To be the president of a major private university with two medical centers in Lebanon today is akin to having several balls in the air with the singular challenge of not letting any of them drop. The picture is rendered infinitely more complex by the fact
  President’s Forum: Notes from Dr. Mawad  
Michel E. Mawad, M.D.

Dear Members of our LAU Community,

When LAU inaugurated its ninth president on March 25, 2022, it was not about a new person at the helm. Leadership continuity is one of the basics in institutional development and LAU has done it nine times in its hundred years of existence.

The March 25 event that was attended by our Board of Trustees, Cabinet Members, Senior University Administration, former presidents, faculty, staff, alumni, students, major donors, and community leaders was, by far, more of an announcement than a celebration. It was an announcement that LAU is leading the paradigm shift in higher education and in the delivery of quality healthcare. It was about leaping into a new era; a future unlike anything we have seen or done over the past hundred years. Stated simply, what brought us together on March 25 was our collective realization that we are breaking out of the box into a world fit only for those who know how to reinvent themselves and their institutions.

To be sure, what we all witnessed on March 25 was togetherness after a prolonged period of confinement, resumption of community events after an extended fracture imposed by the pandemic, and a sense of shared space following the inevitable splintering effect of a relentless crisis. It was a family reunion rich with symbolism reinforcing a common destiny: Despite the current economic and geopolitical situation in Lebanon, LAU is here to stay and is ready to leap forward into a very bright future.

The fundamentals, however, pointed way beyond this. They pointed to an LAU future that has already started. This is by far the key point that should not be lost on us. LAU has already started to undergo massive self-renewal as it enters its second century. 

Four main headers sum up this self-renewal leading to massive reinvention of who we are, what we do, and how we draw a roadmap for ourselves.

A- Disruptive academic innovation covering discovery, content delivery, and application for impact
B- Fostering an entrepreneurial culture  of innovation with manifold manifestations
C- Rethinking our business model
D- Extending our academic and professional footprint

The first header involves a quantum leap into grouping together content from more than one discipline in order to provide integrated solutions to major contemporary problems. Universities today are, by and large, not well equipped to solve problems facing society because they operate through disciplinary silos. Such silos are limited by virtue of being specialized and several disciplinary perspectives are needed to solve real-life problems. We have to learn to package knowledge differently and LAU intends to be a leader in this.

Delivery or teaching will follow suit to become more learner-centric, experiential and engagement driven. With emphasis on impact, the four-year degree model might well have to be augmented with shorter and smaller “course bundles” to serve the rapidly changing needs of lifelong knowledge workers and adult learners.

The second header ushers a new era where LAU will be leading the transformation toward entrepreneurial higher education based on partnership with industry, primacy of innovation, fostering of novel ideas, transfer of technology, commissioned research and creative endeavors that were not traditionally perceived as part of academia. LAU is already well into this transformation which will soon take a life of its own on our campuses, and create industry partnerships across Lebanon and the region. Our Fouad Makhzoumi Innovation Center is a case in point. The entrepreneurial transformation will affect just about every aspect of our work: faculty selection, allocation of resources for research, performance management, and as a consequence, impact assessment.

For both headers addressed so far to be possible, the university has to find ways to become an oasis for critical thinking, problem solving, continuous upskilling and innovative learning: Such is the mission of LAU in days to come.

The third header is the ultimate challenge for all major private universities and LAU is no exception. Moving away from near-total dependence on tuition revenue and generating alternative financial resources is going to be the acid test for survival in the future. LAU will have to be ahead of the curve on this through a combination of strategic fundraising, industry partnerships, external grant attraction and ingenious ways to create value that can be monetized. The possibilities are infinite but the challenge is to know how to capture as many of them as possible. Developing and getting compensated for impactful solutions in the domain of health, environment, energy, training, and food technology is part of this idea. The message from LAU is that a university that is engaged with the knowledge economy in ways that generate alternative revenue sources enhances its independence, creates new opportunities for its faculty and students, and in no way undermines its integrity. The future we are creating is a future of sustained impact through multipronged innovation.

For the fourth header, it should be remembered that LAU is an American University with a global identity. Our students come from well over 20 nationalities and our faculty from as many and more. For decades, we have been part of the Middle East with active presence particularly in the Near East and the GCC countries. We have extended technical assistance to sister institutions in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Cyprus, and Jordan. Our global MBA offered online has more than 60 students located across the world and other similar programs are in the making to be launched soon.

With this backdrop, our logical next step for the future is to explore formal steps for physically extending LAU’s presence as a quality higher education and healthcare provider outside Lebanon. This will be done with a view to strengthening the mother ship with new resources not available locally. The idea is currently under scrutiny and is obviously intimately linked to our academic paradigm shift as well as the change in our business model.

Inaugurating a new president is for LAU a platform to commence our journey into new and mostly uncharted waters. This journey is driven by powerful game-changers that a major university can ignore only at its own peril. LAU is committed to accelerated innovation in every aspect of its work, to producing leaders who combine competence with caring, agility with self-renewal, technical prowess with a solid commitment to a lifetime of upskilling, intensive learning and commitment to the public good.

On March 25, 2022, LAU commenced its journey into a new world in the making, shrouded in uncertainty but full of promise to the farthest limits of our imagination. I invite all our family members to join, for this is a journey that beckons us all and requires all we have. It is a journey to a future we simply cannot afford to miss.


Michel E. Mawad, M.D.
Lebanese American University