Since joining AUB in 1985, my B.Sc. (with Honors) in Communications Engineering and Ph.D. in Computer Engineering enabled me to play a pivotal role in suggesting and introducing the very successful and, at the time, unique, Computer and Communications Engineering (CCE) program at AUB in 1986, which has since been one of the most successful undergraduate programs at AUB and was later cloned by many universities in Lebanon and the region. My research, writing, and work with teachers in schools and universities throughout the Middle Eastern region in particular, demonstrate a strong commitment to service and activism in the spirit of cooperation and democratic social processes.
From 1998-2001, I served as Chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at AUB. During this period, the Department of ECE, the largest academic unit at AUB at the time, grew by around 37% with respect to number of students to reach 600, and by 20% with respect to number of faculty members to reach 36. Also, during my chairmanship, I initiated a new 12-member External Advisory Board to the ECE Department (the first academic department at AUB to do that); prepared and submitted 11 major reports; invited 5 Visiting Faculty; and held over 54 departmental meetings. Furthermore, in the same period, the ECE Department organized 56 seminars, restructured our three graduate programs, approved new mission statements for all five departmental graduate and undergraduate programs, transformed our two undergraduate programs so that they conform with ABET EC2000 in preparation for applying for accreditation, introduced a new graduate program in Electrical Engineering, introduced 16 new courses, proposed a new Ph.D. program in Computer Engineering, and recommended a proposal for a new undergraduate multidisciplinary program in Information Systems and in Software Engineering. Furthermore, I also served as Associate of the Center for Advanced Mathematical Sciences (CAMS) at AUB since 2002.
In 2004, I was seconded by AUB to serve as Founding President of Dhofar University (DU) and Founding Dean of their College of Engineering at Salalah, Oman (2004-2006). Due to the efforts AUB exerted in managing the university, DU was the first private university in the Sultanate of Oman to receive the initial institutional accreditation by the Omani Accreditation Council (OAC, now OAAA). Furthermore, from 2004 until 2013, I served on DU’s Board of Trustees. Furthermore, while I held the position of Founding President of DU, I also took on non-academic appointments in Oman, including membership in the National Scientific Research Council (June 2005 – September 2006). The Council, established by Royal Decree No. 54/2005, was under the chairmanship of His Highness Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq al Said.
Effective October 2006, I was appointed as Vice President for Regional External Programs (REP) at AUB. REP represents the consulting, entrepreneurial, ambassadorial, and professional development arm of AUB and has its fingerprints all over the region. Over the past four decades, AUB, through the Office of REP, has successfully implemented over 1,000 projects with an outreach to 55 locations in 33 countries in the MENA region and beyond extending from Malaysia to USA and Costa Rica. Moreover, since my appointment as VP for REP in 2006, over 50% of those projects were implemented in only one decade. REP’s annual projects portfolio has so far increased from around 20 projects in 10 countries in 2006 to 80 projects in 20 countries during my term as VP. Implemented REP projects include establishing universities (such as the American University of Sharjah, University of Sharjah, Bahrain University, Dhofar University, etc.); or assisting universities (such as Princess Noora University, Qatar University, Ahfad University for Women, etc.); reaching over 40 universities in 15 countries (30 universities in 11 countries in the MENA region). This not only allowed AUB to positively impact the higher education map of the region, but also secured additional revenue streams as well as resulted in many millions of dollars in endowments and fund-raising for AUB. In summary, REP growth since 2006 has been over 4-fold whether in terms of annual number of projects or geographic outreach.
The Continuing Education Center (CEC), which organizationally falls under my leadership of REP, will soon be the first unit at AUB to launch on-line e-learning certificates and diplomas by the end of 2018. CEC received the International Star for Quality, Gold category, at the International Business Initiative Directions Quality Convention (Geneva, September 2017). The prize is for CEC’s contribution in terms of leadership, quality, innovation, and excellence. CEC growth in terms of student count and offerings to the community has increased over 10-fold since 2006. The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) is the main US accrediting council for continuing education centers. CEC at AUB has been working diligently for the past two years on preparing for this accreditation. The CEC Director has already attended the needed US conferences required by ACCET and CEC’s application has already been accepted early 2018 as well as an Examination Team Readiness visit by ACCET last March which was successfully implemented. Furthermore, the on-site examination by the ACCET four-member team took place during 24-26 June 2018. The final accrediting commission action will be announced by September 2018 and CEC is aiming to be the first university in the MENA region to receive ACCET accreditation.
