Rutgers Visits the Middle East to Explore New Partnerships & Opportunities

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Rutgers Visits Ajman University
Thursday, February 10th

A group from Rutgers University, led by Vice President for Global Affairs Eric Garfunkel, visited the Middle East in January to explore new partnerships in the region, as well as opportunities for student recruitment and alumni engagement. Dr. Garfunkel remarked, “We have wanted to increase our engagement in this part of the world for some time now, and we were eager to meet with potential partners in person, further develop existing linkages, and learn about new opportunities.” 

The trip was organized by Dr. Salam Al Kuntar, Assistant Dean of Middle Eastern Affairs at Rutgers Global and faculty member of the School of Arts and Sciences, and she was joined by Dietrich Tschanz, Assistant Dean at the Rutgers Business School, and Kathryn Rosko, Associate Director of Marketing & Communications at Rutgers Global. The group met with seven universities in the UAE and Egypt and with representatives of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Cairo and the U.S. Embassy in Dubai. Rutgers also hosted a partner and alumni dinner in Dubai and a student recruitment event at the Dubai Expo 2020 in the United States pavilion. Here are some photos from the trip.

One meeting in the UAE, with Ajman University, was an opportunity to formally sign a new agreement between the Rutgers School of Engineering and the university’s engineering program for a dual degree bachelor’s/master’s program. The two groups talked about additional ways to partner together with possibilities of student and faculty exchanges and internships, perhaps through the Rutgers Business School, which would offer students the possibility of learning about business and finance in both Dubai and New York City. Dr. Garfunkel noted, “It was especially nice to meet Khaled Assaleh, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Ajman University, and a proud Rutgers alum.” Dr. Assaleh (PhD, EE '93) joined the partner and alumni dinner in Dubai, along with Rutgers alum Dr. Shams Eldien Naga (MSUP '86), Principal of NAGA Architects and his wife Reem, Rowan Atiya, an Advisor at EducationUSA, and Dr. James Griffin from the American University of Sharjah.

The Rutgers group also connected with another Rutgers alumna, Fatima Al Ali (PhD, Accounting '05), Acting Dean of the College of Business at Zayed University. Zayed has a predominantly female population and the groups talked about ways to collaborate, particularly with Douglass Residential College.

The other universities with whom the Rutgers group met were American University of Sharjah, Abu Dhabi University, American University in Cairo, AlAlamein International University, and Alexandria University. In addition, the group met with Mohamed El-Sayed El-Shinawi, Advisor to the Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research for International Collaborations & Agreements in Cairo. In the university partnership meetings, collaborative opportunities were explored, including faculty and student exchanges, dual degree programs, study abroad programs, research opportunities and joint symposia, both in-person and virtual. Opportunities for a regional office, to help with recruiting, alumni relations, internships, and more, and larger educational programs were also discussed. 

Dr. Al Kuntar remarked, “All of the universities we met with were open to many kinds of partnerships with Rutgers, which was wonderful. We are now in the process of connecting deans and faculty at Rutgers with their counterparts at these institutions so they can further develop conversations about ways to collaborate that are mutually beneficial.”  Dr. Garfunkel added, “We learned that there is much interest in forming partnerships in engineering, business, pharmacy, and the health sciences—all fields where Rutgers is strong—as well as other areas.”

A significant fraction of Rutgers University's international engagement, including recruitment, had been with China in the decade prior to the pandemic, as well as with South Korea and India. Rutgers also engages extensively with Europe in the area of student exchange. The MENA region, with its large and young population as well as its focus on innovative higher education initiatives, offers new opportunities for global engagement. Some U.S. higher education institutions have already been engaging extensively, including establishing campuses in the MENA region, including New York University in Abu Dhabi and Northwestern University in Qatar. 

“This visit was envisioned as part of an overall plan to increase Rutgers' engagement in the MENA region by building a model that is based on diversity, inclusion and mutual support,” said Dr. Al Kuntar. “Our goal at Rutgers is to develop relationships that are constructive yet different from the traditional Western institution presence in the region. Ultimately we seek collaborations that help grow and serve Rutgers’ global vision, as well as benefit students and scholars from the MENA region.”

With the myriad of opportunities available, as well as significant and growing faculty, staff, and student representation from the MENA region, Rutgers looks forward to further engagement.

Featured in the photo (from left to right): Kathryn Rosko, Dietrich Tschanz, Eric Garfunkel, Khaled Assaleh, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Ajman University, Salam Al Kuntar, Mohammed Nasor Khalel, Acting Dean, College of Engineering and Information Technology, Ajman University, and Konstantinos Aidinis, Associate Professor, College of Engineering, Ajman University