May. 24, 2016


Joseph G. Jabbra

Lebanon

Joseph G. Jabbra

President, Lebanese American University

"Providing our students with an environment that stimulates ideas and innovation is important to us."

BIO

Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra received his Law degree from the Université St. Joseph and has a PhD in Political Science from the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. Jabbra is the author, co-author, and co-editor of 12 books. His most recent book, Public Administration in Transition, was published in 2012 in London, UK. He has also written 33 articles and chapters published in books and scholarly journals, and over 26 book reviews in both English and French. In both Canada and the US, Jabbra was very well versed in academic accreditation. In Canada, he played a major role in the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, which accredits university and college programs in the three Canadian Maritime Provinces, and in the US he was very active in the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. He was appointed President of Lebanese American University (LAU) in 2004.

What have been the milestones for the Lebanese American University in the past year?

Many things happened at LAU in 2015. The university earned: accreditation for its Adnan Kassar School of Business from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); accreditation renewal from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) for 10 years, the maximum period granted; and accreditation renewal for our School of Pharmacy from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) for the maximum period, making it the only ACPE-accredited school outside the US. Also, we made significant advances in our five-year strategic plan, which is 90% complete now. The initial goal was to raise $100 million dollars and we raised that a year before the deadline. We are now looking forward to our third strategic plan, which builds on the current one that ends in September.

You have been carrying out new projects at both of your campuses. Can you tell us more about them?

Providing our students with an environment that stimulates ideas and innovation is important to us, and is in line with our current strategic plan. As a result, we are completing a major facility for engineering labs that will be ready by autumn, and we have started construction on a new library at our Byblos campus with a $25 million investment, which should be completed in 18 months. Werecently acquired the surrounding land to our Byblos campus with an investment of $50 million, raising the total size to 300,000sqm. At our Beirut campus, we are planning to refurbish our Gezairi Building to house the headquarters of the School of Architecture and Design, and we are also planning to build a new facility for our School of Arts and Sciences, which will comprise two towers of around six or seven stories each. We have an investment plan of $333 million dollars for the following five years for a series of projects we will carry out at our Beirut campus.

How is LAU applying technology and innovation to its programs?

Embracing technology to improve education and innovation are core values actually. In this spirit, LAU was the first university in Lebanon to be wireless and we have made all our classrooms smart. Now, all our staff and students can access the internet at any time, using any Wi-Fi enabled device. We understand that it is no longer possible to have a proper education without technology, so we try to keep up to date in every possible way. Plus, we provide training to our faculty and staff to make sure they know how to use the technology.

How do you foster an entrepreneurial mindset among your students?

We instill in our students the skills, knowledge, and values they need to succeed in life, which certainly gives them a strong basis to become entrepreneurs. Above and beyond that, we offer special programs through the Adnan Kassar School of Business that provide the opportunity for students to learn how to become entrepreneurs and to take calculated risks. The Adnan Kassar School of Business is one of the oldest and largest schools of business in the area, and our graduates have been doing exceptionally well. Indeed, we encourage our students to become entrepreneurs, but for those who want to gain experience as an employee, we have a strategy to connect our students with companies that can become their potential employers, allowing students to know them and evaluate their performance. Providing the skills to become an entrepreneur are important, but so too is the development of students' social intelligence and we need to make sure that, when they graduate, they land on their feet.

Lebanon is facing a brain drain problem. How is this affecting the country?

Moving abroad has been part of the Lebanese psyche for a long time. Many of our graduates have left the country and succeeded abroad in a varied number of areas. Having said that, it is important for our leaders to create more and better jobs for our graduates, so they keep contributing to the transformation of the nation. Lebanese people abroad have created an idea of a nation that somehow does not really exist, and yet that keeps them connected to their motherland. We need to build a better society so Lebanese people here or elsewhere identify with it.

How are Lebanese expatriates contributing to the improvement of society?

Between $7-8 billion enters Lebanon every year in the form of remittances from places as varied as the US, Canada, the Gulf, and Latin America. As I mentioned, there is an attachment to an idea of what Lebanon is but that does not really exist. Lebanese expatriates represent the country in their respective destinations and that alone is a great contribution.

Can you talk about your international links and exchange programs?

International links are one of the most important assets we have. As an American university with a New York charter and a headquarters there, we are truly international with faculty, staff, and students from all over the world. We certainly understand the value and importance of international connections. As such, we link our institution in order to provide opportunities for our faculty and our students to go abroad. We have so many opportunities available including ones through a program with a school in Paris, as well as courses held through our academic center in New York, which gives students an invaluable experience. We are always looking to broaden these opportunities. In fact, I just signed a memorandum of understanding between LAU and the University of Chicago, which will facilitate the exchange of students, ideas, and faculty. The idea is simple: we have no other choice, but to establish linkages with other institutions, and give our students the opportunity to have a foreign experience, or we will relinquish and our students will carry the burden.

What are your plans for 2016?

We have more plans than we have room to explain here, but to make it concise: our goal for the year is to see that our plans are executed in order to maintain our excellence and continue to be the leading university in Lebanon. To go into detail, however, we have a capital pool of $333 million that we need to allocate over the following five years; for that we need a new strategic plan, as the current one is about to expire. We have a committee composed of five panels looking at that. The first panel assessed our intellectual capital and how we can use it to continue to improve the university. The second panel was about pedagogy and how teaching has changed dramatically and how we can embrace these changes. The third panel was on tuition and the sources of revenue the university can use in order to alleviate the pressure of tuition. The fourth panel focused on innovation, which is crucial for our students to continue growing intellectually. The final panel explored shared governance and how the different components of the university can participate in the decision making process. Through these five important panels, we have been able to structure our plan.

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