School of Business Executive Education Open-Enrollment Program Jumps Five Places in Financial Times Ranking

Research and Innovation
May 24, 2023
Infographic showing that the AUC School of Business Executive Education open-enrollment programs placed 62 in the Financial Times

The AUC School of Business Executive Education open-enrollment program jumped an impressive five places in the Financial Times (FT) rankings. This year, the program ranked at 62, maintaining its position as the only ranked business school in the Arab region and one of only three in Africa. This achievement highlights the program's commitment to providing relevant, practical, and high-quality education to business professionals worldwide.

“This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team and instructors, who have worked tirelessly to provide relevant and innovative programs to our participants,” says Mohamed AbdelSalam, executive director of Executive Education at the AUC School of Business. “Maintaining our position as the only ranked business school in the region is a great honor and further motivates us to continue providing world-class executive education to business professionals across the globe."

FT rankings are based on data provided by learners and institutions alike, assessing ten criteria from participants and six from schools. AUC’s ranking is a testament to its service to its world-class executive education experience, which offers an array of open-enrollment programs designed to meet the needs of business professionals at all career stages through an up-to-date curriculum, experienced instructors, customized learning, interactive teaching methods and an array of networking opportunities.

AUC Students Win in Mechanical Engineering Competition

Research and Innovation
May 22, 2023
Zahwa Kortam and Abdallah Sabah accept their awards standing on stage in front of a screen.

Two AUC students won an Elevator Pitch competition at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers EFx (e-fest) Cairo 2023, which took place at the New Cairo campus. Mechanical engineering majors Zahwa Kortam and Abdallah Sabah placed first and second, respectively.

The competition required contestants to imagine themselves as a lead researcher in a prestigious engineering department who needs to convince an investor in less than 90 seconds to fund their project on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

“I learned that life really does give you 90 seconds and that’s it,” said Kortam. “No one has time for the 20-minute presentations we would perform in school. We must be able to build our communication skills and technical understanding enough to sell in just two minutes. Through this experience, I got the chance to attempt that firsthand and it definitely won’t be my last time.”

Describing the competition as “exhilarating,” Sabah said, "I had the privilege to connect and network with like-minded individuals from around Egypt and felt proud to be part of the hosting University. It was definitely challenging to have a purely technical pitch in 90 seconds, but the support of the ASME team overall helped me develop this new key skill."

The first in Africa and largest in the MENA region, ASME EFx brought together young and aspiring engineers across Egypt to learn, compete and network with their peers and industry leaders under the theme of "climate crisis and sustainable development." Salah El Haggar, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, presented a keynote speech on sustainable development. The conference also hosted panel discussions and other competitions, such as the Green Energy Spirit contest, which required teams to design and build remote-controlled vehicles powered by solar and wind energy.

The ASME team poses on the gardens at AUC.
The ASME team


AUC Student to Join First Cohort of Landmark Scholarship Program in Canada

Research and Innovation
May 8, 2023
Reem Mahmoud smiling

Mechanical engineering undergraduate student Reem Mahmoud is one of 30 global recipients of the McCall MacBain Scholarships at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The scholarships are the result of a landmark C$200 million gift (about E£4,4 billion) in 2019 by John and Marcy McCall MacBain, the second-largest single donation in Canadian history.

Designed to encourage purposeful leadership, the McCall MacBain Scholarships enable students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill, while participating in mentorship, coaching and a leadership development program.

I was overwhelmed with joy, gratitude and disbelief,” said Mahmoud. “They had to repeat the announcement twice as I couldn’t believe it. I was in my university’s dorms so I called my mom and ran up to my friends to tell them. Everyone was cheering loudly.”

Mahmoud is the first student from Egypt to earn this award. She underwent a rigorous seven-month selection process, including a final round of interviews in Montreal.

The whole experience was very rich and surreal. I had an amazing chance to get to meet each of the finalists and each was very inspirational in their own way,” said Mahmoud. “It’s amazing how much this experience immersed us in the McCall MacBain Scholars community and Montreal as a whole. I’m very grateful for how supportive and warm everyone was, including the McCall MacBain scholars, from the very moment we landed in the airport.”

Each scholar was chosen based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength and intellectual curiosity.

