Final notes from Saudi Arabia

Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar shakes hands with Dr. Nasser Aqeeli, Dean of Scientific Research at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals

Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar and Dr. Nasser Aqeeli, Dean of Scientific Research at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Same first name . . . both mechanical engineers. A source of chuckles around the table.

In the first presentation by colleagues at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dr. Nasser Aqeeli, Dean of Scientific Research, was quite pleased to hear that he shared a first name with our chancellor. A few minutes later, when Chancellor Paydar mentioned that he was a mechanical engineer, Dr. Aqeeli laughed out loud and said he too was a mechanical engineer. I venture to say it seemed like two brothers separated at birth reunited to find that they had lived parallel lives.

The same might be said of KFUPM and IUPUI in certain respects. Both of us focus on student success. Both of us feature a strong commitment to service, engagement, and volunteering as part of our curricula. Both of us consider study abroad experience vital for our students’ futures. Both of us have very long names.

One major difference between KFUPM and IUPUI, however, is that the former has  only admitted men until very recently. That policy is beginning to change thanks to a program launched by The Fund Raising School and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in partnership with the Al Fozan Academy at KFUPM. The program offers a Certificate in Fund Raising Management to a select group of development professionals—both men and women—from a number of different countries in the Gulf region.

Friday, March 15, 2018, marked the commencement of this first co-ed class at KFUPM. Whether this signals the beginning of a larger change is hard to tell, but major changes always begin with a first step, and we are proud that IUPUI partnered with KFUPM on this first step.

Shariq Siddiqui, Muslim Philanthropy Initiative Visiting Director and Assistant Professor in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, receives recognition for the important role he has played in establishing the first co-ed philanthropy training program at KFUPM.

Shariq Siddiqui, Muslim Philanthropy Initiative Visiting Director and Assistant Professor in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, receives recognition for the important role he has played in establishing the first co-ed philanthropy training program at KFUPM.

We greatly look forward to building on that partnership. In fact, in a meeting lasting only 30 minutes, His Excellency Rector Khaled S. Al-Sultan mentioned three different areas we could develop, including offering a workshop on endowment planning, a systematic program to fight poverty that includes careful attention to the impact of environmental factors, and an innovative program to train new faculty.

Another natural area of partnership might be with our School of Engineering and Technology, especially our programs in power engineering and our Lugar Center for Renewable Energy. In addition, a tour of the Entrepreneurship Institute at the KFUPM Dhahran Techno Valley suggested that entrepreneurship specifically and business more generally might another possible collaborative area.

The delegation prepares for our tour of the Entrepreneurship Institute at the Dhahran Techno Valley with an introduction from Dr. Samir A. Al-Baiyat, the Supervisor for Technology Transfer Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Chief Technology Officer of KFUPM.

The delegation prepares for our tour of the Entrepreneurship Institute at the Dhahran Techno Valley with an introduction from Dr. Samir A. Al-Baiyat, the Supervisor for Technology Transfer Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Chief Technology Officer of KFUPM.

We had the opportunity to visit the Saudi ARAMCO Energy Science Center and King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, both part of Saudi ARAMCO. I mentioned Saudi ARAMCO in yesterday’s post.

The surprise I saved for today is Indiana University’s connection to that company and a bit more history of our partnership in the region. Dating back as early as the 1970s, Indiana University sponsored a series of overseas projects managed by Professor of Education Willis Porter. That series very likely included what was termed the Saudi Arabia Project, which involved several dozen men studying through the IU School of Education.

This image appears on page 4 of the September 1974 edition of the Indiana Alumni Magazine. The caption reads, in part: "Hasan M. AlJawadi, one of the first Saudi Arabian educators to enroll in a special program at IU Bloomington shows his Certificate of Attendance to his son Mustafa, 6, and daughter Hanadi, 4...Financed by the Saudi Arabian government, the program trains Saudi Arabian manpower to manage its own educational system."