In addition to serving AUB at home and in Oman, I contributed to putting AUB in the spotlight when I was selected to serve my country in my capacity as the 70th Lebanese Minister (June 13, 2011 – February 14, 2014) of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE). MEHE is composed of major directorates and offices including Directorate of Education, Directorate of Higher Education, Directorate of Vocational & Technical Education (VTE), Directorate of Central Administration, Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD), Education Sector Development (ESD) Secretariat, among others. Moreover, MEHE includes over 60,000 employees across the country and controls or oversees around 3,000 schools, almost 50 higher education institutions, and 450 VTE institutes in both the public and private sectors culminating in over 1.3 million students with an annual MEHE budget of $1 Billion. I was the only technocrat minister in the Cabinet and one of the very few technocrat ministers since the Lebanese independence, who served their country. Needless to say, the challenges of a technocrat minister in a political cabinet were immense especially during the difficult time that Lebanon was facing, let alone the heavy burden inherited from previous ministers/administrations. Nevertheless, the achievements accomplished for the benefit of the Lebanese education, higher education as well as VTE sectors were numerous as indicated below.
During my term as Minister, an unprecedented number of accomplishments in MEHE were achieved (see my book of achievements for a complete list of achievements), despite the political tsunamis that Lebanon was facing at the time, many of which for the first time in the history of Lebanon. Among the most important achievements are the following: a new MEHE strategic plan that was exceptionally inclusive of previous Lebanese and regional plans; a new higher education law that gave more control for established private universities in Lebanon (such as AUB), which was approved by the parliament and replaced an archaic 40-year old law; new decrees for curricula pertaining to pre-school (3 years) and cycle 1 (grades 1-3) for the first time since 1998; new strategies for integration of students with special needs; the signing of agreements with international NGOs worth over $200 million; and the introduction of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF). As for first-time accomplishments in the history of Lebanon, here are a few:
- Introduction of an “ICT in Education” Strategic Plan which involved all stakeholders,
- A decree for compulsory community service for high school students in all public and private schools, culminating in almost 1 million hours of community service per year,
- Major progress in VTE on many fronts including the introduction of thousands of scholarships,
- A new law for K-9 compulsory education up to Brevet,
- A new law for granting K-9 public sector students free textbooks, and
- An award titled the “GSMA 2014 Connected Government Award” that the Government of Lebanon won as a result of the cooperation between the Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications and MEHE to actively encourage the innovative use of mobile technologies that deliver long-term, sustainable socio-economic benefit and wellbeing for Lebanese citizens.
Furthermore, many ministerial decisions that I made resulted in saving millions of dollars. Below are a few examples:
- When I took over as Minister, VTE degrees included the Technique Superieur (TS), a 3-year post-secondary program, followed by a 2-year Licence Technique (LT) program. Therefore, a regular VTE (in over 150 specializations) post-high school degree (equivalent to an academic Bachelor degree) required five instead of three years to complete. After close scrutiny, I found out that there were many repeated courses under different titles introduced for political reasons and in order to contract more part-time instructors needlessly. Accordingly, I passed two decrees in the cabinet to make TS programs, two years, and the LT, one year. This saved a lot of waste in terms of recruiting unnecessary faculty and reducing the needed number of labs.
- Every year, many private press houses compete for several MEHE bids that amount to millions of dollars pertaining to stationary for public exams and other purchases. I noticed that the army press house was never included in the bidding process before, so I insisted that they bid too. Indeed, the army asked for a much lower price for better specifications, not to mention that the money spent belonged to the public sector and was returned it.
- Closed regular schools and VTE schools with a very low student enrolment, and sent its students to nearby public schools in order to save huge public expenses.
My hard work as Minister did not go unnoticed, as after almost two and half years of reforming the Lebanese higher education (HE) system, the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) report gave Lebanon the best rankings (during the period 2010-2018) in HE out of 144 countries: (i) Quality of Schools of Business ranked 13th (regressed to 17th in 2015), (ii) Quality of Education ranked 10th (slipped back to 28th in 2015), and (iii) Quality of teaching Math & Science ranked 4th and was only preceded by Singapore, Finland, and Belgium. All these achievements have been recorded in the book (1,325 pages), written in Arabic, entitled: “Towards Modernization: Rescue Plan, Projects and Achievements of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education 2011-2013”.
In July 2013, I returned to my previous position at the Office of REP, and since then have engaged in many activities to promote AUB’s name. I organized in 2016 four major events, including three gala dinners in Lebanon and the region, to celebrate the Office of REP’s 40th anniversary. This significantly elevated the visibility of AUB and REP. I also expanded REP projects’ portfolio and secured around $5 million of gifts and endowments for REP, AUB over the past two years. This does not include securing a $2 million scholarships endowment for nursing students from a REP client. Additionally, REP was able to provide a sustainable revenue stream for AUB exceeding $5 million over the past 5 years despite the difficult situation in the region.