Mahmoud is studying mechanical engineering, an unusual choice for women in her hometown, at the American University of Cairo. She organizes campus-wide events for the student life office, oversees marketing for a charity club, and helps run weekly activities for children at local orphanages. Mahmoud also served as the human resources executive of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers student chapter and, as an engineering intern and project leader at a manufacturing plant, worked with her team to reduce line stops and interventions. Her academic interests include aerospace mechatronics and drone technology and she will pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at McGill.

“The scholarship represents hope and a wide-open floor for enabling change,” she added. “It gives sincere guidance to help each one of us navigate their own unique pathways. I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my dream of graduate studies without the generous support provided by the McCall MacBain Scholarships. And with its leadership focus, I’m sure I’ll better apply what I learn with a community-oriented perspective and a keen eye for global impact.

“Reem’s selection is a tribute to the time and energy she has put into improving the lives of others,” said Natasha Sawh, dean of the McCall MacBain Scholarships. “Our volunteers looked not only for academic strength, but for leadership qualities like integrity, kindness, grit and an ability to motivate a team to address tough challenges.”

To recognize additional talent, the McCall MacBain Scholarships and McGill University also offered 96 entrance awards ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 each to top candidates who were not selected for the cohort. Altogether, this year’s 126 scholarships represent an estimated commitment of nearly $3.3 million in tuition and living costs alone, which will be complemented by mentorship and leadership development programming. Applications will open in June 2023 for September 2024 admission.

Supporting Startups: AUC Hosts First Afretec Entrepreneurship Conference

Research and Innovation
Abigail Flynn
May 8, 2023
The attendees of the conference pose in a group shot on campus.

Entrepreneurship is a key component of Africa’s economic progress, but gaps between research, investing and implementation may hinder a startup’s success. AUC assisted in filling these gaps by hosting the first entrepreneurship workshop of the Afretec Network, an international organization that aims to encourage digital growth through the collaboration of higher education and the private and public sectors throughout Africa. 

The event brought together the six member universities, business owners and policymakers to develop a plan to support digital transformation through innovative startups.

“The workshop’s objective is to support programs that will improve inclusion, alleviate poverty, create startups and jobs and generally improve the economy,” stated Yehea Ismail, chair of the conference and professor and chair of the Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering. “We are trying to create a new and dynamic Africa.” 

Professor Ismail stands and presents at the conference, speaking into a microphone and gesturing with his other hand.
Yehea Ismail

The Afretec Network, founded by Carnegie Mellon, features three pillars: teaching and learning, knowledge creation and entrepreneurship. As a member university, AUC is involved in all three pillars of digitalization. Under Ismail’s guidance, the workshop aimed to develop the entrepreneurship pillar’s action plan for the coming years, including the budget for proposed projects, with funding provided by the Mastercard Foundation.

Venture capital leaders, government officials, United Nations representatives, thought leaders from six African countries and prominent successful entrepreneurs came together during the event to share unique insights on the ways universities can become more involved in the creation of startups.  

“Entrepreneurship is a tricky phase for a university,” explains Tim Brown, director of research and professor of engineering and public policy and electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University Africa. “Universities know how to teach and how to research, but their role in incubating startups and accelerators is less clear. We want to help universities identify where they can be most impactful, in addition to funding innovative products.” 

Tim Brown presents on stage, standing behind a podium with a presentation screen behind him to his left.
Tim Brown

Africa faces unique economic and structural challenges, which this workshop aims to address by encouraging digital transformation. According to Ismail, most investment projects in Africa focus on high-tech projects, which are typically software apps that offer quick solutions using pre-existing systems, like a food delivery app collaborating with pre-existing restaurants. These high-tech projects are attractive to investors because they require less research and offer quicker returns, but Ismail suggests that Africa needs deeper technological developments. 

“A high-tech application could monitor your water quality and tell you if you’re at risk for disease, but a deep-tech project could fix the water processing and distribution system at the source,” Ismail says. “High-tech projects treat the symptom; deep-tech projects treat the cause.”

Deep-tech projects develop slowly, requiring significantly more research and time before the investments start paying off. While Afretec will fund both high-tech and deep-tech projects, the emphasis on deep-tech will allow leading research universities like AUC to contribute to both the science and business sides of these startups on a more feasible timeline. 

A group of workshop attendees collaborate at a table at the conference.In addition to research and development, the workshop also invited speakers from the private sector to offer their perspective. Deji Macaulay is the CEO of Truthware Solutions, which offers assistance in digital transformation for the Nigerian government, including the insurance, transport and health industries. As an investor from the private sector, Macaulay offered an important connection between academic and private organizations.

