By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

A very large and very welcoming contingent of students, faculty, staff and officials from Syracuse University and its School of Information Studies (iSchool) greeted Effat University leaders and guests, including members of the royal family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for a ceremony today formalizing a new partnership between the academic institutions. 

With joint interests in information education excellence, increasing the number of women in technology careers, and promoting information entrepreneurship as a means of growing economies, the officials of both institutions signed a cooperative agreement in which iSchool faculty and staff will work with Effat faculty and students to advance the Saudi institution’s current information systems curriculum.

The iSchool has been consulting with Effat over the past year, providing an outside review of its Information Systems curriculum. Effat obtained accreditation by the National Commission for Academic Accreditation and Assessment (NCAAA). That initial effort led to a continuation of the collaboration and the signing of today’s longer-term agreement.

The signing ceremony began with Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina and iSchool Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy welcoming the group to Syracuse University.

“A Landmark Day”

Spina said the occasion represented “a really proud moment for Syracuse University, not just for the iSchool, because from a University perspective, this is a landmark day. The strength of this agreement represents the deepest relationship we will have with a Saudi institution, and the fact that we share goals and we share a vision makes it a very, very proud moment.”

He continued, “Our chancellor has talked about a local, global presence and in terms of empowering women in technology, we think what Effat will do locally and globally with us is really a perfect match. We’re clearly bridging thousands of miles, and we look forward to spending time with you in Saudi Arabia.”

iSchool Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy noted that The iSchool faculty “has already been working with the esteemed information system faculty at Effat to advance their already successful academic program and to explore our best thinking and planning for the success of our students.” She noted that, over lunch together, iSchool and Effat groups “discovered many commonalities between our colleges. It’s very appropriate that we are working together, as there are many synergies  between this program and Effat and the goals and activities of iSchool; both have recognized the importance of information and its central role in the world, and both have recognized the significance of having women in technology.”

SU’s Enthusiasm Noted

The president of Effat University, Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Laic, commented that the agreement representsanother milestone in the internationalization efforts of Effat University.” She said the partnerships represent efforts that “go beyond just regular exchange agreements that usually happen between universities around the world, because this addresses the new requirements of the world in digital literacy and the information sciences. We greatly appreciate the invaluable enthusiasm of Syracuse University and its iSchool, which provided a willingness to work with us in general and on our information program in particular.” She said she sees a future where the two institutions “inspire each other in action and in commitment to others around the world.”

Last to speak before pens were put to paper to officially sign the agreement was Her Royal Highness Pincess Loulwah Al Faisial, a member of the Saudi royal family whose mother started Effat University, and who now serves as one of its trustee leaders. She said that the occasion marks a “truly remarkable partnership, which, from its earliest days, has had a mission not only of providing students with the tools they need to succeed in the workplace, but for their sense of their place in the larger world.” She added that “linking to other universities doesn’t just link the two institutions, but provides new opportunities for understanding and economic development between countries as well. I can’t imagine a better extension of this than the agreement Effat is about to sign with Syracuse University,” she concluded.

Effat University is an all-women’s undergraduate college located in Jeddah attended by 2,153 undergraduate and 37 graduate students. It is comprised of three colleges and 12 programs, including programs in computer science and information systems. It is the first private non-profit female university in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the first University to offer Electrical and Computer Engineering (and Architecture) for females in the Kingdom; the first to offer the Master in Islamic Financial Management degree; and the only university to have more than 14 active academic partnerships with International universities. The University was founded by and named for Queen Effat Al- Thunayyan Al-Saud, wife of the late King Faisal Bin Abdal- Aziz.

Visiting guests included her Royal Highness Princess Loulwah al-Faisal al Saud (daughter of Queen Effat), a member of the Saudi royal family, a prominent activist for women's education and other social issues in Saudi Arabia, and vice chair and general supervisor of the Board of Trustees of Effat University;  Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, president of  Effat University; Dr. Malak Al-Nory, professor and chair of Effat’s information systems program; Princess Noura bint Turki al Faisal, (daughter of Prince Turki). Also in attendance were Salwa Badr, personal assistant to Princess Loulwah; and Lisa Zuppé, Effat’s director of international affairs.

Agreement to Collaborate

The iSchool will help provide Effat with a world perspective in advancing its mission to enhance its already-successful academic programs. iSchool faculty and staff will work with the information systems faculty there in ongoing curriculum review to assure that coursework and programs are on par with international information field standards. Additionally, the institutions plan to explore more collaborative projects. A visit to Effat is scheduled this fall by the iSchool group to meet with faculty and students there. Repeat visits each year of the agreement are planned.

The iSchool’s Sarah Inoue, project manager for international development, is serving as the principal investigator for the project. Susan Corieri, assistant dean for enrollment management and special academic program initiatives, is co-principal investigator, and Professor Paul Gandel is serving as a key contributor. Corieri visited Effat in 2011 and made a presentation about the academic programs of the iSchool to the faculty of the College of Engineering. 

Inoue noted that the agreement provides “a really great partnership for us; it’s a starting point for us to have a nice relationship with the university, and I think there will be a lot more opportunities for collaboration.”  Inoue said she envisions an array of potential future initiatives, such as joint faculty research projects, student exchanges, recruiting Effat students to study in the iSchool’s master’s program in information management; and having iSchool Ph.D. students teach undergraduate classes at Effat.  

Based on the review of Effat’s curriculum this past year, Inoue reflected that the university “is clearly doing a great job of educating in the information field, and it is clearly committed to having these women be competitive in the marketplace.” Based on their education there, Saudi women “would be able to compete globally for jobs with any graduate from any other university.” 

This initiative marks another effort by the iSchool in international academic collaboration in recent years. Other projects are underway regarding the development of iSchool curriculums with educators and academic institutions in Rwanda, Uganda and Malaysia.