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The LAU Honors Program: taking the college experience to a whole new level

[photo]
Professor Sandra Rizk with her students in the cell culture laboratory.

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February 17, 2016—

Are you an outstanding student with a passion for going above and beyond? If your first year GPA is at least 3.5, the LAU Honors Program, the only one of its kind in Lebanon, could be just for you.

“Student-centeredness, which is at the core of LAU’s values, is the essence of the program,” says Director of Honors and Freshman Programs Sandra Rizk, who has been working hard to ensure that students who thrive on an extra challenge can have an enhanced academic experience.

“We wanted to get students who were already academically talented and design something where they can excel even more,” says Rizk, also an associate professor of biology in the Department of Natural Sciences.

Courses in the Honors Program, which are separate from regular courses, have a smaller student-to-instructor ratio that promotes active learning and encourages discussions, critiques, debates, research, and critical thinking.

There are also mandatory workshops that focus on soft skills, including decision-making, emotional intelligence and team building. Associate Professor Dany Badran led one of the workshops that took place recently on debating skills. “The kind of skills they learn are very much related to leadership, interviews, critical thinking, active listening, and working well within groups,” he explains, adding that such workshops are very practical and cover skills that are needed in “most jobs.”

Students qualify for the Honors Program if they complete their first year at LAU with a GPA of 3.5 or above. Eligible students are given an info session about the program and are invited to apply. However, Rizk is developing a set of criteria for high school students that allows them to request a place on the program in their admissions application to LAU.

Business, economics, architecture, political science, and biology are the five majors available in the Honors Program today. LAU plans to introduce additional majors based on student applications, and more importantly the feedback they receive from the students currently enrolled.

While the program’s inaugural semester was only last fall, it is already making an impact on its 91 students.

“The program provides a challenging classroom environment with a focus on self-development,” says Joseph El Haddad, an architecture major at LAU Byblos.

Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Islamic Art and Architecture Abdallah Kahil, who has been teaching Honors students Islamic Art, finds similar satisfaction in the program. “It is thrilling to work with the students. The interaction is unique,” he says, also citing the benefits of having a smaller student-to-instructor ratio. “Islamic architecture is alien to most people but they express such enthusiasm that it is a pleasure to talk to them and answer their questions. This has really been a wonderful experience.”


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