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Entrepreneurship at the heart of the AUS School of Business Administration mission
Entrepreneurs are change makers and the building blocks of the future, contributing significantly to sustainable development. This has made it the mission of American University of Sharjah (AUS) to prepare students to become successful in any field they choose to venture into, from social enterprise to large company entrepreneurship, said Dr. Narjess Boubakri, Dean of School of Business Administration (SBA) at AUS.
“By 2030, the National Entrepreneurship Agenda aims to establish the UAE as an entrepreneurial nation. The UAE also aims to be recognized as one of the top three countries in the Global Entrepreneurship Index. Accordingly, it has been our mission to contribute to this vision and to give our students the best of opportunities, especially that the Sharjah ecosystem is unique with the presence of the Sharjah Entrepreneurial Center, Sheraa, and the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park,” she explained.
SBA has been a major driver of entrepreneurship education at AUS, instilling a spirit of enterprise within students through its growing portfolio of programs and state-of-the-art curriculum, and providing a rigorous and forward-looking education to students. It offers a variety of courses on entrepreneurship and engages in research on family businesses and entrepreneurial drives through its Sheikh Saoud Bin Khalid Bin Khalid Al Qassimi Chair in Family Business and Said T. Khoury Chair of Leadership Studies.
“To become an entrepreneur, you must not fear failure. No idea is a bad idea, and nothing is unrealistic. Entrepreneurs must have drive and communication, presentation and critical-thinking skills. We train our students in SBA throughout the curriculum to excel in these skills, fostering analytical thinking, creativity and leadership,” said Dr. Boubakri.
The school houses the Department of Management, Strategy and Entrepreneurship, which prepares the next generation of leaders to take positions of responsibility and make decisions that help their organizations attain higher levels of sustainable success, while also developing their innovative critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills.
SBA has also launched the student organization StartUp SBA as part of the international association Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which is the first chapter of its kind in the region. Members engage in a series of activities and events, providing opportunities for networking with entrepreneurs, taking part in pitching competitions, receiving mentorship from established entrepreneurs and collaborating with fintech professionals.
It also plans to organize the second edition of its Hakathon in FinTech in Fall 2023 following the success of its debut edition in 2022. Aimed at engaging high school students around the UAE, the hackathon includes workshops and opportunities to network with major professionals in fintech, giving high school students a first-hand experience of the industry.
This focus on entrepreneurship has also led SBA to organize many events and competitions and invite entrepreneur speakers to share their experiences with students, encouraging them to pursue their own ideas and dreams.
“We are mindful of the changing environment of the market, which is why we are agile, constantly introducing new skills and creating co-curricular activities to help our students bridge any gaps in the market,” said Dr. Boubakri.
Mohammed Azhar Sajan, who graduated from AUS with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Management in 2020, established his luxury home solutions business, Casa Milano, in the UAE while he was still an SBA student.
“When my uncle was planning to build his house, he had to travel to various parts of the world to find the right furnishings to match the luxurious vision he had for his house. That’s when I saw the gap in the home solutions segment. It is true that there were several brands catering to sanitaryware and tile requirements in the market, but none were for customers looking to add a luxurious touch to their homes. So, I launched a luxury home solutions business where I began with sanitaryware and tiles then expanded into indoor spaces with kitchens, parquet and wardrobes as well,” said Sajan.
The idea of Casa Milano was born in 2018, after which Sajan put his idea into action, from finding the right place for his showroom, to meeting various brands across the globe and building partnerships to have the right mix of products. Sajan recalled that on the day he opened his Dubai showroom, he was racing with time to submit an assignment for a course he was taking at AUS.
“We opened our flagship showroom in Dubai in October 2019, so it took us around a year and a half to launch our first showroom. I can never forget the launch day, as I had reached the opening ceremony just in time after submitting a paper,” he said.
AUS played a tremendous part in Sajan’s practical approach to his business by offering him valuable learning opportunities.
“During my time at AUS, I had the opportunity to enroll in several impactful courses that have greatly influenced my business journey. The course on career management with Ali Khawaja, Senior Instructor in Management, was particularly instrumental in teaching me how to present myself effectively in the corporate world. This knowledge enhanced my ability to interact with global brands and helped me in evaluating potential candidates for the Casa Milano team,” Sajan said.
He added, “The entrepreneurship and family business course with Dr. Rodrigo Basco, Professor of Management and Sheikh Saoud Bin Khalid Bin Khalid Al Qassimi Chair in Family Business, with its emphasis on practical learning through case studies, provided me with invaluable knowledge that I could directly apply to my business endeavors. As someone who comes from a family business background, I found the family business course particularly relatable. It not only deepened my understanding of my own family's business dynamics but also offered valuable insights on how we could improve and cultivate gratitude within our operations. Overall, these courses at AUS have played a significant role in shaping my business acumen and have provided me with essential skills and perspectives for success in the entrepreneurial world.”
SBA is one of the region’s top business schools, with QS World University Subject Rankings 2023 placing AUS as number one in the UAE and among the top 200 universities globally in the categories of business and management studies, and accounting and finance. At the graduate level, the AUS MBA program is ranked among the top 10 in the Middle East and Africa region and among the top 250 in the world in the QS Global MBA Rankings (2022). In addition, Times Higher Education places AUS among the top 400 universities worldwide for business and economics.
For more information about SBA and its offerings, visit www.aus.edu/sba.