The American University of Bahrain (AUBH) is the first comprehensive, purpose-built, American-style co-educational university in the Kingdom of Bahrain and is supported through the Mumtalakat portfolio. The University offers a unique approach to education which fosters interaction and collaboration between students, faculty and the professional community, resulting in a holistic educational journey for students, going beyond theory into real-life practical situations.
Just recently, Gulf Insider had the chance to interview Dr. Susan E. Saxton, the Founding President of AUBH.
The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken the world by surprise – as an educational institution, how is AUBH maintaining the quality and enjoyment of learning in the new education paradigm?
My team and I have been laser-focused on finding viable solutions to the challenges we face, both short and long-term. When university campuses closed in the Kingdom of Bahrain, we moved to distance learning seamlessly, without losing any class time. I am pleased that all of us, including students, staff, and support teams, have demonstrated the ability and desire to adapt to new teaching and learning methodologies in these unusual times.
The key to our success was having tech-savvy tools already in place before the pandemic, which allowed for a quick transition to an online modality.
We have been creative and responsive in these unprecedented times. We are proud of our innovative faculty and fortunate to have American-style programs that are flexible in credit transfer and adaptable to different learning methodologies and modalities.
We have mirrored global best practices to enrich our student experience at AUBH. For example, we utilized ProctorU, a U.S.-based, AI-enabled, online, assessment platform to protect the integrity and credibility of high-stakes exams. ProctorU is used by more than 1,000 institutions and universities in the U.S.
Our faculty have been providing one-on-one mentoring to support students, while simultaneously ingraining a spirit of peer mentorship, giving students the opportunities to support each other.
We are extremely proud of how seamlessly students moved to an online modality, achieving great results in the face of adversity.
How have you been supporting the AUBH Community’s well-being during the past few months?
Drawing from our “sound mind, sound body” approach to holistic education, we have focused on maintaining our students’ health and well-being. We provided them with a free subscription to an application called Headspace, with the aim to encourage mindfulness, and assist in minimizing feelings of anxiety. Furthermore, we offered students additional support by sharing a “Tip of the Day” on how to stay active in isolation, including workout videos by our Sports Center trainer. We found that the more we communicated as a group, the more we came together as an AUBH community.
Now that schools are set to re-open in September, what precautionary measures has AUBH implemented on the campus?
We have been working diligently on our return to campus on 13th September 2020, in line with our “Culture of Care” philosophy, and have been exploring creative ways to provide the high-quality education, as defined in our Mission, while protecting the safety of our entire Community. In brief, the “Culture of Care” philosophy lays out the foundation for the creation of a positive University environment, which underscores respect; professionalism; mental and physical well-being; engagement and collaboration; work-life balance, and social responsibility.
Our measures include, first and foremost, providing a safe environment on campus for our students, employees, visitors, and contractors.
In addition, we are committed to supporting those who are unable to attend campus with tools and techniques that enable a continuation of their learning at a distance, and continue to comply with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, Higher Education Council (HEC), National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus, and any other governmental body.
In order to meet these goals, the team at AUBH have developed a comprehensive plan which outlines guidelines for students, employees, and anyone else attending our campus. It includes everything from wearing personal protective equipment while on campus, to interacting in socially-distanced classrooms. As part of the plan, we will also implement several innovative new classroom procedures:
- We are offering a dual-modality opportunity, allowing classes to be held on campus according to the University schedule, and simultaneously online, where students who are unable to attend class on campus or prefer to study at a distance can attend at the same time as students in the classroom. This solution incorporates a specialized camera system with views of the classroom, live broadcasting and remote participation, whiteboards, and activity through our interactive CleverTouch monitors, all being shared through Canvas, a cloud-based learning platform and Microsoft Teams.
- Our beautiful 75,000-sqm campus ensures effective social distancing practices with adapted classroom seating, and reduced numbers of students per room. All our classrooms have been modified to incorporate social-distancing between seating locations. For classes that require additional space, two classrooms will be used simultaneously with the lecture being broadcast across both classrooms.
- For laboratory classes, we have implemented simulation software to complement the traditional classes for scientific majors. This will ensure all students – whether face-to-face or at a distance – can benefit from experimentation and exploration in a safe environment.
What safety protocols will you be requiring faculty, staff and students to follow once classes resume?
The AUBH staff and our NHRA-accredited on-campus clinic, in partnership with Bahrain Specialist Hospital (BSH), have prepared a containment strategy for anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19, with dedicated isolation rooms. This clinic can offer private testing to students, and random testing may be done on a voluntary basis to keep the campus safe throughout the semester. Furthermore, we have partnered with Le Meridien Hotel City Centre to provide isolation facilities for new faculty and incoming students. The re-opening strategy aims to create a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment, with the use of temperature checks, increased sanitation, and masks worn at all times. A detailed precautionary strategy must be read and acknowledged in writing by all employees and visitors to campus.
Students in isolation or those who desire to stay at home will be able to attend classes online through our dual-modality learning experience.
What message do you have for students and parents considering AUBH for future education?
Our primary focus is equipping AUBH Students with the knowledge and skillsets to achieve r personal and professional goals, for a lifetime of success. If you want all the benefits of an American-style education at home – AUBH is the university for you. Unlike most international curricula, students at AUBH are given the opportunity to change majors without losing academic credit during their academic journey within the first two years. Students have two years of general education courses common across most programs. More institutions like AUBH are looking for soft skills such as confidence, creative thinking, innovation, collaboration and teamwork, entrepreneurship and problem-solving. We found that through our unique academic philosophy, students will be equipped to identify their interests and passion and focus their attention on following the path they find personally suitable.
AUBH’s proposed academic partnership with California State University, Northridge (CSUN), will provide a significant educational advantage for Bahrain. Subject to final approval by the Higher Education Council (HEC), we plan to link our curricula and build diverse and expansive higher education resources for the region. This partnership will provide qualified AUBH students with the opportunity to receive a CSUN degree by completing the final year of their coursework enrolled in CSUN. Both CSUN and AUBH students could benefit from international experiences ranging from a summer session or a semester abroad, to graduation with a CSUN degree, with access to high quality academic and professional programs and special projects that will enhance and globalize their study at AUBH.
Now more than ever, workplace environments are rapidly changing and evolving. Thinking holistically to the challenge of global employability readiness, AUBH’s curriculum is built to respond to new job requirements with a digital focus. The AUBH quality of American-style education mirrors that of the best universities in the United States. We envision a new caliber of graduate, empowered with the ability to think critically and add real strategic value to the field they choose to enter.
What is the registration process at AUBH and until when are admissions open?
As part of our process, we interview every student to understand their goals and get a clear picture of their personal and academic skills. Going beyond looking at the academic performance, AUBH uses the interview process to understand how potential students can reach their full potential in the classroom and later in their chosen career path.
We have launched a virtual tour on our website to explore the campus from home (tour.aubh.edu.bh). Students can easily apply for admission to AUBH through www.aubh.edu.bh.