I have spent the last two days working with students, faculty and staff on the Al Ain campus of Al Ain Univeristy (AAU). I should probably highlight that AAU has two campuses, one in Al Ain and a second in Abu Dhabi. Most of my time will be on the Abu Dhabi campus so I was delighted when my host arranged for me to visit the Al Ain campus. Just to make things a little more confusing, I should say that Al Ain is the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest city is Abu Dhabi … sort of like New York City in New York. And as a reminder, Abu Dhabi is one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). OK … the end of the geography lesson (for now).
My first appointment was with Dr. Ghaleb A. El-Rafae, President of Al Ain University of Science and Technology. We had a wonderful discussion about the University and the region. Dr. Ghaleb described how excited the University was to host their first Fulbright Scholar. He was very interested in the goals of my visit and made it very clear to me that he wanted the visit to be successful. About 15 minutes into our discussion we were joined by Dr. Sobhy Mahmoud Elkhatib, the Dean of the College of Business Admintartion. Both leaders were very encouraging and hoped that this visit would lead to a long-term relationship between Al Ain University and Middle Georgia State University. After the meeting, I was introduced to Dr. Naaser Mohmoud Taleb, the Head of the Management and MIS department, who would be my host during my time on the Al Ain campus. I was in very good hands.
I had the opportunity to speak to two classes of undergraduate students (a knowledge management class and a leadership class). The students were polite and curious. They were genuinely interested in what I was sharing with them and they had some very thoughtful questions. I then spoke to a group of MBA students taking a statistics and research method class. We had a great discussion on challenges and opportunities created by Big Data. Much like the undergrads, they asked probing questions and offered some very insightful opinions.
I also had the opportunity to meet and share some ideas with faculty from the Management and MIS department. The session reminded me, or perhaps taught me, just how similar our universities really are. AAU is very student-centered and the faculty focus on ensuring their students are ready for their professional careers. We had a great conversation about how students in the USA and UAE are indeed very similar. I know this will surprise some people as our cultures seem to be very different, but the reality is that students in the UAE and USA have very similar educational wants and needs. Of course, there are some differences but I am starting to realize the aspirations of both groups of students are very closely aligned.
My final session on the Al Ain campus was with administrative leaders. We had a fascinating discussion about how knowledge management might be implemented on their campus. I will be meeting with more staff on the Abu Dhabi campus later to continue this discussion.
All in all, my two days on the Al Ain campus were excellent. I cannot adequately describe the incredible hospitality of our hosts. Everyone meets us with a smile and everyone is eager to make sure the visit is productive, enjoyable, and memorable.