CWU News

CWU Representatives Offer Salaam-Alaikum to Alumni, New Students in Saudi Arabia

Soderstrom, Moes, and Britschgi with students at EducationUSA in Dhahran, Saudi ArabiaLearning is a valued commodity in Saudi Arabia, as primary education through college is open to every citizen there. Even so, many students choose to pursue their higher education outside of the country’s borders. Many come to the United States, including to CWU.

Nearly 500 Saudi students have attended Central since 2005. Recently, a delegation from the university’s Office of International Studies and Programs (OISP) visited Saudi Arabia to reconnect with university alumni and to develop additional ties with the kingdom.

Matt Britschgi, director of University English as a Second Language (UESL) program; Roslyn Moes, international student advisor; and Stacy Soderstrom, assistant director for International Student and Scholar Services, spent several days last month in Saudi Arabia.

The CWU team visited:
• Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University (PMU), a private university in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, a major administrative center for the Saudi oil industry. PMU, which opened in 2008, is comprised of the College of Engineering - Civil and Mechanical, and Interior Design; College of Business; and College of Information Technology;

• King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) a public university also in Dhahran. Among Saudi universities, its science, engineering, and business/management programs are considered to be the most highly regarded in the country and throughout the region; and,

• Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU), a public women's university, recognized for its leadership in education and the arts and humanities, and the largest women's university in the world, in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

While visiting KFUPM, the CWU team also reconnected with 1989 CWU alumni Pedro Bicchieri and Tyler Thomas, who are English language instructors there. Bicchieri previously served in Ellensburg as an instructor for CWU’s University English as a Second Language and Asia University America Programs.

“It brought a powerful sense of cross cultural, trans-global connection to me to be able to meet up here in Saudi Arabia with Saudi students that I worked with in Ellensburg in 2014,” he said. “In instances such as this, one is always sublimely reminded of just how small the world can feel.”

The CWU representatives also made the presentation, “How to navigate the university search in the U.S.; find the best fit for you!” to more than 50 people including high school students, counselors, and graduate students at the EducationUSA office in Dhahran. And they attended the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education (IECHE) fair in Riyadh, as guests of the Saudi Ministry of Education, which oversees primary, secondary, and higher education.

Ibrahim Alsadan, an assistant to Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Education, said, "We were pleased to have representatives from Central Washington University as our guests at the IECHE conference. We hope their time in Saudi Arabia was fruitful and enjoyable."

Some of the atendees at the CWU-hosted Saudi student alumni eventCWU also hosted the university’s inaugural Saudi student alumni event, which was attended by 35 Central graduates, and their families. Not only did they get a chance to reminisce about their American alma mater, they saw a video, featuring CWU President James L. Gaudino and Provost Katherine Frank, with current pictures and videos of campus. They also got to test their knowledge in a game if CWU trivia.

Moes pointed out, “Planning an event sight unseen from across the world was quite a challenge considering time zone differences, currency conversions, and language barriers. But in the end, it was all worth it. It was encouraging to be able to visit with former students in their home country, hear about their successful careers, and meet their families. The best part was witnessing the students reconnect with each other.”

Among those who attended was Abdulaziz Bin Zuair, who received his bachelor’s degree from CWU along serving as Saudi Student Association president while in Ellensburg.

"Having the first alumni event in Saudi Arabia after three years of my graduation has been such a wonderful experience. It has brought a lot of memories and it gathered me with many of the Saudi alums that I did not get to see after I got back home. I am very honored to have witnessed this event and I would very much love to see more CWU events happening in Saudi Arabia in the future."

Another alumnus who attended was Ibrahim Alsaab, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central, while also working as an OISP student employee.

“After graduating from Central Washington University in 2015, I always thought of visiting central and the lovely town Ellensburg. I never thought Central will come to us in Saudi Arabia. It was great reunion to see Central staff and the alumni in one place. Thank you Central and please do it again.”

Along with other informal dinners, the CWU delegation met with about 50 alumni throughout their time in Saudi Arabia.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,