This image appears on page 4 of the September 1974 edition of the Indiana Alumni Magazine. The caption reads, in part: “Hasan M. AlJawadi, one of the first Saudi Arabian educators to enroll in a special program at IU Bloomington shows his Certificate of Attendance to his son Mustafa, 6, and daughter Hanadi, 4…Financed by the Saudi Arabian government, the program trains Saudi Arabian manpower to manage its own educational system.”

It’s hard to tell from archival records—and trust me, our archivists worked hard on this—but this early project may have evolved into the full-scale degree program that IU later offered to ARAMCO employees. According to a memo distributed by the IU Office of the Dean of Continuing Studies, “In what might be an unprecedented partnership between industry and a public postsecondary institution, the School of Continuing Studies is cooperating with the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) to develop an employee education program leading to the completion of the Bachelor of General Studies Degree at Indiana University.” IU faculty offered the program through independent study and sixteen on-site courses each year.

According to this same memo, the first such project was offered by the School of Nursing for 250 nurses working in ARAMCO hospitals.

I get excited about such history, but let’s return to 2018.  At a cost of around $400 million, construction on Ithra was completed last year with an official inauguration by the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, on December 1, 2017.

Designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta, the center consists of five buildings meant to resemble pebbles in the desert with uniquely curved, asymmetric exteriors that necessitated pathbreaking design and construction techniques since no two pieces of the building skeleton and exterior were alike.

This perspective might fool the eye into thinking that Ithra is, indeed, a group of pebbles found by chance in the landscape.

This perspective might fool the eye into thinking that Ithra is, indeed, a group of pebbles found by chance in the landscape.

Ithra’s Knowledge Tower is 18 stories tall and will host 2,000 annual workshops in STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—in addition to arts, multimedia, and skill-building programs. Open to the public, the complex also includes a performance space lined with perforated copper that will naturally patina. The acoustics in that very large room were astounding such that even a whisper seemed naturally well amplified.

One of my favorite areas was the public library, which included over 200,000 items available for the general public to check out and scanning technology throughout the space for a snapshot about the book before you check it out. A second favorite: the cinema with seats that made me very happy.

From the ceiling with its web of lights to the seats, this cinema was designed to stimulate the audience and create a welcoming environment.

From the ceiling with its web of lights to the seats, this cinema was designed to stimulate the audience and create a welcoming environment.

I should mention that cinemas have not been common in Saudi Arabia since a 1979 denunciation of Western movies by Saudi clerics that was part of a general turn towards an increasingly conservative form of Islam. In their December 11, 2017, New York Times article, Alan Cowell and David D. Kirkpatrick of the New York Times write about the campaign by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to loosen some of the strictures on Saudi society, including allowing women to drive and attend soccer games, and permitting concerts and other forms of public entertainment.

For much of the delegation, this will be our last day in Saudi Arabia. The time has gone by quickly due in part to the intensity of our schedule but also due to what I would term a certain form of experiential relativity. That is, the more enjoyable the situation, the more quickly time seems to pass. An example: when I am talking with a good friend, time passes much too quickly. When I am eating liver, however, that takes forever. So, too, on business trips.

For me, Saudi Arabia is that good friend, and I would like the conversation to continue.

Before I close the book on this trip blog, I would like to share a special word of thanks to Mandy Bray, Hayley Powell, and Ian McIntosh in the Office of International Affairs for all that they did to plan for this trip and help make it a success.

I would also like to thank Roy Hooper and the IU Alumni Association for arranging our IUPUI and IU Alumni Receptions that brought old friends and new together and reminded us of the many different ways that a higher education changes lives for the better.

Finally, thanks to Dina Kellams and her team at University Archives for all the work they did to help us along the way. Conversations on this trip led us to discover that our first graduate from Saudi Arabia identified by Archives, Dr. Hisham Abdul-Ghaffar, later played a central role in the founding of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health. These are the stories hidden in our Archives, and I am proud that our delegation could add yet another chapter.