“My goal was to show how universities can become more involved in the ecosystem of the private sector,” Macaulay states. “Universities are very good at inventing things, but true innovation requires these creations to be implemented in the market, which is why connections to the private sector are key.” 

AUC is well-positioned to facilitate this connection due to its longstanding relationship with research, business and government. 

“AUC is a leading institution in entrepreneurship in Africa because there is a broad environment of support and interest from the highest levels of the government and the institution,” says Nithaya Chetty, dean of the Faculty of Science and professor of theoretical and computational physics at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. “Egypt is facing difficult conditions for development, but I believe this has spurred the Egyptian people and government to be more innovative.” 

Each country in Africa faces a unique set of challenges in its development, and Afretec aims to provide the platform for these countries to collaborate, from Egypt to South Africa. 

“Entrepreneurship has been considered as one of the most essential solutions to the three-pronged challenges, poverty, unemployment and inequality, of most African countries,” explains Karim Seddik, AUC’s Afretec network coordinator and professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research in the School of Sciences and Engineering. “The intelligence, creativity, knowledge and technological skills of African entrepreneurs are crucial to meet the continent’s development objectives of a sustainable and more equal future.”

Transforming Dirty Water into Clean Energy

Research and Innovation
Abigail Flynn
May 2, 2023
A graphic showing how electrolysis works. On the bottom, a graphic of water, tinted brown with green spots. The water is pulled up through a pipe to two green buildings representing the electrolysis. Two pipes connected to the building pipe out green hydrogen, shown as green lightning with a blue H, and bright blue, clean water.

A bolt of energy rattles the bonds of a water molecule: H2O. The links between the molecule begin to snap as the oxygen and hydrogen particles are pulled to separate compartments. The hydrogen molecules are collected and pressurized until their gaseous form transforms into a liquid, the process guiding these powerful particles to their new life: green energy. This process, called electrolysis, has existed for several years; now the goal is to expand its application by producing green hydrogen and clean water simultaneously.

El Sawy stands with his arms crossed on campus, looking at the camera while slightly smiling. Ehab El Sawy, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, recently received funding from Egypt’s Academy of Scientific Research and Technology to pursue this endeavor. 

“Traditional forms of green hydrogen production utilize clean water in their process. This is more expensive and inefficient; clean water should be prioritized for necessities like drinking,” El Sawy explains. “Our proposal is to utilize wastewater and salt water to produce the hydrogen energy in a way that generates clean water as a byproduct.”

This solution is a two-for-one deal. A small village with a contaminated lake could use this new technology both as an energy supplier and as a way to make its water safe for drinking. 

But why green hydrogen?

“It has local and global benefits,” El Sawy says. “Right now, most of our energy comes from fossil fuels that produce toxic gasses like carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides — all of which are an environmental disaster. Green hydrogen requires energy to create, so making it ‘green’ means ensuring the source of energy for the electrolysis is renewable, like wind, solar, geothermal, or tidal sources.”

Green hydrogen has become a popular alternative to fossil fuels internationally over the past two decades, with buses, trains and cars running on this climate-friendly alternative from the United States to Japan. In addition to its liquid form, which can be pumped like traditional gas, green hydrogen can also be put into fuel cells, similar to batteries. In the future, these fuel cells may be able to power houses and buildings as a replacement for power grids. 

This climate-friendly energy is perfect for Egypt. “Here, we don’t have an abundance of fossil fuels like the Gulf region or lithium for lithium-based batteries like Australia,” El Sawy explains. “What we do have is plenty of sun and salt water.”

This project is interdisciplinary: El Sawy along with Nageh Allam, professor in the Department of Physics, use their expertise in electrochemistry and materials design to refine the compartments that produce the hydrogen through electrolysis so they can function at max efficiency. Meanwhile other AUC faculty, like Ahmed El-Gendy, professor and director of the environmental engineering graduate program, and Anwar Abd ElNaser, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, study the water treatment and desalination system. El-Gendy and Abd ElNaser monitor bacterial growth on electrodes, desalination efficiency and the physics of the molecular movements, in addition to exploring the benefits of this new technology on public health. 

AUC students are also involved in the process. Undergraduate and graduate research assistants help develop the materials in the lab throughout the school year and summer. Recent PhD graduates are also funded in the lab, offering them the opportunity to conduct research while attending international conferences and workshops.

