Face to Face: Wassim Abiad

By MainGate Staff
Fall 2020/Winter 2021

Ask a staff member on campus about Wassim Abiad, and they are likely to mention a time he gave sound advice for a work problem or his skill in negotiating deals for AUB employees. Over thirty years at AUB, he has become a master at both. 

Abiad graduated from AUB in 1989 with a degree in public administration, although unbeknownst to him, his career had already started. Chairperson Dr. Maroun Kissirwani had seen something in the young man and selected him to come work in the department, increasing his responsibilities even while he was a student.  

At graduation, Dr. Kissirwani told Abiad he had recommended him for a position at the university. “I told him I was going to do a masters degree and travel to Saudi Arabia,” Abiad remembers, but as I was about to leave, he said, ‘I think you should just check it out. This is a good position for you. Thirty years later, Abiad has grown with AUB’s human resources department to be the assistant director of HR, employee and government relations. 

It wasn’t surprising Kissirwani recognized Abiad’s trustworthiness, as during the war years, he had been in charge of his family while his father worked abroad. The war was ending as he started as a job analyst, soon after College Hall was bombed. “We were able to recover almost all of our critical data and files,” he remembers. As recruitment manager, Abiad was trained to study the employment market in order to write job descriptions, evaluate candidates, and set salary scales, and over 25 years he has helped bring in thousands of employees to AUB and AUBMC. Today he oversees everything related to the staff and to their relationship with AUB’s employee syndicate. “When there is a problem with an employee,” he says, “I try to find a way to solve the problem.  

An uplifting part of Abiad’s work is the program of employee discounts and free gifts he has built that make him something of an HR legend during the holidays. He personally visits airlines, restaurants, hotels, and stores to make connections and negotiate packages for AUB workers. “I call it the art of the possible,” he says. I always try to negotiate for AUB, but I never imagined my style would work in another situation.  

Abiad is responsible for the ceremony recognizing the service of AUB employees every year and also for the buffet that follows. “It looks like a $45-per-person feast,” he says proudly. “But I have negotiated a much lower price. I try to do the best for AUB, maybe even better than I do for myself.  

The government relations part of Abiad’s job has him helping faculty members overcome governmentrelated obstacles as well as entry and residency issues, which, as many of us know, can happen at any time. Even at midnight, I’m ready to help,” he says. 

The biggest challenge now is the uncertainty employees face because of COVID and the economic situation. “We need to preserve our human resources for the AUB of the future,” says Abiad. “We know it’s a difficult time, but I am always looking for solutions, for what is possible.”