Isam Zabalawi

Isam Zabalawi

President, Australian College of Kuwait (ACK)
The range of educational options is increasing by the year, giving Kuwaiti students a range of dynamic career choices that mold them into better citizens and workers.

What is the profile of your institution?

ISAM ZABALAWI ACK was founded in 2004 as a small institution with approximately 300 students, offering diploma programs based on the principle of integrating classroom learning with hands-on technical and experiential practice. Following more than a decade of strong growth, we now have four established schools in engineering, business, aviation, and maritime, and provide a diverse suite of specialized diploma and bachelor's programs and professional certifications to close to 3,100 students. Our medium of education and instruction is English. For students who lack the required level of proficiency, we offer an intensive foundation language program to provide them with the necessary skills to pursue studies in the college of their specialization. Our student body is approximately 85% nationals and 15% expatriates living in Kuwait. We have close to 160 faculty members, with the majority holding qualifications from reputable international institutions and carrying years of industrial and professional experience in their discipline. Our entire faculty was recruited following a diligent process to ensure they possess the necessary background and skills to contribute to the three pillars of our institution: teaching and learning, research, and college and community service. Our curriculum is constructed in a balanced approach to cover theory, technology, and application. Detailed learning outcomes and graduate attributes have been developed for each program to ensure our graduates are equipped with the necessary skills to join the private- or public-sector workforce, become self-employed entrepreneurs, or pursue graduate studies.

TIM SULLIVAN Over the last year, AUK has witnessed changes and developments across different areas. In terms of facility upgrades, we opened a state-of-the-art student center that houses a modern student lounge, separate exercise gyms for male and female students, and a multi-purpose sports arena for basketball, volleyball, and other sports. It also houses excellent facilities for the counseling center, academic advising, the writing center, student clubs, and offices for several people who interact daily with our students. The latest additions to AUK campus facilities were two rooms designated for art and music therapy. The rooms are open to the entire AUK community as venues for self-expression, stress relief, and cultural enrichment. The 2016-17 academic year has also witnessed some administrative changes; I succeeded Dr. Nizar Hamza as President, Dr. Rawda Awwad was named Provost, Dr. Ralph Palliam became Dean of the College of Business and Economics, and Dr. Ali Charara was named Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Provost Awwad and the new deans were all promoted from within. It is a privilege to work with people who are familiar with our institutional culture and committed to our objectives.

What is your approach to education?

IZ At ACK, we take great pride in equipping our graduates with the complete skills to enter and succeed in the private or public workplace or become self-motivated entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. We provide a learning environment where students not only participate in issues related to their field, but also become well-rounded global citizens, addressing issues of sustainable development and social progress. We have developed numerous initiatives over the years to this end and continue to do so. Our alumni center is in close contact with employers to obtain direct feedback on the quality of our graduates and how their skills and competencies relate to the work environment. We maintain strong ties with alumni who provide input to our curriculum development. Our industry advisory board, composed of prominent members from different walks of life in Kuwait, assists us in the placement and evaluation of our graduates. It is a testament to our growing reputation in building a community of graduates equipped with attributes and positive attitudes necessary for the sustainable development of the country that we receive an increasing number of students sponsored by the government to study at ACK.

TS We are modeled after the American system in that we offer a range of majors and minors and place a special emphasis on teaching our students how to become life-long learners. We also encourage our students to express themselves through the arts—music, theater, and particularly writing. A liberal arts approach makes for happy students and gives them an edge, not only as professionals, but also as citizens with the understanding of what it means to be part of a society and the importance of mastering soft skills. For years, GCC education in general has been supporting the concept of specialization. Students in high school were streamed into science or non-science disciplines and had to rigidly stick to their chosen discipline for life. Introducing a liberal arts education into Kuwait's higher education system signified a revolutionary cultural change. Imagine what it was like 15 years ago when we had to convince parents that science students can also study philosophy, while English literature students could also do programming.