The Business Year

Joseph G. Jabbra

LEBANON - Health & Education

Future of Learning

President, Lebanese American University (LAU)


Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra has played a prominent role in higher education and accreditation in Canada and the US for decades. He currently serves as the President of the Lebanese American University, a position he has held since 2004. He has also served as Vice President of Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles, and is well remembered at Saint Mary’s University as both an active member of the Political Science Department and as the Vice President from 1980 to 1990. During his time at LMU and SMU he gained profound experience in academic administration. He served on and chaired over 100 academic committees and boards, ranging from academic senates to boards of trustees. In addition to this he is also the author, co-author, and co-editor of 12 books. The latest, Public Administration in Transition, was recently published in London, UK.

“We are looking at how we can be present in the entire region, for example in the UAE.“

Two major five-year strategic plans have been completed and now LAU is gearing up to launch its third five-year strategic plan. What are the main highlights of this?

Our new strategic plan is composed of three primary pillars. The first relates to the university’s intellectual capital and we are working to take this to the next level in terms of research and faculty and staff. The second goal relates to our pedagogy. At LAU we no longer talk about teaching, but rather about learning and professors and students coming together to learn. To ensure that our students are part of an active learning process, our professors innovate and constantly revise their courses. In parallel, with all our classrooms being smart classrooms, we are striving to use technology to provide our students with the best learning opportunities. LAU without borders comes third. We are looking at how we can be present in the entire region, for example in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Dubai. There are two ways we can do this, either through technology by offering online courses, through a blended approach to education, or by having LAU present as an entity in other countries, which we are exceedingly serious about. I really believe that if people cannot come to our campus then we should take the campus to them. We are already negotiating with a number of countries to do this.

How important is this internationalization for LAU and how are your student numbers growing?

It is extremely important. We are responsible to provide our students with an education that ensures them that the world is their arena of operation. Technology has removed the barriers to the global exchange of ideas and business and through our curriculum we provide our students with the right framework for global thinking. We want them to look at the world and know they can succeed anywhere. Our Office of International Services partnered with 40 universities across the world to allow our students to be exposed to other cultures. Although globalization has brought down the walls of separation among the nations of the world, it has created many challenges for our young people to address. It has laid bare our differences, which we have not so far been able to deal with peacefully. And despite all its benefits, if you look at the distribution of wealth, it is being concentrated more and more in fewer and fewer countries and within these in fewer and fewer hands. Our students need to be aware of this, so they can address it, and contribute positively to society’s improvement. Our student body is steadily growing. We currently have 8,500 students enrolled at LAU, with a healthy presence of international students, and our Byblos campus is continually expanding to accommodate their needs. We also have our Headquarters and Academic Center in New York (LAU NY), where we have been able to create a major bridge of ideas and actions between the US, Lebanon, and the region.

How do you assess LAU’s relationship with the private sector in Lebanon?

We are an important part of Lebanon’s society including the private sector, which is important for us. LAU has in place, and continues to negotiate, agreements with this sector, particularly through our schools and our Continuing Education Program (CEP). Today, for example, banks, industries, and pharmaceutical businesses invest money, experience, and expertise in the education of young people. Without such collaborative efforts between the private and education sectors to respond to the needs of the students there is no future for them. We have to provide young people with the opportunity to have a bright future or there will be no future for us. We are doing well on this front. The private sector has been instrumental in helping us complete our comprehensive campaign, Fulfilling the Promise, and to raise over USD13 million one year ahead of time. This is because apart from wanting to contribute to the education of young people, our benefactors and associates believe in our mission and what we are doing at LAU. They give money for endowments, scholarships, and annual spending for students. We give USD27.5 million in financial aid and scholarships to our students. Some 42% of our students are on some kind of financial aid and we are proud of that. We have made a commitment to ensure that anyone who is qualified has the opportunity to come to LAU. This goes to the heart of our mission, both socially and academically.

What are the main priorities for LAU in 2017?

LAU is an institution that is always on the move. We don’t just have academic projects, but capital ones as well. We are completing two major buildings at our Byblos campus. One is the brand new Engineering Laboratories and Research Center, which has just been fully fitted out with state-of-the-art equipment and is currently being moved into. The other is the library which is scheduled to be completed in the next two years and has guaranteed funding. Our campus at Byblos has grown immeasurably, so we are revamping the infrastructure there. This is a major capital project that is going to cost around USD25 million and we are in the thick of it now. It includes installing nine megawatts of power capacity and ensuring that the campus has enough water. We want to make sure that we have sufficient power for all our needs, including air conditioning and hot water. The campus will have a reservoir and a distribution network going underneath it that will feed into every single building. We expect the project to be completed in a year or so. In Beirut, we purchased (with a part of the price donated by the owner) a major property, known as the Gezairi Building, just off campus, as we needed to expand and space on campus is tight. This building is going to be renovated and become the headquarters for our School of Architecture and Design. We have almost completed the planning phase. At the same time, planning for a new building to house our School of Arts and Sciences is well underway. Liberal arts is one of the main pillars of our philosophy in education and this is important because we believe in the education of the whole person.



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