‘It’s the AGYA Members Themselves Who Run the Show’

'It’s the AGYA Members Themselves Who Run the Show’

AGYA membership offers scholars the opportunity to actively engage in the life of a vibrant and diverse interdisciplinary research academy run by its members from the bottom up. Twice a year, alternating between German and Arab host cities, all AGYA members convene for General Assembly meetings in which they collectively decide on all matters of importance to the Academy. The bi-annual assemblies also offer an ideal opportunity for members to meet face-to-face and brainstorm new research projects or seek feedback from members in relation to ongoing initiatives. The atmosphere at AGYA General Assemblies is energetic, constructive and inspiring. ‘AGYA meetings always feel like a reunion’, says AGYA member Jan Friesen, ‘we all respect each other and value the chance to engage with each other, so it’s always amazing to meet everyone again’.

Members Collectively Decide AGYA’s Agenda and Research Priorities

The most recent AGYA General Assembly was held in Egypt from 26 to 28 October 2018. Reflecting on his first General Assembly experience, new AGYA member Mohammed Alkatan from Kuwait said: ‘I appreciate that we members make all decisions for projects, tandems and research collaborations for the coming year internally, including elections for the Steering Committee and Co-Presidents. We members shape the agenda. All members have the chance to express and share our opinions and then decisions are made collectively.’ AGYA member Ahmad El-Guindy, who joined the Academy in 2014, agreed, emphasizing that ‘academic freedom and the freedom to organize ourselves within AGYA was one of the crucial factors for me when I applied to join the Academy’. Or as AGYA Co-President Jan Friesen puts it, ‘It's the AGYA members themselves who run the show’.

Serving on the Steering Committee Offers Members a Chance to Lead

Once a year, AGYA’s General Assembly welcomes new members and holds elections for a Steering Committee consisting of three Arab and three German members to represent AGYA in the year ahead. From the Steering Committee, one Arab and one German member are elected to serve as Co-Presidents. In addition to regular AGYA activities, the Co-Presidents and Steering Committee members represent AGYA at international conferences and actively engage in exchange with leading academic institutions in the Arab world and Germany. A lively atmosphere and energy permeate the election process, as members nominate their peers and vote. At the 2018 General Assembly meeting in Egypt, members Anis Ben Amor, Jan Friesen, Ahmed Hegazy, Zeina Hobaika, Olfa Khelifi and Lena-Maria Möller were elected to serve on the Steering Committee for 2019. Lena-Maria Möller noted that getting elected to the Steering Committee as a new member of the 2018 cohort ‘reaffirmed what I have felt since the first day: when you join AGYA, you really become an equal member. There are no hierarchies in terms of duration of membership. Everyone is working for the greater good of AGYA’.

Leadership Roles Gives Members an Exciting Opportunity to Develop, Professionally and Personally

For 2019, Jan Friesen (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Department of Catchment Hydrology) was re-elected to the position of Co-President, which he also held in 2018, along with AGYA member Zeina Hobaika (Saint Joseph University of Beirut, Faculty of Sciences, Life & Earth Sciences-Biochemistry Department), who will take on the role for the first time. ‘I feel really honoured to have the trust of my fellow members’, said Hobaika, ‘It felt even more rewarding because I've only been an AGYA member for one year, but it was a very full, rich, active year’. In looking forward to her new role, Hobaika anticipates that serving as AGYA Co-President, will give her ‘new knowledge, advanced leadership skills and greater confidence, both professionally and personally. AGYA really supports and develops the next generation of academic leaders!’. Friesen echoed Hobaika in feeling ‘honoured’. For him, ‘being Co-President offers the chance to constructively contribute to the development of the Academy in a deeper way. I benefit a great deal from AGYA and serving as Co-President allows me to give something back’.