LAU-MEPI TL shapes tomorrow’s leaders
LAU welcomes a new cohort of students eager to tap their leadership potential and grow into agents of change in the region.
In a tense regional geopolitical context, 67 youngsters from 11 different MENA countries were brought together last weekend with the common goal of becoming community, business and national leaders of a future they hope will be more peaceful and promising.
The 15 new recruits of the LAU-Middle East Partnership Initiative Tomorrow’s Leaders program (LAU-MEPI TL)―administered by LAU’s University Enterprise Office (UEO)―bonded with the 52 current students and administrators of the program during a three-day retreat organized in Ehden.
“This program transcends gender, countries and cultures. Every year I am impressed by the transformation of the students who are gaining so much wisdom and self-awareness,” stated UEO Director Walid Touma.
Now in its ninth year, the LAU-MEPI TL program provides higher education opportunities to underprivileged youth from around the Arab world who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential.
The U.S. embassy’s MEPI coordinator, George Aldridge, who attended the retreat said that “many of the students asked, ‘Is there a safe zone for me to go back to after I graduate?’.” The present conditions have created a palpable sense of frustration for the scholars, many of whom have left their families in war-torn countries. Aldridge acknowledged that their predicaments touched him deeply, before suggesting that “in the cases where some cannot easily return to their countries, there is still community work they can do from outside.” He recommended that the LAU-MEPI TL scholars consider, for example, “joining an international organization or supporting indirectly the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society.”
When psychology major Larissa Kassis, 20, left her native Syria, her English was elementary. In less than two years, she has learned to speak it fluently. “LAU-MEPI TL gave me the opportunity I needed to start my journey,” she enthused. Fellow student Kaies Ben Mariem, 22, from Tunisia, who is majoring in marketing with a minor in psychology noticed a significant change in his self-awareness and confidence during his time at LAU where, he said, “students are treated with respect and the faculty listens to us and our ideas.” For Lybian Rawand Haress, 20, a TV and film major, LAU was initially just another institution until he realized it had much more to offer. “It has taught me a lot about myself and also about the other MENA countries.”
More than an academic experience, the university affords students the opportunity to take part in a wide range of extra-curricular activities, including community engagement, a component where MEPI-TL students usually excel. “The program and the circumstances of their home countries push these students to give. They have so much to offer,” says professor Marwan Rowayheb, also student initiative coordinator of the program. During their years at the university, notes instructor Reine Azzi, student communications and activities coordinator of the program, the scholars’ untapped abilities come to the fore. “These students are powerhouses of emotions, ideas and they challenge all stereotypes.”
The pressing need for reform in the region is best addressed by educating future generations, according to Dr. Touma, “We are doing the right thing empowering and teaching the new generations of the MENA region … This program is the oxygen to equip our youth to effect change.”