Harvard Faculty Panel and Liberal Arts Education Workshop in Dubai at the Ismaili Centre
Dubai, UAE: Harvard Club of the UAE (HC UAE) and Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) hosted the first annual Liberal Arts Education Workshop at the Ismaili Centre Dubai.
Harvard Club of the UAE and Harvard South Asia Institute hosted the first annual Workshop on the Liberal Arts in Higher Education for leaders from universities across South Asia, the Middle East, and neighboring regions (Central and East Asia).
The faculty panel and workshop were sponsored and curated jointly by Harvard Club of the UAE, Harvard South Asia Institute, Harvard faculty, and . The aim of these innovative higher education initiatives included developing regional higher education capacity around critical issues in higher education as well as creating a cadre of strategically aligned higher education leaders within the MENASA and GCC. As one of the co-sponsors, Altamont Group’s objective is to develop higher education capacity building by curating and sponsoring similar initiatives in the future.
The workshop was launched the evening of August 18 with a moderated faculty panel featuring Harvard professors discussing: Creating a Pluralistic Disposition in a Multicultural World through Strategic Education.
130 guests, including workshop participants and members of the UAE community, had the opportunity to engage with Professor Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, and Professor Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education and Director of the International Education Policy program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The panel discussion focused on global and regional education concepts as well as best practices and was moderated by Sajida Hasan Shroff, President, Harvard Club of the UAE who commented, “Harvard Club of the UAE is committed to contributing to our community in the UAE by providing opportunities for alumni to engage as well as promote the academic work of our alma mater. This programme enables all these goals and is a privilege to engage in such dialogue with distinguished faculty from Harvard. Today’s discussions epitomize the values and focus areas of all stakeholders and works towards fulfilling His Highness Sheikh Maktoum’s vision for Dubai as a leading Knowledge Economy.
The first annual Harvard SAI Liberal Arts Education Workshop on Aug 19 and Aug 20, was a participatory and action oriented event, with teams (which included vice chancellors, directors, principals and deans from universities across South Asia, the Middle East, and neighboring regions (Central and East Asia)) participating in sessions facilitated by Harvard University faculty.
Professor Jorge I. Domínguez, Chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and faculty co-lead for the Workshop remarked, “Universities, as institutions that prepare future leadership of societies, have a unique role to play in addressing shared global challenges and advancing human well-being. It is important to educate students as global citizens who can understand, value and contribute to the common good.”
“We are delighted to partner with Harvard Club of the UAE and Harvard South Asia Institute for this important event, which is in line with the Ismaili Centre’s commitment to seeking knowledge and contributing to the betterment of humanity,” said Amiruddin Thanawalla, President of the Ismaili Community for the United Arab Emirates.
Distinguished Harvard Faculty facilitated the Workshop: Professor Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures and faculty co-lead for the South Asia Institute Liberal Arts Workshop; Professor Jorge I. Domínguez, Chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and faculty co-lead for the South Asia Institute Liberal Arts Workshop; Professor Jay Harris, Dean of Undergraduate Education; and Professor Fernando Reimers, Professor of the Practice in International Education and Director of the International Education Policy Program.
40 participants addressed some of the foundations of liberal arts education in the undergraduate curriculum and also participated in hands-on activities where they developed an institutional strategy to enhance the curriculum and undergraduate experience.
“Our team is going back to NYU Abu Dhabi with renewed inspiration and practical tools to improve the experience of our students so they develop the capabilities consistent with a liberal arts education” stated Kyle Farley, Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, NYU Abu Dhabi.
“We made it a point to invite faculty, administrators and leadership from diverse institutions as we expect these teams will play a collective leadership role in qualitative enhancements in the curriculum or other programmatic activities in undergraduate education. We are particularly pleased to have representation from UAE universities including AUS and NYU Abu Dhabhi,” Sajida Hasan Shroff explained.
Harvard South Asia Institute’s Executive Director, Meena Sonea Hewett elaborated, “In fact, we expect that participants will return to their institutions as a sort of task force, armed with actionable plans to advance liberal education initiatives. From our end, the Harvard South Asia Institute will endeavor to create a community of practitioners among the leaders of these change efforts across institutions.”
Over multiple years, the Harvard South Asia Institute hopes to convene these academic professionals and change agents for collaboration, knowledge sharing and to further strategic implementation of robust and vibrant liberal arts education in the region.
“The workshop in Dubai has been enormously useful as we have focused on the crucial issue of the value addition of Liberal Arts Education in Universities in South Asia and the Middle East. For me, the most important priority is that in an uncertain and fast changing world where graduates will change careers frequently and not remain limited to their original narrow disciplines, Liberal Arts Education teaches you the critical skills of lateral thinking, informed contextualization and being comfortable with diversity, ambiguity and nuance. So, one can do well -i.e. have a successful career- by doing good -being a socially and ethically conscious globally engaged tolerant human being,” stated Professor M. Omar Rahman, Vice Chancellor, Independent University, Bangladesh.
Held in partnership with the Harvard Club of the United Arab Emirates and the Ismaili Centre, Dubai; the Harvard SAI Liberal Arts Education Workshop was also co-sponsored by Harvard University Asia Center, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Pakistan, and Altamont Group.
It is anticipated that this momentum will be carried forward by Harvard Club of the UAE and UAE education partners to enable higher education capacity optimization in support of the UAE Leadership’s ambition to become a competitive knowledge economy by 2021.