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August 27, 2019

It’s a long way between Beirut and the west coast of the US, but that hasn’t dissuaded President Fadlo R. Khuri from making two trips to California in February and August 2019. He isn’t the only AUB alumnus to be attracted to California. There are an estimated 1,300 AUB alumni living and working in California these days. In addition, hundreds of AUB students travel to California each summer to do internships and/or study at California universities. It should come as no surprise then that California boasts more alumni chapters (four at last count) than any other US state with chapters in the Greater Los Angeles area, Northern California, Orange County, and San Diego.

During the president’s 10-day trip to California in February 2019, alumni chapters hosted events for the president. He also met informally with alumni regularly throughout his visit. Another highlight of the president’s visit was the tour that he and MSFEA Dean Alan Shihadeh took of the Facebook campus. Walid Y. Ali-Ahmad (BE ’88) was the host and guide for the president’s visit to Facebook that included an opportunity to participate in an engaging demonstration at Oculus Lab where Ali-Ahmad and others are developing the latest virtual reality (VR) technology. Ali-Ahmad also led a tour of the Facebook Connectivity Lab where he showed the president and Shihadeh an advanced 5G device to provide low cost broadband. “It was great to welcome the president and Alan to Facebook—and to give them an idea of what Facebook is working on these days,” he said. “They were surprised—as many people are—to discover that Facebook is developing hardware in addition to applications.”

In both February and again in August, Khuri also met with LebNet, an umbrella group for more than 1,100 members of the Lebanese diaspora living in the US and Canada. The meeting in February 2019 led to a Memorandum of Understanding between Lebnet and MSFEA. The two parties moved quickly launching SiliconValley@MSFEA in May 2019. This joint initiative leverages the knowledge and expertise of LebNet members to support MSFEA students by acting as advisors, facilitating internships, offering talks and seminars, providing entrepreneurship support and mentorship, collaborating on students’ Final Year Projects (FYP), and with research. “There is enormous interest among our alumni in California, and the members of LebNet more broadly, in some of our current initiatives at AUB such as the Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park that we will inaugurate on September 2,” said Khuri. “The 1,100-member LebNet network is poised to become a valuable partner supporting and mentoring newcomers to the global entrepreneurial ecosystem.”