Thanks for following the IUPUI Delegation’s journey to Saudi Arabia. Follow @Paydar and @IUPUI and visit news.iupui.edu  to learn more as we take steps to further enhance our partnership with institutions in the Kingdom and around the world.

Beginning with His Excellency & ending with distinguished alumni

Dr. Hanafy Tantawy, PhD, Department of Homeland Security Officer with the Saudi Ministry of Health (r) and Professor of Biostatistics Constantin Yiannoutsos

Dr. Hanafy Tantawy, PhD, Department of Homeland Security Officer with the Saudi Ministry of Health (r), and Professor of Biostatistics Constantin Yiannoutsos.

Two firsts for IUPUI and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bookended this intense day for the IUPUI Delegation. This morning, we travelled to the Saudi Ministry of Health to present the final report of the Demographic Health Survey 2017. This is the first time in history that a team has successfully completed such a survey to determine the level of health of Saudi citizens.

The survey included about a quarter of a million people with ten percent of those providing a sample or samples that could be tested by partners with whom we worked within the Kingdom. The outcome fit with findings on other public health surveys: people eat too much sugar and salt, need to increase their exercise, and shouldn’t smoke. In this, Saudis are similar to many people around the world.

Primary investigators at IUPUI were Constantin Yiannoutsos, professor of biostatistics in the Fairbanks School of Public Health, and Professor Angeles Martinez-Meir, Chair of the Department of Cariology, Operative Dentistry, and Dental Public Health in the School of Dentistry.

Naif Nabeel Abogazalah, doctoral student in dentistry, also played a pivotal role on this project, including bringing it to the attention of Dr. Martinez-Meir in the first place. He has also been a key member of this delegation’s trip to Saudi Arabia, helping to plan, arrange meetings, and successfully execute plans once we had arrived. In fact, Chancellor Paydar presented Naif with the pen used to sign the report during the formal presentation:

Chancellor Paydar signs the final report of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National Demographic Health Survey 2017 at the Saudi Ministry of Health

Chancellor Paydar signs the final report of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National Demographic Health Survey 2017 at the Saudi Ministry of Health.

Finally, without the impressive work of biostatisticians Katie Lane and Beverly Musick and lead data manager Steve Brown, all from the Department of Biostatistics, I understand that this project would have been difficult if not impossible.

Kudos to this team as well as thanks to our colleagues at the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who were instrumental in moving this project forward:

  • His Excellency the Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah
  • Hani bin Abdulaziz Jokhdar, Deputy Minister of Health for Public Health
  • Hisham bin Ibrahim Al-Khashshan, Assistant Deputy Minister for Primary Health Care
  • Fouad Abogazalah, General Director of Health Center Affairs
  • Hanafy Tantawy, PhD, Department of Homeland Security Officer
  • Adel Ibrahim, MPH, DHS Data Manager

The presentation went well as did the follow up meeting, but, to be honest, the highlight for me was my selfie with Chancellor Paydar and His Excellency the Minister of Health. You can follow him on Twitter @tfrabiah.

Chancellor Paydar, Becky Wood, and is Excellency the Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah

Chancellor Paydar, Becky Wood, and His Excellency the Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah.

Immediately following the presentation ceremony at the Ministry of Health, the delegation returned to our hotel to prepare for our trip to Dammam in the Eastern Province.

Where Riyahd is cosmopolitan, established, and somewhat conservative, Dammam seemed to me like a place where renegades would feel at home. If it’s meaningful to you, compare Washington, D.C. to Austin or Dallas, Texas. This comparison works, in part, because in both the Eastern Province and much of the state of Texas, the discovery of oil has shaped the landscape, the economy, and the culture.