“It has been a privilege to work with such a collaborative team,” El Sawy says. “Our project is still in the initial stages, but with more funding and research, I believe we can turn this design into a reality.

Between Two Homes: Experience of an Arab-American Student

Research and Innovation
Abigail Flynn
May 1, 2023
A photo of a Cairo street, taken from Abdelhalim. Al Azhar mosque sits to the left and the wall of Khan al Kalili is on the right.

“I don’t consider myself to be just Egyptian or just American. You can even hear it in the way I speak. I blend English and Arabic together all the time when I talk. I’m not one or the other; I’m both.” 

Born in Egypt and raised between Cairo and New York City, Moetaz Abdelhalim shares his thoughts on studying abroad in his home country and being a third-culture kid. He is a living testimony of what National Arab American Heritage Month celebrates. 

Abdelhalim sits with three friends at a wicker table at AUC Tahrir campus. There is a small white cat in the bottom corner.
Abdelhalim (second from the left) sits with friends at AUC Tahrir

U.S. President Joe Biden officially recognized April as National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM) this year in an effort to acknowledge the rich heritage of the community and their contributions to American society. Through NAAHM, people like Abdelhalim have the opportunity to engage in conversations about their experiences growing up  balancing two cultures: the one of their parents and the one of their new homes. 

Abdelhalim’s parents moved back and forth from Egypt to the United States during his childhood, alternating between the two cultures for years at a time. “I only started to realize that my situation was unique when I was around 10,” Abdelhalim recalls. “That’s when I started to notice how different Egypt and the U.S. really are.”

For Abdelhalim, America has a distinctly individualistic culture compared to Egypt. “In the U.S., it feels like everyone lives by themselves and for themselves. Egypt has a much stronger sense of community and a feeling that we’re all in this together,” he states. 

On the other hand, there are pockets of similarities within the United StateAbdelhalim and two friends examine products in a market. s that remind Abdelhalim of Egyptian culture: “I live in Astoria, a neighborhood in New York City with very large populations of African, Latin American and Arab people. I feel a much stronger sense of community there than anywhere else I have been in the U.S. To me, it’s the place that feels most similar to Egypt.” 

A major difference that third-culture kids often have to wrestle with is the expectations of their parents versus the norms of their host culture. According to Abdelhalim, many of his American peers had parents who were much less strict, allowing their children more freedom to study what they want and pursue any career they wish. For immigrant parents, however, the stakes are higher.

“My parents worked their entire lives to be able to come to the U.S. and give me a good life,” Abdelhalim explains. “They pushed me towards STEM majors because they wanted to make sure I had a good, stable career. They were stricter than other parents, but it's because they wanted me to have a good life.”

Now back in Egypt while studying abroad at AUC, Abdelhalim’s Egyptian-American identity is often a subject of discussion, but he has become much more comfortable with his blended background. 

“Sometimes other Egyptians will make jokes about how I’m not ‘really Egyptian’ because I don’t like certain foods like kunafa or when I order chicken strips and fries at a restaurant,” Abdelhalim says. “Honestly, they don’t bother me because they’re just jokes. I’m just not adventurous with my food. It doesn’t mean I’m not Egyptian.” 

Abdelhalim smiles while sitting with his friends in a cafe in Khan al Kalili. There is a gold colored coffee set in front of him.

Other aspects of his identity stick out more, like his often English-Arabic mixed dialect. “When I first got here, I could barely form a sentence in Arabic because of how anxious I was about messing up or not using the right slang,” Abdelhalim recalls. “After the first week, I realized that if I just accepted that I was going to make mistakes, then I would learn a lot quicker and be happier.”

Acceptance and flexibility are major skills that being a third-culture kid has taught Abdelrahim. “My childhood gave me a very unique perspective,” he says. “When I encounter challenges or obstacles, I have learned to see them very plainly: Either the situation can be changed and will be changed, or it can’t be changed and we need to accept it.” 

The determination and perseverance of immigrants and their children in America is integral to the nation’s identity. For the Arab-American community, which began as far back as 1880, NAAHM is an opportunity to celebrate their history and acknowledge their contributions to American society. 

