KAUST kicks off 12th academic year

KAUST President Tony Chan speaking during the 2020 Convocation event.

​On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, the KAUST community gathered together for the annual academic Convocation ceremony in a manner that has become all too common in recent months—via Zoom. The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered in-person events unsafe, but it has not dimmed the spirit of excitement and optimism of the KAUST community.

"Many of you are in Thuwal, but many of you have yet to arrive on campus and you can rest assured that we will bring you here as soon as travel and other conditions permit. No matter where you are, you are now formally, part of the KAUST family," Tony Chan, President of KAUST said as part of his remarks to open the event.

Dean of Graduate Affairs, Brian Moran, presided over the event and introduced the student and alumni speakers.

Student and alumni perspectives

"I want to share five things with you that I wish I knew when I started at KAUST," student speaker Nawaf Al-Ghamdi, M.S./Ph.D. student in the CCRC said. "Embrace new experiences; collaborate; be a good teacher; constantly refine your path to success; and always aim high, even if you do not succeed."

Al-Ghamdi wrapped up his comments by saying, "honestly...I am a little bit jealous of all of you as you are all joining KAUST when everything is fresh and new."

"The first lesson I learned at KAUST was not to be afraid of failure," said alumni speaker Wail Bamhair, alumnus 2010, M.S. in electrical engineering.

He told the audience about his struggles, and ultimate accomplishments, as a young student—important lessons that he drew upon when tasked as a young CEO, with turning his organization around.

Bamhair concluded his remarks by saying: "I wish you all a wonderful journey, and may our paths cross someday. All the best!"

Faculty perspective

After a brief introduction by Mootaz Elnozahy, the audience heard from faculty speaker Mohamed-Slim Alouini, professor of electrical engineering and associate dean of the Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Science and Engineering.

Alouini recalled his own anxiety at the beginning of his time as a graduate student. Alouini received a master's from Georgia Tech and a Ph.D. from Caltech.

"It was the time that I jump started the intellectual and academic expeditions of my life," Alouini said in reference to his journey through graduate school.

In quoting French author and Nobel laureate André Gide, Alouini related, "we should only want one thing and we should want it constantly, if we want to be sure of attaining it."

Alouini also pointed to four important things that he felt made up a recipe for greatness: Passion, ambition, hard work, and strategy with perseverance.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainties, but it probably is not a bad time at all to be a goal-oriented a strong competitive record to be fully ready for the many job opportunities expected in a few years," Alouini told students.

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