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Marking the 25th anniversary of American University of Sharjah (AUS), the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) hosted a two-part symposium series focused on celebrating the contributions of alumni and exploring the future of design education. 

The symposium events were coordinated by CAAD faculty members Kevin Mitchell, Professor of Architecture; Hala Al-Ani, Assistant Professor of Art and Design; and Dr. John Montague, Associate Professor of Architecture.

"We are extremely proud of what CAAD alumni have accomplished within and beyond their disciplines. Critical conversations about their experiences are invaluable and provide perspectives on how we can continue to enhance teaching and learning in ways that remain academically rigorous, responsive to the demands of the professions and regionally relevant."


Kevin Mitchell
Professor of Architecture
College of Architecture, Art and Design

Rabeeya Abduljabbar is a creative director and designer who graduated from AUS with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication in 2017. With over seven years of experience in the industry, leading design teams and working with regional creatives and entrepreneurs, Rabeeya enjoys building brand narratives and curating experiences that are contextually relevant and have a lasting impact on the community. 

Maryam Mudhaffar Ahli is an Emirati architect and architectural historian. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture with minor in design management from AUS  (2012) and a MA in Architectural History from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London (2015). She is a published researcher on the topic of modernism and modern heritage in Dubai. Maryam has worked on on several governmental rehabilitation projects, masterplans and museums. She is currently a Projects Manager in the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority's Museums Department.

Mays albaik

Mays Albaik is a Palestinian artist who  graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from AUS in 2014, and went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is also an alumna of the Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship. She has her own interdisciplinary practice and is also the Program Manager at 421—a creative platform in Abu Dhabi. 

Laila Binbrek

Laila Binbrek is the Coordinating Director of the UAE National Pavilion, which presents the United Arab Emirates’ annual exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Laila has significant experience within the region’s cultural industry. Before joining the UAE National Pavilion, she spent 6 years at The Third Line, one of Dubai’s leading contemporary art galleries, where as gallery director she worked to develop a platform for MENASA artists from across the region. Prior to that, Laila managed the Art Centre at the Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (DUCTAC), with the goal of promoting community engagement within the local community of the UAE.

Pallavi Dean graduated from AUS with a Bachelor of Architecture in 2003. She is the founder and Creative Director of Roar. Pallavi plays at the intersection of design and entrepreneurship, having founded her design firm Roar in 2013. She has won multiple awards for work across a range of sectors including commercial, hospitality and residential. Her work has been profiled in some of the world’s leading international media including the Financial Times, BBC, Monocle, Wallpaper, and Architectural Digest. 

Fatma Elfeki graduated from AUS with a Bachelor of Interior Design in 2016. Following graduation, Fatma worked for Roar as an interior designer for four years, while completing a Master of Fine Arts in History of Arts and Design at Kingston University, London in 2019. Fatma is currently working on local and international  projects at Graphite International—an architectural design practice based in Dubai. She is also working closely with the founder on building an interior design department.

Farah El-Rafei obtained her Bachelor of Science in Design Management in Spring 2015. She currently works as the Exhibitions Manager at the National Pavilion UAE—La Biennale di Venezia that manages the UAE’s participation at the Venice Biennale. In 2017, she cofounded the Cairo-based film festival "Film My Design" to promote and celebrate the region’s design scene through film. 
adnan Ihsan

Adnan Ihsan graduated from AUS in 2008 with honors in the Bachelor of Architecture and a minor in interior design. He went on to complete a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University, New York in 2010. He has been practicing architecture for 14 years over a wide mix of programs in Los Angeles and Dubai. He is currently spear-heading the architectural design team at RSP Architects in the role of Design Lead, Associate.

Ahmed Khadier
Ahmed Khadier is an architect of Palestinian origin who was born and raised in the UAE. Ahmed is a Founding Partner and Principal in Charge of Pragma—a UAE based design studio
operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism and research. He holds a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from AUS. 

Haifa Malhas graduated from AUS in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communications. Haifa is the founder and curator for Hobb Design and Visual Culture bookshop, as well as a graphic design freelancer who has worked with companies such as Apple Middle East and Emirates Literature Foundation.

Ahmed Noor
Ahmed Noor graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Design from AUS in 2006. He kickstarted his career at Dubai Media Inc’s Creative Department, starting as a Promo Producer and later a Senior Promo
Producer. He wrote, produced, directed, and edited promos and campaigns for various channels such as Dubai Sports, Dubai TV
and Dubai Racing. His work landed him multiple Promax BDA Awards. He currently handles the Content & Creative Direction for multiple TV shows such as "Prince of Poets" and "Million's Poet" airing on Abu Dhabi TV, Emarat and Baynounah TV. His work has been featured on Communicate Magazine "Most shared ad in 2015 list", Campaign Magazine as well as being shortlisted at the Dubai Lynx and the Effies.

