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Saudi Arabia Cooperates with UW to Achieve Successful Cultural, Educational Mission

February 27, 2012
Group of people
Mohammed Al-Eissa, Saudi Arabia's cultural attache to the United States, front row second from left, met with Saudi students during his recent visit to the University of Wyoming. There are 50 students at UW in a Saudi scholarship program, one of the largest concentrations in the United States. (UW Photo)

Ibrahim A. Gashim of Saudi Arabia had a choice to attend any United States university on a full-ride scholarship but, for him, the choice was easy. Because he sought to be educated at a school with expertise in instructional technology, he chose to attend the University of Wyoming.

Supported by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM), he is among Saudi students who are chosen by their government to attend college in the United States. In an effort to achieve the country's progress and development goals, SACM provides Saudi students with the best possible educational opportunities at America's top educational institutions. 

UW's International Programs Office reports Saudi students supported by SACM began arriving at the university in 2006. Today, there are 50 students at UW on the Saudi scholarship program, one of the largest concentrations in the United States. The majority of them are in chemical engineering, but they also are enrolled in such disciplines as chemistry, business administration, accounting, finance, mathematics education and several disciplines within the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

A delegation from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission visited UW recently to review the program, talk to students and make future plans. Such visits to U.S. universities are not uncommon, but the visit to UW was unusual because it included Mohammed Al-Eissa, cultural attache to the U.S.

Also attending were Fatimah Al-Sulaim, director of academic affairs for the West Region, U.S.; Aishah Babaa, academic adviser for the Northwest U.S.; Ahmed Alsuhaibani, administrative director of electronic services; and Marie-Claude Svaldi, assistant director, English as a Second Language Institutes and Academic Placement Department.

A major focus of the discussion was to encourage the Saudi government to approve scholarships to support attendance at Laramie County Community College in Laramie. UW encourages this as a way to prepare students to be successful at a four-year institution.

Al-Eissa reminded UW's participants that SACM collects and disseminates information that reflects Saudi culture, tradition and heritage through active participation in academic, cultural and social activities. Gashim, president of the Saudi Student Club that began in 2009, has been an example of such participation.

"Wherever we go, we should consider ourselves as a part of the community, sharing, helping, cooperating and showing good manners and respect," he says. "This brings benefits through cultural exchanges."

Anne Alexander, director of UW's International Programs office, adds that the Saudi students have a broad involvement in campus life. They are two-time winners of a soccer fiesta, placed twice as the best display award during International Week and have helped to organize several cultural events.

She cited a number of reasons the SACM program has been so successful at UW.

Alexander says UW makes it a point to provide information to all students in the program regarding the numerous resources -- including the Math Lab, Writing Center, engineering tutorial services, their advisers and the International Students and Scholars Office -- available on campus to enhance their success.

Gashim will soon obtain his Ph.D. degree in instructional technology, and will fill a position at Jazan University in Saudi Arabia. He says his relationship with UW won't end, however.

"I will always keep in contact with my valuable professors in instructional technology at UW, as we share the same interests in the field," he says."I plan to bridge the gap between here and there. It will be a productive cooperation for more development in the field on instructional technology."

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