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Adam Talib's Poetry Discovery

Ian Greer
April 17, 2024

Adam Talib (MA ’08), associate professor in AUC’s Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations and a specialist in Arabic poetry, discovered an entire diwan (collection) of poetry by Ibn al-Musalaya, who was famous for his poetry as well as eloquent letters written on behalf of three Abbasid caliphs (Muslim rulers). 

“This collection has never been researched or analyzed before,” said Talib. “I found the manuscript while looking through archives for another project altogether. The discovery of his diwan promises new perspectives on the history of the Abbasid dynasty, the life of a medieval man of letters and the nature of Arabic poetry itself.”

Ibn al-Musalaya’s diwan is a collection of praise poetry, a genre in which poets typically applaud — and legitimate — powerful patrons or rulers, following the rules and conventions of an elite poetic culture. Ibn al-Musalaya praised the most powerful statesmen of his age, the Caliphs he served; their rivals for symbolic power, the Seljuk Sultans; and the great Sunni revivalist Nizam al-Mulk (1018–1092). 

“The relationship between the Seljuk Sultan and the Abbasid Caliph has long been a subject of historical interest,” Talib says. “The Seljuks foreshadowed the future of the Muslim world, and Nizam al-Mulk is the source of dozens of influential ideas and institutions in Islamic civilization.”

Ibn al-Musalaya’s poetry describes celebrations, events and meetings between these historical characters, their comings and goings in Baghdad, as well as their negotiations and plans –– adding color and texture to otherwise dry history. “The value of Ibn al-Musalaya’s poetry is not purely artistic but also historical, providing some of the only sources available on the relationship between the most powerful men of the Abbasid era,” explains Talib.

Talib wants to link his work as a poetry specialist with that of historians during that period, bringing the details of Ibn al-Musalaya’s diwan to a wider readership. He hopes to publish a translation and an Arabic critical edition. In his view, poetry remains a critically underestimated historical source.

“My work is arguing for the primacy of poetry,” he states. “ In an elite culture like that of the Abbasids, poetry is a key, if not the key, idiom. Poetry of this kind was not primarily the expression of individual emotions. It was how elites negotiated symbolic power.”

New historical sources on the medieval era are few and far between. However, an AUC faculty member has uncovered a “never-before-studied” source on the courtly life of Abbasid Baghdad, told through the eyes of a vizier from Mosul in northern Iraq.


Cairo Through Fiction: Gretchen McCullough

March 25, 2024

Recently published, Shahrazad's Gift can be found here.


Q: Congratulations on the release! Can you tell us a bit about the book?

A: The book is a new edition of my collection of short stories called Shahrazad’s Tooth that was published here in Cairo in 2013 with a small grant from AUC. This edition includes two new stories, all inspired by my time living in Garden City, my neighbors and other people I met in Cairo.


Q: Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the stories?

A: The Empty Flat Upstairs was inspired by a neighbor I had from Japan who was convinced her upstairs neighbors were spying on her. In the story, the flat upstairs is officially empty; however, a bunch of people use it off the record so she’s always hearing noises upstairs. It makes her crazy, but whenever she asks the bawab (doorman) if someone’s living in that flat, he of course replies no. So there's this division between the official reality and her lived reality. Each story explores different people and their interactions, particularly the kind of surreal or absurd quality that cross-cultural differences can take on.


Q: If you had to pick like three words to describe the book, what would you choose?

A: I would say surreal, goofy and quirky.


Q: What does the process of inspiration look like for you?

A: It’s a little like a fishing rod; you don't know what you're looking for until you find it. I always tell students that you have to be alert because you never know what's going to be interesting. It’s sort of inexplicable. Some things take root, and others don't. Sometimes you don’t know why something initially interests you, it's not like journalism– Imagination is an essential element of the process.


Q: Once you’re inspired, what do you do?

A: Every project is different. Even once you have the idea, you often aren't sure what you're where you're going to go with it. For me, it often involves a lot of research, and I write lots and lots of notes. If I’m working on a novel, I’ll make a loose plan for the structure. You have to be flexible enough to go whichever direction the story flows authentically, adapting as you go.


Q: What makes the upcoming collection exciting or meaningful to you as the author?

