LAU Chat: Dania Soubra Awad

Q: Where do you live & what do you do?

A : I live in Houston and work as assistant to the owner of Allante Limousine, a limo service company owned by my husband

Q: How did you became involved with LAU?

A: I met Ed Shiner, Director of Alumni & Special Projects, a year-and-a-half ago during an outdoor function organized by LAU in Lebanon. Ed suggested that I think about joining the Houston Alumni Chapter when he learned that I had recently moved there and that I had some previous involvement with alumni and others at LAU. Ed told me that they were looking for somebody to handle the Houston Alumni Chapter, given that the current president was involved with many things and had to leave the post. So I thought, why not? It’s an interesting opportunity to mingle and get to know more people in Houston. I was new to the area and I had also been involved with people from LAU such as Youmna Salameh, a friend of mine and the president of the LAU Alumni Chapter in Kuwait, as well as Abdallah Al Khal, the Executive Director of Alumni Relations in Beirut. At the same time, this is an opportunity to help my alma mater, and to do it from my new home in Texas. I worked for many years as director of banquets and catering in the Gulf region of the Middle East and I often handled events for LAU alumni. Given that this was my main job for so many years, and I like connecting with people and socializing, I thought it was an interesting opportunity and I agreed to take it on.

Q: What are your future plans for the Houston Alumni Chapter?

A: I would like to expand the Houston Alumni Chapter and not restrict it to Houston. In fact, I’ve started calling it the Texas Alumni Chapter. We also want to involve other alumni groups or associations in Texas such as AUB as well as church associations, the Druze community and so forth.

Our next big event is a Halloween Disguise party at the end of October. Attendees will come in various outfits and costumes and we hope to use this event as a fundraiser for scholarships for LAU students as well. We’ve been pretty active for a small and growing alumni chapter. So far this years we’ve done a Yalla! dinner at Fadi’s Restaurant, a gathering with President Jabbra at my home, a family fun day at Dr. Rami and Reem El Dabbousi’s home, and a wonderful Valentine’s Day event that we all enjoyed with a raffle, prizes, and some fun games.

Planting for the Future

Leave a living reminder of your experience at LAU. Such was the message that echoed across the Beirut and Byblos campuses of LAU this summer as the university launched the “Plant your Class Tree at LAU” project.

This senior class gift initiative attracted over 500 graduating students and raised over $5,000. Participants were enthusiastic about creating a legacy for the Class of 2012, while at the same time, developing greenery on campus and contributing to the university’s greatest need: financial aid for disadvantaged and deserving students.

Tomorrow’s Leaders Come to America

The Tomorrow’s Leaders Program, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and LAU, was launched in 2008 as a way to provide higher education opportunities to youth from around the Arab world and give opportunities to students who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential but who may otherwise miss out on an opportunity to study in the American higher education system.

The comprehensive program selects top high school students with leadership capabilities from around the Middle East and North Africa region and offers them the opportunity to pursue undergraduate studies at LAU. Students, the majority of whom are women, receive full-tuition scholarships.

The mission of the program is to prepare Arab leaders for the future through high-quality academic support, leadership development activities, and civic engagement opportunities. The program is designed to foster professionalism, ethical conduct, and tolerance as well as to enable these students to become globally competitive leaders and change agents in their respective societies.

During the spring semester of their junior year, like many of their counterparts in the U.S., the Tomorrow’s Leaders students generally complete a study abroad program. Students typically spend this semester at Wayne State University in Detroit. As with university students around the globe, the study abroad experience is aimed at strengthening each student’s global perspective through cross-cultural and academic exchanges.

On July 19 DTE Energy and LAU co-sponsored a reception to honor the 19 Tomorrow’s Leaders students, hailing from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, who studied at Wayne State during the semester. The event took place at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

LAU Races Into Motown

It’s fair to say that LAU’s Assistant Vice President for Development Robert Hollback has racked up a lot of frequent flier miles traveling to Detroit over the past five years. Since 2008 he has made more than a dozen trips to Michigan. Meanwhile numerous other LAU officials—alumni officers, deans, vice presidents, and even President Joseph Jabbra himself—have also made the journey to the Motor City on behalf of LAU, all in an effort to establish strong and lasting roots for the university in the city and its surrounding region.

