AUC’s New Legal Guide Sunanda Holmes


Law and compliance are the backbone of any institution. This is why AUC brought in Sunanda Holmes, the University's first General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer.

President Francis Ricciardone introduced Holmes to the AUC community declaring, "Dr. Holmes will bring unique and extraordinary experience and expertise to help AUC advance from very good to truly great as we enter our centennial year."

The general counsel is part of AUC's leadership team. Holmes's office will guide AUC on legal matters, assessing the liabilities and risks of strategic decisions the University makes with regard to its current and future operations. In addition, the office ensures that the University follows its own policies and practices as well as applicable United States and Egyptian laws and regulations. The new position was created to generate consensus among management operations and to make sure that central management strategies and plans for the betterment of the University comply with all applicable legal standards.

With over 27 years of legal experience, including a recent position as deputy chief administrative officer and associate university counsel at Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha, Qatar, Holmes will bring a rich background in law to her position at AUC. No stranger to working abroad, Holmes has also spent time working and visiting more than 100 countries, including teaching law as a visiting Fulbright professor at Bir Zeit and Al-Quds universities.

"I guess having been overseas already, I was looking for a new challenge!" Holmes exclaimed, talking about her decision to come to Egypt.

Holmes loves her time in Egypt and at AUC so far and is excited about AUC’s upcoming yearlong centennial celebration.

She feels that she has come to the right place. "Someone told me that Cairo is magic, and it is. In Cairo, I already feel at home," Holmes reflected. "The entire AUC team is fantastic. People seem hardworking and committed at all levels.  I want to be part of the team.”

Bringing Clarity and Collaboration

Her first objective is to bring clarity and organization to the University. "My job is to make systemic changes to our systems that impact students, faculty and staff," she explained. "Being an American, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization operating in Egypt, it is not always clear whose laws apply.”

Holmes will give advice and counsel from a legal perspective, resolving any confusion concerning legal requirements and tackling problems the University faces with the future in mind. "I think about precedence and know that every decision has a life and long-term impact," she said. “Our policies and practices are what create us, what maintain us and what sustain us, so I'm going to work on developing those to really bring clarity to our work as educators.”

To problem solve, Holmes plans to handle issues in a collaborative manner. She aims to listen to all stakeholders and recommend meaningful changes in AUC’s policies and procedures going forward. “I want to open communication,” she added, emphasizing that she will listen to everyone’s input as she works to make positive changes.

The Great Equalizer

“I really believe in education – the only equalizer that can bring people of all ages together to change the world," Holmes explained. "International higher education and research is where I am committed to put my effort to make that difference."

Not many lawyers venture into higher education. While Holmes taught law at Georgetown University, she transitioned from being a litigation lawyer to working in higher education administration. However, she continued her role as a faculty member, teaching both at Johns Hopkins University and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar to stay connected with the students. "If we want things to change, it starts with ourselves first, and then we can bring others along,”  she added.

Holmes wants to increase opportunities for others through American-style, liberal arts education in foreign countries. Applying her legal background to improve the infrastructure and systems of the universities that offer such education in foreign countries is where she sees she can make a real difference and hopefully meaningful change.  

Her favorite quote from Einstein is “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” To Holmes, being a lawyer in the higher education space means to be on the journey of a lifelong learner.