Leading The Way
By Peter Wieben and Dalia el Nimr
Photos by Ahmad El-Nemr
Five years since the inception of the LEAD program, the first batch of graduates receive their degrees
Opening New Horizons
I first learned about the LEAD program from
AUC’s newspaper advertisement five years ago.
I remember sitting with my family on a Friday
reading the newspaper, when my mother asked me
to bring Tuesday’s paper. I thought it was an odd
request. My mother handed the paper to my father,
who began to smile. He got really excited. I myself
didn’t believe what was in the paper; LEAD was a
heavenly package for me because AUC had been
my dream since I was a little kid. I applied, and a
few days later, the admissions staff called me at
home to follow up on my application.
For the LEAD program,we needed to show that we had a talent or an activity outside of school. I was involved in my church’s music program and choir, but I didn’t include this in my application because I didn’t think the university would be interested to know about it. Until that time, I was still focused on getting high grades on exams. I was surprised to find that my admissions counselor wanted to hear more. Now, I’m in the AUC Chamber Choir. I’m a bit of a music freak.
When I entered AUC, I was afraid in the beginning. I have a powerful support system of friends and family back home, and it was quite hard for me to leave all that and start making new friends with people who are different from me. I was afraid of not being able to fit into this whole thing. But everything went fine. I not only developed a close group of friends, but was able to travel abroad and study at Harvard for a summer program. I gradually came to appreciate people’s differences. Of course, no one can develop a perfection of tolerance, but I think I have changed a great deal. I have found that the more people I meet, the more I’m exposed to, the more choices and experiences I am faced with, the more mature I become.
My dream is to be a professor.The value of good professors is not all in what they teach; it is about who they really are. It is also in the relationships they form with you and what they add to you as a person. I would like to be one of those influential people.
––– Mary Hisham, business administration graduate (with high honors); Minya governorate
Without LEAD, I would not have come to the university.
In my family, there is no history of people going to AUC,
and I don’t think they would have appreciated the liberal
I learned a lot of things during my university years, most importantly to be open minded. I always used to see things from my side, but when I joined the Student Union and became student representative to the University Senate, I realized that there is no right or wrong answer.The only way to be a good leader is to listen and help people understand one another.
I distinctly remember the Student Bill of Rights and Responsibility. It was one of my main projects and took more than a year to complete. I spent a lot of time discussing and debating with faculty senators and amending articles. I had to learn how to absorb other people’s points of view and then condense them into something useful that could be agreed upon.When you do that sort of work, you stop
looking for absolutes.
Being a LEAD student was very special to me.The best part was touring all of Egypt’s governorates. I realized I was very ignorant about my own country. Living in Cairo, you tend to think that Egypt is Cairo,Alexandria and Sharm El Sheikh. Outside of these places though, it is a totally different country.When we went touring, I understood that there were real problems that needed solutions.We met some good governors and others who were not so good, and I’ve been given the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work in those positions. I’ve been able to make a mental list of what to strive for and what to avoid should I find myself in their shoes one day.
I want to climb the ladder.Twenty years on, I hope to be making use of what I’ve learned here at AUC to help my country, maybe in the context of a political career.
––– Kareem Omara, economics graduate and undergraduate class representative; Giza governorate
Dedication to Serve
LEAD showed us the way.The program gives you
everything: the education, training and other skills you
need besides your academic studies.We went to all the
governorates, and NGOs gave us presentations on
different ways to help people aside from just money.
I was a member of the Student Union for two years, but I really enjoyed community service work. I joined as many clubs as I could, and each one left its own impact on me.With Hand in Hand, I realized that one visit to the elderly makes a big difference to them. With Volunteers in Action, it was very fulfilling making tamween packages for the poor during Ramadan. I helped set up a group wedding for orphans.We arranged for celebrities to come and sing at the wedding and helped the brides furnish their apartments. In the summer, I worked with the Social Fund for Development helping poor women set up small enterprises, such as kiosks and knitting workshops.
Eventually, I want to open my own business, with a focus on development and social responsibility. I really wish to create a pioneering project like Al Sawy Cultural Wheel to shed light on the real identity of Egyptians and to open up people’s eyes to different types of art. I’m not a leader in a religious or political sense, but I’m confident I
have the skills to lead and make the first move.
––– Dina Hussein, journalism and mass communication graduate; Giza governorate
Every year at AUC has
been an addition of
year, I would look at
myself and see a totally
training and activities
made huge contributions
to my personality, and I
think it is something that
will have a lasting impact
I spent most of my life in Port Said, which is a traditional community. When I came to AUC, it was like stepping into a whole new culture and lifestyle.The Egyptians you meet at the university are not the typical ones you run into on the street. In the dorms, I interacted with many American and study-abroad students. Living with them in the dorms allowed me to become their friend and understand them better.We talked about many things: politics, religion, the war in Iraq and life in general.We also went out together. Some of them are close friends to me now.
The most exciting time was when I went to the State University of New York. I was expecting to be treated like an outsider, but I was surprised to see how diverse and friendly the society is. I saw American,Asian,African and European people. I learned a lot about American culture and was introduced to new concepts, such as fraternities and sororities. I had fun watching sports events with friends like the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game. I also played with snow for the first time.Above all, I learned to depend on myself totally.
I want to work in marketing or advertising. I want to travel around the world and meet other nationalities. I feel I am much more knowledgeable now and can go to any country and adapt without having any problems.
––– Ali Darwish, business administration graduate; Port Said governorate
A Sense of Independence
Before coming to AUC, I was a shy and quiet person. I
was always hesitant to say my opinion on things, but now,
I am more confident in expressing what I believe in.
As a member of the Student Union, I helped organize its 40-year campaign celebrations. I was responsible for designing brochures and coming up with the overall theme of the campaign. I enjoyed the group work, which allowed
me to get to know more people. I also played an acting role in the annual Talent Show. At first, I worked as an organizer for the show, and then the next year, I decided to act. It was a great experience and gave me courage to face people.
When I went to the States for a semester at Portland State University, I was worried and excited.When you live in another country, you know you have no parents or family to support you; you’re all on your own.You have to solve your own problems and take complete responsibility for everything you do. I was approached by many people who asked me about the veil, not in any hostile way, but just out of curiosity. I liked the atmosphere in general and how everybody there
was eager to learn, not just focused on getting high grades.
At AUC, I really enjoyed the presentations and group projects. In particular, I loved the advertising
class I took with Dr. Sherine Moody. It was a blessing for me because it helped me pinpoint what
I want to do in life: advertising or video editing.When I worked on advertising campaigns or video editing projects for class, I never got bored. I would work for 12 hours and not get tired. I always had new ideas flowing in and more energy to continue.
I plan to move to Cairo for work. I’m not afraid of living on my own or coping with issues that come my
way. I know I can do it.
–– Sohair Sharaf El-Din, journalism and mass communication graduate; Domyat governorate