Amin Marei ’11 Building Social Capital Through Education

a young man sitting on stairs

In-depth with the recipient of the Harvard Intellectual Contribution Award, Amin Marei.

Since graduating from the American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Business in 2011 with a Bachelor of Business Administration and a specialization in finance, Amin Marei has admirably sought to have a positive impact on society through his passion for education. His devotion recently led him to receive the Harvard Intellectual Contribution Award shortly after earning his master’s degree from the esteemed institution. He currently works in Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education as the Associate Director of the Middle East Professional Learning Initiative, a position that he hopes will help improve teaching capacities throughout the region. The AUC School of Business interviewed Marei to find out more about what his experience at AUC was like, how that helped him in his journey and where his passion for education stems from.

How was your experience in AUC like?

My experience at AUC was a relatively long one. I was a student for four years. During that time, I was very much involved in student activities, which gave me more time to spend on campus. After that, I worked as a teaching assistant (TA) for two and a half years. So in total, I spent around six and a half years of my life there. It was a really enriching experience on many levels. AUC’s uniqueness is that it does not only offer you an academic experience; it provides a family — a support system of staff, faculty and students who are all there to help you grow and develop. This family helps you learn about theory, practice and life. My ability to interact and learn from them has been crucial in my development.

On an academic level, what did you gain from the AUC School of Business?

Having the opportunity to listen to people freely expressing their diverse thoughts and opinions was an eye-opener for me. This ability to navigate your way through the different opinions and different stances helps you in academia, and even more outside of it. It prepares you for the real world when you have to deal with different opinions and embrace diversity as a necessary component for success.

The Finance Program at AUC is taught by a great array of professors with significant experience as well. Having an opportunity to be a student of Dr. Medhat Hassanein, who was a former minister and is a huge name in international finance, was a valuable opportunity for instance. I particularly enjoyed the educational mixture between practical and theoretical aspects.

How was your experience like as a TA? Was it very different for you to be on the other side of the educational spectrum?

This was really one of the most enriching experiences for me, because it made me discover my passion for teaching. It gave me a chance to see things from the other perspective and showed me how great it can be to help and support the learning process of others. I always felt that I was passionate about education, but the experience made me realize how much I love it, which is honestly something that I feel grateful for. It also made me realize how difficult teaching can be and how hard trying to provide a strong learning experience is. It is not as easy as you would generally think as a student. If you really care about the learning experience, then you can make a difference in the lives of your students. That makes it hard because you have to think about each and everyone and deal with him or her in a different way. Obviously, if you have a class of 30 students, that becomes very hard, but at the same time, it is very rewarding. We had students who came to us after they finished the class and told us how much it changed their lives and how much it really helped them in the real world.

What is the main thing that makes you passionate about education?

For me, it is having the chance to build on the things that I have learned to help those who are in need, and at the end, to lift the overall community, not just myself, through creating this kind of social capital. My career goal is definitely to do this through education. It is about how you can utilize the social capital that already exists in a low-income community and build on that to support it in a mutually beneficial environment where a community’s population works together to develop itself from within.

Is this specific to Egypt for you?

It is specific to Egypt and the Middle East because this is where I belong, and where my passion resides.