June 2, 2015, Cairo – Lisa Anderson, president of The American University in Cairo (AUC) was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the American University of Paris (AUP), at the 2015 commencement, in recognition for her contributions and accomplishments in leading the AUC through the past years. In her speech, Celeste Shenck, AUP president praised how Anderson has managed to ensure that the institution is secure and the community is supported during the times of instability following 25 January 2011. She also highlighted how AUC was the only educational establishment to operate in Egypt and to resume classes, “while the university continued to serve as a model of commitment to student learning through the tumultuous years that ensued.”Shenck also highlighted how Anderson worked tirelessly to reinforce the public perception of AUC as both an asset to Egypt and the Middle East and as a model of the American liberal arts tradition, operating with courage and integrity in times of peace and conflict. She explained that Anderson is also honored for fostering in the students their own political voices. “When they used their voices a year later to hold a strike at the University, you worked with moderate students to establish dialogue with the protestors and to resolve your differences without the intervention of the police,” Shenck addressed Anderson, highlighting her leadership, expertise as a political scientist and determination in making the University a space of democratic dialogue and debate.
In her speech Anderson thanked AUP for the privilege of joining the ranks of their honorary alumni. In addressing the AUP graduates during the commencement, Anderson gave two advices to the students when entering a world whose future contours are exceptionally uncertain.
“We, your families, friends and faculty, cannot tell you what to think about what we ourselves cannot imagine, so more than facts and figures and more than ideas and techniques that you may have learned at your time at AUP, I hope you have discovered how to think for yourselves, how to have opinions, how to nurture a disposition of independence, agility and mindfulness, because as much as anything else you have been taught, this is what you will need to have learned. Those of you here at AUP, already reflect an independent streak, cosmopolitanness, a resourcefulness that will serve you well in this uncertain world. You think for yourself and all of us will benefit from that,” said Anderson.
Anderson stressed on the famous saying by grandparents that “education is undoubtedly the one thing that they- whoever they are- can’t take away from you. The world maybe uncertain and it may be more challenging over the course of your lifetime more than anyone knows now but helping you refine the capacity to think for yourself at an institution like the AUP is the best investment anyone could have made for your future and all those who made that investment will need you.”
Anderson (CASA ’76) was appointed president of AUC in January 2011. A specialist in politics in the Middle East and North Africa, she served as the University’s provost from 2008 to 2010. As the chief academic officer, she was responsible for shaping and implementing AUC’s academic vision and building the size and quality of the faculty. Prior to joining AUC in 2008, Anderson served as the James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations at Columbia University and is the former dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia. She also served as the chair of the political science department at the University and as the director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute. Before joining Columbia, she was assistant professor of government and social studies at Harvard University.