Lebanese American University

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Accreditation, strategic planning underlie president’s vision

[photo]
Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra

October 25, 2004—

Excellence, accreditation and strategic planning are to be the hallmarks of LAU’s new president, Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra, and he has wasted no time to achieve his goals since assuming his position in August 2004.

“Academic excellence will be the center of my administration. We must have a culture of excellence supported by a culture of evidence,” said Dr. Jabbra, adding that it will be the result of solid teamwork inspired by the educational mission of the Presbyterian Church.

A primary goal toward that end is seeking accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. It’s a major endeavor to be undertaken by the entire university community, including the Board of Trustees and the Board of International Advisors.

Officials from LAU, including Dr. Jabbra, have met with the accrediting agency in Boston and a delegation including two faculty members and two vice presidents has traveled there for more detailed discussions. Following their return to LAU, Dr. Jabbra and the vice presidents, in consultation with university constituencies, will put together a self-study steering committee to guide the accreditation process.

Another matter to be pursued will be the Michael DeBakey Medical School and Teaching Hospital. A feasibility study is underway to ensure that the final decision on how to proceed is based on facts. “If we establish a medical school, it will take time to build a hospital and we’ll have to use the facilities of existing hospitals until we have one of our own,” the President explained.

An equally vital issue is strategic planning. Higher education expert Robert A. Sevier defined three questions such plan should answer:

  1. Who are we?
  2. What do we want to be in the future?
  3. How are we going to get there?

Accordingly, Dr. Jabbra has met with the University Executive Council and has gone on a retreat with the vice presidents during which the discussion focused on a) a shift in thinking, so that everyone is thinking strategically; and b) putting in place a strategic plan to present to the Board of Trustees in 2005.

Public relations and promotion of LAU are another area he hopes to develop more extensively to enhance the university’s presence on the local, regional, and international scenes.

Another focus will be enrollment management, which Dr. Jabbra views as a continuum moving through recruitment of students, admission, registration, retention, graduation, and on to alumni status, thus creating a sense of belonging among both students and alumni.

“Further, we have to create an institutional culture to express what the institution is all about, what its substance is,” he stressed. “It’s important for people to identify with the institution, and vice versa. It’s also key that we institutionalize the inner workings of LAU, thereby creating allegiance to the institution, not to personalities.”

Dr. Jabbra argued that LAU must continue to be financially healthy in order to aspire to greatness and excellence. He said that effective budgeting, successful fundraising, and a healthy endowment will reduce dependence on tuition.

He believes that the powerful combination of donors and tuition-paying parents will make LAU a formidable educational force in the Middle East region and the world.

“This is an awesome challenge for a private institution, but one worth meeting—hence the importance of giving by benefactors who will take pride in their gifts and in seeing that their contributions catapult LAU to excellence,” Dr. Jabbra said.

President Jabbra said LAU should give governance and how administrators address it prominence in their strategic thinking. “The role of the faculty, staff, and students, and how they intersect, is very important,” he said.

This, he noted, manifests itself on several levels: First, the central administration (the president and the vice presidents) and their collaborative work; second, the role of the faculty and whether there is to be a faculty senate or similar body; third, the role of the staff and their contribution to the process; and fourth, the students and their input in the governance of the institution.

He emphasized the importance of conveying a sense that everyone has a stake in the institution, is given the opportunity to state their views and contribute to building the university. “We want to create a model for people to follow,” he said, adding that success breeds success.

Dr. Jabbra believes that change is normal in the life of any university and that with everyone’s commitment and hard work, it will rejuvenate LAU in its drive toward excellence.

Dr. Jabbra took over as President of LAU on August 1, 2004, succeeding Dr. Riyad Nassar, who retired after 22 years in that position. Dr. Jabbra graduated with a law degree from Lebanon’s Université Saint-Joseph and obtained his doctorate in political science from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He was Academic Vice President at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, for 14 years before coming to LAU.


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