In the Kingdom, Standard Oil of California discovered oil in 1938. Over a period of years, This original company merged with others, including what later became know as Exxon and Mobil, and became the Arabian American Oil Company. Now known as Saudi ARAMCO and owned by Saudi Arabia, the company has grown into a multi-billion-dollar corporation that has over 65,000 employees worldwide and operates the world’s largest single hydrocarbon network, the Master Gas System.

Richard Reed explains my long meditation on Saudi ARAMCO. Currently Head of Corporate Emergency Management and Continuity there, Richard generously shared his time with Chancellor Paydar this evening prior to attending the Alumni Reception.

Richard is a proud graduate of IUPUI, double majoring in social work and psychology for his bachelor’s degree in 1995 and earning his master’s degree in social work a year later. His degrees reflect his close ties to IUPUI, with the School of Social Work being an IU school, and the School of Science, a Purdue school.

Richard has led the American Red Cross’s disaster relief efforts, has held senior positions at the FEMA and the National Security Council in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. In his current position, he is systematizing emergency response efforts for Saudi ARAMCO, drawing on experience he has gained managing the American response to the Ebola crisis, assisting in earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti, and facing many other crisis management challenging

Considering all of this, and so much else that Richard has achieved, it’s little wonder that he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2016 by the IU Alumni Association. An honor richly deserved.

The Alumni Reception offers the bookend at the end of the day and a marvelous welcome to the energy and dynamism of this part of the Eastern Province. The reception brought together around 30 IUPUI and IU alumni, who were eager to reminisce about their experiences and to share their current successes.

Faisal A. Alkadi graduated from the Kelley School in 2016 and was intent to share with me as much business knowledge as he possibly could. At one point, I shared with him the gesture my husband and I use when we want to change topics. Picture someone holding their right hand out, palm down, then turning their hand over with a bit of style as if turning over a playing card. I joke, but in all seriousness, Faisal credits the Kelley School with his great success in the Saudi business world where he is the business development manager of Althawaqh Food Company with 68 restaurants in the Kingdom and plans for more.

Faisal A. Alkadi, 2016 Kelley alum poses with his Kelley business card holder

Faisal A. Alkadi, 2016 Kelley alum, credits his experience with Kelley for his success as Business Development Manager at Althawaqh Food Company in Saudi Arabia.

After remarks by Chancellor Paydar, I had the pleasure of visiting with Hajer Alibrahim, a recent graduate of the Herron School of Art + Design and recipient of the Windgate Fellowship from the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design.  Applicants may submit material by invitation only, and the center awards only 10 fellowships per year.  Based on our conversation about printmaking, book making, furniture making, and other creative endeavors, I am confident that Hajer will make extraordinary use of this award.

I feel a similar sense of confidence about the entire group of alumni gathered this evening.  Only their great potential outweighs all that they have already accomplished.

IUPUI and IU Alumni Reception in Dammam, Saudi Arabia

IUPUI and IU Alumni Reception in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Sad to say, only one more day to go here in Saudi Arabia. I’m grateful that you have been following along our journey, and I hope you return  tomorrow for the last installment of the IUPUI Goes to Saudi Arabia 2018 blog with photos, updates, and stories.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions at rewood@iupui.edu.

The days just keep getting better thanks to our alumni

 

A view from the 77th floor of Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

A view from the 77th floor of Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


To maximize efficiency today, our group went separate directions with a promise to reconnect later in the day.

This morning offered part of our group the opportunity for a few hours of cultural experience with a visit to the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Albujiri Heritage Park, and lunch on the 77th floor of Kingdom Centre, the 5th tallest skyscraper in Riyadh at 99 stories. This perforated building is the third tallest building in the world with a hole.

The two groups reconvened for the afternoon visit to the United States Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Located inside of a well-protected compound, the embassy was constructed in 1983 during President George Bush’s time in office. We walked about a quarter mile or so from the parking lot to the front door of the embassy.

The grounds outside of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh featured a combination of hardscape and lush plantings. As a gardener, I kept wondering how much the staff had to water those plants.

