AUS: Adaptive leaders with cutting-edge skills

Dr Sirin Tekinay, Dean of the College of Engineering, American University of Sharjah
Dr Sirin Tekinay, Dean of the College of Engineering, American University of Sharjah

American University of Sharjah has a proven track record of high employment reputation, writes Dr Sirin Tekinay, Dean of the College of Engineering

American University of Sharjah (AUS), as a comprehensive institution of higher education, not only directly supports the government's Vision 2021 to realise a 'First-rate Education System', but also caters to all others as education is the foundation of all others. We are proud to serve the objective of competitive knowledge economy, which is in the heart of the vision, and sustainable environment and infrastructure, and world-class healthcare.

A competitive knowledge economy is achieved through cultivating the necessary nurturing environment for innovation and entrepreneurship, in addition to research and development. As academics, we strive not only to produce knowledge but also to instil critical thinking, creativity, ambition, teamwork and responsibility in our students so that they become adaptive leaders with the skills they need for the rest of their lives to stay on the cutting edge of their changing fields, and face new challenges. The latter, of course, can be achieved only by lifelong learning.

In this regard, the university also provides outreach and community engagement in order for all to stay current and well-equipped to shoulder their share of socio-economic and environmental value generation. We deploy a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach to achieving the vision, as exemplified in our studies, research and development in biomedical engineering where the medical field meets engineering so that we raise the human resource well versed not only in anatomy and physiology, but also in health and risk management for society.

Furthermore, as a campus university, we practice what we promote by using our infrastructure as a living test bed for environmental solutions solving sustainability problems.

Transition to virtual platforms
The pandemic accelerated the evolution into a swift revolution at AUS, thanks to technological infrastructure already in place to do so. The challenge is to virtualise the experiential components of education, such as labs, team projects and impromptu interaction on campus. We are working on adding to the value of education by introducing experiences in the virtual environment that the physical environment does not have; i.e., turning the minuses of going online to advantages where possible. For example, we have turned design competitions into exercises in presentation skills, and pioneered the global virtual internship program offering more international internships than physically possible. Currently, we are working on virtual laboratories where our students will be able to experience immersive, interactive lab environments with simultaneous access to the theoretical underpinnings of their experiments that the physical lab cannot provide, or to industry-standard design tools.

Our students are digital natives; they are mostly comfortable with the virtual world. They are missing the campus, though. We are working on welcoming them slowly into a safe and virus-free campus, by re-engineering all learning and social spaces.

Carving opportunities
Career opportunities in the UAE include many government and global employers tightly woven into the economy of the world. This prompts the education system to generate the well-rounded human resource needed to face the challenges of the 21st century, i.e., individuals equipped with the ability to communicate clearly, adapt to new circumstances and work in teams. The importance assigned to education at all levels, and the investments made, are proving fruitful as the UAE is emerging as the leading country in the region. For instance, AUS alumni make us proud as our employment reputation surveys come back extremely positive year after year, and the percentage of our new graduates obtaining employment is very high.

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