“I’m happy this month was recognized as a national holiday. It makes me think about my mom,” Abdelrahim states. “She wears the hijab, doesn’t speak English fluently, has an accent –– and her name sticks out. She has faced so much Islamophobia and racism in America. I don’t think this month solves that problem or erases her struggles, but I think it's a step in the right direction.”

AUC Students Get Industry Experience at Egypt's First Venture Capital Competition

Research and Innovation
Ian Greer
March 30, 2023
people stand on stage at the Venture Capital Competition

While a business school education can be the foundation for a young entrepreneur's career, nothing matches hands-on industry experience. Courtesy of AUC's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) and Shorooq Partners, one of Egypt's leading investment firms, AUC students were invited last month to test their mettle in a competitive venture capital investment simulation, the first of its kind in Egypt, and likely the entire Middle East.

The competition was designed to accurately simulate the tough, high-stakes world of private investment. Although most competitors were from AUC’s School of Business, ultimately it was Ghoroub Partners, a team of computer scientists from the School of Sciences and Engineering, who took first prize, winning an impressive $2,000. If they are as talented with computers as they are with investments, all members (Nourhan Nada, Ahmad Ashraf, Lobna Aboudoma, Tamer Osman, and Mohamed Moghazy) have bright futures ahead of them.

students standing on stage with a giant check for $2000
Ghoroub Partners


"It was an honor to win first place in this competition," said Nada, a computer engineering student and Ghoroub Partners team member. "Our team conducted thorough research and analysis on the startup we were investing in, putting in a lot of hard work and effort. It was incredibly rewarding to see that pay off."

Nada attributed her team's success to the experience and ability of each member. "We have participated in more than 12 competitions and have won several of them, which gave us a competitive edge," she added. 

Honorable mentions went to the second and third-place competitors, Alpha Team and Agora, who took home $1,500 and $500 respectively.

Following the announcement of the competition in January, students were invited to form teams and tasked with hypothetically investing $100,000 in real startups, just as Shorooq investors deal with in the real industry. These were summarized into memos for judges. Although the investment risks for students were merely hypothetical, the rewards were not; $4,000 in cash prizes were up for grabs for the three most talented teams.

All in all, 27 teams and four individuals, some 122 AUC students from various departments submitted memos to participate. Students had to perform their due diligence, analyze the investment prospects and devise investment plans just like any investment fund does in the real business world. Over successive rounds of elimination, students were offered industry training by professional investors at Shorooq Partners, met with real startups, and narrowed the field to 22 teams, then 16 and finally eight for the final round. At this stage, the finalists presented and negotiated their investment proposals with judges.

“Being a part of this competition was a new experience for me,” says Nada. “It pushed me to expand my knowledge of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and venture capital, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

Aside from being the first of its kind in Egypt, the CEI-Shorooq VC competition provided fantastic professional experience for students. Risk assessment; management of time, money and people; data analysis and decision making were all necessary ingredients of success for participants, just as they are for professional investors. "We were treating them as real venture capitalists like those who are hired at Shorooq Partners," says Nadine Ramadan, senior officer of performance optimization at CEI and the competition’s manager. "Accordingly, this competition gave them a chance to experience how this ecosystem works and what could be their role and daily work as venture capitalists if they are interested in pursuing their careers in that field." 

AUC's liberal arts approach to education, allowing students to pursue interests and classes across disciplinary boundaries, "enables us to know something of everything," says Ramadan. Well-rounded students like those of the competition's winning teams were able to adapt what they learned in their studies, whether in business, engineering or psychology, to new contexts and practical problems.

The 2023 CEI-Shorooq VC competition is what venture capitalists might call the "initial public offering" for something much larger and much more exciting. Organizers plan to open up the competition to public and private universities across Egypt in 2024 and beyond, bringing together more teams and more young business professionals to hone their skills, and of course, compete for the top prize.

If the competition’s first edition at AUC is any indication, it will be well worth their time.

“This competition not only honed our venture capital skills,” says Nada, “but also deepened our passion for entrepreneurship. It was an incredible experience overall."

Second and third-place winners stand on the stage holding giant checks for $1500 and $500
Alpha Team and Agora


Saudi-Iran Agreement Brokered by China: Regional Implications

Research and Innovation
Abigail Flynn
March 20, 2023
Three flags cut diagonally across the image, the Iranian flag in the top right corner, the Chinese flag through the middle, and the Saudi Arabian flag in the bottom left hand corner. Each flag is separated by a black bar.

Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties earlier this month in a negotiation mediated by China. The two countries suspended diplomatic relations in 2016 after demonstrators in Tehran stormed the Saudi embassy  in response to a Shia cleric being executed in Riyadh. Ambassador Karim Haggag '92, professor of practice and director of Middle East studies in AUC’s Department of Public Policy and Administration, explains what this development means for the region and for global powers like the U.S. and China. 

What is the original source of conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is historic and relates primarily to the status of these two countries as rival regional powers, going back even before the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. Part of this rivalry is geopolitical and part of it is ideological. 

What is the geopolitical aspect?

It relates to security, specifically to the reliance of Saudi Arabia on American military protection, which is a clear security threat to Iran. Over the past 10 or 15 years, this rivalry has extended to other areas in the region, including Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iraq. Each country’s internal conflicts were influenced by Saudi Arabia and Iran’s interests in checking each other’s power. 

What is the ideological aspect? 

The ideological conflict is seen in instances of Shia agitation in Saudi Arabia that seem to be fomented by Iran. Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric in 2016 which led to demonstrations in Iran at the Saudi embassy. Hopefully, the limited agreement reached last week will defuse the immediate source of tension between the two countries.

Why do you say that the agreement is only “limited”?

The agreement brokered in Beijing was not comprehensive. While it did open channels of political communication between the two countries, which should de-escalate some of the rhetorical animosity on either side, it has not broadly changed their relationship as rivals in the region. 

Since the agreement is not comprehensive, do you think it will be successful in stopping bloodshed in the high-conflict areas these two countries are involved in?

It remains to be seen. The immediate litmus test of whether this arrangement is making real change will be Yemen, as Yemen is the conflict closest to home for Saudi Arabia and presents the most immediate security threat to the monarchy. After Yemen, we will also have to look to Lebanon and Syria to see if there are real shifts in the way Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaging with each other in these proxy states. 

Can you expand on what it means for Saudi Arabia and Iran to use proxies?

Sure, it means that they are leveraging their relationship with certain groups within other countries to exert their influence against the other power. We see this in Yemen with the Houthis, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia militias in Iraq and Syria.

How will we know if deescalation is actually happening on the ground?

Let’s look at Yemen as an example. There has been a tenuous ceasefire in Yemen since April 2022 between the Houthis and Yemeni government. If this arrangement between Saudi Arabia and Iran opens the door for a consolidated settlement to the Yemen conflict, then this will be a definite indication of the two rivals changing their approach with their proxies.

In our last discussion on geopolitics in the Middle East, we discussed China’s rising influence in the region. Why was China selected to broker these negotiations instead of the U.S.? 

The U.S. could not have mediated this discussion because it is not a neutral party; it has a major security role in Saudi Arabia and no official diplomatic relationship with Iran. China, however, has diplomatic relations with both countries and was able to frame its involvement with the conflict in almost purely economic and commercial terms, rather than in overt political or security terms. 

Why is China’s role significant?

Up to this point, China’s influence in the region has been rising steadily but has remained in the economic sphere. For China to involve itself in these regional political conflicts is a significant departure from its previous approach, but it's too early to tell if this will turn into a broader and consistently politically involved role for China.

Why is China suddenly the Middle East’s peacekeeper?

Well, let’s be clear on what happened and what didn’t happen. China stepped in to play a mediating role and achieved a narrow, transactional agreement between the two countries to open up communication. China did not fulfill any sort of broad peacemaking role and still has no involvement in regional security.

Who handles regional security?

The U.S. is still the dominant player regarding security and military presence in the region. China does not seem interested in contesting that role, even though it has been filling the diplomacy vacuum that the U.S. has left.

Do you think China’s involvement will bring U.S. focus back into the region? 

At this point, the U.S. has no interest in mediating conflicts in the region and has refocused its interests elsewhere internationally. The U.S. may be concerned with China’s expanding influence in the MENA region and that may be an incentive to pay more attention to the Middle East, but that is less about regional politics and more about countering China.

AUC Faculty Develop New Courses on Climate Change, Sustainability During 2023 Research and Creativity Convention

Research and Innovation
March 15, 2023
flower growing out of concrete and a cityscape of old Cairo near the citadel with new course titles: Sustainability in the Cracks of Urban Policy: Communities, Bureaucracies and Adaptation and Climate Change: From Interdisciplinarity to Action

Two courses aimed at informing and empowering AUC students to lead the charge against climate change won this year’s Core Curriculum Course Competition during AUC’s 2023 Research and Creativity Convention (RCC).

