For the eighth consecutive year, LAU’s Civil Engineering students have benefited from a range of incentives made available by the Abdallah Yabroudi Civil Engineering Grant. Established in 2009 by the CEO of the Dubai Constructing Company (DCC), the endowment has been broadening student horizons through awards, scholarships and internships that prioritize hands-on training and innovative thinking. “Abdallah Yabroudi is very much interested in contributing to engineering education,” says Dr. George Nasr, dean of the School of Engineering of the exceptional dedication the Dubai-based entrepreneur has shown to the department.
The hallmark of Yabroudi’s grant is a unique internship program offered at his DCC headquarters for civil engineering students from LAU and Syracuse University in New York. Each year, a dozen participants from both universities travel to the renowned Emirati building metropolis to gain first-hand knowledge of running a construction company. The project came to Yabroudi’s mind during a visit to Syracuse University, almost thirty years after his graduation, during which he mulled over the fact that he had lacked practical experience when he graduated and had never even visited a construction site. Envisaging the benefit of providing professional training to senior civil engineering students in the region, he reached out to LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra, who welcomed the idea.
As engineering solutions are inseparable from an understanding of global economies and societal contexts, the chance to study at an international contracting company such as DCC did not go by underestimated by the interns. “The attendance at the program in Dubai has changed our lives,” declared a student from the 2014 session, adding, “it proved to be a unique, and in our opinion, best ever internship program in civil engineering.” Throughout the day, students followed an intensive curriculum doing office work, taking courses, conducting case studies and preparing reports and presentations. In a generous gesture by Yabroudi, last year’s interns were also taken on a trip to the U.S. to become acquainted with the master’s program in civil engineering that he sponsors at Syracuse University.
After gaining invaluable insights into the specialized worlds of architects, concrete mixing plants and structural engineers, according to Yabroudi the students went on to pass job interviews with flying colors as they had exposure to domains not usually studied in university. While aiming to increase the graduates’ chances in the real world, the internship was also structured along an intimate, flexible apprenticeship system. “In other internships, students are just thrown on sites and made to work with the project manager who does not necessarily have the time for them. Eventually, the students have to work their way through to get the credit or grade that is needed. But over here it’s very unique, we have an open book for the interns — we show them all our programming and planning,” Yabroudi says.
For the benefactor, motivating students to become leaders in their field doesn’t end with the internship. In fact, he also established the Design Project Awards for final year projects, the Dean Best Achievement Awardsand the Chair Term Paper Awards on Current Issues as part of his endowment. Choosing the theme for this year’s paper as “How does civil engineering contribute to economic development in the Middle East?”, Yabroudi stresses that “we need to look at civil engineering as not only building nice towers, hotels and villas but in terms of how can these help in the overall development of the Middle East including in the human, social and cultural aspects.” Dealing with the built environment, civil engineering is the oldest engineering discipline in human history, and Yabroudi aims to empower coming generations of its practitioners at LAU to be well adapted to modern demands.