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Real-world experience is mandatory in almost all our degree programmes at American University in Dubai (AUD) Image Credit: Supplied

AUD was named the best university in the UAE for employability in the QS Graduate World University Rankings and Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings. What steps got you there?

One is internships. Real-world experience is mandatory in almost all our degree programmes. Second, the preparation for and experience of these internships focus on building soft skills. The third step is not only focusing on new trends but also maintaining a traditional focus on academic excellence. We prepare well-rounded, brilliant students who will represent us well after graduating. Our motto is: We turn potential into success. These rankings show that, according to employers, our graduates are highly valued — in fact, the most valued in this country.

Can you give me an example of some of these soft skills?

We’ve really focused on students being able to be personable — able to hold a conversation and be proactive. We want them to be not only brilliant but also team players who don’t just take orders but are also leaders. If you focus on these skills from the moment a student walks through the gate to when they’re walking across the stage for their diploma, you’re doing something innovative and entrepreneurial in itself.

How do you sustain and improve an academic culture of excellence?

By focusing on the core of any university: the classroom. Our emphasis is on finding the best faculty in the world. Another ranking places us number one worldwide for faculty diversity. We’re in Dubai — one of the most vibrant, diverse places in the world, and we have the most diverse faculty. And then, of course, we get exceptional students.

Obviously, AUD is a university that is focused on education, but we don’t ignore the fact that our graduates are going out into the real world to look for jobs. We prepare them before their internships so that they can be successful.

- Dr David Schmidt, President of American University in Dubai (AUD)

How do you prep students for the world of work?

Obviously, AUD is a university that is focused on education, but we don’t ignore the fact that our graduates are going out into the real world to look for jobs. We prepare them before their internships so that they can be successful. Afterwards, we provide career advice: How to create a resume, conduct a job interview and represent yourself well. The other thing that dovetails really well with that is universities and industries working hand in hand. Working in Dubai Media City, we have the likes of MBC, CNN, and Thomas Reuters across the street — it’s an amazing location for internships. AUD has a dedicated student portal where some of the region’s top job and internship openings are listed on the portal for our students to apply to. Once a student graduates, the AUD support network and all university resources remain at his or her disposal. Beyond that, the university prides itself on engaging the industry into our classrooms from the start of the university experience. This allows the student to build on soft skills, their knowledge of industries and polish their interview and presentation skills.

What support do you offer job-seeking AUD graduates?

We’re not just career services while you’re a student. Once you’re an alumni, you’re always one. A Blue Knight for four years and a Blue Knight forever. We have career fairs on campus and strong links between the university and industry, whether it’s in our School of Communication or School of Architecture, Art and Design.

What are some of AUD’s strengths when it comes to original research?

Traditional research tends to focus on STEM. But we also have a large school of arts and sciences, practitioners of the arts, writers, poets, interior designers, architects, and we have to learn how we can measure and promote that type of research as well. We have a faculty member in the engineering department who measured and verified the strength of cement for 100 years in the Burj Khalifa. On the other hand, at the recent opening of Dubai Design Week, our professor Dr Georges Kachaamy had a piece called Levitate. It was part of an project called Rising Oases, which is breakthrough technology to generate anti-gravity architecture. Homes and buildings using the same technology as the Hyperloop train between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

When you become an AUD faculty member, you understand that there is this trinity: Teach, serve and research.

Tell us about your exchange programmes

Each semester we welcome our exchange students, who stay with us for a year or a semester. The students from the US I recently spoke to were from Georgia Tech, which is partnered with our School of Engineering. French students from Sciences Po in Paris, affiliated with our School of Arts and Sciences, stay with us for a year. AUD students are eligible to go to the US, UK, France — anywhere. It’s a wonderful opportunity. There’s no difference in the cost, and all credits transfer back into their degree programme.