Indiana University’s leadership, students, faculty and staff met with His Royal Highness Prince Mansour bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Oct. 26, as the prince visited IU Bloomington.
HRH Prince Mansour's full day of activities included a tour of the IU campus, meeting with IU President Michael A. McRobbie, a lunch meeting at the School of Global and International Studies, and a tea with Saudi students. He delivered remarks to an audience at the Grand Foyer of the IU Auditorium Wednesday evening.
“We’ve been honored to have his royal highness on campus today,” McRobbie said in introducing HRH Prince Mansour at the IU Auditorium. “He’s met with many of our faculty members and this afternoon met with a group of IU Saudi students and scholars.”
HRH Prince Mansour is the grandson of His Majesty King Abdulaziz Al Saud, who founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. He served as an advisor to his uncle, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. A successful entrepreneur, he has founded a number of companies and has been recognized internationally for his business leadership.
Many of the Saudi students from Bloomington, the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis and IU South Bend attended the evening speech by HRH Prince Mansour. Some of the Saudi students spoke during the afternoon tea, including Abdullah Alamri, a master’s student in applied linguistics, liaison to the prince and founder of the Abdullah Alamri Saturday Cultural Meetup, a local gathering for Gulf Arab students to discuss relevant topics. Also presenting were Abeer Bar, a doctoral student in the IU School of Education, and Hamed Alaufi, a PhD candidate in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Osama Kokandy, who is not an IU student, joined the tea and assisted in hosting the prince throughout the visit.
Saudi students comprise the fourth largest international student body at IU, with nearly 600 on IU’s campuses. About 400 study at IUPUI, about 125 attend IU Bloomington and another 50 are at IU's six other regional campuses.
IU has more than 800 alumni affiliated with Saudi Arabia.
Prince Monsour with President McRobbieIn his remarks, the prince emphasized several times the importance of education to the future of his country, noting particularly the King Abdullah scholarship program, started just over a decade ago. It is a prime reason nearly 60,000 Saudi students studied at U.S. universities in the 2014-15 academic year alone.
“Within his majesty’s governmental scholarship program, more than 280,000 Saudi students were sent to study abroad,” HRH Prince Mansour said. “Forty-seven percent of those students, approximately 130,000 students, studied in the United States of America.”
During his visit to IU, the prince saw plenty to be impressed about -- not only with what the many Saudi students are studying but also what the university offers in relation to study of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
“He was very impressed by the university and the range of what we do with teaching and research and especially the work that we do in Middle East studies, Islamic studies, and Arabic language instruction,” said David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs. “We have one of the nation’s oldest Middle East Studies programs. Our department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures was founded just more than 50 years ago, and we do have one of the largest Arabic language programs in the United States.”
Earlier this year, IU established a new Arabic Language Flagship program.
The prince heard about these programs and others, many of which are housed in the School of Global and International Studies, during his lunch meeting at the global and international studies building.
The luncheon also included Feisal Istrabadi, founding director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and former ambassador to the United Nations for Iraq; and Lee Hamilton, a distinguished scholar in the IU School of Global and International Studies and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 to 1999.
During his evening remarks, HRH Prince Mansour noted the closeness between his country and Indiana University, marked by President McRobbie’s efforts.
“I am pleased to say that the president’s condolence on the passing of King Abdullah in 2015 is an evidence of the strong relationship between Saudi and IU,” he said. “And my visit today is also an evidence of my great appreciation for his feelings and sincerity.”
McRobbie visited the Saudi capital Riyadh in 2014, a trip focused on expanding IU partnerships and exchanges as well as reaching out to Saudi alumni. There are several formal partnerships between IU and Saudi higher education institutions, based on a university-wide agreement of friendship and cooperation McRobbie signed with King Saud University during his trip.
Answering audience questions, HRH Prince Mansour spoke of his country’s future, again pointing to education as the way for Saudi Arabia to prepare its economy for what lies ahead. He said the country hopes to lessen its dependence on oil, a matter he said he’s been studying since he was a graduate student and researched the economic tie to oil in the 1970s.
The prince spoke of a new vision, where the country can generate more income from sectors such as agriculture and high tech. “With your knowledge -- and I am talking to the Saudi students -- we will be able to diversify,” he said.