A: Well, it was initially published locally and I'm excited that the collection will now reach a bigger audience. The American publisher is a small independent press called Cune that publishes books about the Middle East who are based in Seattle. They’re also making a Kindle version of it, and I'm really glad that the stories will be given another shelf life. Cune Press published my novel, Confessions of a Knight Errant, in 2022, which is partly set in Egypt during the 2011 uprising; partly set in Texas. 


Q: How has living in Cairo affected your writing?

A: When I came in 2000, I started from scratch learning Arabic, and I think learning it has affected my writing. Some of the inspirations for my work were stories that were told to me by Egyptians in Arabic, which influenced my own storytelling. The writing I did about Texas feels like another life, what I write here has a very different flavor.


Q: Do you face challenges as an American writer writing in and about Egypt? If so, what are they?

A: A constant question is how to portray another culture in a way that's respectful. It’s complicated and challenging, especially when writing from the perspective of an Egyptian character. But there are also lots of funny things that happen in cross-cultural interactions, and that's one of the things that I like to explore in my books– these kinds of cultural snafus where tensions, misunderstandings and differences show up. Things get lost in translation, in far more than just a linguistic sense.


Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999.

Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bi-lingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories from Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013. Confessions of a Knight Errant, a novel, was published by Cune Press, 2022. 

Currently, she is a senior instructor in AUC’s Department of Rhetoric and Composition.

Looking at cross-cultural interactions through the lens of fiction, the new collection Shahrazad's Gift by Gretchen McCullough dives into the perspectives of her characters, exploring their inner worlds, tensions with their neighbors and navigation of the absurdities of everyday life. 


AUC at Cairo Design Week

Em Mills
March 20, 2024

An exciting convergence of the Egyptian design industry, Cairo Design Week celebrated artists through events, competitions and dynamic exhibitions. AUC alumni stood out across multiple categories, recognized for their talents in digital media, illustration, typography, visual communication and UI/UX design, and an open studio exhibition by Ghalia Elsrakbi, associate professor of practice in the Department of the Arts, highlighted students' educational journey at AUC. In addition, speakers from AUC’s Rare Books Library gave exciting and immersive talks in the Citadel of Cairo, culminating in a walking tour. 

Alumni Project Highlights

Alumni were honored across multiple categories, showcasing their strengths through innovative, eye-catching designs. 

Two hands point to cards showing calming circular graphics


Emote is a tool for emotional communication in the form of a projective therapy kit for therapists to use during their sessions. Emote eases the journey through each session, not just for the client, but also the therapist. The cards have abstract compositions that allow one to subjectively project and layer their emotions, to help ease communication barriers.

Jasmine Ramzy ’23, graphic design

Winner of the ‘Visual Communication Design’ category, in the ‘Apps & UI-UX’ subcategory


Magazine spread with an illustration of a woman posing in a dress

Once Upon an Archive

Once Upon an Archive is a design project that attempts to explore and investigate the relationship between the world of fashion and the sociopolitical changes of the 20th century. Through delving into the archives of the iconic magazines; Al Musawwar (1924), Misr-el-hadithah El Musawara (1927), Al-Kawakib (1932), Akher Saa (1934), and Bint Al Nil (1945), visuals were collected covering the years 1899 until 1952 and a timeline of political events was created in correspondence to the collected timeline of fashion-related visuals. The project allows viewers to engage in an immersive experience through flipping through a publication detailing the timeline of events while simultaneously seeing the projected animations of the collected visuals. Through this project I aim to experiment with different ways in which archival material can be presented.  

Hager Gamal El Attar ’23, graphic design and integrated marketing communication

Winner of the ‘Visual Communication Design’ category, in the ‘Digital Media’ subcategory


Graphic showing a repeating angular pattern


Namat is an Arabic display typeface. The typeface is meant to reflect characteristics of Islamic geometric patterns, and could be used for cultural events, festivals, display, or creating an identity for a space like a museum. Alongside it's basis in components drawn from Islamic art, I have also given the typeface modern aspects. Namat is slanted, modern, has a 3D effect, and has a great contrast. 

Marina Nader Asham ’22, graphic design with a minor in architecture

Honorable Mention, Typography 


Logo reading Azza Fahmy in latin letters and Arabic script

Azza Fahmy | Arabic Logo Adaptation

In 2020, I was commissioned by Azza Fahmy, a renowned Egyptian jewelry design house that has been passionately translating cultures into art since 1969, to create an Arabic type logo that complements their existing Latin type logo. The objective was to develop a type adaptation logo, ensuring that the Arabic type logo captures the essence and features of the Latin letterforms, resulting in a harmonious type-matching logo. The project involved a deep understanding of both Latin and Arabic scripts, meticulous great attention to detail, and a profound appreciation for the cultural context behind each script. By respecting the unique characteristics of each script while skillfully integrating their shared features, the result was a balanced bilingual logotype.

