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Lebanon 2013 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Joseph G. Jabbra, President of the Lebanese American University (LAU), on the university's capital improvements program, new courses, and the opening of its New York campus.

Joseph G. Jabbra
BIOGRAPHY
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 (LAU) in the past two years?

There are many achievements that make us proud. In terms of our capital programs, we have just completed the construction of a new building on the Byblos Campus, the Gilbert and Rose-Mary Chagoury Health Sciences Center, which will house the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, the School of Pharmacy, and the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing. We are also in the process of constructing a new building for the Engineering School, which will house all the engineering labs: civil, mechanical, electric, computing, and industrial. Our School of Engineering is ABET accredited. Also, on the Byblos campus, we need a new library. Planning for a new library is underway, and construction will soon follow. In addition, we are putting in new infrastructure for the Byblos campus, which will cost us around $25 million. The campus has grown, and it needs stronger and sturdier infrastructure to support it. We are also in the process of renovating our newly acquired University Medical Center in East Beirut, where our students from the three health-related schools (medicine, pharmacy, and nursing) do their training and internships. On the Beirut campus, we are completing renovations on all our older buildings, including infrastructure upgrades. We are also renovating a new acquisition near our campus, the Gezairi building and school, which will house our architecture and design programs, including the newly established fashion design program. We are currently in the process of planning for a new building in Beirut that will house the School of Arts and Sciences.

In terms of academic programs, which additions have you made recently?

We have a lot going on at the moment, and we are starting a new program in fashion design. This new program is named after Elie Saab, a world-renown Lebanese fashion designer. The second program is actuarial sciences; insurance companies need actuaries that can use mathematical and statistical modeling to predict the average age of people. This will give insurance companies the opportunity to frame their premiums and project their profit margins. Thirdly, we have a new program: a Master's in Gender Studies. It is designed to respond to the needs of both men and women and help them gain a better knowledge of their respective roles in society. A fourth program, Informatics, brings together biology, mathematics, and computer science in a very effective interdisciplinary fashion. And finally, we put in place a program in Conflict Resolution because it is so sorely needed, given the bloody conflicts that are raging the world over.

What are your prospects for LAU in New York?

We are an American university chartered in New York, and, therefore, we wanted to own a location in downtown Manhattan to house our headquarters and a major academic center. We acquired a three-story building that has been completely renovated and was inaugurated on September 13, 2013. Over and above serving as our headquarters, the new premises will house a new academic center where we will offer pertinent courses to US students, such as Arabic, Islamic banking, and how to do business in the Arab world. We are talking to institutions in New York, such as NYU and Columbia, and in the entire New England region, about how we can be partners and complement their educational mission by offering courses that their students need and that they do not offer themselves. We are all excited about this major project that constitutes a milestone in the evolution of LAU.

LAU has been investing heavily in technology for all of its campuses. What major advances have been implemented?

Our campus was among the first campuses, if not the first, to go wireless, which is very significant. We have been at the cutting-edge of technology, despite major challenges and enormous costs. We have made sure that our students have the best training in technology and its many applications, which usually allows them to land on their feet and readily find employment. The progress that LAU has realized in IT has been absolutely phenomenal, be it in the classroom, on the web, or in e-mail structures.