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French Version

Interview with Dr. Haissam Haidar

Dr. Haissam Haidar is assistant to the president for Information Technology at the University of Balamand.

First Lebanon: How long have you been at the university and what are your main responsibilities here?

Dr. Haissam Haidar: I’ve been working at the University of Balamand for the past 5 years. I am Assistant to the president for Information Technology. In addition to that, I also work with the Vice President for Development on issues related to fundraising and development at the University.

F.L: What do these activities consist in?

H.H : Regarding my duties as Assistant to the President for Information Technology, they basically consist of all IT related tasks at the University. I have held this position since 2006. Part of my responsibility is overseeing the operation of the Information Technology Center at the University, a 20-staff member center that is responsible for all information technology services at the University. In addition, I help the President of the University in setting the IT strategy for the University.

As an example of some of the activities in the Development Office, we recently held our first formal fund raising dinner in the UAE on March 13, 2008. It was a tremendous success thanks to the attendance of over 800 attendees consisting of Board of Trustee members, friends and alumni of the University. The gala dinner was held under the auspices of His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Education who delivered a speech at the event. The purpose of the dinner was to raise money for the scholarship fund at the University.

F.L : What are the main challenges you are facing while exercising your duty?

H.H : Undoubtedly keeping up with the pace of the fast developments in the IT field is a major challenge. As a leading Lebanese university we have to keep our facilities up to international standards both in terms of infrastructure and innovation. This requires a lot of dedication and continuous learning. A good deal of our time is spent searching for innovative and cost-effective solutions to the University IT needs. We obviously have to do this under some budgetary constraints. But, we are not unique in that respect since all organizations have to do cost-benefit analysis when it comes to spending money on IT projects.

F.L : What does it mean to be an engineer in the 21st century?

H.H : Being an engineer and having practiced engineering both in Lebanon and the US (I hold a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT), I think I can answer that question. With knowledge expanding so fast, the 21st century engineer will face a major challenge not typically faced by older engineers. New fields of engineering that were practically non-existent 10 years have popped up creating exciting new products. Therefore, the engineer cannot count on his formal education to keep him/her up to date on the latest developments in the field. The 21st century engineer has to be very flexible, multidisciplinary. If there is one word that would capture his/her best quality, it would be a self learner.

F.L: What are the difficulties you face?

H.H : The major difficulty we are facing the Information Technology Center at the University is staff attrition. This is due to the huge job market in GCC countries where qualified and skilled people can find attractive packages. There’s no oil in Lebanon! And the unstable general political situation in the country is not helping matters. Therefore, our major challenge is to retain highly skilled professionals not only at the University of Balamand but in Lebanon.

F.L: What is the next innovation to be introduced on the campus?

H.H: I wouldn’t call an innovation. But it is a new service we will be offering our students. Our plan is to eventually turn the whole 500,000 square-meter campus wireless. We implemented the first phase of the project. Next year, we are going to implement the second phase covering even a larger area of the campus. This will allow our students to access information wherever they are on the campus and enhance their learning experience.

Beirut 09-06-2008
Yann Rotil
First Lebanon

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