Sarah Shebl ’17, double major in graphic design and communication and media arts  

Winner of the ‘Visual Communication Design’ category, in the ‘Typography’ subcategory


Faculty Advisers

Bahia Shehab (MA '09), professor of practice in the Department of the Arts, as well as Jochen Braun and Ghalia Elsrakbi, associate professors of practice in the Department of the Arts, served as faculty advisers for alumni participating in the event.

I'm particularly proud and pleased that our students who won and were featured are receiving recognition. Design competitions are relatively scarce in Egypt, and our students sometimes hesitate to participate. I hope that the success of these students will inspire others to participate in the future. Notably, all the winning projects address locally relevant topics, such as designing for social impact, sustainability, health, education or reimagining cultural heritage. This aligns with our program's philosophy of teaching design. We consider it our duty to contribute to the discourse on what design can and should achieve in Egypt and the region. The jury's choices and the recognition our students received validate this approach. -Jochen Braun


Alumni pose with various awards at Cairo Design Week

Marina Nader Asham, Hager Elattar, Jasmine Ramzy, Habiba Tarek Abouseif, Maryam Mohsen Al-Najjar and Sarah Khaled Shebl


Alumni Honored

Architecture Competition Win

Man in a black jacket and blue jeans presents in front of a conference background

The only AUC representative at the Cairo Design Week Architecture Competition, architecture senior Nayer Rizkallah won first prize alongside his team for designing a floating city to accommodate refugees. Focusing on preserving and reclaiming heritage, the team integrated traditional elements of Palestinian architectural designs into the project to prioritize both physical safety and cultural resilience.

Open Studio Exhibition 


Person stands looking at a colorful wall filled with bright graphic art

The Graphic Design Open Studio Exhibition was displayed in the Margo Veillon, Future, Legacy and Ewart galleries in AUC Tahrir Square. 

"The exhibition aims to give a comprehensive idea of the program's educational vision regarding graphic design practices by highlighting students' educational journey over four years." - Ghalia Elsrakbi


People standing around a gallery with colorful images displayed

Ghalia Elsrakbi, associate professor of practice; in the Department of the Arts; Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman; President Ahmad Dallal; Eman Morga; assistant director for special projects  in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library; and Stephen Urgola, University archivist and director of AUC records management, at the Open Studio Exhibition. Students researched a variety of topics, supported by the Rare Books and Special Collections Library, before embarking on their exhibition projects

Talks by the Rare Books and Special Collections Library


rare books exhibition display in cairo design week

"Seat of the Throne," travelers' accounts printed on ceramics, part of AUC's Rare Books and Special Collections Library presentation at the Citadel during Cairo Design Week.

History came to life at the Citadel of Cairo through the expertise of speakers Waleed Arafa, Ola Seif, Balsam Abdul-Rahman, Menna El Mahy, and Eman Morgan from AUC’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library. The talk was followed by a walking tour led by renowned historian Seif El Rashidi around a few select monuments within the Citadel.


Beyond Refuge: Graduate Diploma Combines Refugee Studies, Psychology

Honey ElMoghazi
March 13, 2024

AUC is relaunching the graduate diploma, Psychosocial Interventions for Forced Migrants and Refugees, set to begin in Fall 2024.

This interdisciplinary program combines refugee studies and psychology, with a specific emphasis on addressing mental health issues faced by forcibly displaced individuals. Students will have the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience through an internship with an NGO that works directly with refugees.

“AUC has the oldest and one of the few centers in the region dedicated to migration and refugee studies, making it well positioned to offer this program,” said Maysa Ayoub ‘02, adjunct faculty and associate director of CMRS. “Egypt hosts a significant number of forced migrants and refugees, reaffirming the importance of tackling the mental health challenges faced by these vulnerable populations.”

From Syria to Ukraine, forged migration is a global issue that has compounded in recent years. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 110 million in 2023 and is projected to rise to 130 million in 2024. This includes refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons and other people in need of international protection. Throughout their displacement journey, these individuals face numerous hardships that can be traumatic and affect their mental health.

