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Paving the Way

Education and Empowerment: Alumni in this category show outstanding creativity, commitment and inspiration in educational systems and empowering endeavors. They promote and advance the skills needed to produce successful 21st-century leaders.

Crossing Cultures

Freeman Hrabowski (SAB ’69)

Study Abroad

President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Freeman Hrabowski’s time studying abroad at AUC made him realize that “the world is not simply black and white”

Freeman Hrabowski’s time studying at AUC with his girlfriend, Jacqueline Coleman, may sound at first like a typical study-abroad experience: “The people were very embracing, the students were kind to us, and we were fascinated by the Egyptian culture,” he says. But, in many ways, their semester abroad was extraordinary. Hrabowski and Coleman, now his wife of nearly five decades, are African American. They arrived in Egypt during their junior year of college in January 1969, just months after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and during a time of fraught American politics at home and abroad.

The conversations they would have at AUC shifted their view of themselves, their communities back home and the world itself. “Things are never simple; that’s the lesson you learn as you go to other cultures. Everyone is seeking the truth, and yet the interpretations may be different,” says Hrabowski, a mathematician who has been president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County since 1992. Hrabowski has been named by TIME among the 2009 Best 10 College Presidents and the 2012 World’s 100 Most Influential People. He was also named among the 2011 Top American Leaders by The Washington Post and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership.

From an early age, Hrabowski was deeply engaged on issues of race in the United States. He was jailed as a child for participating in civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama. The conversations he had about race while in Egypt were unique. He and Coleman weren’t perceived as African Americans there, he says. People often assumed that she was Egyptian and that he was Ethiopian. Meanwhile, they were meeting people from all over the world who carried their own experiences of race, culture and religion. “It was the first time we realized that the world is not simply black and white,” he says. “We came to understand the commonality of the human experience.”

Hrabowski felt the responsibility of being a representative of the United States. Talking with his classmates about American politics gave him an opportunity to reaffirm what he thought about his own country. “It was really good for them to see that we were proud, to say that, ‘Yeah, while we have problems, we believe in our country,’” he says. “We were proud Americans who had experienced discrimination, but who had hope that things could be better.”

Today, Hrabowski makes deliberate efforts to connect with people from abroad studying on his campus and to help them find a community of their own. He knows the challenges and opportunities that arise from such an opportunity. “As students come to this country or study abroad, they have the chance to understand another perspective,” he says. “The people who are privileged to have those experiences also have a responsibility to become a bridge between or among cultures.”

Window onto the World

Lisa Anderson (CASA ’76)

Arabic

“What AUC does is special for Egypt”

Lisa Anderson is best known within the AUC community as the first woman to lead the University as president. But in 1976, Anderson was a summer student at AUC’s Center for Arabic Study Abroad — “far and away the most prestigious program you could aspire to attend if you studied Arabic.” There was “no air conditioning,” and the rooms were “really, really hot,” but “the professors were so important to me, and they were major figures in the field.” When she returned to her doctoral program at Columbia University, she felt transformed.

The University itself has been transformed in many ways since then — the classrooms are cooler, for one — but certain things hold true, says Anderson, who is now a special lecturer and dean emerita at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs: “In many ways, AUC is the world’s window into Egypt and Egypt’s window onto the world.”

The future of higher education is global and competitive, Anderson says. The world’s first-rate institutions will form a network for sharing ideas and new ways of teaching. AUC belongs among them. “The University has a responsibility, really, to ensure that the research access, the faculty mobility, the student exchanges and so forth can be sustained over time.”

The University brings ideas and thought leaders into Egypt in a way that is distinct from the work of nongovernmental organizations, private businesses or government agencies. “It really is there to serve the Egyptian people,” Anderson says. “What AUC does is special for Egypt, and it also serves, in a subtle way, as a kind of promoter of Egypt in the rest of the world.”

Hoda Badran ’57

Social Studies

Serving as the first secretary-general of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, Hoda Badran has received multiple awards for her impactful work, including the UNESCO Award for Distinguished Women in 1995 and the Emirates Women Union Award for Leadership in Women Activities in 1994. She was elected by more than 150 countries for two terms as the first chair of the International Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue. She is currently chair of the Egyptian Feminist Union.

Iman Bibars ’81, ’88

Political Science

Iman Bibars is the vice president of Ashoka Global; regional director of Ashoka Arab World, which she launched in 2003; and co-founder and chair of Egypt’s first microfinance organization, Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women. With a PhD in development studies from Sussex University and more than 30 years of experience in strategic planning, policy formulation and community development, Bibars has worked with a range of nonprofit organizations, including UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services and CARE Egypt. She focused her career on giving a voice to marginalized groups and strengthening the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Middle East. Her writings on gender and entrepreneurship have been published nationally and internationally.

