Benefit Dinner Raises Scholarship Funds for Women, Honors Alumnae

At the third annual Benefit Dinner held in New York City under the theme of Inspiring Women, AUC raised funds in excess of $400,000, with net proceeds being used to support scholarships for female students at the University.

The event also honored three “inspiring” AUC alumnae: Rana El-Kaliouby ’98 ’00, chief science officer of Affectiva, a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Heba Morayef ’02, Egypt director of Human Rights Watch; and Haifaa Al-Mansour ’97, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker.

“I’m really delighted to be able to celebrate three extraordinary women who are our honorees tonight at our annual benefit dinner,” said President Lisa Anderson at the event. “The theme of the dinner is Inspiring Women, and we mean that in two respects: one of which of course is that they inspire us, and we hope that they inspire the next generation of our students to be as ambitious, creative and impactful as these young women are.”

The honorees spoke about their experiences at AUC and how their education prepared them for success in their respective fields. “AUC allowed me to be assertive and articulate what I really wanted to do with my life,” said El-Kaliouby. “AUC encourages you to think differently and be different.”

At Affectiva, an emotion measurement technology company that grew out of the MIT Media Lab, El-Kaliouby utilizes software she developed to teach computers how to recognize human emotions based on facial cues or physiological responses. El-Kaliouby has been recognized, most recently, by Entrepreneur as one of the Seven Most Powerful Women to Watch in 2014. An MIT professor, she is a founding member of the Autism Communications Technology Initiative there. She is a two-time AUC graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s in computer science.

Half-Australian and growing up in Alexandria, Morayef described how she did not fit in during childhood, but found a different atmosphere at AUC. “Coming to AUC, I met all these other students who were all somehow weird, grew up in diverse places, but also wanted to be Egyptian, in Egypt,” she told the attendees. “Professionally, AUC was important for me as well, as it was the best place to study political science. I think it’s important that there are now many more Egyptians in the political science and human rights fields representing people of their country.” Morayef was named Egypt Director in the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch in 2009, after previous posts at Amnesty International, Article 19 and the United Nation’s Development Programme. During her time at Human Rights Watch, she has been lauded by Forbes as a Power Woman 2013 and by Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 leading global thinkers, also in 2013. She is a political science graduate of AUC, where she specialized in public international law, and holds an LLM from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

A graduate of AUC’s English and comparative literature department and internationally recognized as one of the most significant cinematic figures in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al-Mansour credits her time spent at the Tahrir Square campus as the catalyst for her keen sense of observation of the human condition that she has since been lauded for. “For me, AUC was the first time to get exposed to ideas, and we were encouraged to discuss them, which changed me as a person. I was like a child discovering a world,” said Al-Mansour, writer and director of this year’s Oscar shortlisted movie Wadjda. Al-Mansour is also the director of Women Without Shadows (2005) and was selected by Foreign Policy among the top 100 global thinkers in 2013 “for quietly breaking the Kingdom’s gender barriers.”