The Faculty of Business Administration and Economics (FBAE) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) celebrated its accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) on Tuesday, April 18 with special guest speaker, Nobel Laureate Sir Richard Roberts. After securing this prestigious accreditation, the Faculty held the ceremony titled “Elevating Excellence,” to honor all those who made this accreditation possible. Convening at the Main Campus’ Bechara El Rahi Theater, key attendees included the Superior General of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Abbot Pierre Najem, NDU President, Fr. Bechara Khoury, Vice President for Administration and Finance (VPFA), Abbot Semaan Abou Abdou, Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Michel El Hayek, Vice President for University Advancement (VPUA), Dr. Antoine Farhat, Chair of the NDU Board of Trustees, Dr. Ziyad Baroud, the Minister of Education and Higher Education, H.E. Mr. Abbas Halabi, represented by the Director General of Higher Education, Dr. Mazen El Khatib, vice presidents, university presidents, deans, faculty, students, religious representatives, and prominent figures from various fields. The event was moderated by NDU’s Director of Public Affairs and Protocol, Mr. Majed Bou Hadir.
The ceremony began with the Lebanese National Anthem, followed by a harpsichord performance of Bach’s Prelude in C Major by Ms. Cecile Abou Mrad. The FBAE Dean, Dr. Viviane Naimy, then delivered the opening address. Naimy briefly discussed the ongoing difficulties in the country, from economic to social, and highlighted that the Faculty's achievement of receiving AACSB accreditation amidst such circumstances could be attributed to three key factors: agility, perseverance, and passion.
“Agility has been our key to survival throughout this journey,” said Naimy. The Faculty had faced the unfortunate departure of several faculty members due to the economic crisis. The FBAE acted quickly, though: “With swift action and innovative thinking, we redesigned our entire course offering and offset the gaps created by the sudden departure of our faculty and maintained AACSB's stringent requirements for faculty qualifications,” said the Dean. The unforeseen obstacles were certainly a challenge, but the Faculty compromised neither its integrity nor its determination to provide the best education possible to its students, particularly in the middle of the accreditation process.
Despite the challenging circumstances, the Faculty not only sustained its academic pursuits but also expanded them. "Perseverance has been our guiding star," stated Naimy. The FBAE achieved several milestones, such as “increasing all their AACSB faculty qualification ratios to new heights and designing a unique, robust, and exemplary Assurance of Learning system that received praise from the AACSB peer review team.” Additionally, the quality of research output was at its peak.
Naimy credited all this success to the passion at the heart of the Faculty. “Passion has been the driving force behind our endeavors,” she said. “We love what we do. We love our students. We are committed to our institution. This passion is what keeps us fulfilled in the face of challenges.” The FBAE’s achievements are undeniable, brought forth by a spirit that kept its sails steady against the storm. In light of these accomplishments, Naimy concluded her speech: “Let us continue to strive for excellence, fueled by our dreams, passion, perseverance, and agility. With these guiding principles, we can shape a brighter future for our students, and our beloved country.”
VPAA El Hayek spoke next about the concerted efforts of the Faculty and University in achieving this significant milestone of AACSB certification. “We have worked tirelessly over the years to cultivate a culture of excellence in our institution,” he said. The VPAA relayed the history of NDU’s accreditation processes, on the institutional, faculty, and programmatic levels, outlining the University’s dedication to progress and excellence. “Accreditation is not just a badge of honor,” said El Hayek. “It is an assurance to our students, their families, and our community that we are committed to providing only the best educational experience possible.” El Hayek’s word summarized NDU’s mission succinctly: “Accreditation is not the end-goal. Rather, it is ceaselessly striving to elevate the standards we have set for ourselves, that we may remain worthy of being an institution of higher education, and worthy of our students.”
The Father President then took to the stage with his speech, welcoming the honorable guests to this momentous occasion. His address painted a portrait of how academic disciplines and societal issues intersect and constellate to form the building blocks of a country. With the unprecedented crises in Lebanon, Fr. Khoury called for a new path to be paved, one that does away with the current and prevalent corruption: “We proceed from this point to reach a distinct end, for the economy and Lebanon at large.” He continued to underline the radical change that the present circumstances necessitates, a change that requires “a conscious and systematic revolution armed with knowledge and action, planning and implementation, and national inclusivity.”
The NDU President expressed his confidence in the University, first and foremost because it is an active body, comprising a spirited community that works towards progress above all else. Fr. Khoury stated, “Today, I assure all of you that the University will not stand on the edge of glory, bearing its international accreditations with indifference. Instead, we will leave our ivory tower to become an instrument of national policy development.” Addressing the FBAE, he implored, “I ask you to use your knowledge to influence and make a difference in your field. Lead the renaissance in the world of economics, business, and finance.”
