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Students from AUC, United States Address Inequality Through Art

January 15, 2023

This fall, students from AUC and City University of New York collaborated virtually to study income and wealth disparity in Egypt and the United States. Using art, these students aimed to increase awareness about inequality under the collaborative Global Scholars Achieving Career Success (GSACS) program.

GSACS connects students from universities in the MENA region and CUNY through Collaborative Online International Learning. The program is centered around developing career readiness skills while researching United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

In a core course at AUC called Art, Science and Global Aspects of Contemporary Sculpture, taught by Mahmoud Farag, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, students examined the global aspects of sculpture and ways in which art is influenced by political and social restraints. Farag’s course was paired with a Humanism, Science and Technology course taught by Rochell Isaac, professor of English at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York.

Student sketch of inequality project
Student sketch of sculpture

“Before taking this course, I hadn’t taken the time to focus on the meanings within sculptures. Now I can see that anything as simple as a box, for example, can represent something,” reflected Farah Salem, integrated marketing communication sophomore. “It was great to learn the process of putting my own ideas and sketches into sculptures.”

Student sculpture, stacked blocks
Student sculpture

Together, students explored UN Sustainable Development Goal #10, which aims to reduce inequality within and between countries. Drawing from their research and life experiences in the United States and Egypt, the students identified factors that lead to wealth and income inequality and suggested possible avenues for mitigation. Finally, they created sculptures that draw attention to this issue.

Salem and her group sculpted a set of two staircases made from shoe boxes and paint to represent gender inequality specifically. The first is a straight flight of steps, representing a man’s journey in his career — being smooth and straightforward. The second set vaguely resembles a staircase and could be called instead an obstacle course — full of uneven steps and twists and turns, this set represents a woman’s experience in the workplace.

“Women are responsible for many things — working, raising children and caring for their homes — meanwhile, society is constantly judging them,” explained Omnia Antar, graphic design sophomore and a member of Salem’s group. “We wanted to convey this through the cracked staircase.”

GSACS has enriched several courses at AUC through virtual exchange and experiential learning. One of the most exciting parts for University students is the connections they form with others, despite being oceans apart.

“When I learned we were doing a virtual exchange, I was excited,” Salem said. “It was great getting to know how students from other countries and universities approach their projects and coursework. I really enjoyed this experience.”

Global Scholars Achieving Career Success (GSACS) is supported by The Stevens Initiative , which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Learn more about the program here.