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NC State Expands Exchanges with Saudi Arabia

What started as a research collaboration between two computer science scholars nearly 10 years ago is now the foundation for a series of research and academic exchanges between NC State University and King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Professor George Rouskas, director of graduate programs for NC State’s Department of Computer Science, has already co-authored 14 publications with Dean Iyad Katib, who heads KAU’s Faculty of Computer and Information Technology. They both had always hoped to expand their decade-long partnership into something more.

“I visited KAU three times over the years and had many discussions with students, faculty, and administrators, in which we considered options for furthering our collaboration beyond research,” Rouskas explained.

In early March, a delegation of six administrators and six students from KAU traveled to NC State as part of an exchange program organized by NC State’s Global Training Initiative and supported by a grant from the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The administrators met with their counterparts in NC State’s Division of Academic and Student Affairs and Office of Finance and Administration to learn about some of our best practices.

KAU administrators visit NC State's iconic Memorial Belltower.
KAU administrators visit NC State’s iconic Memorial Belltower
KAU administrators touring Hunt Library.
KAU administrators touring Hunt Library

Meanwhile, KAU and NC State students participated in a series of workshops, discussions and site visits based around the theme of “Computer and Information Technology as Tools for Cultural Dialogue.” For the second part of the program, GTI staff will take a group of NC State undergraduate students to KAU in December.

The Department of Computer Science hosted both the students and administrators for a student workshop and a faculty and administrators discussion on deepening research ties and student mobility.
The Department of Computer Science hosted both the students and administrators for a student workshop and a faculty and administrators discussion on deepening research ties and student mobility.

“It’s such a great opportunity for our students to visit a part of the world they might not otherwise travel to personally and engage in meaningful cultural exchanges and conversations with their peers,” said Tim Rose, international programs and partnerships manager for GTI.

NC State is currently home to 67 Saudi students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree programs. Saudi Arabia sends the 6th largest cohort of international students to NC State, behind countries like India and China. The GTI already has an established partnership with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and works closely with NC State’s Intensive English Program to host a college preparatory program for their top high school graduates. Adding another major university partner like KAU, one of the top-ranked universities in the Middle East, enhances NC State’s reputation in the region.

Taking in a Carolina Hurricanes game
Taking in a Carolina Hurricanes game

“The country invests a great deal in research and education, including funding one of the largest overseas education scholarship programs in the world,” said Michael Bustle, associate vice provost of global education and engagement. “We hope these partnerships help continue to put our university on the map for top-tier Saudi students and faculty and open up doors of understanding and opportunity for our own students and faculty.”

Now that a formal cooperation agreement has been signed between NC State and KAU, faculty and administrators hope to deepen research ties and expand cultural and academic exchanges at the student, faculty and administration levels between the universities.

“We’re committed to a summer camp for KAU students this year, and a natural extension would be a development program for doctoral students or faculty,” Rouskas added. “At the same time, I am definitely interested in exploring the possibility of having our faculty and students access the Aziz supercomputer at KAU to run computationally intensive tasks for their research projects.”