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Dear AUP Students and Parents,

A warm welcome this frigid January to all our new AUP students and their families whom I’ve just met at Orientation; in this month’s newsletter, I am also reaching out to our graduating students and their families with some news about May 2017.  They and I can assure all our new families that your time in Paris, at AUP, passes in the blink of an eye.  Before you know it, you’ll be walking (or watching your son or daughter walking) across the stage at Commencement.  The time goes by so quickly—for you and for us—and yet what a transformation those four (or three or two or one) years will bring.  For those of you making travel plans for Graduation, please know that Marc Monthéard will be sending out a detailed memo in a few weeks about caps and gowns, Commencement and Gala tickets, and other organizing issues. My advice is to plan to be in Paris by Friday, May 19, so that you can enjoy Paris and participate in a range of events, including the vernissage of a major community art piece that students, faculty and a visiting artist are making with our Syrian families (see below) and which we’ll be unveiling for the public that weekend under the auspices of the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention. Graduation is Tuesday, May 23rd in the morning at the Thêâtre de Paris in the 9th arrondissement (you might want to reserve somewhere nice for a graduation lunch afterwards at about 13h30); and the New Alumni Cocktail party and Gala Dinner for graduating students and their families will be held at the Cercle de l’Union Interalliée in the 8th near the residence of the US Ambassador on Tuesday night, May 23.  On that weekend, we will be celebrating the University’s 55th Anniversary, welcoming global alumni from 142 countries around the globe, and holding our Board of Trustees and President’s Alumni Advisory Council meetings. The presence of graduating seniors and their parents on campus will make everything complete.  I so look forward to seeing many of you and your families then.   

Some of you will remember from earlier newsletters (which you can access here) that I speak often about our founder’s powerful question: “how do we transcend the bounds of narrow nationalism?” I believe passionately that an AUP education is precisely an antidote to insular nationalisms, in large part because of the demographic diversity of our unique learning environment. At this present moment in history, however, what our faculty models and teaches here has never been more timely.  AUP students learn to listen to the ideas of others, and allow themselves to be influenced, permeated, by new and different ideas.  And they also know when to defend with fervor their own values. It’s a delicate balance, but you need both. We all know that difference requires excellent negotiating skills—it’s edgy and difficult.  In fact, I’ve just returned from the annual Presidents Conference of the Council of Independent Colleges at which some 900 college presidents agreed on the importance of the liberal arts as a pedagogical model for developing a student’s capacity to evaluate conflicting information.  All of the plenary speakers at that conference, approaching the topic in different ways, emphasized what I call the “AUP advantage,” the fact that our students study the liberal arts in a global context, in an unparalleled learning environment that permits them to develop “cultural intelligence.” That note was sounded by the new CEO of Exxon, Kevin Warren, who announced that 90% of employers are looking for young people with transversal, practical, boundary-crossing skills that are enhanced by study abroad. He is looking to hire young people who can cross cultural borders with ease when he sends them to Exxon’s offices everywhere in the world. (By the way, he’s also looking for the “hustle factor,” something not always associated with Millennials, which means ambition, hunger, independence, and the drive to succeed, even if it means suffering delayed satisfaction in order to do so. Parents can foster that kind of character building by confidently scaling back excessive “support” when students go to college.) To return to the idea of “cultural intelligence” (CQ), right up there with “emotional intelligence,” this is a set of skills that can be learned, developed, and even measured and is a powerful predictor of performance on the (global) job market.  Articles in the Harvard Business Review have covered the idea, and there are multiple organizations devoted to cultivating it. AUP students don’t need to seek it elsewhere, or make any special effort to build those muscles, because you have the AUP classroom—with its characteristic mix of cultures, nationalities, languages, ideologies, and faiths—in which to develop your own CQ: that self-reflexive ability to shift context as you confront and consider ideas very different from your own.  It should be no surprise that developing CQ is linked to language learning, because language is culture; it’s a window onto a very different worldview. Proficiency in language learning is associated with a higher degree of self-understanding and CQ. Not a single AUP student should graduate from the University without having mastered, at least, French. More on that in future issues.  

This month I’d like to tell you a little about an organization on our campus, Baytna à Vous (BVSyria), established in October 2015 in response to Europe’s refugee crisis by three AUP graduate students: Habiba Belguedj, Dana Dadoush and Mayerlyn Castillo. Baytna à Vous which means our home (in Arabic) for you (in French), takes as its mission the building of bridges amongst our community at AUP, the broader French community, and the Syrian refugee community. While the students know that they cannot rewrite history, they feel they can make the living experience of it more comfortable for Syrian children and their parents by holding parallel workshops on campus for the children and their parents. The Baytna à Vous workshops aim to create a space in which Syrian children can make new friends who share common roots, enjoy a range of creative activities, including dance, go on cultural outings in Paris, and participate in art therapy sessions. BVSyria’s first workshop hosted four children in January 2016, and in one year the workshops are hosting thirty children bi-monthly.  Their families benefit from this opportunity to establish cultural ties and to practice their French. Volunteers and facilitators come from the AUP community and the Franco-Syrian NGOs with whom they collaborate: SouriaHouria and Abricot Ghouta. The devoted leaders and dedicated AUP volunteers of BVSyria include Habiba Belguedj (co-founder), Mohammad Jabur, Jasmine Paul, Isabelle Siegel, Nebi Dzhabrailova, Yasmine Tlass, Anne Vallot-Basker, Stephanie Alex, Jennifer Smith, Alex Wilson, Patricia Molinos Ruperez and many more. To join BVSyria and lend a much-appreciated hand, please email club members at:  bvsyria@aup.edu or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.  