“Forced migrants often experience traumatic events such as war and violence, and adapting to new environments in foreign countries who may not welcome them, adds to their stress,” said Carie Forden, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology.

Research has shown that rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are significantly higher among refugee populations compared to the general population. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD among refugees is around 31%, compared to 4% in the general population, while the prevalence of depression is 32% among refugees, compared to 12% in the general population.

“Psychosocial interventions play a crucial role in supporting these individuals and can include educational programs, community support and psychotherapeutic treatment to promote social inclusion and integration,” said Forden. “The diploma will equip graduates with the skills they need to develop and implement these interventions.” 

The diploma aims to foster a holistic approach to addressing forced displacement, focusing on finding solutions at the individual, family, and societal levels while considering the diverse cultural contexts involved. 

“Graduates of this diploma will be able to think critically and analytically about migration and refugee issues as well as plan, manage and implement comprehensive, culturally sensitive interventions that alleviate –– or at least minimize –– the psychosocial issues involved,” Ayoub said, adding that diploma graduates are qualified to work in local and global refugee organizations. “They will learn to develop effective strategies that have a positive impact on the psychosocial well-being and resilience of refugees, whether adults or children, without discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, religion or capacities.”


Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language: Dalal Abo El Seoud

Honey ElMoghazi
February 21, 2024

1. What are the common challenges that non-native speakers of Arabic face when studying the language?

Students studying the Arabic language face several difficulties, including pronunciation and the Arabic script itself, which differs significantly from the Roman alphabet. The complexity of Arabic grammar, vast vocabulary, and reading comprehension can be daunting. In addition, Diglossia, the coexistence of Modern Standard Arabic and regional dialects, can create communication difficulties. Understanding the cultural and historical context linked to Arabic can also be time consuming.  


2. What do you believe motivates non-Arabic speakers to learn the language?

Some are motivated by cultural interest, seeking to understand the rich tapestry of Arabic culture. Others are compelled by religious reasons, with many Muslims worldwide studying it for a more profound connection to their faith. Some are also drawn to it for professional and academic opportunities –– whether travel, communication, humanitarian efforts or personal relationships.


3.What is the best way to teach Arabic to non-native speakers?

The ideal teaching approach should be eclectic and student-centered, creating an enjoyable learning environment through interactive games and engaging activities. It should focus on clear learning outcomes for each lesson and put together multiple assessment measures to ensure student comprehension and progress. 


4. What motivated you to edit Challenges in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language?  

My profound passion for the Arabic language and strong desire to share its beauty and significance with others. I want to create a valuable resource that fills a noticeable gap in the existing TAFL literature. By offering practical insights and guidance, I hope to not only contribute to the field of language education but also promote cross-cultural understanding. 


5. What was the most challenging part?

Ensuring grammar and style consistency, preserving the author’s voice, handling citations, managing deadlines and providing constructive feedback to authors.


6. What’s the most valuable benefit you gained from editing this book?

This experience has not only deepened my knowledge but also expanded my professional network. I derived benefit and inspiration from each and every chapter. Whether it was insights into educational methods, discussions on cultural sensitivity, examinations of emerging trends or nuanced approaches to assessments, every chapter offered valuable perspectives that deepened my appreciation of the subject matter. It was truly a holistic journey of learning, and the synergy of all these facets within the book left a profound impact on me. 


7. What can readers expect to gain from the book?

The book can highlight some of the challenges that teachers face when teaching Arabic as a second language and offer practical solutions and effective strategies to address them. It can provide insights into instructional techniques, materials, and activities that have proven successful in Arabic language classrooms. It can also inspire further research and academic advancement in understanding the challenges and effective practices in teaching Arabic. In addition to that, researchers and scholars can benefit from the book as a resource for literature reviews, theoretical frameworks, and ideas for future research directions.


8. What about the instructors featured in the book?

All of them have extensive experience in teaching students of Arabic as a foreign language over an extended period. Their collective wisdom and years of dedicated teaching have equipped them with a profound understanding of the challenges and nuances that non-native students encounter. Their longstanding commitment to the field makes their contributions to this book particularly insightful. 


