Interview with Dr. Michael Benedik, HBKU Provost

Interview with Dr. Michael Benedik, HBKU Provost

28 Oct 2021

HBKU Marks 10 Years of Innovation and Excellence

Interview with Dr. Michael Benedik, HBKU Provost
Interview with Dr. Michael Benedik, HBKU Provost

How would you summarize HBKU’s first 10 years?

I’ve been in an unusual position in that I’ve had the opportunity to watch Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) from the time of its inception, but I’ve watched from afar until I joined as Provost earlier this year, the 10th anniversary. The ambition of Qatar Foundation and those planning HBKU were evident from the start, to create a world-class research university that could compete not just in the region but across the world. Many of those looking in from the outside lauded the ambition but some were skeptical of the reality. It is clear that they were wrong, which is why I chose to join. 

It is easy to summarize where HBKU stands at this point in time. It is one of the major drivers of basic research in the country, but concurrently it has become the hub of translational research in the broadest sense, taking what is known and done in academia and making it useful through startups, interactions with government and business, and facilitating the implementation and safety of critical infrastructure throughout the country. Added to that are the 35 academic programs that have helped over a thousand alumni advance their careers or create new careers for themselves. The majority of these remain in Qatar.

What are your hopes for HBKU’s next 10 years?

HBKU has in fact achieved the initial dreams for what it should be. But over the next 10 years it will become bigger, better, more agile, more integrated throughout the nation and region. It will better identify future needs and build programs to provide the human capital - our alumni - to be ready for leadership in these new areas.

Equally important, HBKU will develop an international profile that is recognized in the global academic community for the accomplishments its faculty and students have achieved. The advantage of being small is agility and the ability to defy common academic structure and silos. The disadvantages are having the critical mass to become a major player in various disciplines and be seen globally as that. But a simple summary is that I hope HBKU soon will be placed on every list of top universities in the world, and be in the top group.

As a relatively recent appointment, what attracted you to join HBKU as Provost and how impressed have you been during your first year? 

What attracted me to HBKU was the opportunity to make a difference. As provost at most universities you manage what exists, make small adjustments, and hope you left the institution in a better position when you leave than it was when you arrived. But here, I immediately saw the opportunities to make a difference and play a substantial role in building and growing the university, and even more than that, in doing so at what will be a great university. This is a unique and rare opportunity. What I’m most impressed with is the caliber of the scholars, the faculty and their research teams throughout the colleges and research institutes, as well as the students. My job is to bring better focus and direction to the institution, but the quality and excellence was already here when I arrived. I think many outside of the academic world don’t realize how strong and unique this university is, and it is great fun showing them.