Moustafa Zakaria graduated from AUS with a Bachelor of Science in Design Management in 2007, and completed a Master of Fine Arts in Cinematic Arts–Directing and Producing from the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts in Jordan in 2010. A UAE-raised creative, he has worked as director, creative director and executive producer on film projects for clients in the arts and culture, including Museum of the Future, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Ministry of the Presidential Court. He has also worked with film and TV studios such as Sesame Street, Image Nation Abu Dhabi and OSN. Moustafa is currently working as an Executive Producer on an upcoming OSN Original series. 

Symposium 1: Taking Stock

The first symposium, CAAD at 25: Taking Stock, held on January 28, 2023, was composed of two panel sessions.

Moderated by Professor Mitchell, the sessions examined the significant contributions by CAAD alumni to the growth and development of design professions and the creative economy within the UAE and the broader region. 

The symposium provided an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of success of alumni who make meaningful contributions to the arts, design and culture in the UAE and beyond.

Watch the full recording of CAAD at 25: Taking Stock.


Adnan Ihsan | Moustafa Zakaria | Fatma ElFeki | Rabeeya Abduljabbar 


CAAD alumni reflected on the transition from university to the profession and discussed the challenges that they faced in their careers.


The panel considered questions related to what defines success within a design discipline, addressing the foundation for their success as leaders in their respective disciplines.


Participants commented on how AUS and CAAD had prepared them to work in a collaborative environment, effectively articulate their ideas, take risks and benefit from critique by making a distinction between themselves and the work they produce.


The panel also discussed ways in which education must continue to maintain the balance between privileging the process of design while preparing students for their disciplines.


Farah El-Rafei | Mays Albaik | Maryam Mudhaffar Ahli | Haifa Malhas

transcending disiplines2

CAAD alumni were invited to address the role that design education plays in preparing students to move beyond the confines of their field of study at university. 


The participants, who have all gone on to make major contributions in areas beyond their undergraduate major, expressed that the characteristic features of a CAAD education—including an appreciation for craft and the emphasis on a rigorous process of problem-solving—can be applied across many fields.


When considering the future of design education, the panelists stressed the need for engagement with local concerns and acknowledging the rich and varied history of the region's creative and cultural landscape.

Symposium 2: Preparing for the Future

The second and final CAAD symposium event was held on Saturday, March 18 at the Jameel Arts Centre, Jaddaf Waterfront, Dubai. 

Watch the full recording of CAAD at 25: Preparing for the Future


Laila Binbrek | Pallavi Dean | Ahmed Khadier | Ahmed Noor


During the first panel session, Leila Binbrek, Director of the National Pavilion UAE, joined CAAD alumni Pallavi Dean (Founder and Creative Director, Roar), Ahmed Noor (content and creative director) and Ahmed Khadier (Co-Founder and Principal in Charge, Pragma) to discuss how their education had prepared them for their careers. 


Addressing the role that education plays in facilitating success, they considered the role that education should play in preparing students for taking risks, working independently and collaborating with colleagues across disciplines. The panel discussed the balance between addressing the fundamental skills and knowledge and fostering an independent approach to design work within studio-based degree programs.



Laila Binbrek | Pallavi Dean | Ahmed Khadier | Ahmed Noor

AUS Students: Nujud Alhussain | Marianne Breidy | Omar Darwish | Khaled Zaher


A second panel session invited current CAAD students Marianne Breidy, Nujud Alhusain, Khaled Zaher and Omar Darwish to join the members of the first panel to engage in a dialogue about design education. After reflecting on their own experiences, the students addressed the tensions between a formal curriculum and the flexibility to pursue areas of personal and professional interest. 


The students also discussed the value of breadth through courses beyond their chosen major and the benefit of addressing issues that are locally and regionally relevant to the design professions. The panel debated questions related to career preparation, professional competence at the time of graduation, and the importance of the fundamentals of design.

AUS Jubilee

The AUS Silver Jubilee is being celebrated from Spring 2022 through Spring 2023.

From concerts and events to creative collaborations and academic conferences, across social media and on campus, we are delivering a range of activities that will celebrate faculty, staff, students, alumni, and our business and community partners.  Learn more.


For regular updates on CAAD news, events and creative work by our students, faculty and alumni, follow us on Instagram.

Contact Us

College of Architecture, Art and Design
American University of Sharjah
PO Box 26666, Sharjah, UAE
Tel +971 6 515 2825