Our students can compete with anyone, says American University of Sharjah's new provost

Coming in the year of AUS’s 20th anniversary, Susan Karamanian’s appointment is a reflection of how UAE third-level institutions are now attracting world class academic talent

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, October 12, 2017:    Susan Karamanian, newly appointed provost at the American University of Sharjah in Sharjah on October 12, 2017. Christopher Pike / The National

Reporter: John Dennehy
Section: News
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When Susan Karamanian is not on the campus of American University of Sharjah (AUS), she can be found playing the lush golf courses at Dubai Creek, Al Zorah and Abu Dhabi Golf Club. For the new provost of AUS, it’s the perfect way to recharge.

A distinguished lawyer and academic from Texas, Karamanian was associate dean at George Washington University law school prior to joining AUS. She has represented clients in US federal and state courts, while she was also a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford.

Coming in the year of AUS’s 20th anniversary, Karamanian’s appointment is a reflection of how UAE third-level institutions are now attracting world class academic talent. For Karamanian herself, she joined because of AUS's outstanding reputation, along with the opportunity to work in an exciting part of the world.

“It has outstanding academics. A high quality of students.”

This year, Khalifa University rose to the 301 to 350 band in the Times Higher Education survey - the best ranking ever achieved by a UAE institution on the list. AUS, meanwhile, has been ranked in the 601 to 800 band of universities worldwide and at number 14 in the “Best universities in the Arab World 2017” in the same survey. Karamanian argues that AUS is as good as any international peer but rankings cannot be ignored.


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“Rankings should drive you. We want to rise but we think the high-quality here merits a high ranking.

“I would take our top students and match them against the top students in any university in the US. We have incredible inquisitive, creative, problem-solving students.”

But exactly does a provost do? It’s more than an academic administrator and Karamanian ensures standards are understood and complied with. She is also responsible for appointments and promotions.

But outside of the paperwork, Karamanian said it’s vital to get out and meet the students. The AUS student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, for example, has just won best chapter in the world. While a recent session between students and a delegation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) impressed her.

“The quality of the questions was off the charts. Students demonstrated a superb command of the internet. But also beyond that with questions about who should control ICANN, a single government or the United Nations? It was not just technical questions but also broader governance.”

Karamanian also high praise for the Emirati students she has met. Earlier this year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said the country will need many more scientists and engineers as the country prepares for a post-oil world. For Karamanian, AUS is well placed to help with this transition and educating the young generation of Emiratis that are coming through.

“AUS can play a pivotal role. First in terms of the expertise,” she said.

“Secondly in educating those who need to get prepared in new areas. Third is in terms of trends and identifying new technology that is likely occur.”

Apart from trying out the region’s many golf courses, Karamanian’s plan during her tenure is to maintain the traditions of excellence in teaching and in scholarship and build on that.

“It’s critical we stay focused on our mission. It’s important for me to have an increased awareness of AUS – outside of the region.”