Curiosity, passion and integrity guide graduates at eighth Commencement ceremony

The University celebrated the eighth Commencement ceremony on December 15, 2017, welcoming 110 master’s degree and 76 Ph.D. graduates to the global alumni community. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

- By Caitlin Clark, KAUST News

The University celebrated its eighth Commencement ceremony on December 15, 2017, welcoming 110 master's degree and 76 Ph.D. graduates to the community of over 1,500 global alumni.

Presided over by members of the KAUST Board of Trustees, senior leadership and faculty and led by KAUST Interim President Nadhmi Al-Nasr, the ceremony also featured speeches by 2017 master's degree candidate Hassan Alsibyani and former KAUST President Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau.

From high school student to master's degree graduate

Commencement 2017 student speaker and master's degree candidate Hassan Alsibyani outlined his journey with the University in his remarks. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

Alsibyani began his journey with KAUST in 2011, when he became part of the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) as a high school student. He went on to graduate from MIT with a degree in computer science and engineering, returning to KAUST in 2016 for his master's degree studies in computer science under Assistant Professor Marco Canini.
  "Within the first month of arriving on the MIT campus, I was immediately impressed by the collective passion and caring attitude shared by people there," Alsibyani said in his remarks. "At MIT, groups of people from all over the world with different backgrounds and academic training collaborate to solve problems together. I recognized that this model of collaboration is present at all ambitious institutions in the world, and KAUST is definitely one of those places."

Interdisciplinary collaboration

Commencement 2017 student speaker Hassan Alsibyani praised the University's interdisciplinary and collaborative culture in his speech. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

Alsibyani noted that his master's degree research—which focused on storing and analyzing sensitive data in the cloud while maintaining privacy and security—was only possible because of the University's "interdisciplinary culture that inspires us to collaborate for the benefit of society."

"The possibilities of scientific and technological discovery are endless in a community of over 100 nationalities where ideas and perspectives flow freely," he said. "As we leave KAUST tonight and go to many different places, I encourage all of us to uphold the values learned during our time here.

"Be an advocate of helping diverse ideas flow freely between people from different backgrounds and places. If we do this in small or big ways, our collaboration with others will improve our chances of accelerating progress."

Becoming a destination

Former KAUST President Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau was the distinguished Commencement 2017 speaker. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

As president of KAUST from 2013 to 2017, Chameau "helped advance the University's reputation as an academic and research powerhouse in the Kingdom and the world," Al-Nasr told the audience. "His focus on building a culture of excellence brought greater collaboration among our research, education and operations teams, and his commitment to scientific innovation helped attract strategic academic and industry partnerships. KAUST became a destination for the best talent in the world."

Chameau served as president of Caltech from 2006 to 2013, where he now holds the title of president emeritus. From 2001 to 2006, he was provost and vice president at Georgia Tech, and has received many other honors, including the award of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur from the government of France.

Making an impact

"When I came to KAUST five years ago, I talked to many faculty, staff and students, and I could feel the excitement that comes from doing something that matters—something that will have an impact," Chameau told the graduates. "It was exciting, and it is what institutions and graduates like you should aspire to. Whatever you decide to do, try to have some impact.

"However, to have impact, you need to have vision, but vision is not much without execution and hard work—and people are what matters the most when it comes to realizing a vision and translating hard work into impact."

Former KAUST President Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau noted that "success at KAUST was every day because of the people" in his Commencement 2017 remarks. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

"For me, success at KAUST was every day because of the people," he continued. "It is amazing to watch what people can accomplish when they believe in what they do and if they are treated with respect and compassion."

Upholding integrity

Ten to 20 years from Commencement, Chameau told the graduates he hoped they would remember one word from his speech—integrity.

Commencement 2017 distinguished speaker Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau told the graduates they are well-prepared to change the world. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

"It is sometimes believed that the concept of integrity varies from culture to culture, but I will disagree. Integrity transcends cultures, societies and nationalities, and saying otherwise is only an easy escape," Chameau noted. "As scientists and engineers, all of us here engage in a process of discovery and innovation, and we know that we must uphold and cherish this principle."

The world is full of many great challenges, he added, but, as KAUST graduates, the Class of 2017 is well-prepared to face these and change the world.

"The three guiding principles I've emphasized—impact, compassion and integrity—are certainly not sufficient to conduct your life, but they will go part of the way," he said. "But, to be a destination of choice, a great university like KAUST—and its people and graduates—must have a passion for having an impact and conducting themselves with integrity."

'Tremendous accomplishments'

KAUST Interim President Nadhmi Al-Nasr praised the 2017 graduates' accomplishments in his Commencement closing remarks. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

Al-Nasr echoed Chameau's words in his closing remarks, noting to the graduates that their diplomas recognize their "education, hard work and tremendous accomplishments."

KAUST Interim President Nadhmi Al-Nasr gave the closing remarks during the University's 2017 Commencement ceremony. Photo by Caitlin Clark. 

"The education you have received at KAUST will open many doors. I encourage you to embrace each opportunity you encounter with integrity, passion and curiosity," he said. "Each year, KAUST surpasses a new milestone as we build a legacy of excellence in research and education. It is the people of KAUST whose daily efforts have transformed the University's vision into a reality—to be a catalyst of innovation, new knowledge and economic development for the benefit of society.

"Graduates, I am confident that throughout your careers, you will be leaders in science and technology in the Kingdom and the world."

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