FARTHER AFIELD

Kuwait 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

The American University of Kuwait takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching to better prepare students for challenges ahead

Rawda H. Awwad
BIOGRAPHY
Rawda H. Awwad received her bachelor of sciences in business and administration in marketing from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA; her MA in English from Duquesne; and her PhD in English from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, with a specialization in 19th century British literature. She joined AUK in 2004 as a member of the English department. In 2008, the US State Department’s Strategic Engagement Initiative awarded her a research grant. In 2016, Awwad was appointed University Provost, during which she focused on strengthening academic affairs and actively led a range of assessment and accreditation initiatives.

Vision 2035 focuses on increasing the education level within the Kuwaiti population. How is this reflected in AUK's initiatives?

The American University of Kuwait has been visionary from the outset building upon intellectual traditions of the liberal arts that are by no means foreign to our culture, traditions, and region while continuously challenging the manner by which we pursue learning and deliver teaching and encouraging research that matters and that creates impact. In 2004, we understood the massive challenges that lay ahead of any educational enterprise in Kuwait, and we made the decision at that time to approach education in adhering to a three pronged approach: developing a university foundation and culture built upon transparency, equity, integrity, and governance while securing an unfettered approach to discussion and debate; creating an organizational infrastructure and environment that provides the optimal support for students through their educational endeavors here at AUK; and developing and implementing academic programs that respond to market needs while also identifying programs that drive and create markets, and that enable our institution to collaborate with external stakeholders and constituents in social, cultural, and technological development projects.

In light of the recent economic changes in the country, what sectors will need an increased number of qualified labor force?

Technology-related industries will continue to lead in the foreseeable future; however, that does not mean technological expertise operates in a vacuum. This growing sector, like all others, needs to be informed by other experts not necessarily in the field such as ethicists, economists, entrepreneurs, designers, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists, and those who work in the medical fields, amongst many others. Regardless, therefore, of which sector requires the most or leads industry, Kuwait, like any other nation, requires a diverse workforce that is sufficiently flexible to adapt and adjust to seen as well as unforeseen change. We understand that no matter how extreme the labor needs shift, we will always be able to contribute to the workforce in ways that go beyond the specific skill sets required, but that is also inclusive of the specific skill sets.

Where do you foresee AUK being in the next year?

The more immediately visible developments is our campus expansion. In 2018, we fully completed the AUK Student Center which was carefully designed to enhance and support the student learning environment. We continue to do so this year with the construction of a multilevel academic building that will include a new auditorium, as well as music, drama, art and design areas; laboratories; as well as well as state-of-the-art classrooms and faculty offices. We have also created explorative areas to support research, learning, and teaching. In addition, we are in the process of rebuilding and expanding upon our administrative areas with a design focus on administrative efficiency and effectiveness. This year will, to a large extent, be no different than the years past and the years to come in that we have always and will continue to be self-reflective; experience has taught us the importance and the value of open and transparent conversations about what we do and moving forward on becoming better while always seeking the best in the services we provide to our students, our immediate constituents, and the broader Kuwaiti community in terms of educational delivery, the dissemination of knowledge, and providing opportunities for the creation of new knowledge.