Decoding an AUC Trailblazer

BC - Girl Decoded 2
BC - Girl Decoded 2
BC - Girl Decoded 2

A true embodiment of what it means to be an ‘AUC-ian,’ Rana el Kaliouby takes us through her journey of learning, determination, and values in her riveting memoir, Girl Decoded. We dove deep at the School of Continuing Education (SCE) in a virtual lecture with AUC alumna and trustee Rana el Kaliouby, Dean James Ketterer, and hundreds of learners worldwide. We followed that with a more intimate and in-depth discussion in the school’s new Book Club's first session. And yet, there are still so many more interesting aspects to address!

Overall, el Kaliouby's story resonates with diverse readers on various levels, but it especially so with the AUC community. The technology trailblazer featured her experience at the University as an undergraduate, master’s student, and faculty member when she was living the quintessential ‘nice Egyptian girl’ dream, as she calls it.

“I majored in computer science. But because AUC is a liberal arts school, I had to take all of these other classes, like philosophical thinking. I remember thinking, ‘why do I do need to take this? Can’t I take physics 1, 2, 3!’ But looking back, these liberal arts classes enabled me to be a strong writer and communicator. The critical thinking aspect is so important. It is key to engage with a variety of stakeholders when you are in the business world or trying to be an innovator or thought leader that’s all AUC-in. I attribute that all back to the way AUC approaches education.”

Familiar as she may be, el Kaliouby explains that she often felt like a ‘rarity’ in different ways throughout her life. However, her journey spoke to an even more diverse pool that saw themselves in el Kaliouby's multifaceted story. At least, that was the case with the 12 readers that launched SCE’s first Book Club virtual meeting. Their varying backgrounds included literature students from Mansoura and Ain Shams University, Japanese and Yemeni visiting students in Egypt, an SCE instructor, and an alumna and Tasoni (Coptic name for sister nun), as well as more enriching perspectives from the U.S. and Egypt. All of them connected to SCE in one way or another. In another layer of support, the AUC Bookstore provides all the reading materials at a discounted SCE Book Club rate.

The readers came prepared with discussion points on el Kaliouby's whole story, but several points were particularly poignant amongst most. They strongly identified with her described pressure for perfectionism, and somehow simultaneously trying ‘to be yourself’ in different worlds. Interestingly across cultures, the readers also reflected on the generational shift in perspectives while also recognizing the significant progress still needed in areas like female empowerment, universally.

This is all but a sample microcosm of AUC’s legacy. It is a story of a nice Egyptian girl that once upon a time, pursued her passion, not to mention extraordinary talent, at an institution equipped to be her “launchpad.” But el Kaliouby is no ordinary success story out globally; she remains connected to AUC as a trustee and avid lifelong learner and thus the perfect subject for SCE’s first lecture series and Book Cub sessions. Take it from us; Girl Decoded is an easy and fascinating read you don’t want to miss!