The grounds outside of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh featured a combination of hardscape and lush plantings. As a gardener, I kept wondering how much the staff had to water those plants.

Our conversation with Cultural Attaché Robin Yaeger focused on how best IUPUI could recruit and support Saudi students wishing to study in the United States. The key point that Ms. Yaeger and her team made were that Saudi students value family deeply and respect the advice of family members, so working with Saudi alumni to share their positive experiences at IUPUI would be a good approach. In addition, one of Ms. Yaeger’s colleagues suggested having a current Saudi student help make a video in Arabic promoting IUPUI to friends through social.

IUPUI Delegation members with Cultural Attaché Robin Yeager

IUPUI Delegation members with Cultural Attaché Robin Yeager

Of course, since Chancellor Paydar was the first chancellor to use Twitter back in the day, that would likely be our go-to channel for such a video. Perhaps our Office of Admissions might leap at this opportunity in collaboration with our IUPUI Saudi Student Club.

I should add here that delegation members have been proud to share the story of the IUPUI Saudi Student Club receiving an award for being the #1 club in the country for their volunteerism and engagement in the community from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Washington, D.C. This kind of engagement reflects the spirit of our campus and shows one of the important roles our international students play in the Indianapolis community.

As we were leaving the embassy, a voice called out, and we paused to investigate. Somehow Jacob Surface, part of the embassy staff, heard about our visit and greeted us in the hallway. He grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana, earned his bachelor’s degree from Wabash College and received his masters in public administration from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington. He is also an alumnus of the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program. He has been serving in the diplomatic corps for over four years but returns to Indiana to visit family. We hope he will return for the upcoming anniversary celebrations.

Jacob Surface, 2013 IU graduate, who works at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Surprise visit from Jacob Surface, 2013 IU graduate, who works at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

We closed the day with one of the highlights of the trip so far:  the Alumni Reception. There’s almost nothing better than travelling over 7,000 miles to be greeted by the magical combination of Saudi and Hoosier hospitality that our graduates brought to this event. I had conversations with many of my fellow IU alums who shared their stories of Bloomington and Indianapolis, of living on the Indy Canal, of slipping on the brick sidewalks between the Chemistry Building and Ballantine Hall in Bloomington, of putting their degrees to work on the massive Metro project in Riyadh.

The biggest challenge at these events is time.  There is never enough time to talk with everyone as much as I would like. If I had my way, I would split myself into 50 mini-Beckys so that I could talk with everyone, learn about their experience and share just a little bit of mine. I know that this sounds strange, and that in reading it, some of you might shudder at the thought of 50 Beckys, so this may be a good moment to close today’s post.

The group of alumni who attended the reception in Riyadh represented xx different schools with the largest groups from the School of Engineering and Technology and the School of Dentistry. The group of alumni who attended the reception in Riyadh represented xx different schools with the largest groups from the School of Engineering and Technology and the School of Dentistry.

The group of alumni who attended the reception in Riyadh represented at least seven different schools with the largest groups from the School of Engineering and Technology and the School of Dentistry.

Thanks for being part of this journey, and I hope you return  tomorrow for the latest photos, updates, and stories from the IUPUI team in Saudi Arabia.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions at rewood@iupui.edu.

Of international partnerships, communication, thobes & a curious cat

 

At King Saud University, several of us made our way to the engineering buildings travelling under high arches that framed fountains with beds of flowers.

At King Saud University, several of us made our way to the engineering buildings, travelling under high arches that framed fountains with beds of flowers. Perhaps an idea for a Welcoming Campus Innovator Project.

The architecture of the buildings we have visited struck a chord with me today. We have been greeted by the drama of lobbies and common spaces with ceilings as high as five or six stories sometimes higher, a design to help distance the hottest of air from human beings, a design I greatly appreciate.

