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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.