9. What advice would you give other TAFL instructors and teachers-in-training?

Opting for continuous engagement in ongoing research and new teaching methodologies to implement in the classroom, as well as being proactive in creating diversified assessment techniques that would provide students with hands-on learning experiences. This commitment to staying abreast of the latest educational advancements not only maintains their teaching dynamic but also enriches the educational journey of their students. 

Effective methods of teaching Arabic as a foreign language (TAFL) incorporate both communication and creativity to address the complexities of the Arabic language. Exploring this topic, Dalal Abo El Seoud, senior instructor II in the Department of Arabic Language Instruction, most recently edited the newly released book, Challenges in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (AUC Press, 2024), which brings together the expertise of 18 TAFL professionals.

We spoke with Abou El Seoud to learn more about the challenges that TAFL instructors and students face, her motivation for editing the book and what she hopes readers will take away from it. 


Egypt's First Experimental Psychology Laboratory

February 7, 2024

With a specialization in cognitive science, Jacquelyn Berry, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology has launched Egypt’s first experimental psychology laboratory at AUC, where students, faculty and staff study attention, perception, memory, learning and language using computer- and eye-tracking technology. 

“When people think of psychology, they tend to focus on everything that goes wrong with the brain –– depression, anxiety and typical disorders –– that they take for granted everything that goes right like all of the amazing things we do every day, from split-second decisions when driving a car or handling multiple tasks at once,” says Berry. “Our brain is juggling so much information, and we only notice when things go wrong because the brain gets it right 99% of the time.” That’s why visual illusions and 3D movies are so much fun because, somehow, we can trick this amazingly reliable organ.” 

Having launched just last year, the lab has already been home to half a dozen studies and hosted more than 100 experimental participants. Berry has approximately one dozen research assistants in the lab at any given semester, including graduate and undergraduate students. “Everyone gets enriched,” Berry explains. “Students get hands-on experience conducting research, participants usually get some bonus credit towards their classes and anyone involved is exposed to the unique research we are doing at AUC. 

With help from the lab’s assistants and collaborating with other Egyptian universities, Berry organized the inaugural Cognitive Screening and Cognitive Interventions in Egypt conference, which was held at AUC in Fall 2023 and focused on training Egypt-based medical professionals, from psychologists to neurologists, in cognitive screening and neuropsychological intervention strategies. The conference featured speakers from four different continents, including Dr. Nasser Loza, president of the World Federation for Mental Health, and Dr. Ziad Nasreddine, president of MoCA Cognition, Health Tech who developed the test used by the White House to assess mental fitness. “The conference examined how we can modify the tests conducted in Western populations for the Egyptian population; we’re getting there,” says Berry,

Eyes as Windows to the Soul

Berry’s research approach is unique as she employs video games to observe cognitive functions through computer-based tasks and the video game Tetris. The game she employs in her research collects more than 100 different underlying metrics to measure human performance, including eye-tracking. 

First joining AUC as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar in 2019, Berry researched Arabic-English biliteracy and how this affects switching between different technology interfaces. “Now we're looking at AI and how that can shorten the learning curve, where people go from not knowing how to do something to being an expert at it and all the different stages in between. My research examines if we can jump that curve a little bit with the help of AI learning tools. That's what I've been doing with Tetris.”

But aren’t video games bad for children? Berry has a different argument. 

“Certain types of video games enhance cognitive function, specifically first-person shooters because they boost attention. Something happens when you motivate people toward a goal,” she says. “Understandably, people worry about violence in video games, but kids do get smarter and their attention gets better. There is even evidence that ADHD can be treated using video games and Tetris is known to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, everything has to be in moderation.” 

With the eye-tracking technology at AUC’s experimental psychology lab, Berry can closely trace what's happening in the brain from an executive function perspective. 

“Take Arabic-English speakers, for example,” says Berry. “If you’re a native Arabic speaker and you're speaking to me in English, you're actively suppressing Arabic because you know that I'm not going to understand it very well. But if you go home and spend time with, say, your grandparents, you're going to suppress all the English that you use. That ability to suppress one language and use the other is what we call executive function, and it affects the way we process information and manage everything we do. People with high executive function are better at all tasks related to inhibiting things they don't need right now. It’s also protection against dementia. So bilingual speakers are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease when they get older.”

The eye-tracking technology at the lab provides other unique insights. “By looking at someone's pupils, you can see how much cognitive load they're under,” Berry explains. “If an expert sees something they have experience with, their pupils aren't going to dilate as much as someone new at it. The eyes are indeed the windows to the soul.”

