My vision is nothing less than changing the world but I realize that the first step is to change oneself. I believe that education is the prime mover for change in today’s complex world. Confucius said: “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children.”
As I reiterate in many of my keynote speeches, “Education goes beyond career development to the development of students’ mental capacities, including their ability to distinguish facts from opinions, be creative and critical, appreciate diversity, believe in equality, and embrace others.” Accordingly, education should not only provide pedagogical instruction but also influence attitudinal reform. It should connect language, culture, and moral values to reshape the learner’s identity, encourage free thinking and responsible citizenship, thus facilitating social unity and preparing the new generations for the social, political, and economic development of their countries. During my lifetime, I have lived through many wars. However, I believe that if there must be a war, it should be against exclusion, against lack of dignity, and against human degradation, of which we are oftentimes passive eyewitnesses.
New teaching methodologies are no longer only about transferring knowledge. They are about promoting analysis, synthesis, entrepreneurship and innovation skills. They are about creating global citizens that have the necessary “breadth” (soft skills) as well as “depth” (hard skills) in the area of specialization in a dynamic rapidly changing world and emerging markets. Transformation of education is the enabler of change in our social systems, not only with respect to technology but also to produce global citizens that promote multi-cultural and multi-religious tolerance, which perhaps is one of many parameters that will influence the future of our world.
International and national institutions have recognized my achievements as outstanding contributions I have made to the field of education based on equity, intercultural communication and cooperative learning. I received service and activism awards from international, non-profit organizations for educators who research and practice cooperation in education in order to promote student academic improvement and democratic social processes. My research, writing, and work with teachers, trainers and consultants at schools and universities across the Middle East demonstrate a strong commitment to service and activism in the spirit of cooperation and democratic social processes.
I aspire to create my own path and to leave my imprint as an influencer in the education field. I am certain that the solution to most of our economic, unemployment, social, financial, and even political challenges, lies in education in all its forms including: parents’ education, K-12 school education, higher education, vocational and technical education, as well as continuing education and life-long learning. I am hoping that all my work, initiatives and achievements during my professional career as a Professor, Department Chair, Dean, university President, as well as Minister of Education and Higher Education will leave a ripple in the ocean of education. A ripple that will grow when it meets other ripples culminating into a wave to push for change in our educational systems so we graduate agents of change in our societies that are not only work ready but world ready.
I have no doubt that the wealth of any country is not in its natural resources; our main and foremost wealth is our youth. The youth represent the future. It is, therefore, our responsibility and duty to provide the best educational systems for them. I think that entrepreneurial and artificial intelligence techniques, cloud-based high-performance systems, use of technology including virtual and augmented reality, as well as novel teaching methodologies and innovative curricula will transform our educational systems in the coming years. We need to address the fundamental questions that improve the way we train and educate our youth. Graduates should be equipped with the necessary analysis, synthesis and research tools in order to find innovative answers to challenges and situations they will probably face for the first time in their professional careers. This should be at the highest priority of any nation’s strategic plan.
My service and activism are wide and deep and have been sustained for a long time. It ranges from publishing articles to manuals and textbooks that range from the conceptual/theoretical to practical and specific. It includes my teaching, workshop development, and leadership — from the collegial teams I have formed to serve underrepresented populations throughout the region to my current leadership position as Vice President at the American University of Beirut.
Entrepreneurship is about galvanizing innovative solutions to unique problems. As an entrepreneur, I have learnt to address my disappointments and strengthen my resilience to increase my curiosity. As an entrepreneur, I always accepted failures by treating them as learning lessons to succeed in the next phase. I believe that innovation in higher education should entail more focus on case studies that link curricula to real-world challenges, create opportunities for students to be engaged in social entrepreneurship, encourage innovation parks in universities to empower students to launch their own startups, foster global exchange with other institutions, among others. Education is about triggering the minds of youth to think differently and find innovative solutions to improve our world and humanity. As Albert Einstein stated “Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think”. Accordingly, one should never settle for the knowledge acquired but rather seek the next level of the knowledge ladder.
“No one can prevent you from succeeding except yourself” (Deshun, 2016). One of the secrets of success is empowerment of your team. No one succeeds on his or her own. As Robert Ingersoll said “We rise by lifting others.” When choosing your team, we look at many things in people including leadership, intelligence, energy, wisdom, and integrity. However, if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the rest. Indeed, how lovely it is to walk amongst people and emanate the scent of your morals. One has to always remember that the function of leaders is to build more leaders, not followers, something that our region is in dire need of. Furthermore, congruency results from doing what you are saying, which means you are in agreement and harmony with yourself rather than pretending to be who you are not. The world needs more congruent leaders that clearly understand which way their true North lies.
I believe that two things will define you in life: your determination when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. Furthermore, doing what you like is freedom, however, liking what you do is happiness and I have been blessed with a professional career that fulfilled my desire to do the things I like. Furthermore, I have learnt that in life pure joy comes from giving not from taking keeping in mind that the best things in life are free: Family, friends, hugs, smiles, kisses, sleep, love, laughter, and good memories. Giving is not only about money, it is also a multitude of things including giving some of your time, your wisdom, your advice, your kindness, your support, etc. There is no doubt in my mind that when someone gives, it comes back to him or her in many folds one way or the other, and that the secret of living is giving. In fact, it is true to say that some people are very poor for all they own is money. The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; rather they just make the best of everything. Using the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Today, our lives includes a big household but a small family, more degrees but less common sense, cutting-edge medicine but poor health, we touched the distant planets but don’t know our neighbors, high income but less peace of mind, high IQ but less emotions, more knowledge but less wisdom, many virtual friends but few real friends, and lots of humans but less humanity. People get bored with childhood, then they rush to grow up and finally they want to be children again. They lose their health to make money, and then lose their money to restore their health. They think anxiously about their future and they forget about their present such that they live neither in the present or the future. They live as if they will never die and die as though they have never lived. I believe that what counts are not the years in your life, but rather the life in your years. As Oscar Wilde said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
In my humble opinion, what the world needs today is re-humanizing humanity as people have lost so much of the values that are at the core of our humanity such as love, compassion, and passion. I trust that passion is one’s auto-pilot button that will unleash one’s true potential. My passion has been from the beginning to make a positive difference, not only a living. My goal throughout has perhaps been a form of transcendence. It is these characteristics of pursuing my dream with passion and being daring as well as the desire to influence and inspire the youth that has perhaps lead to my selection in 2018 to become one of 59 Lebanese to be selected as “Those Who Inspire”. All of this adds up to a long career dedicated to improving the lives of many students and teachers at schools and universities throughout the Middle East.