Message from the Inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Professor Stephen M. Lyon
I am delighted to be appointed as the Inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). I first travelled to Pakistan as a teenager with my mother, who was a medical anthropologist working with the Pakistan Medical Research Center in Lahore. I then pursued my own doctoral field research in a beautiful little village in Attock District in northern Punjab and I have spent the last few decades travelling to and from Pakistan at every opportunity. I am thrilled that I now have the opportunity to live in Karachi as a resident.
In addition to my love for Pakistan, the real attraction of the role is the incredible potential to realise a dream that has inspired me since I was a young boy. The FAS has the potential to make the world a better place for all of us, by harnessing the creativity, scholarship and power of people in a unique institution.
With the FAS, Aga Khan University is launching an exciting new initiative in the higher education sector in Pakistan. One important aim of the FAS is to make a meaningful contribution to the growth and direction of an inclusive and pluralistic civil society. Breaking barriers and creating environments which enable people to flourish and develop as scholars, as well as people, has been at the heart of AKU.
Students who join the FAS will be exposed to a distinct scholarly programme that invites them to consider how a range of academic disciplines define and investigate some of the most fascinating questions in their fields. Rather than carving out separate streams for Arts students or Sciences students, FAS helps students to understand how the arts and sciences together concentrate on unique facets of the problems and facilitate novel ways of thinking about things from multiple starting points.
We have the opportunity to address the greatest challenges facing the world today. Climate change and collapsing biodiversity are among the main issues causing and exacerbating political and economic volatility, which dramatically impacts people’s lives. Demographic shifts around the world have resulted in some countries having youth bulges which exceed employment opportunities while others have elderly bulges that place enormous strain on younger workers. Inequalities, polarisation and the failure of national and international institutions to address grievances are feeding into a general lack of faith in our political and economic systems. In such febrile environments, those who want to disrupt cooperation are able to take advantage of so-called wedge issues to divide communities and erode the very social capital needed to address the serious challenges. These crises acutely affect the poorest and most marginalised communities. It is exactly these communities which AKU wants to work with to give them hope and improve their well-being and security. If it sounds like I’m not describing an academic programme, it is because the FAS is so much more.
The FAS harnesses powerful ideas of equity, justice, inclusivity and pluralism to develop a rigorous intellectual environment. Students will be equipped with the tools to critically analyse and consider innovative and unique ways of addressing persistent problems. These may be rooted in scientific enquiry, artistic expression, governance or commerce. They will benefit from the open-minded, critical thinking that will be the hallmarks of an Arts and Science graduate.
I look forward to the opportunities that FAS presents and, in particular, to welcoming our first cohort of students in September 2023!