Building Momentum: Distinguished Alumni Awarded for Innovation, Global Impact
“We’re doing great things at AUC,” said President Francis Ricciardone, looking out at a crowd of dedicated international alumni gathered to recognize the feats of their peers. “There’s an energy. There’s a momentum. We’re innovating all of the time.”
Catch up with any one of the 38,000 alumni President Ricciardone mentioned at the University’s 2018 Alumni Awards Ceremony and you’ll surely find an example of this energy. “We’re quite unique in Egypt, but even globally. We have a network of people who care about this place and care about the people who come through and look upon them as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to be mentored, cherished to join this worldwide community,” Ricciardone continued.
At the ceremony, AUC awarded four distinguished alumni for the impact their momentum and ideas have created. Abdalla El-Ebiary ‘94, managing director and management board member of Qalaa Holdings, and Heba Hagrass ’82, ’98, member of the Egyptian parliament, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Ayman Ismail ’95, ’97, the Abdul Latif Jameel Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at AUC, assistant professor at AUC's School of Business and founding director of the AUC Venture Lab, received the Distinguished Alumni Faculty Service Award. Yasmine Kamar ’11, business director Koudjis Kapo Feed, was honored with the Distinguished Young Alumni Award.
Starting Strong at AUC
Kamar reflected on her educational journey that began at AUC, sparking networks that followed her after graduation. “The diversity of activities and courses AUC offers enriches all students and allows them to gain memorable experiences that continue with them for the rest of their lives," she said..
This young alumna has already impressed her peers with her innovative work as the business director of her new fish feed factory. Before taking on this role, she worked at Flat6Labs and HSBC’s Corporate Banking Oil, Gas, Steel & Mining Decision. All of her feats earned her a spot among the 50 Most Influential Women in Egypt this year.
Kamar traces back many of the skills she acquired to her experiences and relationships with peers at AUC. “Taking part of the MUN [Model United Nations], for example, helped me improve my public speaking skills and analysis of world politics, which I still use in my work until today,” Kamar reflected. In addition to the Cairo International Model United Nations, Kamar interned with Prime Holdings and the Central Bank of Egypt as a student.
Both Ismail and El-Ebiary lived abroad for some time before feeling that something was pulling them back to Egypt.
Since returning, Ismail has concentrated on shaping the entrepreneurial ecosystem at AUC and in Egypt. He has developed more than 40 community partnerships and impacted more than 6,000 young entrepreneurs. The AUC Venture Lab has worked with 116 startups and fundraised more than EGP 200 million.
“If you look to the future, AUC is becoming a platform for innovation,” said Ismail, telling his fellow alumni about the importance of looking forward to see how they can continue to enhance different sectors in Egypt using AUC’s platform and network. “It’s not just an educational institution. It’s a place where you can start companies, innovate, think about new ideas and connect with people as you do that.”
Watch Ismail speak to OnLive about five years of entrepreneurship in Egypt through the AUC Venture Lab:
Helping AUC Grow
After graduating with a BA in economics from AUC, El-Ebiary also explored living in the United States, earning his MBA from Columbia University. Before coming back to Egypt and joining Qalaa Holdings, he worked at the MeadWestvaco Corporation and Merrill Lynch in New York. Additionally, El-Ebiary spent five years with Proctor & Gamble’s Finance Group. He is currently chairman of the Board of the Egyptian Private Equity Association and serves on the boards of Qalaa Holdings’ platform companies, including ASEC Cement, Misr Qena Cement and ASEC Minya.
In his travels, he’s come across a number of impressive alumni like him. “I couldn’t be more proud of attending AUC,” asserted El-Ebiary. “The quality of education that I’ve had during that time, the quality of people that I’ve met – most of whom are actually sitting among us today – the quality of the network that I could find anywhere I go…Everywhere you go – Europe, the U.S., Latin America – wherever you go, you will find people who attended AUC. They are quite unique and easy to recognize.”
Observing success in his classmates and seeing potential in current AUC students, he has begun working to enhance the AUC experience and enable others to join this community as an active member of the AUC Fund alumni committee.
Making a Global Impact
Hagrass is also certainly leaving her imprint on both AUC and Egypt with the revolutionary work she’s accomplished in her various roles. She has been an advocate for the rights of Persons with Disabilities in Egypt, the Arab region and worldwide since 1989. After the 2011 revolution, Hagrass was the lead consultant working on the National Strategy for People with Disabilities in Egypt. Before joining the Egyptian parliament, she served as a board member of the National Council for Disability Affairs and worked as a CBM technical support consultant for the national disability movement in Pakistan.
She too joined the 15 other AUC alumnae on the list of the 50 Most Influential Women in Egypt, receiving high praise for her major national and global influence. "I am also lucky to have been given the opportunity – when Dr. [Mohamed] Allam was [at] AUC and he was cooperating with my parents on how to make my experience easier in a place that isn’t designed for those with disabilities, but to actually enroll and study at AUC," said Hagrass. "Also, Dr. Cynthia Nelson, who accepted me into sociology when there weren’t any studies in disabilities. She said to me, ‘You will lead this field and we will support you,’ and that was the first time research on disabilities was conducted with the support of my wonderful faculty who accepted the challenge and allowed me to...study sociology and specialize in disabilities."
These alumni are prime examples of the “explorers” President Ricciardone says AUC seeks to inspire. Describing the kind of students the University continues to attract, he highlighted, “Explorers, seekers, people who are looking for new horizons for lifelong journeys, who don’t come here to end their education or conclude it, but to accelerate it for the rest of their lives.”