A quick introduction last summer of UAB Engineering Professor Fouad Fouad, Ph.D., and officials from Misr University for Science and Technology in Egypt has led to a whirlwind collaboration, giving the School of Engineering its first international academic partnership.

School of Engineering Dean Linda Lucas (left) and Fouad Fouad, chair of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (far right) meet with Medhat Hoaroun, dean of engineering at The American University in Cairo, Egypt.

Fouad, chair of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, is the program administrator for a UAB construction management certificate program that will run July 13 through Aug. 27 at Misr University in Cairo. Jason Kirby, Ph.D., and Talat Salama, Ph.D., professors in the department, will join Birmingham attorney Wood Herren of Bradley Arant Rose & White as instructors for the six-week summer program. The group will teach students and professionals at Misr while serving as ambassadors for UAB.

“Students from Misr and engineers and construction managers from some of the largest construction firms in the Middle East will be participating in this program,” Fouad says. “Construction across Egypt is booming, and they are interested in learning more about construction management. They knew we were advanced in that area here at UAB, and we’re certainly very excited to have the opportunity to teach these groups.”

The UAB group, along with a U.S.-trained faculty member from Misr, will teach four courses: Sustainable Construction, Construction Accounting and Finance, International Construction and Business Law, and Construction Methods and Techniques.

School of Engineering Dean Linda Lucas, Ph.D., visited Misr University with Fouad in May to finalize the details of the program. Lucas says engineering students traditionally participate in several study-away activities. One group recently returned from Peru, where they began constructing wells for villages in need of clean drinking water. But this particular partnership marks an exciting new beginning to the school’s international endeavors.

“This is the first time we will send faculty and students and teach courses at an international university, and I think teaching construction management at Misr University is a great place for us to begin,” Lucas says. “For many of our students this will be their first experience outside of the United States. For them to see another culture, see how other businesses work internationally and begin to learn the differences and how you function with those differences will be a great experience for our students.”

Meeting jumpstarts collaboration
Misr University President Mohamed Raafat Mahmoud visited friends at Tuskegee University this past summer and wanted to meet with UAB School of Engineering faculty to discuss his interest in the universities working together. Fouad pitched the certificate program to Mahmoud, who was receptive.

“We told them this could be established very quickly,” says Fouad, an Egyptian native. “It’s a graduate certificate; it’s not a master’s. But it is a certificate and it’s from UAB, a United States institution, which is something that is very prestigious in that area. A certificate or degree from the U.S. is something that is extremely important for their professional development and growth. And to be able to get it as part of a condensed program without having to travel is a bonus.”

Fouad says the collaboration between the schools presents a number of advantages for UAB in addition to the opportunities for the university’s students. Misr has students from a cross-section of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Dubai. The program already has received publicity in Egypt’s largest newspaper Al-Ahram, complete with a photo that included Lucas and mentioned UAB’s involvement.

“Part of our department’s vision is to be a prime school of choice on the international level, this kind of publicity helps UAB become well known throughout the region,” Fouad says.

Also, having the opportunity to educate others on America’s construction methods and thinking is extremely important, he says.

“It brings the people of the region closer to us and closer to our understanding and our thinking behind why we do what we do in the field of engineering,” he says. “It will enable us to work with them a whole lot easier in the future.”

Program’s future
Mahmoud and other administrators from Misr will be visiting UAB in August. Discussions on the next steps for the program are expected to take place then.

There are numerous possibilities for the future, ranging from UAB faculty returning next summer to teach the same four classes they will teach this summer, to returning to teach four additional classes as a next step toward a master’s degree, to Misr faculty possibly coming to shadow UAB faculty.

There also is some hope Misr students would come to UAB to continue their pursuit of a master’s.

“We would hope their students would be interested in completing a master’s in civil engineering here on campus,” Lucas says. “We want to be able to tailor the program for some of the construction industries in Cairo.

“Wilbur Hitchcock, one of our professors in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, has developed a strong master’s program in construction management and will start offering the program online in January,” she says. “That might be something we can work through Misr and some of the construction companies by the first of the year. There are many possibilities, and we’re excited about exploring them.”