University community celebrates 45th, 46th cohorts

Birzeit University’s students, faculty, and staff members celebrated the graduation of the 45th and 46th cohorts of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Professions and the Faculty of Art, Music and Design, as well as the 45th cohort of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, in a ceremony held on Monday, June 28, 2021. 

The ceremony, the first of nine that will be held over six days, marks the first occasion where students, faculty members, and parents were able to meet on campus since the spread of COVID-19 in the early months of 2020. 

In his welcoming remarks, Chair of Birzeit University’s Board of Trustees Dr. Hanna Nasir praised the resilience of the university’s community in weathering not only a devastating global pandemic, but also a brutal military occupation that is only becoming more ruthless as time goes on. Birzeit University’s students, however, were always at the forefront of the national struggle for liberation and independence, Nasir added, highlighting the life and sacrifices of Fadi Washaha, a Birzeit University student who was killed in a peaceful protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza and harassment of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. 

Students like Fadi Washaha, Muna Kurd, and Suhad Abdel Latif, said Nasir, have stood up to fully armed Israeli soldiers and settlers, whether in Ramallah or Jerusalem, and have valiantly defended Palestinian freedom and dignity and highlighted Israeli injustices in front of the whole world. 

Discussing the future of Birzeit University, Nasir congratulated Birzeit University’s outgoing president, Dr. Abdullatif Abuhijleh, on his prudent leadership of the university and its different constituents in such difficult and tumultuous circumstances over the past six years. 

Abuhijleh, said Nasir, has been able to steer the university towards safety and stability during a global pandemic that made face-to-face teaching virtually impossible, directing the university community’s efforts and transitioning the institution to online teaching and learning before any other institution of this size and complexity in the country. The fact that students of the 45th and 46th cohorts were graduating today, added Nasir, is a direct result of the decisions taken by Abuhijleh and his administration during the early days of the pandemic. 

In his speech, Abuhijleh congratulated the graduating students on completing their degrees successfully, especially in such difficult and challenging circumstances. This, however, is only the beginning of the road, said Abuhijleh, encouraging the graduates to carry the spirit of Birzeit with them as they develop and advance their communities in the face of a global pandemic that is still impacting the country, hideous attacks by Israeli forces and settlers, and a divided Palestinian community. 

Despite such adverse conditions, noted Abuhijleh, Birzeit University was able to reach new heights locally and internationally. The university, he explained, gained top places in international rankings in research, academic performance, development, and sustainability, while five of its researchers were ranked among the top 100,000 most cited worldwide and part of the top two percent in their sub-fields. Additionally, the university’s team won first place nationally in the annually held IEEEXtreme programming competition

Abuhijleh also highlighted Birzeit University’s latest advancements in teaching and learning. Recently, the university gained official approval to establish a college offering technical training and vocational education programs leading to diploma degrees, and it is in the process of launching two new Ph.D. programs: one in computer science focusing on artificial intelligence and systems software, and the other in mathematics — among other programs leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees to be launched in the future. 

Hanan Nofal, a graduate of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Professions, gave the undergraduate valedictory, in which she praised the university’s faculty members and administrators for facilitating teaching and learning under the COVID-19 pandemic, while Mohammad Arouri, who graduated with a master’s degree in software engineering, was the graduate valedictorian. 

Near the end of the ceremony, Abuhijleh presented Abed Tahsin, Jumana Dababneh, and Hana Eid with the Distinguished Staff Award for their efforts to advance and develop Birzeit University, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.