Quai d'orsay
As one participant described it to me: each Saturday the children arrive excitedly, leaving their parents behind without fear, eager to find their friends, the art therapist they have come to know, the chairs where they can put their bags and coats each time. The ritual of arriving is itself a pleasure because at 2 pm in Combes every other Saturday they are awaited. Their parents watch for reassurance that their children are in good hands, the look on their faces telling their story: they have come this far, hoping to see their children smile back at them, reinforcing their hope that they have done the right thing to come to France. The children make drawings of playgrounds they used to love, expressing emotion in both Arabic and French and also with their little active bodies. Their parents are in the classroom right next door, focusing on their own development and acquisition of the French language—this so that they can help their children with their homework and be able to tell a stranger in French about how beautiful Syria once was. The most moving moments, according to the AUP students involved, are moments of cultural exchange—such as the recent holiday party where the families gathered to celebrate.  The children received presents from one of our own Syrian students who had dressed up as Santa Claus for the occasion.  
Over the course of this spring, our Syrian families and collaborating NGOs, the student members of BVSyria, a visiting artist from California Lori Shockit, director of the Fine Arts major at AUP Jonathan Shimony, and students of his from his Fine Arts classes will be working together to create a community piece of art called “The Human Element.”  Each family will create and contribute multiple pieces of the vast periodic table we are creating together. It will be displayed in the Combes Art Gallery at the moment of graduation. 
 
What makes all of this magic happen at AUP is the deep investment of our dedicated Student Development staff and the devotion of our faculty to each and every one of our students.  Teaching and mentoring are our mission here.  In this newsletter, however, I’d like to talk a bit about research, because I believe that the finest teachers are very often those who remain not only current in their fields but who publish actively. We call our professors enseignant chercheurs (teacher scholars) because both kinds of activity are critical to their success.  Research feeds back into the AUP classroom in multiple ways. First currency in one’s field includes knowledge of pedagogical innovations within the field of study. Additionally, professors’ mastery of their subject over the arc of their career inevitably inspires them in the classroom, where they continually make new their explorations with students, lifting the level of classroom inquiry and continually raising the bar.  Many of our faculty members at AUP also mentor original student research, or share their own research with students, who work alongside them on real-world research problems. Another way that faculty research has impact on students is by its dissemination during the many international conferences we host annually, and at which students are often active participants.  Finally AUP’s research centers are not exclusively devoted to faculty research, but take as their mission the drawing of faculty and students together to address—often by mentored research—the most pressing problems of our time. 
 
Last year, AUP faculty published 11 books and more than 120 articles, essays and book chapters across a range of disciplines and in a number of languages, a trove of which I am inordinately proud.  While contributing to the advancement of the many disciplines represented at the University, AUP faculty research also provides a very rich set of learning opportunities for our students who, guided by their professors, participate in their scholarly activities. For example, since the early 1990’s, Prof. Gunn’s students have had the opportunity to contribute bibliographic research to the award winning series of The Letters of Samuel Beckett which concluded to great acclaim last fall when the fourth and final volume was published.  Students in Professor Elena Berg’s classes regularly conduct experiments alongside her in the new facilities of the Joy and Edward Frieman Environmental Science Center. Selected results, such as those concluding an experiment on Kinship and Cooperative Behavior in Seed Beetles, are reported in papers co-authored by the students and the professor. 
 
In alignment with AUP’s mission, which ends with the line “to educate its graduates to move across the cultural borders of the contemporary world with a sense of commitment to and responsibility for a world held in common,” faculty publications explore a variety of current global challenges. For example, in his Beyond the Archive: Memory, Narrative, and the Autobiographical Process, Prof. Jens Brockmeier moves us beyond the classic notion of memory as storage of the past and, by combining perspectives from the neurosciences, memory, and narrative psychology,  shows that there are many cultural forms of remembering and forgetting.  Prof. Philip Golub’s East Asia's Reemergence addresses one of the core issues in world politics today by exploring the question of what has made East Asia’s remarkable recent ascent possible, and what will this economic rebalancing between East and West mean for world politics.  We not only fund this research through a Faculty Development Fund, we also receive generous support for faculty activity from individual donors, institutions such as the European Community, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Florence Gould Foundation, the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Humboldt Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the A. W. Mellon Foundation, to cite only a few. 
 
I will close by wishing each of you an exciting, productive semester during which you will partake of the perpetual feast that is Paris, as well as the riches—within the classroom and without—at AUP. Vice President Monthéard, looking over my shoulder, reminds me to remind you that you need to download our security app on to your telephones and to update your cell phone number in your online profile.  If ever there were to be an emergency, both you and your parents will want us to be able to contact you immediately through our text-messaging system. And off hours, it is reassuring, no matter where you go in the world, to be able to reach 24/7 our International SOS hotline.  Do it today.  


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The American University of Paris
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