To conclude his speech, the Father President asserted the communal nature of NDU and its collective heart, moved and guided by wisdom, justice, and passion. “This is NDU: a dependable stronghold, accredited, from which the future proceeds,” he proclaimed.
Next, a video interlude: a total of forty faculty, staff, and students gave a rundown in this visual sequence of exactly how the FBAE worked towards the accreditation, from candidacy to certification, in addition to how the Faculty’s operations were streamlined, productivity increased, and engagement with students, alumni, partners, and stakeholders are at a new peak. Applause resounded in the theater.
Three online testimonies were then displayed from the AACSB team, namely AACSB Regional Director, Mr. Ihsan Zakri, AACSB Mentor, Dr. Nitham Hindi, and Chair of the AACSB Peer Review Team, Dr. Barry O’Mahony. From Amsterdam, Zakri recounted the “years of hard work and dedication that led to this moment,” and that the Faculty and University should “be proud and celebrate this phenomenon.” Hindi, tuning in from Qatar, spoke of the exceptional standards of the FBAE, who “raised the bar to the next level and kept improving as we went along the journey. The FBAE has shown tremendous strength and resilience in challenging times.” O’Mahony, who shared his testimony from Abu Dhabi, highlighted a distinct aspect of the accreditation journey, which was “the hospitality and the warm welcome that [the Team] received. We were shown exactly how the FBAE operated, and it was permeated by that hospitality.”
To receive AACSB accreditation is a definite accomplishment, and it comes with a unique benefit: Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Business Honor Society (BGS). The AACSB-exclusive society officially inducted its NDU Chapter at the ceremony, featuring a video announcement from the Chair of the BGS Board of Governors, Dr. Mary Gowan, Board Member, Mr. Wes Hamilton-Jessop, and BGS Executive Director, Ms. Christina Allrich. The trio outlined the three pillars that comprise the society’s core: honor, wisdom, and earnestness. “To those who wear [the BGS] key, do so with these principles in mind.”
Director General El Khatib spoke next, stating that the Ministry of Education and Higher Education is immensely proud of the Faculty for achieving “one of the most difficult certifications in education.” El Khatib praised the FBAE for displaying “exceptional determination in overcoming the challenges in light of the disastrous economic situation our country is going through.” Regarding the University in general, the Director General assured the audience “that NDU will always be spoken of with reverence and respect.”
The last speaker of the afternoon was the Nobel Laureate himself, Sir Richard Roberts, whose address told an inspiring tale of failure and opportunity. The Laureate drew a map of his journey from his youth, to receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1993, up until the present day, interweaving the role that his education had played throughout the course of his career. “At each stage in my life, I have found that my interests in education, careers, and research studies continued to evolve,” said the Laureate. “Always bear in mind that this eclecticism is an advantage. Keep your options open, because more often than not, your pursuits will coalesce into a niche where you will thrive.”
During his post-doctoral studies at Harvard, Roberts developed a novel method of RNA sequencing that eventually led to his Nobel Prize. He began his own business by founding the New England BioLabs in Massachusetts, citing the importance of an official company in order to gain access to the latest biotech and facilitate research. “After only a year, we had to upscale our production tenfold,” he recounted, the studies and research methods he and his team were developing having started a radical impact in the field of genetics.
His foray into business from his research background came with a host of obstacles to overcome, not unlike the scientific method itself. “Failure is inevitable, as everyone knows, but it is also exactly what we need,” he said. “In research, in business, and every aspect of our lives, we will fail and it is through failure that we reform our projects, strategies, and ultimately ourselves. Do not be afraid of failure, but welcome it.” Currently, Roberts is leading a group of fellow Nobel Laureates to allocate their collective resources towards humanitarian causes.
The ceremony ended, and Sir Roberts was surprised with the planting of a cedar tree in his name in the Shouf region, and presented with a certificate from the Father President commemorating the planting. A presence on the stage from start to finish was the artist, Mr. Bernard Renno, who spent the ceremony painting a portrait of the University on a canvas, featuring students climbing up a flight of steps to the heights of success. Naimy then invited the Chair of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics, Dr. Roy Khoueiri, the Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing, Dr. Marwan Azouri, and the Chair of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Ms. Mirna Kordab, to present a bouquet and trophy to Fr. Khoury for his unrelenting support and outstanding leadership. The Chairs also presented Naimy with a trophy on behalf of the FBAE and another on behalf of the students to honor the foundation she laid that led to the AACSB accreditation. Again, applause resounded in the theater. A remarkable ceremony worthy of the FBAE and the University.