The American University in Cairo (AUC) has welcomed 32 new faculty members for the 2016- 2017 academic year. While experts in everything from visual arts to economics, the new faculty members exemplify a common commitment to encourage student learning far beyond the confines of the University through individual research, professional development, artistic endeavors and much more. “To further enhance the quality of education at AUC, we consistently hire world-class faculty members who excel in both research and teaching,” said Sherif Sedky, AUC provost. “As a global university, AUC looks for professors who are capable of providing our students with an outstanding educational experience that prepares them to be the leaders of the future."Holding citizenship from more than 13 different countries, these new faculty members represent a truly globalized education. Artan Karini, assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration, perfectly epitomizes this global education. A Canadian and Albanian citizen, he completed his MPA at the University of Pittsburgh in 2001 and earned his PhD in 2013 from the University of Manchester, writing a dissertation on international aid in the Western Balkans.
For Karini, research is a central component of merging theory and practice. “What makes the environment at AUC special to me is the openness to research ideas and curricular expansion in line with the demands of increasingly complex and competing times,” he said.
Robert Mason, director of the Middle East Studies Center who holds a PhD from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, echoed this sentiment. He strongly believes that research and teaching complement each other in the academic experience.
Mason advocates “improving the connectivity between research, publishing and teaching.” A certain symbiosis between these three academic tenets is crucial to his teaching style. “I firmly believe that research-led teaching is the most compelling proposition because it is firsthand, in-depth and based on a passion for the topic,” said Mason. “Research and teaching are part of the same process. Knowledge acquisition requires research and imparting knowledge effectively requires high-quality publications and teaching.”
As Mason himself shows, an interconnectivity between research and teaching only strengthens both aspects of the academic experience. He sees his role of professor as one that can bring together these often divided elements of academia. “My role is to facilitate,” he affirmed. “Facilitate education at all levels, facilitate employability through the curricular and extracurricular programs, and facilitate growth – personal and professional growth.” Mason’s sentiment, which emphasizes the importance of a holistic education, is undoubtedly echoed across new and old faculty alike.
For Nagla Samir, associate professor of practice in the graphic design major in the Department of the Arts, “professor of practice” is much more than just a title. Rather, she imbues the idea of practice into every aspect of her teaching. “I like to look at students as future colleagues, future designers,” she said. “Sometimes I will overlap assignments because this is how it happens in real life. You’re working on one brief and then something pops up and you have to take it.”
For most of her professional and academic life, since completing a PhD from the Faculty of Applied Arts at Helwan University, Samir has ignored boundaries, working parallel paths in design, curation, advertising and media arts. This multidimensional approach, in turn, has served as an inspiration for her students to work between and across disciplines and artistic styles.
Samir also views it as her responsibility to expose students to their environment beyond the University. “A professor of practice should bring the local market into the classroom,” she explained. “Most of our students will be heading there and not just staying in academy, so bringing this ‘street market wisdom’ into the classroom is a very important and viable part of education. Otherwise, it will just be isolated.”
AUC has played a large role in the educational experience of Rasha Allam, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, having earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University. Even while earning her PhD from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands, Allam’s focus remained on Egypt, developing a model for restructuring the nation’s broadcasting sector.
Allam echoes Samir’s teaching philosophy, stating “it is crucial to teach students and equip them with the latest skills, as they are the future leaders.” She imparts these skills on her students “through reflecting on the most current research, industry innovations and the best practices, always emphasizing a balance between academic theoretical concepts and practical skills.”