Freedom, Innovation, Excellence
Al-Quds University was founded two decades ago as the only Palestinian University in Jerusalem, and upon the vision that only an educated and enlightened citizenry can safeguard the future of our nation. Indeed education has been the key to our perseverance as a people struggling for freedom and self-determination. Today as one of the top universities in Palestine we are able to boast 15 faculties and 29 institutes and centers, among them the first Medical School in Palestine, the first Research Center for Nanotechnology, the Institute of Jerusalem Studies that offers a unique MA on the ancient city and the innovative Al-Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences, which combines the best of American and Palestinian academic traditions.
I came first to Al-Quds University as a student more than 30 years ago. This university shaped my mind and my values and instilled in me a belief that education and freedom go hand-in-hand. I have served Al-Quds University as Director of Public Relations, as Vice- President of Administration and Finance, as Chair of the Political Science Department and most recently as Executive Vice-President. I am humbled by the honor to serve as president of a university that has given so much to me and to the Palestinian people.
In serving as president, I will build upon the outstanding legacy of Professor Sari Nusseibeh, who not only developed the university but also shaped its values. He led the university for 20 years in one of the most difficult phases of Palestinian history. We are beholden to his vision of a strong and independent institution that strives relentlessly as a leader in higher education in the region.
We have grown tremendously in the last twenty years and our students now number around 12,000 undergraduates and graduates combined. Underlying our great growth and development are a core set of values that I believe will continue to light our way for many years to come. Foremost among these is our belief in the sanctity of freedom, our unrelenting drive for innovation, and our commitment to excellence in academics and research.
Freedom is a thing whose value can only be known when it has been lost. Perhaps more than most we Palestinians have a true and deep appreciation for freedom. We have learned through great hardship, through loss, through struggle and pain what men can lose if they are not free. It is freedom that allows humans to become what we were truly born to be, to create new possibilities, to grow and flourish.
This is what Al-Quds University represents, the freedom to achieve all that one can. This is what we want it to mean to all our faculty, staff and students. It is for this reason that we strive to create an environment that fosters freedom of thought and expression.
Freedom of thought goes hand in hand with freedom of expression and one cannot flourish without the other. We encourage our students to express their views and to create debate on issues that are important to them. We are ever cognizant to provide them with a firm grounding in the rights and duties of any citizenry--respect for laws and regulations, the sanctity of the individual, and most importantly the limits of freedom.
The gift of freedom comes with great responsibility. We will encourage the members of our community to express their beliefs. At the same time, we will insist on a climate of mutual respect, where acts and threats of violence have no place.
Freedom allows us the space to innovate. Our spirit of Innovation gives us the courage to attempt what has not yet been achieved, to remain open to new ways of thinking and doing, to be in perpetual conversation with the constantly changing environment around us, both as the ever evolving challenges we face or the desire of our younger generations for change. Our drive for innovation has fueled our growth and development, but it is our commitment to the education of our students and academic excellence that have guided our energy and growth. We remain committed to the sacred hope for our future, our youth. Indeed our hopes for our homeland hinge upon them and the opportunities we can afford them to grow as individuals and citizens. It is for this reason that we provide them the most well rounded experience possible; grounded in a liberal arts education that fosters an appreciation for history, critical thinking, civic engagement, political thought, equality, the fine arts, the sanctity of the individual, social responsibility and justice, and most importantly faith in the future of our people and homeland.
We provide an atmosphere of freedom and encourage innovation so that we may achieve excellence in academics and research. We boast the highest research productivity per capita of any university in the Middle East and North Africa and we will strive to remain leaders in knowledge production. We are currently reforming our academic capacity in order to better prepare students to meet the needs of society and the private sector by giving them analytic and critical thinking tools and the ability to communicate effectively.
Allow me to highlight three initiatives that will further this aim. First, we have developed a course on “Language and Thinking” as part of the required curriculum for every undergraduate student at Al-Quds University. This course is designed to transition students into college level thinking and communication skills. We are increasing the English language proficiency requirements for all students in order to facilitate their access to research and exchange opportunities as well as prepare those who desire to pursue graduate work. Finally we will begin implementing the dual studies system this year that will combine theory in the classroom with experience in the world of work. Through connecting with employers we will combine academics with practical ability and ensure that our students are able to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom immediately towards achievement in their chosen field. Through this program, students will gain valuable practical skills, and Al-Quds University will be participating in the strengthening of the Palestinian economy.
There is no doubt the future will present us with new and difficult challenges, but I am confident that we will rise to meet them. I have the utmost faith in the faculty, staff and students. I look forward to working with all members of our university to reach our goals of excellence in education and the true realization of freedom.