Saudi Association carries out globalization mission
Along with the drastic increase of students from Saudi Arabia on campus - up from 19 in 2009 to a current enrollment of 246 - a new organization has formed to bring these students together and spread an accurate depiction of Saudi life.
The Saudi Student Association (SSA) formed earlier this spring with that mission in mind. They have already worked to reach out to students on campus by hosting an Xbox tournament in The Club and showcasing their culture in the Multicultural Festival on March 31.
"We're really excited about our work that we've committed to introduce our culture and our tradition for Saudi Arabia," Muteb Alabbas, SSA member said. "There are a lot of students on this university that don't know about the culture of Saudi Arabia."
Unlike the increase in Korean students, the increased Saudi presence at A&M-Commerce can be linked to a program funded by their own government. Alabbas said the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP), which began in 2005 under an agreement between King Abdullah and President George W. Bush, has lead to many young Saudi Arabians leaving to study abroad.
"That makes all students in Saudi Arabia excited to study abroad, especially in the United States," he said. "The United States has the highest education in the world."
The goals of KASP are, as explained by a program pamphlet, patriotic commitment, cultural exchange, mutual understanding, and intellectual development. All of this is done under the main academic objective.
Students go to other countries and communicate what Saudi Arabia is really about. This, Alabbas said, is changing each year. Perhaps the most notable change in the way the country is run can be seen in the increased opportunity for Saudi women.
"There are a lot of Americans and those from other countries that don't know about Saudi women," he said. "They have a good opportunity now; so, the women can participate in the vote. Saudi women have special traditions different from other countries."
One of the main criticisms Saudi Arabia has faced is their treatment of women. With their new ability to vote and serve on a governmental council similar to parliament - the country is one of the few remaining monarchies in the world - Alabbas said women are beginning to make their mark on how the country is run.
"Now Saudi women have a good opportunity to participate in everything and different aspects of life in Saudi Arabia," he said.
Alabbas also said there are plans for a future event that focus specifically on a woman's role in Saudi society.
The second part of KASP is focused on what the students will do upon their return to Saudi Arabia. The hope is that through their exchange of ideas, students will help take the country forward in a changing world and help Saudi Arabia keep pace in both infrastructural and social spheres.
"Saudi Arabia has changed and has many projects now the Saudi government is working for," Alabbas said. "That is the reason the government is sending many students to participate in the project and come back to build the country and different aspects of Saudi Arabia. There are a lot of jobs in Saudi Arabia that we will get when we come back and transmit what we get here from Americans."
This is the goal of the SSA at A&M-Commerce. Alabbas said, as a result, students should see the organizations influence more and more as they become more established on campus.
"We are also here to participate with other organizations in their events," he said. "That's the most important thing."
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