Madiha El Safty ’72, ’76

Sociology-Anthropology

The late Madiha El Safty was a sociology faculty member at AUC for 40 years. She served as chair of the Alliance for Arab Women as well as a member of the National Council for Women’s Civil Society Committee and Committee for the Development of the Minya Governorate. She has more than 90 publications, including those written for the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and the Aga Khan Foundation

Maya Morsy ’95

Political Science

Maya Morsy is president of Egypt’s National Council for Women, which formulates and monitors national plans and provides policy solutions for the empowerment and advancement of women. With extensive experience at the United Nations Development Programme, Morsy served as the regional adviser on gender policies and programs at its Regional Centre for Arab States in Cairo and as regional gender team leader for its regional bureau in New York and regional center in Amman. She was also country manager for the United Nations Development Fund for Women and a consultant for the Girls Education and Empowerment Project of Egypt’s Ministry of Education.

Digging Deep

Salima Ikram (YAB ’86)

Study Abroad

Salima Ikram was a study-abroad student at AUC and is now head of its Egyptology Unit

There is no better place to study Egyptology than in Egypt itself. Salima Ikram knew this when she attended AUC as an international student in the 1980s and decided once and for all to pursue a career in the field. Now a distinguished University professor of Egyptology, she experiences the magic of Egypt each time she introduces her students to an ancient image of an object and then asks them, “Ok, would you like to go see where it is, in its original context?”

AUC offers a “unique chance to do Egyptology the way you can’t really anywhere else,” Ikram says, during a break in her work directing a dig at the tomb of Amenmesse in the Valley of the Kings. And it’s not just about seeing the important sites. For students from abroad, it’s also about experiencing the desert, seeing how a storm there behaves and how your body and mind react to it, she says. “I think that 90 percent of a culture is based on the people’s reaction and interaction with the environments.”

The renown of AUC’s Egyptology program and the fact that courses are taught in English make it easy to attract visiting scholars who bring a wide range of expertise. “It’s very important that one should not only be exposed to one’s own professors, but to as many ways of thinking as possible,” Ikram says. “That gives one mental flexibility.”

Ikram believes strongly in the University’s identity as a liberal arts University, a place where people come to think differently, read critically and argue cogently. Without a focus on those skills, “humanity loses,” she says. “We must try and uphold the values and the ideals and the nuts and bolts of a liberal arts education — and push this forward.”

Opening Doors

Eva Habib el-Masri ’31

Bachelor of Arts

Eva Habib el-Masri is the first female student to enroll at AUC

As the first co-ed at AUC, Eva Habib el-Masri was a pioneer, paving the way for future female students who now make up 56 percent of the nearly 7,000 students enrolled at AUC.

Born in an upper-middle-class family, el-Masri’s decision to come to AUC was supported by her father, who said to his friends later on, “I believe that education is an end in itself, and not just a means to an end. Since this was her own choice, I would not stand in her way.”

Born in an upper-middle-class family, el-Masri’s decision to come to AUC was supported by her father, who said to his friends later on, “I believe that education is an end in itself, and not just a means to an end. Since this was her own choice, I would not stand in her way.”

She recounts her first day, standing on a side street opposite AUC and becoming nervous. “I was half tempted to return home,” she confessed. “Little did I know as I dashed through the crowd and ran up those stairs that I was building up my inward strength and influencing my future destiny!” After submitting her application, she recalled AUC President Charles Watson saying to her, “Upon you will depend whether we accept other girls or not.”

At AUC, she was a member of the University orchestra, Glee Club, Debating Society, International Relations Club and Cosmopolitan Club. She was also editor-in-chief of The AUC Review during her time at the University. She was named valedictorian at her commencement, and later became editor-in-chief of the bi-weekly Arabic magazine Al-Misriyyah, founded by the leader of the Egyptian Feminist Union, Hoda Shaarawi.

El-Masri was the first Egyptian to join Smith College in the United States, finishing a master’s in sociology in one year — an achievement unmatched by any foreign student at that time. She later became a successful librarian at New York University. When reflecting on her life’s accomplishments, el-Masri said, “God bless The American University in Cairo for all that with which it has enriched my life and the lives of the hundreds of co-eds who have entered its gates after me.”

Nevenka Korica (MA ’99)

Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language

Nevenka Korica is director of the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. She previously served as executive director of CASA at AUC. She also worked as a translator and news announcer in the Arabic service at Radio Yugoslavia. She is the co-author of Media Arabic: A Course Book for Reading Arabic News (AUC Press, 2014) and Umm al-Dunya: Advanced Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (AUC Press, 2013).

Up and Coming

Graduates of the last 15 years (2004 onward)

Amin Ashraf Marei ’11

Business Administration

Amin Marei is the associate director of Professional Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) as well as co-founder and director of the Middle East Professional Learning Initiative, one of the largest international initiatives at HGSE. A teaching fellow at Harvard, Amin developed HGSE’s professional education multiplier model, the MEPLI Fellowship, and managed the development of Harvard University’s first professional education courses in Arabic.

Seif Abou Zaid ’08, ‘17

Political Science; Public Policy

Seif Abou Zaid is the co-founder and CEO of Mavericks school in Egypt, which utilizes personalized and self- directed learning, real-life experiences and hands-on activities — celebrating student strengths. “I was always interested in education as a vehicle for liberation and empowerment,” says Abou Zaid, who previously worked in two education startups, including being co-founder and CEO of Tahrir Academy, one of the region’s biggest online educational platforms.

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