Message to the community
My beloved LAU family, Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni and devoted Friends,
I address you today for the first time as LAU’s 9th President fully cognizant of the symbolism of the moment and of the expectations you have from a new President in facing the prevailing difficult circumstances.
I will not promise you easy deliverance from all the ills facing our university and crippling the country but I can assure you that I will work assiduously to address all the challenges that are lying ahead.
These challenges are existential and threaten the core of our mission. The current public health pandemic has affected access to our campuses and is testing our ability in keeping all our constituents safe. The economic meltdown in the country is stressing our financial resources, and can jeopardize the retention of our faculty, the most precious resource we have. However, and despite the fierce competition we face and despite the current unstable and volatile political climate, we have an obligation to plan for and invest in a better future and a brighter tomorrow for the next generations of students.
For the past four years as dean of the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, I have had the privilege and honor to work with many of you. I know the faculty, staff, academic and administrative units and I know your aspirations and the hardships you are facing. I will work closely with all of you in all transparency and good faith to bring about relief measures addressing the challenges we all face.
Succeeding Dr. Jabbra is a monumental task I do not take lightly. His legacy will continue to be a source of inspiration to all of us for years to come. His Presidency established values and set standards for LAU that will serve us well in the tumultuous years that lie ahead. No tribute to Dr. Jabbra can be more fitting than declaring our solemn determination to keep pushing forward and move LAU to the next level. That we will do together as a close-knit team singularly dedicated to LAU.
Today we turn a new page in our institutional history and head into the future, which is “no longer what it used to be!”
The future we will have to navigate will be far more demanding than anything we have experienced in the past. More will have to be achieved with significantly less, turbulence and uncertainty will be the norm, competition will intensify immeasurably, and old ways and traditions in higher education will give way to exponentially progressive innovation. There will be room only for those who know how to reinvent themselves, take the “brave new world” by storm and act forthrightly on the axiom “innovate or die.” The implications, among others, will be reassessing our curriculum accordingly, rethinking faculty qualifications, finding new ways to integrate liberal arts, and educating the whole person not strictly the professionals.
The next phase in higher education will consist of a paradigm shift toward a digital and post-digital culture. This is necessary to keep pace with a world that is changing “at the speed of thought.” In such a world, in-person attendance and geographic boundaries will be very difficult to preserve in what is tantamount to one big post-digital institutional platform. Becoming number one in the region under such circumstances is a tall order that will require a herculean effort on our part. I urge you all to participate and not to be intimidated by the digital divide or the growing world of massive data, data analytics and artificial intelligence.
Such a pursuit is a game-changer as we suddenly find ourselves in need of new differentiators in a rapidly widening competitive circle. We will have to learn to lead in a world that is constantly in the making. Learning cycle timing will continue to become shorter and shorter and learning curves will be getting steeper and steeper. A changed world with new rules is upon us as we start this new academic year. Proactive learning is now the acid test to which we will all be subjected. The past is only a partial guide to the future and success can beget failure.
My fellow members of the LAU family,
Moments of transition are great opportunities for institutions to take stock of their achievements and rethink their agenda. Our achievements are monumental by any standard and give us a solid base in a world that is more complex and turbulent than ever. What lies ahead, however, is nothing short of repositioning LAU as a leading center of innovative learning and putting it on a course of regional leadership and a solid global footprint. This is a task that requires the best we have and the best we can give. Those who embrace it will find in me a great source of support. Embracing it together is what LAU needs and deserves. We can do no less.
In practical terms, our most daunting challenge is going to be developing programs suited for the new world that is taking shape now. The other side of this challenge is graduating students with technical skills, behavioral traits, and personal values that set them apart and propel their alma mater into the elevated position it deserves. This same push is going to be attempted by many other universities in Lebanon and the region. Only few will arrive and I commit to you that everything possible will be done to be on top of the pack. To be on top, however, we first have to be on tap close to the new streams of specialized knowledge, disciplinary and interdisciplinary. This can only be done through great faculty, brilliant students, outstanding academic administrators, highly competent staff, model facilities, committed alumni, and a supportive community. It should also be done within our guiding principles of providing top quality education to the largest number of students possible. Our work is cut out for us.
Colleagues and friends,
As your leader on this journey into the future under grossly unfavorable conditions, I commit to you, one and all, not to demand from anyone what I do not do myself. I will work very hard, incessantly and tirelessly and expect all others to follow suit. LAU, as always, will be a university of faith and compassion but it will also be a university of strict accountability and sustained high performance. The objective is to shorten as much as possible the time needed to move from the current survival mode to a preeminence mode as befits LAU and as our long-term strategy dictates.
I am counting on each of you to help in this great enterprise of taking LAU into the future where it rightfully belongs.
Michel E. Mawad