CORE CURRICULUM

Abu Dhabi 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prof. Reyadh AlMehaideb, Vice President of Zayed University, on the value of relationships, areas of research, and new technologies and programs.

 Prof. Reyadh AlMehaideb
BIOGRAPHY
Prof. Reyadh AlMehaideb obtained his PhD in petroleum engineering from Stanford University in 1989. He joined the UAE University (UAEU) as a faculty member in the college of engineering, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1997 and Professor in 2005. He served at various capacities as Chair of the chemical and petroleum engineering department, Assistant Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Associate Dean, and from 2006-2013 as the Dean of the College of Engineering, a period that witnessed 50% growth in enrollment of bachelor programs, a multifold expansion in graduate programs and research, and an ABET accreditation for the engineering programs at UAEU.

What is the value of your relationships with international institutions, and what do you look for in these partnerships?

Some of these partnerships are for accreditation purposes. We are a member of the Middle State Commission for Higher Education, and our membership allows us to participate in decisions regarding the accreditation criteria. Through the association we are developing best practices in governance and institutional policies. Some other collaborations are there for program development and research objectives. For example, we have been running a program where we invite scholars from world-renowned universities to come and teach at Zayed University. We also bring people to advise on improvements to our institution, particularly when it comes to English instruction. This reflects our aim of always looking for ways to improve the environment for all our students. Finally, we also have a number of research collaborations with institutions around the world.

Are there any specific areas of research that you are aiming to be more involved in?

As a comprehensive university, we have research strengths in multiple areas: IT security and data analytics, environment and public health, accounting and other business fields, social sciences, and innovations in education and other fields. As we have this expertise, we look for partners who share similar specializations. We have around 250 annual research projects in these fields, around two-thirds of which are in collaboration with international research partners. There are also a number of contract research projects funded by government agencies for specific objectives.

How do you assess students' ability to adapt to all these new technologies and programs?

Our students are the first adopters of technology, which makes the integration of innovative approaches natural. To further this, we are creating an innovation and entrepreneurship center at the university to coordinate developing a business enterprise culture in partnership with business incubators and accelerators, and national organizations developing the SME sector. The university has a Fab-Lab that was just established at the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, where we combine IT skills development with design courses and fabrication facilities. The Fab-Lab is an interesting concept because it has 3D printing capabilities for small items, and for bigger items the lab contains an eight-axis robotic arm that can fabricate these using subtraction technology. By programming this robot, our students can fabricate these images, thus learning reverse engineering in the process. This opens up a lot of possibilities for students, who are eager and capable of adopting new solutions.
How does Zayed University contribute to the further economic diversification and Emiratization?
About 55% of our graduates get jobs the first year after graduation, and about 70% get jobs within two to three. The remainder go to graduate school or work within their families' businesses or simply prioritize family. Our graduates are articulate and have gone on to work across every sector of the economy and in government. A great example is the current Minister of Community Development, Hessa Bint Essa Buhumaid, an alumnus of our university.

How do you go about fostering leadership when designing your programs?

The learning outcomes of Zayed University are based on a core comprising the skills to be learned by all and are modeled on 21st century skills such as critical thinking, communications, leadership, teamwork, technological awareness, and relevant IT tools. We use a great deal of role-playing, which fosters an ability to interact and contribute to the wider team. We also have student councils for each campus, student clubs, and training programs. We believe that students learn though experience, which is why the quality of the learning experience is important. Thus, we encourage students to apply their skills in classroom projects and in the wider community through volunteerism and other activities outside the campus. People from the community also deliver workshops on campus. By sharing their expertise, students get a mixture of experiences.