MEPI-TL Seniors Dream Big

The graduating cohort of Tomorrow’s Leaders present their capstone projects.

By Raissa Batakji

The graduates’ capstone projects spanned topics such as reform, reconciliation and peace-building across the Arab world.
Ghufran Haidar presenting her winning project, “ANA.”
The students with MEPI and LAU leadership.

From a social project empowering Libyans to share their stories, an app that alerts users to cases of corruption in Tunisia, to a platform that showcases art that emerged during the war in Syria, the Adnan Kassar School of Business lobby was lined with displays dealing with reform, reconciliation and peace-building across the Arab world.

They were the capstone project presentations of the ambitious 18 graduating Middle East Partnership Initiative-Tomorrow’s Leaders (MEPI-TL) students.

The MEPI-TLers, who come from all over the Arab world, are attending LAU thanks to a generous scholarship provided by the program, an initiative of the US Department of State, which, over the past 10 years, has benefited a total of 369 scholars.

During their years at LAU and after graduating, they are trained and encouraged to give back to their communities, through volunteer work, fundraising and ultimately their capstone projects.

LAU’s Vice President of Student Development and Enrollment Management Elise Salem dubbed the capstone presentation day a “beautiful culmination of the program.” She noted how the projects reflect the students’ learning experiences in Lebanon, while at the same time their choice of topic reveals how much they’ve kept their home countries at heart.

Addressing the graduating students, she said: “The very goal of this program is to get an excellent education and help you become leaders in your own countries.” Dr. Salem further thanked the US Embassy for its ongoing support, particularly MEPI Program Coordinator Shawn Tenbrink.

In turn, Tenbrink expressed his awe of the capstone projects presented. “Part of school is getting your hand held and having someone guide you on a path – but once you leave you get to make your own path,” he declared, encouraging the graduating cohort to “take people with you on that path” and share the knowledge with others in their home country.

A jury consisting of Tenbrink, Associate Professor and Chair of the Information Technology and Operations Management department at the Adnan Kassar School of Business Raed El-Khalil, and MEPI-TL alumnus Micheal Bechara (BS ’18) judged the projects and selected the three winners.

But before announcing their verdict, MEPI-TL Program Director Dina Abdul Rahman explained that there has been a slight change in the awards this year: To encourage winners to implement their ideas, MEPI-TL decided to reward each with a chance to attend an international conference of their choice in the region of relevance to their project’s topic.

The three winners were announced: banking and finance major Ghufran Haidar took home first prize for her project “ANA,” marketing major Malak Buhardan landed second place for “Al-Salam Summer Program,” and nursing major Mira El Saleh won third place for “Bank of Hope.”

In her speech, Haidar revealed that the inspiration for her project, which is a platform to address mental health issues in Yemen, stemmed from a personal experience.

“When I went back to Yemen to visit in 2016, I got stuck there [because of the ongoing war],” shared Haidar, explaining how the experience brought on feelings of anxiety and stress. Eventually, counseling inspired her to launch a platform to help others going through the same challenges back in her country.