Post-Revolution Possibilities

The first president to be elected to a public university in Egypt, Dr. Osama Ibrahim aims to make Alexandria University an international university.
Photo by Terence Guider-Shaw/special to College of DuPage
 
 
Alexandria University President Dr. Osama Ibrahim shared his views at College of DuPage on April 19 about 2011’s Egyptian revolution and its role in the historic “Arab Spring.” Friends and colleagues eagerly shook hands with Ibrahim in the Culinary & Hospitality Center Amphitheatre, offering words of encouragement to the man who is committed to elevating Egypt through education. With his commanding presence and quick smile, Ibrahim is the first president to be elected to a public university in Egypt and was recently selected to serve on a commission to draft his country’s new constitution.
 
As one of the major centers of the Arab Spring, the political landscape in Egypt has undergone tectonic change over the past year. Ibrahim cited the role young people played in the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power.
 

Cairo, Egypt – February 12, 2011: The day after 18 days of protest forced Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak to resign, Egyptians filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square to soak in their achievement. Some, like this man, walked around displaying the “peace” or “victory” sign.

 
“For 30 years, young people never experienced democracy,” Ibrahim said. “But the revolution proved that their generation was so frustrated that they were not part of the decisions affecting their lives. They were able to do what we thought would never happen.”
 
Egypt now has the opportunity to change more than its government. Ibrahim is dedicated to using his leadership to reduce social inequalities and strengthen Egypt’s labor market. “We know education is essential, but the purpose of education is not to create intellectuals who don’t work,” Ibrahim said, noting that students graduate knowing they will be unemployed. “We have a big cluster of university graduates who are unsuitable for jobs that don’t require a university degree.”
 
Ibrahim has instituted two programs to help students become more employable. In “3+2+2,” students are encouraged to enter the workforce as soon as possible. Students attend technological universities for three years, then work with industry for a year and receive an additional year of skill transfer; if the student wants to return to school, he may do so at any time to earn a two-year degree and become a more skilled technician. Academically talented students are challenged through “Centers of Excellence,” which are dedicated to interdisciplinary studies in specialized areas such as nanotechnology and water treatment studies. Faculty of various schools work together to share research and create relevant programs that address societal needs.
 
Just as his own experience studying abroad and working with colleagues from other countries has proved instrumental, Ibrahim is eager to provide this same opportunity for students. His goal is to make Alexandria University an international university. A series of collaborative degree programs with colleges and universities around the world places this goal within reach. “The whole world is becoming global,” and Ibrahim believes the university must respond accordingly.
 
The changes Ibrahim has introduced to Alexandria University will not happen overnight, but this new era in Egypt is fraught with possibilities. “The revolution brought out the best inside each of us,” Ibrahim said during his visit to College of DuPage. “Now my obligation is to pay back the university that helped me be who I am.”

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