In April 4, 2014 – November 24, 2014, and in addition to my role as VP for REP, I was asked to serve as Interim Chief Operating Officer (COO) at AUB. The COO oversees the administration of AUB’s annual operating budget of more than $350 million and a workforce of more than 6,000 employees between faculty and staff at AUB and AUBMC. The COO also has oversight responsibility for key areas of the administration including: Facilities, Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Legal Affairs, Physical Plant, Procurement and Contracts Administration, as well as Protection. Despite the heavy work load I was carrying in that period, I managed, as COO, to address issues related to AUB’s budget as well as concerns related to faculty, staff and students.
In addition to the above, I have served on many committees and Boards over the past three decades (see section VII, pp. 32-45 in my CV). During 1986-2004, I served on 37 AUB committees at the departmental level (e.g. Chairman, External Advisory Board), the faculty level (e.g. Advisory and Administrative), and the university level (e.g. Senate, Board of Deans, and REP Committee of the BOT) not to mention chairing two international conferences on computer simulation held at AUB.
Furthermore, my affiliation to AUB has helped me propagate its name even when participating in non-AUB committees, such as my membership in three conference program committees, and membership in 40 international conferences program committees. I have also served on many committees at Dhofar University during 2004-13 at the University and Board of Trustees level. Moreover, during my tenure as Minister (2011-13), I served on seven cabinet ministerial committees (pp. 36-37 of CV), and chaired nine main committees (pp. 37-38 of CV), as well as chaired the 13th Conference of Arab Ministers for Higher Education & Scientific Research in Abu Dhabi, UAE on December 7, 2011.
Other activities that helped me propagate AUB’s name are the following: Serving on the editorial boards of five journals including serving as Associate Editor for the “Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation”, and “SIMULATION: Transactions of the Society for Modeling and Simulation International”, USA. Moreover, since September 2014, I have served as Member of the Executive Committee, International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) which meets twice a year and includes hundreds of university presidents from across the world.
As for affiliations to professional societies (see section XI, pp. 66-67 in my CV), I have been a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE, now IET), UK since 2002 (with only 6.6% of the members holding this grade); a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers, Australia (IEAust) since 1995 (with only 6.6% of the members in this grade); Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), USA, the largest professional electrical engineering institute in the world, since 1993 (with only 8% of 320,000 in this grade); Founding Member and Member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Computer Society since 2000; Member of the Lebanese Association for the Advancement of Science since 1994; Member of the Order of Engineers, Beirut, Lebanon since 1992; a registered Chartered Professional Engineer in the National Professional Engineers Register, Australia since 1991; and a registered Chartered Engineer in the Engineering Council, U.K. since 1988. Once again, through my participation in these societies, I was propagating AUB’s name.
Moreover, I am an honorary member of Advisory Boards in several international biographical organizations and received over 80 invited international honors including Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who in Science and Engineering (see section VI, pp. 29-31 in CV).
In addition to the above, I am a strong advocate of Intercultural and Inter-religious Dialogue (IID) and was invited, together with IID world leaders, to attend the establishment of the King Abdallah International Center for Intercultural and Inter-religious Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna in 2012. Besides the Founding States (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Austria, and the Kingdom of Spain), the establishment of this Center brought together representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, under one roof.
Over my 33-year professional career, I have received 25 national, regional and international awards and scholarships including prizes, recognitions by national and international professional organizations, as well as academic distinctions (see section V, pp. 25-28 in my CV). More recently, I was honored at L’École Supérieure des Affaires (ESA), Beirut in June 2018 as one of 59 Lebanese selected as “Those Who Inspire Lebanon” same time I was celebrating with my family my 59th birthday as I was born in 1959.
My professional activities include many academic keynote addresses, invited presentations and media interviews, as well as other professional continuing education activities, in addition to over 200 keynote speeches, special occasion speeches, and interviews, most of which I gave during my term as Minister of Education and Higher Education over the period June 2011 – June 2013 (see section VIII, pp. 46-60 in my CV).
Finally, I have volunteered in many community service activities including serving on the Board of Trustees of the Social Welfare Institutions (SWI) since February 2011 (see section IX, pp. 61-62 in my CV). SWI, established in 1917, is the largest Lebanese NGO and provides diversified specialized services in over 54 institutions and programs spread over the five Lebanese governorates with 1,000 employees that cater for the needs of a vulnerable population including orphans, children with special needs, school drop outs, elderly, and empowering less fortunate women. SWI embrace over 13,000 beneficiaries from new born to the elderly.
Service to one’s institution and country is not only a duty but a pleasure and an honor. I take great pride in all the activities I have participated in to give back to both AUB and Lebanon a token of my appreciation.