Moving forward, Berry hopes that the lab will draw in people of all ages for testing. “My goal is to increase our sample population so we can better understand cognitive functions across age groups,” she says. “I want to continue with high-level eye-tracking research to enhance our baseline tests on cognitive functions, such as the types of tests we use to uncover dementia and Alzheimer's; and take our AI research to the next level to understand how people learn new tasks, both in Tetris and outside of Tetris.”

Want to get involved? Send an email to danaafifi@aucegypt.edu.



Bernard O'Kane Wins Iran's Book of the Year Award

Dalia Al Nimr
February 5, 2024

Bernard O'Kane, professor of Islamic art and architecture, received Iran's World Book of the Year Award –– the most prestigious in the country –– for his rich and exquisitely photographed volume, Studies in Persian Architecture (2021). 

O'Kane received the same award in 2004 for his book, Early Persian Painting: Kalila and Dimna Manuscripts of the Late Fourteenth Century (2003).

“I’m delighted to receive the award again,” said O’Kane. “The first was for a book on Persian manuscript paintings; this is on a very different aspect of my research, Persian architectural history.”

Through Studies in Persian Architecture, O'Kane presents 300 photographs, mostly his own, previously unpublished in color and 25 of his articles dissecting Persian monuments as well as prime features of Iranian architecture. 

“The collected article series of Edinburgh University Press (this is one of three published simultaneously) gave me a chance to revise previously published articles and to update them by substituting color photos of earlier black and white ones. We also added an index to each one, making it much more user-friendly,” explained O’Kane.

The book examines the monuments of the Greater Persian world, from Iraqi to Chinese borders, including buildings from historic periods that have rarely been studied by scholars. Each monument is placed within its relevant social and political context, with an analysis of historiography, tilework, development of the domes of Iranian mosques and more. Buildings include those of the main medieval dynasties –– the Seljuqs, Ilkhanids and Timurids –– in addition to previously neglected ones, such as Uzbek monuments in Afghanistan and those of the Chaghatai, Muzaffarid, Kartid and Jalayirid dynasties.

“Persia has a particularly rich architectural heritage with the monuments, unlike Egypt, not being concentrated in one capital city but spread out to include all of Iran’s neighbors,” said O’Kane, highlighting his interest in Persian architecture. “The art of tilework was continuously developed there from the 12th century onward, and their use of bright but carefully controlled tiled facades is a joy to behold.” 

A prolific author, avid photographer and AUC faculty member for the past 44 years, O’Kane has published numerous books, most recently Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship (2019) and The Mosques of Egypt (2017).  

Why Islamic art and architecture? “The vast range of Islamic architecture, from Andalusia to Indonesia, is both a delight and a challenge,” said O’Kane. “The centrality of the hajj meant opportunities for patrons and craftsmen to travel, and it is fascinating to see how this played out in architectural styles of sometimes widely separated areas.”


Sexual Harassment Education: How Different Are We?

Em Mills
February 5, 2024

Estimated to affect more than 90% of Egyptian women and 1 in 3 women worldwide, sexual harassment is an experience that an unconscionable amount of people share. A global issue, Jillian Campana, theatre professor and associate dean for undergraduate studies at AUC’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, explores how sexual violence is addressed in Egypt and the United States in order to better understand effective education, support systems and forms of redress.

Addressing sexual violence in both countries highlights challenges that intersect cross-culturally. “The question we tackled was, ‘How different are we?’ and the answer we arrived at was ‘Not very different at all,’' says Campana. “Our cultures are very distinct, but the reasons why people commit crimes of sexual violence and the ways that they’re addressed are incredibly similar. They may appear different because of culture and legislation, but the dynamics are parallel.”

Campana's work in both the United States and Egypt has had an impact on and off stage, exploring using performance to help individuals process and heal from trauma. Her projects have included a 12-year research effort helping brain injury survivors rewire neural pathways via movement and speech exercises, working with U.S. military veterans to use playwriting to navigate post-traumatic stress disorder, and a creative research project in India and the Philippines helping survivors of sexual trafficking build skills for the workplace. Her work as a professor at the University of Montana included using theatre as a tool for anti-sexual harassment training, and she was a faculty mentor to actress Lily Gladstone, winner of a Golden Globe Award, as she studied theatre and social justice.

