AUS engages alumni in critical conversations about design education
Posted on 2023 Feb,21

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Marking the 25th year of American University of Sharjah (AUS), the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) is presenting a symposium series focused on celebrating the contributions of alumni and exploring the future of design education.

The series is being organized by CAAD faculty members Kevin Mitchell, Professor of Architecture; Hala Al-Ani, Assistant Professor of Art and Design; and Dr. John Montague, Associate Professor of Architecture.

The first symposium, CAAD at 25: Taking Stock, was composed of two panel sessions held on January 28, 2023. The sessions, which were moderated by Professor Mitchell, examined the significant contributions by CAAD alumni to the growth and development of design professions and the creative economy within the UAE and the broader region.

The symposium provided an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of success of alumni who make meaningful contributions to the arts, design and culture in the UAE and beyond. Professor Mitchell noted that the symposium also created a venue for graduates to contribute to advancing design education.

“We are extremely proud of what CAAD alumni have accomplished within and beyond their disciplines. Critical conversations about their experiences are invaluable and provide perspectives on how we can continue to enhance teaching and learning in ways that remain academically rigorous, responsive to the demands of the professions and regionally relevant,” said Professor Mitchell.

A panel titled “Within Disciplines” considered questions related to what defines success within a design discipline. Adnan Ihsan, Rabeeya Jabbar, Moustafa Zakaria and Fatma ElFeki reflected on the transition from university to the profession and discussed the challenges that they faced in their careers.

Addressing the foundation for their success as leaders in their respective disciplines, they commented on how AUS and CAAD had prepared them to work in a collaborative environment, effectively articulate their ideas, take risks and benefit from critique by making a distinction between themselves and the work they produce. The panel discussed ways in which education must continue to maintain the balance between privileging the process of design while preparing students for their disciplines.

The “Transcending Disciplines” panel session invited Farah El-Rafei, Mays Albaik, Maryam Mudhaffar and Haifa Malhas to address the role that design education plays in preparing students to move beyond the confines of their field of study at university.

The participants, who have all gone on to make major contributions in areas beyond their undergraduate major, expressed that the characteristic features of a CAAD education—including an appreciation for craft and the emphasis on a rigorous process of problem-solving—can be applied across many fields. When considering the future of design education, the panelists stressed the need for engagement with local concerns and acknowledging the rich and varied history of the region's creative and cultural landscape.

The second symposium event, CAAD at 25: Preparing for the Future, will be held from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 18. The event will include more panel discussions reflecting on the insights from the recent CAAD alumni survey and the views of other leaders in the creative economy. This event is open to CAAD alumni and students.