Detroit, and more specifically its suburb of Dearborn, is home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in North America, including many Lebanese-Americans. The region saw an influx of Lebanese immigrants during the mid-20th century when many came to the area to work in the flourishing automobile industry. The continued growth of the Arab-American population during subsequent decades has helped to make the region a particularly natural fit for LAU. The university eagerly works to promote what it does for Lebanon and the Middle East in the Detroit region and actively looks to connect with individuals and institutions there that can assist in advancing LAU’s mission, whether through partnerships, donations or other means.

In recent years LAU has established close working relationships with other institutions of higher learning in the region such as Wayne State University and Oakland University. In addition, individuals such as Ron May and Fouad Ashkar of the utility provider DTE Energy have been steadfast supporters of LAU and the university’s efforts in Michigan. And major companies such as Dow Chemical have expressed strong interest in recruiting LAU graduates.

Local businessman and philanthropist Russell Ebeid has even created two $5,000 scholarships that are available annually to students from his family village of Chatoule in Lebanon to attend LAU.

The university also collaborates regularly with Arab-American organizations in the Detroit area, including ACCESS, the Arab-American National Museum, the Center for Arab-American Philanthropy and the National Arab American Nurses Association to name a few.

“The Detroit/Dearborn area is important to LAU in many ways,” says Hollback. “Everyone is aware, of course, of the strength of the Arab-American and Lebanese-American communities there, and it’s also where we have one of our most active alumni chapters. We’re also fortunate to have Board member Ghassan Saab, and his wife Manal, representing us in this region.

“In addition, we’re continuing to benefit from the connections we’ve been fortunate enough to establish with organizations, alumni and friends in the region in recent years. I think that, as a university, we can also be proud that, when Michigan was in the depths of the recent recession, we continued to stand by the relationships we had built with individuals and institutions – and they continued to stand by us,” says Hollback.

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

LAU has always been intent on making its relationship with its donors as beneficial and easy to manage as possible. In recent years, the university has introduced online and recurring giving as ways to make it easier for people to support the work that the institution does as well as its students. LAU has also created new and exciting ways for donors to leave a lasting legacy directly on campus through the “Bench and Seat” and “Plant Your Class Tree at LAU” (see page 4) initiatives. But there’s one form of legacy creation that often gets overlooked by potential supporters in the United States that might just be the easiest and most effective way for many people to give.

With planned giving, many individuals can support LAU and improve their own financial security at the same time. In fact, just one planned gift could provide an individual in the United States with an immediate tax deduction, plus a lifetime income and long-term financial support to LAU.

How is this possible? By taking advantage of incentives that the Internal Revenue Service provides. A financial advisor can craft a gift that delivers exactly the benefits that a potential donor has been looking for. Some popular arrangements include gifts from wills or trust, retirement plans, stock or appreciated assets or life insurance.

And potential donors don’t need to have a lot of money to create a planned gift to LAU. In fact, many people might find making a planned gift to be the most beneficial way of establishing their own long-term financial success while helping to create a personal legacy and provide much-needed support to LAU and its students.

To find out more information about planned giving options visit http://www.legacy.vg/lau or call (212) 870-2592.

This article is not intended, nor should it be used, as legal or professional advice. Before making any gift described in this article, you should consult with a professional financial advisor.

Congratulations LAU Graduates!

Summer is graduation season at Lebanese American University. A couple of weeks ago, 1,840 young men and women walked across daises in Beirut and Byblos and collected their degrees from the university. It was the culmination of years of individual hard work for each of those students, and generations of work for LAU.

Graduation, of course, is a wonderful accomplishment for these students and their families, but it’s also a great opportunity for LAU to assess what it does as an institution. Thanks to the support and hard work of so many people throughout the LAU community around the world, our students can succeed, not only at LAU but in their lives beyond the university—reaching their goals and serving their communities.

Their success is also our success because the work that we do at LAU, and the support that we receive to do that work from our friends around the globe, is inextricably linked to the accomplishments of our alumni. We are very proud of our graduates—after all they represent LAU to the world—and we are most grateful to you, our friends and supporters, for helping them achieve this milestone.

Sincerely,

The New York Office of LAU