“Climate change is certainly one of the most pressing concerns which urgently requires raising a new generation of educated, responsible and proactive youth who are willing to make a real change and aspire for a promising future,” explained Amina Saleh, assistant professor in AUC’s Department of Chemistry, who co-wrote one of the winning courses, Climate Change: From Interdisciplinarity to Action, with Tamer Shoeib, professor and chair of the department and Noha Omar, assistant professor in the Department of Economics. “Ultimately, we want to inspire students to conscientiously contribute to the betterment of their communities by solving problems of both global and local concern.” 

Taking place at AUC’s New Cairo campus this week, RCC is a weeklong convention that showcases research from faculty and students across disciplines, in addition to hosting competitions, performances and discussions.

“The competition is an important opportunity for faculty to engage in the process of curricular innovation to provide our students with high impact learning experiences,” explained Ghada Elshimi (MA ‘93), dean of undergraduate studies and The Academy of Liberal Arts. “In line with AUC's liberal arts mission, the competition promotes examination of human issues from the perspective of multiple disciplines and encourages faculty to employ project-based learning teaching styles and inquiry.”  

Alongside Saleh and Shoeib, Noura Wahby, assistant professor at the Department of Public Policy and Administration, and Sherif Goubran ‘14, assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, co-wrote the other winning course, Sustainability in the Cracks of Urban Policy: Communities, Bureaucracies and Adaptation.

We hope that the course will inspire both us and our students to dig into the reasons behind our relationships to our surrounding built environment and understand how socio-technical factors shape our attitudes, practices and beliefs of the environment,” the duo wrote.

Arab World Studies/Egypt Category 

Winning Course: Climate Change: From Interdisciplinarity to Action

Developed by: Tamer Shoeib, Amina Saleh and Noha Omar

With the aim of creating and empowering more environmentally conscious students, this course will explore climate change from multiple disciplines, focusing on filling information gaps about the crisis  in addition to the specific context of Egypt. “Filling these gaps would allow for a better understanding of the climate change crisis in Egypt and therefore a better management of it,” the course description reads.

A major part of this course is centered around community-based learning; students will work with different organizations and groups of people around Egypt, gaining real-life experience while leaving a lasting impact on their communities. Projects will span the industries of wastewater treatment, fish farming, recycling and waste management, among others.

In this course, we leverage the connections that AUC has forged over the years with communities and NGOs across Egypt to provide relevant, intriguing and challenging real-life based learning opportunities for our students,” Saleh said. “Through field trips and literature-based research, students will tackle real-world issues that are of great relevance to the environment, the local economy and human health.” 

Global Studies Category 

Winning Course: Sustainability in the Cracks of Urban Policy: Communities, Bureaucracies and Adaptation

Developed by: Noura Wahby and Sherif Goubran '14

This course explores and challenges the norms, regulations, policies and laws that inform unsustainable behaviors, from the overuse of plastic at AUC and in Egypt to the pricing of water in urban areas.

For example, although we are constantly reminded of the importance of recycling, the fact remains that not many people do,” Wahby and Goubran explained, pointing to both individual behavioral and systemic issues contributing to this problem.

“By tackling these underlying notions, we hope that we will build active citizens who better understand how sustainability works, the larger obstacles hindering more progressive policy-making, and what we can do ourselves to contribute to climate justice in Egypt,” they wrote. 

Focusing on solutions as well as problems, the course will also take into account how policy loopholes can be used for good. “It is this sense of critical reflection and activism-driven learning that we hope to explore in this AUC course,” they concluded.

The Core Curriculum Course Competition is responsible for a growing number of innovative courses offered at AUC, including a few new classes introduced last fall and this spring: The World of Naguib Mahfouz, Social Problems of the Middle East and Building for Underdeveloped Egyptian Communities.

With COP27 taking place in Sharm El Sheikh just months ago, AUC’s Climate Change Initiative is still going strong, producing  new research, projects and initiatives at a steady pace.

Explore all RCC competitions and winners here.

Learn more about AUC’s Climate Change Initiative.

