KAUST celebrates sixth Commencement ceremony

Graduating class of 2015 closing the Commencement ceremony.

KAUST celebrated its sixth annual Commencement ceremony on December 18, 2015. One hundred master’s degree and 71 Ph.D. graduates were welcomed into the KAUST global alumni community by members of the University’s senior leadership, faculty, students, distinguished guests from industry and academia and the KAUST community. In a ceremony presided over by University Marshal Professor James Calvin, vice president for academic affairs, and His Excellency Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi, chairman of the KAUST Board of Trustees, President Jean-Lou Chameau told the graduates, their families and guests that he hoped the students’ academic journeys enabled their passion for learning to “grow immensely.”

“We have witnessed your curiosity, tenacity and devotion to academic pursuits,” Chameau said. “I am certain that your spirit will add to the culture of exploration and discovery in the world…and that you leave us with big dreams and aspirations.”

However, Chameau also told the students they should approach their futures knowing “there is no straight path from where you sit today to all the things you will do and places you will go.”

KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau and members of the Board of Trustees.

As scientists, he said, the graduates should be drawn towards uncertainty and “driven to explore uncharted territory.” Only through that exploration will they not “miss all the unforeseen opportunities that may become the defining moments in [their] professional journeys,” he added.

Class of 2015 student speaker Mohammed Alnassar, a Ph.D. graduate in Electrical Engineering, echoed Chameau’s remarks in his speech.

Alnassar described how, after finishing his master’s degree in Canada, he and his wife moved back to Saudi Arabia, where he began working for Saudi Aramco. Late one night he received a call from his boss, who told him Aramco would sponsor him for his Ph.D. at KAUST. There was just one catch—the application deadline was the next day, and he had only that night to apply.

Graduate Student Speaker Mohammed Y. Alnassar address the audience at Commencement 2015.

Fortunately for Alnassar, luck was on his side—he completed his application and was accepted to KAUST. Although his journey to receive his Ph.D. was not an easy one, he stayed motivated because of three important lessons he learned during his time at the University.

“First, opportunities come once, so don’t wait—grasp them before they are gone,” he told the audience. “Second, be prepared for any change you decide to take in your life—welcome that change and learn to deal with uncertainty. Third, be passionate, persistent and—most importantly—patient. It is never over until you quit trying.”

Graduates also heard remarks from 2015’s distinguished Commencement speaker Lubna S. Olayan, CEO and deputy chairman of the Olayan Financing Company. Twice named to Forbes’ list of the 100 most powerful women in the world and considered to be a visionary leader, Olayan is one of the most influential businesswomen in the world.

Standing for the national anthem of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In his closing remarks, Chameau told the graduates to “remain open to the unexpected in life—to the new possibilities. Today you leave KAUST prepared to contribute to society not simply as scientists, mathematicians, engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs, but ready to serve as leaders, global citizens, innovators and scholars.

“As you go forth in your lives and careers, remember that each one of you is an ambassador for KAUST. You were drawn here to learn, to grow, to be inspired…You leave now prepared to make your mark on the world—perhaps to change the world. You are ready, and we are proud of you.”

- By Caitlin Clark, KAUST News