The Faculty of Humanities (FH) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), an avid actor in promoting social sciences in academia and the wider culture, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS). NDU President, Fr. Bechara Khoury, represented by the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Michel El Hayek, met with the ACSS Director General, Dr. Seteney Chami, for the signing in the presence of Vice Presidents, Deans, ACSS representatives, and others. Dr. May Akl, Assistant Professor at the Department of English and Translation, was the Master of Ceremony.
The ACSS is a regional advocate of the humanities, aiming to strengthen the role of research in the social sciences in the Arab world. The signing of the MoU is to initiate the implementation of the ACSS’s fellowship program, “A New Generation of Social Scientists in the Arab Region,” at NDU. In the context of the program, NDU will be assigning a Project Lead from the University to facilitate student applicants for the research project, in addition to providing the appropriate resources and campus facilities where needed.
NDU undergraduate and graduate student applicants—referred to as fellows—will be benefiting from innovative coursework as well as ample opportunities for training, mentorship, internships, and networking on a national and regional level. Over a two-year period, fellows will be immersed in a research environment that will enable them to mobilize their findings for social change, develop critical, novel, and nuanced approaches to societal issues, and instruct others in this exchange of ideas and execution. The ACSS program at the University will be overseen by designated NDU faculty, curating a strong network of participants to yield top-quality research output and ensure the success of the program’s implementation.
Dr. Maria Bou Zeid, Interim Dean of the FH, underlined the regional implications of the MoU: “This endorsement of the social sciences in the region is an opportunity to widen the research network and thus strengthen the transference of knowledge between countries.” Students, per Bou Zeid, are in the prime position to learn the skills and best practices necessary to drive social change forward. “This fellowship program will familiarize them with the intertextuality and nuances of reality, and they will be equipped with the tools to act accordingly.”
Director General Chami expressed her optimism of the potential of this collaboration, stating that the “formal agreement between us and NDU is a valuable one, as our shared values and perspectives are sure to bring us closer towards the common goal of promoting social sciences in the region.” Chami noted that the social sciences are now more necessary than ever, with academic fields and job markets increasingly adapting to an inter- and cross-disciplinary model of research and work. Encouraging young social scientists to push these boundaries is thus integral to tackling social issues on several levels.
As for how the ACSS program complements NDU students’ educational formation, El Hayek highlighted the University’s liberal arts model: courses defined as the Liberal Arts Curriculum (LAC) span an array of subjects in the social sciences and are the basis of each students’ education, irrespective of major. “The LAC ensures that our students are continuously engaging in interdisciplinary discussions as they progress through their core credits,” he explained. “Social sciences in particular are imperative to the cultivation of the individual, which is integral to our mission to foster informed and enlightened minds.”