As much as the architecture inspired, the hospitality of the people encouraged and welcomed all of us. Today’s team included Chancellor Paydar, Dean of the School of Engineering and Technology David Russomanno, Founding Dean of the Fairbanks School of Public Health Paul Halverson, Vice Chancellor for International Affairs Gil Latz, doctoral student in the School of Dentistry Naif Abogazalah, and me.  We started our day at the Saudi Ministry of Education where we met with a team of people who administer the ministry’s scholarship programs.

Meeting with Saudi Ministry of Education with a special focus on their scholarship programs.

Meeting with Saudi Ministry of Education with a special focus on their scholarship programs.

The primary goal that we achieved at this meeting was to ensure that the ministry was aware of IUPUI and all that we offer, especially in relation to the health goals articulated in Saudi Vision 2030. We also came away with a better understanding of the ministry’s programs and how we can better support Saudi students who are studying at IUPUI.

Our second meetings took place at KSU, where we have partnerships in dentistry and education, and we have explored an agreement that would bring LLM and SJD graduate student in Law to the Maurer School of Law at IU Bloomington.  Today’s visit held a special treat because we had the opportunity to meet Dr. Nawaf Yousef Labban, Consultant and Chairman of the Department of Prosthetic Dental Science in the School of Dentistry at KSU and a 2013 graduate of the School of Dentistry in Indianapolis.

At King Saud University, we visited with International Office leaders as well as Dr. Nawaf Yousef Labban, 2013 IU School of Dentistry graduate and chair of the KSU Department of Prosthetic Dentistry (2nd from right)

At King Saud University, we visited with International Office leaders as well as Dr. Nawaf Yousef Labban, 2013 IU School of Dentistry graduate and chair of the KSU Department of Prosthetic Dental Science (2nd from right)

We also had the privilege of meeting with Rector Dr. Badran Al-Omar, who was very interested in study abroad opportunities for graduates and undergraduates as well as other forms of partnership between our two institutions.

After the meeting with the Rector, our group split into three breakout meetings and while all were productive, the only one I can share is that with colleagues in the KSU College of Engineering.  We exchanged ideas for partnership with a host of people around a very large table, but the response that stands out beyond the rest came from Dr. Zeyad A. Al-Mutairi, the new manager of the KSU Sustainable Energy Technologies Center. In particular, he was interested in possible partnerships with the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy.  Considering Dr. Al-Mutairi’s response to the prospect of partnership with IUPUI, I understand why he is associated with an energy center.

In this and all discussions of international partnerships, affiliations, and collaborations, IUPUI supports the goals of the IU International Strategic Plan with particular emphasis on

  • Helping to build the global competencies of IUPUI students and faculty
  • Forging productive international research partnerships
  • Engaging IUPUI experts in development, training, and institution-building projects overseas

A great resource in this regard is the Office of International Partnerships, and one of my favorite features is the Registry of International Agreements.

Following our visit to KSU, the group split in two for tours of the city.  The chancellor, Gil and Celia Latz, and I visited the King Abdul-Aziz History Center, which features a museum focused on the king’s life and includes the palace, which functioned in a similar fashion to the White House in the United States. The king’s full name is Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman ibn Faisal ibn Turki ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al Saud. He lived from January 15, 1875, to November 1953, and was the first monarch and founder of Saudi Arabia.

At the museum we saw the king’s belts, his thobes or traditional robes, and his soap.  We saw his cars, his eyeglasses, and his medals.  We saw so many things that reflected his everyday life and the connections he made as ruler.

Cat paces at window wanting inside of King Abdul-Aziz Museum

At King Abdul-Aziz History Center, we learned a great deal about this important leader but also saw this very insistent young cat, who also seemed interested in the artifacts and images on display.