Recently honored by Times Higher Education for the Msh Zanbik project, Professor Jillian Campana examines cross-cultural differences in sexual harassment education, focusing on Egypt and the United States, and the importance of theatre as a powerful medium to invoke change and heal from trauma.

A woman in a green shirt works with students onstage

The Role of Context

When it comes to education and effectively addressing sexual violence, the importance of cultural context and language can’t be overstated.

“There’s this very powerful play called The Wolves by American playwright Sarah DeLappe about a female college soccer team navigating teen girlhood, including experiences with sexual violence. I first thought about performing this show at AUC. But it doesn't work at all — nothing that happens in that play fits our context,” Campana says. 

While trying to navigate how they could adjust The Wolves to resonate with AUC, Campana and her students quickly realized that it wouldn’t work to adapt something created for a completely different environment and culture. Unable to find an alternative, it became clear there was a gap that needed to be addressed. “There were very limited resources on sexual violence: There’s a high-profile film called 678 and a few educational videos made for workplaces, but overall, there’s a pronounced lack of nuanced information, especially in Arabic,” Campana says.

This led to the formation of Msh Zanbik, a research project led by Campana and Dina Amin ‘84, associate professor and director of the theatre program, that culminated in a collection of short plays written by students. Wrestling with topics surrounding sexual violence grounded in an Egyptian context, the plays were produced in both Arabic and English and performed at AUC. 

The Effect of Msh Zanbik

The plays hold the potential for a wide impact: released royalty-free, Campana hopes they will be dispersed, examined, discussed, reimagined and tailored to suit whatever context they’re performed in. 

“Through being involved with Msh Zanbik, students are identifying and examining dynamics around sexual violence in a way that helps them prepare for encountering these situations,” Campana says. 

A woman in a brown jacket works with students with scripts outdoors

The involvement of students — placing the definitions and conversations in their hands — is crucial in localizing resources and making anti-sexual violence initiatives effective. “You can make students participate in hegemonic anti-sexual violence trainings, but it’s proven to be inneffective,” Campana says. “A lot of the training isn’t relevant to their context because it’s not coming from the students themselves who have the lived experience and are the experts on what it looks like in their communities. They need to be supported in defining the problem themselves.”

With this goal in mind, Campana also worked with students and the Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX Director Reem El-Mograby ‘09 to produce three short videos in Arabic and English to be used by the Office of Institutional Equity as tools for anti-sexual harassment training. The videos involved students, alumni, staff and faculty, focusing on educating students about defining sexual harassment, making a difference in their communities and empowering them to report issues. The videos also seek to capture some of the more subtle forms of sexual harassment like staring, seemingly friendly and casual touch and second hand comments. Most students will see these videos as part of their freshman year orientation, followed by smaller group discussions to contextualize the scenarios. 

"I am very proud that AUC has taken the lead in this area. There is not a single college or university that is immune to this issue and it takes courage to lead this conversation and to lead it in this region," Campana adds.

A woman presents in front of a dark background wearing a suit

International Recognition

Msh Zanbik was awarded the Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences award from Times Higher Education, a feat which, for Campana, highlights the University’s role as a leader in the region when it comes to teaching about sexual violence. “It also reinforces the arts as a powerful medium to invoke change and theatre as an opportunity to rehearse for reality. We can practice behaviors, ways of thinking and language in what is a bit of a liminal space and eventually go out into the real world and apply what we’ve learned there,” Campana says.

Campana hopes that with time and projects like Msh Zanbik, more people in Egypt and beyond will be informed and empowered when it comes to sexual violence, helping to mitigate social barriers to accessing institutional support that regulations can’t address, like stigma and retaliation.

“Theatre is a community event, and these conversations need to be happening publicly,” Campana says. “It’s important for everyone to get involved however they can and become the experts on addressing this in their own context and community.”

To seek support regarding or report experiences of sexual harassment and assault on campus, visit the Office of Institutional Equity's webpage.


Public School Initiative Honored by Ministry of Education

January 16, 2024


On December 31st, 2023, the Ministry of Education celebrated the success of the School University Partnership (SUP) at the Abou El Enein school in New Cairo. The Minister of Education expressed gratitude to AUC for their pivotal role in the initiative's success, and announced plans to integrate SUP into the national strategic plan, extending its reach across all Egyptian educational directorates.

