can Promote Social Justice in the City?

​The university’s role in society has evolved from being a center of knowledge to an active participant in social change, according to Dr. Mona Fawaz, professor of Urban Studies at the American University of Beirut. She has been a leader in revolutionizing the role of AUB in Beirut in issues of urbanism, environmentalist and social justice, and she shared her thoughts recently in a livestreamed roundtable discussion among academics, activists, and practitioners in Beirut and New York, in another of the regular New York-Beirut Briefings that were launched a year ago. Participants in both cities engaged in a dynamic conversation on their experiences in how a university can prod positive and actionable change within urban spaces, through research, teaching, activism, and even electioneering. 

“Universities teaching city planning are increasingly looking at affecting their local communities, and not only analyzing them” said Dr. Fawaz. Today’s municipal and academic conversations of urban planning suffer from a “lack of frames”, as she puts it, meaning new ways of contextualizing problems facing cities. To be effective, urban planning requires a foundational belief that the modern nation state aims to promote the common good.

Watch a video of the full discussion here. And read a text summary of the discussion here.

Video Highlights of the Discussion


  • Mona Fawaz, Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at AUB

  • Rabih Shibli, Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service at AUB

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