The day closed with a traditional Saudi Arabian dinner at Najd Village restaurant that started with a surprise.  Since the delegation separated for our tours, we actually arrived at the restaurant separately as well.  The room for our meal was situated upstairs in the restaurant, and Chancellor Paydar led the way. Already in place within the room were three men dressed in traditional thobes and ghutra, a head covering held in place by a black rope-like cord called an igal. The chancellor greeted them with “As-Salaam-Alaikum,” an Arabic greeting meaning “Peace be unto you” at which point one of them said, “Hello, Chancellor.”

David Russomanno, Paul Halverson, and Roy Hooper wished they had cameras at that moment so they could have captured the look on the chancellor’s face. Their tour had included visiting historic sites in the city and being fitted for traditional clothing for Saudi Arabian men, which they wore at dinner.

Roy Hooper, Paul Halverson, and David Russomanno don traditional Saudi attire for men and prepare for a traditional Saudi meal.

Roy Hooper, Paul Halverson, and David Russomanno don traditional Saudi attire for men and prepare for a traditional Saudi meal.

The most important lesson of the day for me, however, came from Osama S. AlGhamdi, international communications officer, who works for the Acting Deputy Minister for International Communications. Osama led the chancellor’s tour of the King Abdul-Aziz Museum.

Like me, he is a communicator, and he described his job in this way: “I introduce A to B in order to make C happy.” Osama exemplified this by arranging a special tour of King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre for part of our delegation at the request of his boss.  The equation reads as follows:  Delegation + King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre after hours tour = Happy Boss.  Highly instructive even with the many variables that might be introduced.

The beginning of an extraordinary visit to Saudi Arabia

Impressive architecture in Riyadh, with the landscape seeming to change minute by minute, March 11, 2018

Impressive architecture in Riyadh, with the landscape seeming to change minute by minute.

Assalamualaikum and welcome to the IUPUI Goes to Saudi Arabia 2018 trip blog.

The IUPUI delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia is nothing short of extraordinary.

In addition to our key goals—reconnecting with alumni, building research and educational partnerships, and enhancing study abroad opportunities—two special events stand out as groundbreaking.

First, we will be presenting the final report on Saudi Arabia’s first-ever comprehensive national demographic and health survey to representatives of the Saudi Ministry of Health. IUPUI has played a key role in designing and executing this massive project. The multi-disciplinary Indianapolis-based research team includes faculty from the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, the School of Dentistry, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the School of Medicine and is in the final stages of completing their work and delivering findings.

Second, Chancellor Paydar will be among those presiding over the graduation ceremony of the first co-ed academic class ever to study together at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), one of Saudi Arabia’s top-ranked universities. The students have completed philanthropy certification requirements through the Fundraising School in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which is partnering with the Al-Fozan Academy for Leadership Development in Nonprofit Organizations. The ceremony is on Wednesday, May 15.

In addition, in Riyadh we will be meeting with the Saudi Ministry of Education and with colleagues at King Saud University. When we travel to Dammam, where KFUPM is located, we will also be discussing study abroad opportunities with Saudi ARAMCO, officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Company. ARAMCO collaborates with universities through research centers and projects, lecture series, and other cooperative endeavors.

Joining this delegation are representatives from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the School of Engineering and Technology, the School of Dentistry, and the Fairbanks School of Public Health along with representatives from the Chancellor’s Office and the Office of International Affairs.

Nearly 20 percent of IUPUI’s record-breaking 2,078 international students come from Saudi Arabia. They study a wide variety of subjects, but the vast majority study either the health professions or engineering and technology. IUPUI also has more than 900 alumni affiliated with Saudi Arabia, and one of our goals for this trip is to strengthen our connections with those alumni.

To this end, on his very first night in Riyadh, Chancellor Paydar, along with a few other members of the delegation, joined Dr. Nasser al-Hujailan and his wife Dr. Maha al Enazy for dinner. Dr. Nasser earned his doctorate in near eastern languages and cultures from IU Bloomington in 2008. Starting in 2011, Dr. Nasser has served as the Deputy Minister of the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information for Cultural Affairs, and he is often Acting Minister while the current minister is touring with the Crown Prince.