New Faculty Book Spotlights Power of Women in Ancient Egypt

Research and Innovation
Devon Murray
February 8, 2023
Well-preserved hieroglyphs on the wall of a tomb in Luxor, Egypt
Photo by AXP Photography on Unsplash

FWomen in Ancient Egypt book coverrom Hatshepsut and Nefertiti to everyday women from the artisan village of Deir el-Medina, a new volume edited by Mariam Ayad ‘94, associate professor in AUC’s Department of Sociology, Egyptology and Anthropology, offers a comprehensive look into the autonomy of women in ancient Egyptian society.

Women in Ancient Egypt: Revisiting Power, Agency, and Autonomy (AUC Press, 2022) is the result of a 2019 conference held at AUC, during which Ayad and fellow scholars and Egyptologists discussed their research and findings on women in ancient Egypt across multiple domains such as law, portrayal in literature and access to power. Following the conference, Ayad began compiling and editing the book. 

“The volume provides an in-depth exploration of several facets of the female experience in ancient Egypt, examining their participation in the economic domain, their professional capacity and identity,” she explained. “Many of the papers in this volume are the result of recent doctoral research by their authors, so it really is hot-off-the-press, cutting-edge research.”

Sounds interesting? Join a virtual book talk with Ayad and contributors, hosted by AUC Press on March 15.

News@AUC sat down with Ayad to learn more about the book. 



Could you describe the book in a few sentences?

The volume is a collection of about 24 essays offering a corrective perspective on women in ancient Egypt. Each chapter delves into a specific case study, focusing on a particular period in time or historical figure. The essays show plenty of evidence for female agency in ancient Egypt, spanning  the earliest eras all the way to the Late Antique period.

What piqued your interest in this project?

My interest in ancient Egyptian women started early on; I did my dissertation and my first book on the women who held the title of God’s Wife of Amun. These were women of power who had religious access, who were single, as far as we know, and yet they were on par with the king in temple ritual. So there was already this idea that women had more access to power than they're typically given credit for. 

How did the idea for the conference and book come about?

The idea for the conference and subsequent book stemmed from my frustration with gender bias in Egyptology. Although today the majority of Egyptologists are female, it’s clear that many “facts” about women in ancient Egypt are not true and were actually tailored to the preconceived notions of white, middle-aged, male Western scholars.

Can you give us an example of this bias?

Powerful women like Queen Hatshepsut are seen as pawns in the hands of powerful men who operated behind the scenes. Again, there's no evidence for that at all, not really. 

Specifically, Hatshepsut is rumored to have had a sexual relationship with her chief architect, Senenmut, who was responsible for the building of her funerary temple at Deir al-Bahari; however, there is no evidence indicating that they were connected in that way. In fact, her claim to power relied on her appointment of several key officials — not just this man — who held religious, economic and military positions in various domains, and in this way, she had a finger in each pot.

Would you say that the misrepresentation of women’s power in history is common among scholars?

Yes. A major pet peeve of mine is the scholarly bias against evidence of female agency, whether it's in ancient Egypt or Coptic Egypt. Often it is assumed that women were powerless and couldn't do anything when in fact, in ancient Egypt, women owned and inherited property, initiated divorce and sat on city councils. 

You have an impressive background in Egyptology. Did you learn anything new while working on this book? 

I learned a lot from every single contribution. Whether it's how females chose to be represented in their funerary papyri or the significance of tattoos on the bodies of female mummies, there was something new for me in each chapter. 

Do you plan to use the book in your classes  at AUC?

Yes! In fact, I am teaching a course on women in ancient Egypt at AUC this spring, and I'm using almost all of the contributions in this book as part of the readings for the course. 

What else are you working on right now?

There are two main projects. The first is an entire volume that looks into the misrepresentation of ancient Egyptian women in previous scholarship, which I am co-authoring with Jaqueline Williamson and Sue Kelly. Rather than provide a history of women from scratch, our approach is to  examine/highlight case studies where evidence pertaining to women in ancient Egypt has been misrepresented. This will be published by the Liverpool University Press.

The second project is an anthology of texts in translation that deal with women in ancient Egypt. It would be a companion to Women in Ancient Egypt. I started work on this because I wanted my students to be able to read about ancient Egyptian women in their own words.

How has living in Egypt and teaching at AUC impacted your research and work in this field?

Teaching at AUC and living in Cairo has been really advantageous for my fieldwork. I can go to Luxor for a weekend to work on the tomb of a female scribe and come back in time to teach without having to deal with the burdensome logistics of international travel, jet lag and taking time off of work.