New chancellor outlines vision for AUS

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Image Credit: Courtesy AUS

By Salma Ghalwash

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – In an Oct. 23 “town hall” meeting new American University of Sharjah Chancellor Dr. Tod Laursen said that he would focus on enhancing the university’s role as an international, interdisciplinary, and student-centered institution.

“We have the opportunity now as an institution to reach even greater heights in research and scholarship, with thought leadership, in service of our community and in quality of the student experience,” he said.

AUS President Her Excellency Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi introduced and welcomed the new chancellor.

Laursen highlighted the importance of holistic interdisciplinary education and the liberal arts. The chancellor, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, noted that he had worked with faculty in various disciplines like biomedicine and computer science.

He said he spent 20 years as a professor teaching technical disciplines at a liberal arts university and saw firsthand how students “benefitted from that broader viewpoint.” 

Cultural and intellectual diversity are strong attributes of AUS, Laursen said, and he hopes to contribute to them.

Excellence in teaching and research is an “absolute expectation,” he said. He added that the student experience is improved when faculty are “intellectual and creative leaders.”

Though student-faculty interactions through project work, classes and mentoring are central to AUS’ approach, faculty should develop the quality of these interactions inside and outside the classroom, he said.

“Faculty are the heart of any institution” and should collaborate to empower students to tackle global challenges like the U.N. sustainable development goals, he added.

The chancellor discussed the plans for student engagement and career development of each college with deans Dr. Fadi Aloul, Dr. Narjess Boubakri, Dr. Mahmoud Anabtawi and Associate Dean Dr. Faisal Tabbarah. Student Council President Mira Daoud and Vice-President Faisal Abu Abed moderated the talk.

“AUS is an incredibly unique jewel that we’ve been entrusted with to polish,” Laursen said.

The university observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims in Gaza, including AUS alumnus Ahmed AlGharabli who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering in 2007.