J. Luce Foundation Supports the American University of Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan.  The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) is Afghanistan’s first private, not-for-profit institution of higher education. Chartered in 2004, AUAF offers an MBA program, four undergraduate degree programs, and an intensive English-language college preparatory courses and continuing education and professional development training.  In December 2012, The J. Luce Foundation announced its support to the university, continuing its theme of supporting young global leadership

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The Saleha Bayat Building at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul.

The idea for AUAF began in 2002 with Dr. Sharif Fayez, then Afghan Minister of Higher Education. During his time as minister, he proposed the creation of Afghanistan’s first-ever private university. The following year in an address before UNESCO, United States First Lady Laura Bush announced her support of educational initiatives in Afghanistan.  U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, likely inspired from his own experience at The American University of Beirut, encouraged the establishment of The American University of Afghanistan.

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The Saleha Bayat Building at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul.

The Afghanistan High Commission for Private Investment offered leases on two parcels of land totaling 48 acres in the Kart-e-Seh area of Kabul until 2103. In addition, the non-profit American University of Afghanistan Foundation was chartered in the State of Delaware (United States) under the leadership of Dr. Jacob van Lutsenburg Maas, who later became Foundation President, to receive these leases.  In 2007, the Foundation became a tax-exempt 501(c) 3 organization.

A charter for the establishment of The American University of Afghanistan was granted on July 26, 2004 by the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education, under Article 46, Chapter 2 of the new Afghan Constitution and Article 445 of the Civil Code. A feasibility study was initiated by the Coordinating Council of International Universities, based in the U.S., to recommend an institutional framework.

In December 2004, the inaugural meeting of the Board of Trustees convened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where Dr. Fayez was elected president pro tempore, serving in this capacity until April 2007, when he was named “founder” by the new president. He continues to lobby the Afghan government on the university’s behalf, serves as an advisor to the current president, and maintains an office on campus.

In March 2005, then United States First Lady — and former teacher) — Laura Bush visited the site and announced a substantial grant from USAID to launch the institution.  USAID continues to be the primary financial backer of the organization as it pursues sources of private funding.

The first students of the American University of Afghanistan enrolled in March 2006. They began with Foundation Studies classes to improve their English language and study skills. The university that September began offering its first credit-bearing undergraduate courses. In 2006 the Professional Development Institute was also launched, providing adult professional courses and adult professional level programs.

On June 8, 2008, Mrs. Bush announced an additional $40 million in funding for the subsequent five years. Funding will cover more than half of the university’s operating expenses during that period, leaving the university to pursue private funding for the remainder of its operating expenses and for the development of its new campus.

The university held its first commencement ceremony on May 26, 2011, awarding undergraduate degrees to 32 graduates. By the spring semester of 2012, AUAF enrolled over 879 full-time students in its graduate, undergraduate, and Foundation Studies programs, and an additional 898 part-time students in Professional Development Institute courses. Women account for 21% of the full-time student body.

In an interview with Film Annex, our friend Dr. C. Michael Smith, President of the American University of Afghanistan stated that for the 2012-13 school year over 50% of the entering students were women.  The International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development (ICAWED) is a pioneering institution dedicated to advancing the role of women in Afghanistan’s economy.

The center will function as a headquarters to incubate female-led small and medium-sized businesses, provide business training to female entrepreneurs, funnel investment capital to promising women-run businesses, and provide women access to all the business and information technology (IT) assets at the American University of Afghanistan.

As a permanent, state-of-the-art facility dedicated to women’s economic empowerment, the center will function as a national hub coordinating and connecting both public and private sector entities that share the goal of fully integrating women into the Afghan economy.

Since opening in 2006, AUAF has grown from an initial enrollment of 50 students to more than 1,700 full and part-time students in 2012. Today it is a thriving academic and intellectual center dedicated to providing Afghans with a world-class education.

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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