Initiated by the Middle East Institute for Higher Education, the SUP project involved the collaboration of undergraduate and graduate students, AUC faculty from various disciplines, and government school teachers and pupils in order to leave a lasting impact on nine neighboring government schools. Throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2023, the team dedicated their efforts to developing student citizenship, leadership and participation, supporting sustainable development in schools, and opening doors for digital literacy.

The event, attended by the entire community-based learning team, featured Malak Zaalouk, who provided a historical background of the initiative. School pupils presented their accounts of the transformative impact SUP had on their schools. As a result of this successful collaboration, the Minister of Education recognized the program's potential to shape the future of education in Egypt.

Read more about the SUP initiative in AUCToday

Header photo (taken by Ahmad El Nemr): A new outreach initiative from AUC’s Middle East Institute of Higher Education is creating school-university partnerships that promote community engagement, empower public school students and foster sustainable development.


A group of participants at the SUP honoring event
SUP participants pose with Ministry officials at the event held at Abou El Enein school.



A Digital Symphony

David Rafferty
January 16, 2023

Hear from David Rafferty, associate professor of practice in music technology, about AUC's first laptop ensemble, where students explored the intersections between music and technology. Participating in this ensemble exposed students to the creative potential of laptops in music making, culminating in an innovative live performance.

Why a Laptop Ensemble?

The laptop ensemble was motivated by the many explorations integrating computers with  music. The idea of working on a laptop collective is not a new concept in music programs. These creative experiments had their origins in the early 2000s in institutes like Princeton and Stanford, where students and professors created laptop orchestras like the Princeton Laptop Orchestra and the Stanford Laptop Orchestra. 

These days, it is generally expected that music students are somehow working with computers, programming in some environment and experimenting with the technologies at their fingertips. So establishing a laptop ensemble at AUC is intended to expose students to what most institutes already have implemented for years. Why laptops? Laptops and mobile devices are ubiquitous, and it is logical to get a deeper understanding of our relationship with these portable devices. These are powerful tools and have extreme potential for new areas of creative work.

Creating the Ensemble

The Laptop Ensemble was not a course, but an ensemble, designed to meet weekly and build several concepts to be performed at the end of the semester. In our weekly meetings, the students were introduced to various technologies that are commonly used in this field. The laptop ensemble this semester was an ‘onboarding’  into real-time signal processing in performance practice rather than a direct hands-on experience to the programming environment itself. This was due in part because the foundation to learn interactive programming environments would require a deeper dive – a full semester dedicated just to programming with a visual programming environment like Max – built in to Ableton Live – or any of their counterparts (i.e. PureData, Supercollider, Processing, OpenFrameworks, etc.). In our case the students were exposed to the various technical possibilities using Max. Throughout the semester, we examined several collective and individual projects to work on. It was more of a dialogue and experimental process where we discussed technicalities, hit some instruments, and then I would take the concept and program a project for the student to perform with Max. The hope was to motivate students to accept that the world is changing rapidly and these devices, programming environments, and software they always work with can open a world of unique creative opportunities – something I strongly encourage them to embrace in their own pursuits.

In this ensemble, the most interesting part of teaching and working on the projects was the challenging problems that students presented. During the experimental phase, we discussed ideas and established a framework for the performance by students interacting with the computer. Then using the Max programming environment, I would take these concepts and program the complex system. In each project, the problems were unique, whether it was managing wireless accelerometer data as a trigger for samples, finding the most accurate pitch detection function or managing the complexities of pitch-shifting, sampling and mapping them to an eight-channel audio system. These were challenging ideas that kept the work refreshing – frustrating and rewarding – which is always a healthy experience. 

Final Thoughts

Working with computers in a creative space is finicky and working with programming environments and devices is not without challenges. During the dress rehearsal, we had a device behaving erratically for the first time –– something that never happened once during the prototyping phase. I think it may have come as a surprise to the students, but I reminded them throughout the semester that “there are always problems”. Troubleshooting during times of pressure is an essential skill in my field, and we discussed collectively and resolved the issue. In the end, we found a workable solution, not ideal, but kept a flow to our concert. Engagement in a process is a powerful learning experience from the beginning of the semester until the intense last moments to complete the task. For me, this is a key takeaway from working on a project of this nature, constantly being engaged in the “doing” and less on the chatter.