KNOWLEDGE FOR ALL

Lebanon 2018 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fadlo R. Khuri, President of American University of Beirut (AUB), on the Boldly AUB campaign, an economy based on entrepreneurship, and its position as the top university in the Arab world.

 Fadlo R. Khuri
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri is the President of American University of Beirut. He has held many positions across academia and medicine and sat on a number of boards. He currently sits on the Naef K. Basile Foundation Board of Trustees and the Naef K. Basile Cancer Center Steering Committee.

How has AUB evolved to become the number-one university in Lebanon and the Arab world?

Our university is 152 years old, and it has had a tremendous impact not only in the region but also around the world. During the civil war, the university maintained its campus and became a beacon of diversity and excellence. After the war, AUB emerged slowly and carefully to establish itself as a serious research university. One of the recent landmarks was the university's ranking as the top university in the Arab world. In addition, in 2018 we will tenure a significant number of faculty members for the first time since 1985. AUB produces more than 63% of all citable knowledge for Lebanon, the highest proportion of any major university in the Arab world for its nation of residence.

What initiatives are you undertaking to promote entrepreneurship and interdisciplinary creative innovation?

We are in the process of revamping our curriculum and developing what we hope will one day be a USD50-million innovation park and strategy. We expect to encourage entrepreneurs, students, faculty, and others to participate in interdisciplinary work that not only creates new knowledge but also potentially leads to the creation of new micro-economies. The Lebanese economy is excessively dependent on tourism, banking and finance, and family businesses. These are all important; however, the creation of a knowledge economy based on entrepreneurship is vital to long-term economic growth. Our department of education is the leading department of education in the Arab world, and is responsible for 11% of all new citable knowledge regarding teaching. There is a sense of entrepreneurship and resilience in the Lebanese and Arab population that we need to take advantage of in a positive and purposeful way. It is extremely important for AUB to combine our civic engagement with a sense of corporate and social responsibility.

Where is investment most needed in terms of the quality of education in Lebanon?

We are continually assessing and improving all our programs. We are required by our accrediting agencies to constantly study our programs and assess where we are doing well, where we can do better, and how we can improve. We have led a significant effort to look at our humanities curriculum and developed a general education approach to enhance the humanities component so that people can emerge as better writers, thinkers, and creators. At the same time, we are keen to revamp our education in areas such as technology, engineering, community service, athletics, and other areas. AUB is in the business of producing thoughtful, empathetic, and influential leaders across all sectors of the economy.

What are AUB's main objectives and expansion plans for 2018?

We launched our 'Boldly AUB' campaign because we had several major objectives. We first needed to become better at educating and attracting more diverse students. We need to raise our research capacity, so that it is world class in all aspects. We also want to reform the curriculum, expand our capacity, and potentially partner with other great international and regional universities, and the private and public sectors, in order to offer projects beyond our campus walls. We need to continue to raise the quality of healthcare. Although we have one of the finest medical centers in this part of the world, medicine is a rapidly evolving field, and we need to keep up. Finally, we need to continue to build our endowment. Specifically, for 2018, our goal is to improve our educational curriculum and start installing our updated, humanities intensified, general education. We have several buildings under construction, such as the Daniel Ambulatory Care Building and the Masri Institute for Energy Studies. Finally, we are building a state-of-the-art library for engineering and sciences.