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Seminar on “Role of Universities in Community Development and Empowerment”
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Islamabad March 30 - Pakistan Chapter of The Talloires Network (PCTN) held its 3rd seminar titled “Role of Universities in Community Development and Empowerment” at the main campus of National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) here on Wednesday. Chairman HEC, Dr Mukhtar Ahmad was the chief guest at the event.  Students, faculty and Vice Chancellors from different PCTN member universities attended the seminar.

Chief Coordinator PCTN Dr. Abdul Ghafoor welcomed the guests to the seminar and apprised them of the fast-paced growth the network had made in a period less than three years. He said it was quite heartening to note that the number of PCTN member universities had risen to 65 from initial 35, and that several universities are working in close liaison with each other to mutually benefit from various civic engagement initiatives. Towards the end of his speech, he also mentioned some commendable community service activities of the member universities across Pakistan.

This was followed by a video message by Executive Director of the Talloires Network, Mr Robert Hollister. He congratulated everyone on the exponential growth of PCTN and termed it a source of inspiration for all the other TN chapters around the world. He also expressed great appreciation for Rector NUST Engr. Muhammad Asghar and acknowledged his importance as the Steering Committee member of The Talloires Network at Tufts University, USA.

In his keynote address, Rector NUST Engr Muhammad Asghar shed light on what community development and empowerment was and how universities could play their part in it through civic engagement activities. He maintained that the academia must do research pertinent to the problems facing the community, and provide every possible support may it be financial, physical or emotional.

The Rector praised the NUST community service efforts, mentioning the coveted Macjannet Prize that was awarded to the university for 'Education for Empowerment' program in 2015. He also spoke high of NUST entrepreneurship competitions, like DISCOVER and FICS, as they promoted a culture of social entrepreneurship.
 
The Rector NUST encouraged further enhancement of the collaboration among the universities of Pakistan under the umbrella of PCTN. He concluded his address by presenting facts and figures about as many as 252 completed projects ranging from healthcare to quality education.  After Rector NUST Vice Chancellor University of Agriculture, Faisalabad Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan and Vice Chancellor Veterinary and Animal Sciences Dr Talat Naseer Pasha talked about the contributions of their respective universities in the area of Community engagement.

The chief guest, Dr Mukhtar Ahmad in his speech emphasized the importance of role of universities in community development.  He said the need of the hour was not just exceptional students with extraordinary grades, but well-rounded human-beings who benefitted others around them. He talked of the importance of family structure and of knowing our neighbors and reaching out to our communities for the purpose of our creation was ‘to benefit others around us’.  He also announced that HEC is going to introduce mandatory Service Learning courses at HEIs in Pakistan. He mentioned how HEC and British Council were collaborating successfully to run a Civic Engagement program in 42 universities in Pakistan. He commended Rector NUST in bringing together universities of Pakistan for this noble cause of serving communities.

The second session of the seminar was a panel discussion on how students can contribute towards school education in Pakistan.  The esteemed panelists included Air Commodore Shabbir A Khan (CEO Rashidabad City), Dr Ayesha Khan (CEO Research and Development Solutions), and Mrs Asma Tughral (Head Saya School, Islamabad).  Students and faculty present were really inspired by how Rashidabad City was setup by a single person’s determination to give back to his country.  The panelists urged the students and faculty to not focus on the lack of resources but on how to benefit those around them one at a time.  They said that educating the underprivileged is a responsibility that every educated person in this country has towards those who are less fortunate.  At the end the students posed questions to the panelists and expressed their views on the topic.
 
After the Seminar The PCTN Steering Committee met to decide the way forward for this association of Pakistani universities working to promote community service and civic engagement in Higher Education Institutions across Pakistan.
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