Warren to give commencement speech in Saudi Arabia

Kent State President Beverly Warren talks to members of Kent State Student Media at the TV2 Studio in Franklin Hall on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. 

Megan Ayscue

Kent State President Beverly Warren will be traveling to an all-female school in Saudi Arabia on May 4 to give a commencement speech for its graduating class.

She said she is both intrigued and excited about the opportunities this presents “to extend good will between our universities.”

“While we do have sort of a national climate that has elevated some people’s concerns, I really have no concerns,” Warren said when she met with student media. “Saudi Arabia is a growing kingdom with lots of support for women … and I wanted to be there to be a part of that.”

This isn’t the only reason Warren is traveling; Kent State and Effat University plan to work together to create architecture programs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“We will be leasing a building in Jeddah together, and our architecture program will be coordinating with Effat University’s architecture program so that our students and our faculty can explore partnerships more fully,” Warren said.

The two universities hope to participate in cultural exchanges with their new partnership.

“One area where we are really concentrating is on student and faculty exchanges, particularly in the area of architecture,” Warren said. “We’re continuing to explore what that curriculum would look like and how we might solidify our students spending a semester at Effat University and their students spending a semester, or even a year, here at Kent State.”

Effat and Kent State have collaborated in the past — Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, president of Effat, gave a speech at Kent State in November.

“I was excited (to speak at Effat) because I was very impressed with the president, (and) I was excited that an all female university in a Muslim country is really looking at professional talent in women of Saudi Arabia,” Warren said.

While Warren is not sure what her commencement speech will be about, she does have some ideas.

“I would suspect, with being a female president and (Effat University) having a female president and this is an all female university, that I’ll say something about women and the power of women to change lives and change the world,” Warren said.

Warren said she also hopes to take some of her aspirations for Kent State with her to Saudi Arabia for Effat University.

“It’s important for student learning and faculty engagement, and really for our country to thrive, that we remain globally engaged, and I’m strongly committed to that for Kent State University,” Warren said.

Warren said she believes she may focus her speech on partnerships and globalization, as well as what those mean, how we learn from one another and how we value cultures different from our own. Since the speech will be given on May 4, Warren said she is “certain to make reference to that as well” as the date has “meaning for us here at Kent State.”

Effat University has more than 3,000 students and more than 160 faculty from 25 different countries, according to its website. The university is fully accredited as of 2010 from the National Commission for Academic Accreditation and Assessment and is focusing on international accreditation next.

“These women are graduating in architecture and business and engineering, and the opportunity to share in our common goals … is really exciting,” Warren said.

Megan Ayscue is an administration reporter, contact her at [email protected].