Dr. Maha Enazy also graduated from IU Bloomington with her bachelor of science in biology and her master’s in language education. Having earned her doctorate, she now serves on the Faculty of Medicine in the Physiology Department at King Saud University.

We consider both Dr. Nasser (not the Chancellor!) and Dr. Maha honorary members of the IUPUI Jaguar community, and Dr. Maha gets extra credit in this regard since she also studied at IUPUI.

Dr. Nasser al-Hujailan and his wife Dr. Maha al Enazy generously hosted Chancellor Paydar, Becky Wood, and Celia and Gil Latz early in the IUPUI delegation's visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. March 11, 2018

Dr. Nasser al-Hujailan and his wife Dr. Maha al Enazy generously hosted Chancellor Paydar, Becky Wood, and Celia and Gil Latz early in the IUPUI delegation’s visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

As with Chancellor Paydar’s delegation to Mexico, this trip has an important history with roots reaching back to the health professions core that formed IUPUI campus.

A team from University Archives has been combing through commencement programs, and they discovered that in 1959, Saudi Arabian student Hashim H. Abdul-Ghaffar came to Indianapolis from his hometown in Mecca to work on his master’s degree in dentistry.

Archives is still doing detective work, but as of this moment, Hashim is our first graduate from Saudi Arabia.

He concentrated his studies in Preventive Dentistry, working with renowned researcher Joseph Muhler, the great innovator whose research resulted in the development of Crest toothpaste.

Closing on a personal note, I have had the good fortune to join several of these delegations, which allow faculty members to connect one-on-one and build the relationships they need to push research forward and to create opportunities for better teaching and learning. Each trip is a new cultural experience.

On this trip, I am extremely grateful to Naif Abogazalah, and his wife Dr. Laila Al Dehailan for taking time out of their busy schedules to share with the delegation background on Saudi Arabia with special emphasis on cultural traditions. Both are in the School of Dentistry, and Naif, a doctoral student, will be joining the delegation. Dr. Al Dehailan is a visiting professor in the Department of Cariology, Operative Dentistry, and Dental Public Health and graduated from the School of Dentistry in 2016.  She is originally from near Dammam and offered special insight into that region of Saudi Arabia.

I also want to thank Ghaliah Hassan Jali, senior anthropology major and vice president of the award-winning Saudi Students Club, originally from Riyadh, who joined Dr. Al Dehailan for a special session for the female members of the delegation. With the knowledge they shared, I stepped off of the plane in Riyadh and felt if not totally comfortable then at least well prepared as a women. For a powerful reflection on her experience in Saudi Arabia as a woman and as a representative of Indiana University, take a look at Laurie Burns McRobbie’s blog. http://archive.inside.iu.edu/features/stories/2014-11-19-first-lady-in-saudi-arabia.shtml

As I am putting the finishing touches on this post, morning prayers are playing over a loudspeaker outside, and I am thinking about the day to come—what gifts will be needed, what key talking points will guide conversations, what I’m going to have for breakfast. What I am not thinking about at present is what I am going to wear as I will be covered head to foot in an abaya or similar cloak. This is more than a piece of clothing. It is also a symbol within Saudi culture and beyond.

It is tempting to engage in the debate about the abaya here, but I will leave it at this: I am a western woman who has travelled over 7,000 miles to be here in Saudi Arabia on behalf of IUPUI and Indiana University. I bring respect to all of my interactions and will express that—at least in part—by donning my abaya, covering my hair (such as it is), and embracing the community of Saudi women and others to which I will never—truly—belong.

A special word of thanks to all of those in the Office of International Affairs, University Archives, and in units across campus who have helped us prepare for this journey.

And thank you for being part of this adventure. Come back tomorrow for the latest photos, updates, and stories from the IUPUI team in Saudi Arabia.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions at rewood@iupui.edu.