Honors Program Graduates Recognized

Outstanding students celebrated and urged to give back to their country.

By Raissa Batakji

Dr. Rizk-Jamati and Program Officer Dr. Rasha Khalife, who emceed at the event, sit proudly among their graduates.
Dr. Jabbra confers a certificate on a student as Minister Bou Saab looks on.
Honors Program alumna Rita Sarkis (voice), graduate Yves Mrad (piano) and current student Racha Doumit (violin) entertained the guests.
The graduates with (front row, from left) Dr. Rizk-Jamati, Provost Nasr, Minister Bou Saab and Dr. Jabbra.
In an emotional speech, Dr. Rizk-Jamati, who founded the program, expressed her “overwhelming sense of pride” in the graduates.
Minister Bou Saab urged the graduates to persevere in the face of challenges, and to always consider ways to give back to their university, their community and their country.

Since 2015, LAU has conducted a highly selective program tailored for academically distinguished, motivated students. The Honors Program – which had 192 students enrolled from nine majors this year – celebrated the graduation of 62 at a special ceremony held on Byblos campus on June 7. The event was attended by the Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab, LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra, Provost George E. Nasr, deans, faculty, staff and proud parents.

Speaking of the program, Dr. Jabbra declared that it “ushers in the profound changes that are gripping LAU as a university of the 21st Century,” – not only in terms of academic programs but also with respect to curriculum, innovation and creativity. Addressing the students, whom he described as active learners, Dr. Jabbra encouraged them to create their own paths.

In turn, Bou Saab urged the graduates to persevere in the face of challenges, and to always consider ways to give back to their university, their community and their country. “Lebanon is at a crossroads, and the future is bright despite the difficulties – but it will depend on how you shape it. Think not of how you can find a job, but of how you will be creating opportunities for yourself and others.”

Associate Professor and Honors Program Director Sandra Rizk-Jamati, who founded the program, gave an emotional speech that reflected her “overwhelming sense of pride” in the graduates. “The pursuit of perfection is a lifelong journey that you have embarked on. Even if perfection is not attainable, when you chase perfection you will catch excellence, and that is precisely what you have caught today.”

For business major Christian El Boueri, the program “has gone through tremendous lengths to offer opportunities that are best suited for my aspirations.” Indeed, students selected into the program have to attend workshops and special classes that are smaller in size – to allow for more interaction with faculty – and more demanding academically.

Similarly, alumna Rita Sarkis (BS ’17), who is currently a bioengineering PhD candidate at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) said of the program: “You don’t only grow academically and culturally, but you also grow personally through developing lifelong friendships with people from different majors whom you don’t normally meet in a regular track.” Sarkis also performed the national anthem, alma mater and serenaded the attendees during the reception that followed at the event.

Certificates, pins and cords were bestowed upon the graduates as they passed on stage, much to the delight of their families and friends.

Visibly moved, Michel el Murr, father of biology graduate Yara el Murr said: “Our children are a gift from Lebanon, and from LAU to the world. They are the elite, they will have to pursue studies and maybe careers abroad, but hopefully they will come back and give back to their country as Dr. Jabbra and Minister Bou Saab did.” Yara received a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue an MA in Journalism at the City University of New York next fall. “LAU has given my daughter so much, accompanying her every step of the way. She already had the talents and the skills, but it has further shaped her into what she is today.”

Despite the relatively short history of the program, its graduates have been accepted into top-tier graduate programs spanning some of the most prestigious universities worldwide, such as Harvard, Oxford, London School of Economics, ParisTech and Sciences Po, to name a few.

In her parting message to the graduates, Dr. Rizk-Jamati quoted Albert Einstein. “‘Creativity is intelligence having fun,’” she said. “You definitely have proved intelligent, now it’s time to go have fun.”