FOCUSING ON TOMORROW

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

UHB focuses on developing a vibrant and enriched knowledge-based society.

Mohammed Al Naji Al-Qahtani
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed Al Naji Al-Qahtani has served as the member of Shura Council, where he held certain key positions including Chairmanship of Human Resources and Management Committee, and Vice Chairmanship of the Committee of Education Affairs and Scientific Research. Moreover, he has headed several special committees. Prior to this, he rendered his services as the Dean of Faculty of Education at King Faisal University and as a member of the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Asir Region. He received his PhD from University of Southern California in organizational leadership and educational planning. He holds two master’s degrees, in public administration and educational administration, from the same university.

Where do you position yourself within the education landscape of Saudi Arabia?

UHB is one of the new universities established in the country. We are surrounded by industrial areas, and we can build on this opportunity by providing a well-educated workforce for the industry. Our primary focus is to create graduates in the engineering, computer science, and health tracks. Our university was established around the same time Vision 2030 was announced, and this was the perfect opportunity for us to prove our significance. We are building our capacity and defining our objectives in line with Vision 2030 by providing qualified Saudi graduates to feed the national workforce. Although UHB is a recently established university, we do have a strong and prestigious platform provided by our predecessor universities, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) and Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU), to build upon. We hope to continue these achievements and successes by building better programs, expanding on the existing ones, and enrolling more students.

What is your vision with regard to the development of soft skills and critical thinking in your graduates and curricula?

Between a traditional teaching style (didactic) and a newer-effective teaching style (constructive), we strongly emphasize the latter. The dynamic environment engendered by the new style of teaching is something we are keen to develop here. This is our vision for the future. Our curriculum was designed to enhance critical thinking, and we have embedded all these elements into the curriculum. Soft skills like communication, emotional intelligence, and leadership are built right into it. It is our true intention to provide attention to students at the individual level by allowing a limited number of students in every class, and by doing so we ensure strong interactions between students and instructor. We also manage to send our students to excellent industrial training programs and get regular feedback to know about their learning process and overall performance. Furthermore, English is the communication medium used here, and this applies to most colleges in the university. This gives our graduates an edge over graduates from other universities. Our academic tracks professionalism in our graduates so that they can interact effectively and harmoniously with peers and colleagues.

What research agenda do you envision for this university?

Our vision for the university is to maintain our status of knowledge hub for the local community. We want to work hand in hand with the community to build our capacity and modify our academic programs. We want to receive feedback from the local community so that we can steer our programs in the right direction. As a new university, we enjoy a great deal of freedom in terms of our future course of action. We have the flexibility to change and grow as new opportunities and challenges present themselves. Additionally, we would like to build strong partnerships and relationships with international universities and organizations in order to focus on both the quality as well as the quantity of graduates. Quality will play a major role moving forward, as the number of graduates is ever increasing. We have strong programs that are fairly unique, and many of our initiatives work to build a knowledge-based society. In this regard, we have a strong and active social media presence that highlights social issues and spreads awareness about cleanliness, plantation, environmental hazards, and so on. The after-effect of our campaign is notably visible in the area around. Moreover, on the technological front, we have acquired our own data center that can provide cloud storage and data mining services to citizens. Finally, an international English testing service will inaugurate a testing center facility in UHB's main campus, providing incessant, accessible, and much-needed service to the people of this region. Similarly, other data managing services will be collaborating with us soon, which will act as a milestone in our journey toward a knowledge-based society.