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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.