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AUS celebrates International Women’s Day
More than 50 per cent of American University of Sharjah’s (AUS) student community is made up of women, a statistic the university is immensely proud of as it celebrates this International Women’s Day.
With gender equality one of the world’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, AUS believes that putting women and girls at the center of economies will result in better and more sustainable development outcomes.
“Education is the best medicine, and we do it well at AUS,” said Dr. Jeannette Vinke, AUS Chief Operating Officer. “Our fantastic broad offerings help all our students open their minds. We recognize the importance of empowering both women and men and celebrating the wonderful diversity we have at AUS.”
Dr. Vinke, who joined AUS in 2008 as a faculty member of the School of Business Administration where she taught accounting and finance, noted that there are many people–both men and women–who understand the importance of diversity in solving today’s big challenges. She said, “I am a typical Generation X as I often tried to fit into the masculine world of work. Fortunately, we are now more aware of the important diversity that women bring.”
She highlighted the importance of role models and support in empowering women. “I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by both female and male role models throughout my career. And my door is open to give advice to current and former students who think they may benefit from a chat. Support your sisters, especially once you have established yourself. Remember it is not your job to please everybody,” she said.
AUS will mark International Women’s Day with a series of online events to celebrate the achievements and contributions of its female faculty members, students and alumni.
Activities will kick off today with a two-hour virtual event organized by the College of Engineering (CEN) in collaboration with the Association of Women Engineers that will include messages from female engineering faculty members, a panel with AUS women engineering graduate students, presentations of student design projects, and a special talk on women’s resilience in STEM by guest speaker Dr. Haifa Takruri, Professor in Electrical Engineering at University of Salford, UK.
“It is important to mark International Women’s Day as it celebrates women’s achievements and contributions as equal members of society. It is a celebration of every female student, faculty member, mother, daughter and sister. In my days, I was often one of the few, if not the only woman, engaging in undergraduate and postgraduate engineering courses while I was in the UK, and I got used to teaching classes where fewer than 20 percent of the students were women. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see a great balance of male and female students in the engineering courses at AUS when I joined in 2018. In fact, the graduate courses I teach have a majority of women in them. What I find most amazing is their positive energy and the eagerness to do well,” said Dr. Vian Ahmed, Professor in Industrial Engineering, Director of Alternative Delivery Graduate Education at AUS and the event moderator.
She added: “The world has changed, and women have the resilience and capability needed to join engineering programs and progress in their career paths the same way men do. Changes in the socioeconomic climate and the resultant dynamics have created several skills gaps in the engineering sector that are waiting for bright and intellectual graduates to fill them. This has created bigger and better opportunities for women in academia and industry. I believe that with more self-empowering strategies, we can witness an increase in the number of women professionals within different engineering disciplines, as well as more women in leadership positions. AUS has been vital in graduating new generations of female engineers every semester who will contribute to the future of the UAE, their countries or wherever their careers may take them.”
The AUS computer science and engineering faculty and students will also be participating today in the UAE Women in Data Science (WiDS) conference organized by WiDS UAE Ambassadors as part of the annual WiDS Worldwide conference held by Stanford University. The event features outstanding women and their work in the field of data science.
The conference will showcase senior design projects by women students at AUS, including a smart cane for the visually impaired that uses machine learning; an automated video content searcher; a smart monitoring system for stroke rehabilitation; a comparative study of deep learning and machine learning techniques used for hydroponically grown plants’ health classification, and a detection of student engagement in online learning. It will also host Dr. Salam Dhou, Assistant Professor in Computer Engineering at AUS, as a keynote speaker.
Speaking about her participation, Dr. Dhou said: “I want to highlight the role of women in data science and artificial intelligence. As an example, I will be presenting a project that’s being tackled at AUS within my research group, which is the early detection of breast cancer using artificial intelligence. This is an important topic for society, health, and for women specifically since early detection of breast cancer can significantly enhance survival rates and reduce the complications associated with treatment. This work is being applied and tested on datasets obtained from the UAE population.”
She noted that even though there are many challenges facing women working in engineering, women engineers are bright, committed, and quite capable of succeeding despite these challenges. “Women need to give themselves credit, be confident, and seek mentorship and support whenever they need it. They should also keep motivating and supporting each other. I am impressed by the performance, resilience, innovation and creativity of the female engineering students in our College of Engineering. They are very committed and hardworking. They are doing an excellent job in their studies and research, and I am very proud of them,” she said.
Dr. Dhou added that AUS has created a positive environment that supports women and their achievements. She specifically highlighted the role of the Association of Women Engineers, a student club at AUS, in empowering and supporting female engineering students.
The university will also be featuring various women faculty and alumni profiles and their achievements throughout the week.