150+ UArizona alumni from around the region gathered in Muscat, Oman for the 8th annual regional reunion.
Nearly every year since 2010, a group of University of Arizona alumni have gathered in the Gulf region to network and connect with their Wildcat friends and colleagues. This affinity group, called the Gulf Cooperation Council-UA (GCC-UA), was started in Dubai by Dr. Mohammed Sharaf (’85, Business Administration & Management) to create a time and place for fellow Arizona alums to reminisce and reflect about their time at the University. The group has grown tremendously over the past decade and its members have helped to create strong connections amongst themselves, and between the University and the region.
From January 23-25, 2020, the GCC-UA met as a group for their 8th annual reunion. University leaders and representatives from various departments traveled to beautiful Muscat, Oman to join this accomplished group of alumni and to commemorate a successful year. Over 150 Arizona Alumni from all countries in the Gulf Region attended the event. The group organized cultural sightseeing and casual opportunities to reconnect, as well as time to discuss and develop new ideas for the future.
The first day of the reunion began with a warm welcome from the chairman of the Omani Organizing Committee, Mr. Hamed Al Rashdi (’88, Electrical Engineering), followed by a recorded video message from University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins. These opening remarks charged the air with excitement and illustrated the hard work and dedication to commitments in the region that the GCC and the University share.
Mr. Al Rashidi’s welcome was followed by remarks from Brent White, Vice President of University of Arizona Global and Dean of Global Campuses, who highlighted the growth of the University’s Global Division since the last reunion in 2017. This progress is evidenced a new Strategic Plan and an expanded Global Land Grant, all motivated by Global initiatives focusing on transforming global education and solving real problems faced by real people.
The Global Division is now a pillar of the University’s strategic plan to make Arizona a leader in global education. White applauded these accomplishments and thanked the GCC-UA alumni for their commitment and dedication to these programs and to their cherished alma mater.
Hassan Hijazi, Assistant Vice President of Middle East and North African Affairs for Global, delivered his remarks, recapping a truly successful year for the University and for international initiatives in the region.
Mr. Hijazi noted the accomplishments of the partnership with the Million Date Palm Project under the leadership of Dr. Saif Al-Shaqsi, Executive Director, MDPP. The MDPP is constructing technical labs and providing for professional training and research between the University of Arizona and Omani Universities.
Another notable cooperative project Mr. Hijazi highlighted was the outdoor Omani Falaj Exhibition, housed in University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2. The exhibit–a model of an ancient water delivery system that makes sustainable use of groundwater– is a popular attraction for visitors to Biosphere 2 and was made possible by a generous grant from the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center.
There have been many productive partnerships between the University of Arizona and the Gulf Region. Four years ago, members of the GCC-UA established an education fund to give students from the Gulf Region financial support to attend the University of Arizona. Five deserving students have received this award thus far, demonstrating how these reunions and partnerships can contribute to the community, to the university, and to the success of students in future generations.
More recently, the University of Arizona Eller Executive Education program received a $2M project from the Omani government to conduct training seminars with Omani executives in Oman. The group visited the training site for a dinner and tour.
Following Mr. Hijazi’s remarks, the country hosts scheduled time for the attendees to reconnect and enjoy their accomplishments.
The host committee planned several very productive meetings during the visit, between University of Arizona representatives and the regional Ministries of Health and Higher Education. During the visit, Iman Hakim, Dean of the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and Marylyn M. McEwen, Associate Dean of University of Arizona Global Nursing, met with members of the Omani Ministry of Health to explore possible collaboration in health-related disciplines. Brent White and other Arizona Global representatives met with officials from the Omani Ministry of Higher Education who are responsible for scholarships and sponsored students.
These meetings are instrumental in expanding the University’s collaborative reach in the region, and they provide opportunities to discuss new ideas and develop initiatives to be acted upon in the future.
During the three-day reunion, the country hosts organized interesting site visits to collaborative projects in the area, to show first-hand the progress of these ventures. Site visits included the Million Date Palm Project, where the University of Arizona received $3.5M to design and equip technical labs to train future technicians. Dr. Saif Al-Shaqsi delivered remarks to highlight the collaboration between the University and the MDPP. Such visits are a great reminder of why these partnerships are so important for the community and the world.
The hosts also organized cultural experiences for the group, including visits to the Omani Botanical Gardens, the Oman National museum, and several local heritage sites.
Reunions such as this are only possible when a group of interested and dedicated alumni take the initiative to make it happen. This year’s country host committee from the Sultanate of Oman made this reunion very memorable, and University of Arizona Global and the Alumni Association thank these individuals for the time and effort they put into creating a wonderful event that supports Arizona alumni, old and new.
All students from the Gulf Region who attended the University of Arizona are welcome to join the GCC. The group ranges in age from recent graduates to retirees, all of whom shared a positive learning experience and appreciation of their time and experience at the University of Arizona. For more information, visit GCC at Eller.
We are grateful to the Omani alumni who organized the event.
And Very Special Thanks to: Saif Al Hinai • Abdulqader Alsayari • Dr. Abdullah Al-Saidy • Majid Al Rawahi • Abdullah Al Rashdi • Dr. Saeed Al Muharrami • Dr. Sultan Al Shidhani • Saif Al Muzahmi • Talib Al Ajmi • Adil Al Lawati • Hamed Al Rashdi • Dr. Said Al Khamisi • Fahad Al Raisi
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