​​​​​​​​​Commencement 2011: Student Speaker

Ali Aldawood, Class of 2011,
Student Commencement Speaker

KAUST.... A Dream Come True
Thank-you, President Shih.

I was having lunch in the dining hall at Edinburgh University when I first heard the word “KAUST”.

Two postgraduate students were talking about a fast-spreading email they had received earlier that morning about a graduate-level research university called KAUST.

Intrigued, I googled KAUST when I returned to my room later that day and found, to my total amazement, that a research university was opening in Saudi Arabia. This did not seem possible to me.

Just a few days before, I had finished my bachelor’s degree at Edinburgh and I was thinking seriously about advancing in my chosen field of geophysics. In fact, I’d been searching the web for the best master’s programs in the world, but I had never considered that I could find such a program at home.

Years earlier, when I left home for Edinburgh when I was 18, I could barely introduce myself in English, let alone understand the language they were speaking in Scotland. They kept telling me it was English, but it didn’t sound like it to me. Eventually, I did find ways to cope and I even learned to say things like “a wee bit” instead of “a little bit” and “be’er” instead of “better.”

That day, as I studied the KAUST website and dreamed of going home, I wondered what I would find at KAUST.

When I arrived on campus, back in August of 2010, I was delighted to see a diverse mixture of students being of different nationalities, religions, races, and backgrounds.

I found a university that was not only academically active but also culturally active. This unique multi-cultural environment at KAUST was nothing like the Saudi Arabia I remembered. It definitely took time to get used to, but now I realize that we’ve learned a lot about each other’s cultures.

When I came here, my plan was to increase my knowledge about geophysics in general and oil exploration in particular. My ultimate goal was to give Saudi Arabia what it has given me – huge opportunities to learn and grow.

Thank you, KAUST, for fulfilling my dreams.

Thank you, KAUST, for bringing top researchers from around the world to educate me and my colleagues.

Thank you, professors, for your tremendous efforts to expand our horizons and increase our knowledge. We thank you for scaring us with pop quizzes and giving us extra homework on Wednesdays, just before the weekends.

And thanks from the bottom of our hearts to our families and our loved ones for their prayers and support.

This is it ... the moment we have all waited for and worked so hard to enjoy. I see happiness and smiling faces all around me because shortly we will be honored and presented our degrees.

Believe me, it's not only the certificate that matters. It’s the science and knowledge that we obtained; it’s the skills of problem solving and communications that will make us competent professionals. Our degrees are keys to open doors to the many opportunities and challenges waiting for us.

KAUST was established here in Saudi Arabia for the very noble objective of training top scientists who will contribute to science through remarkable achievements.

We are those scientists. We are the pioneers for this noble objective. As pioneers, we all need to work hard to build the reputation of our institution.

As messengers of KAUST, our responsibility now is to transfer our knowledge to the younger generations, to provide solutions to the world's problems, to come up with revolutionary ideas to utilize natural and renewable resources of energy more efficiently, and to develop new theories in applied mathematics, and computational and life sciences.

With my degree in hand, I will return to my sponsoring company, Saudi ARAMCO, to use my KAUST skills, training and knowledge to help my colleagues find new oil reserves and enhance hydrocarbon recovery so that my country, Saudi Arabia, will remain the main exporter of the most efficient source of energy to the world.

I don't see this as a job from 7 to 4 any more. Now I see it from a KAUST perspective.

I will know I have had impact when I see an ambulance powered with gas saving lives, when I see a plane powered with gas taking us around the world to see our families, when I see NASA sending a spaceship powered with gas to explore Mars. I can then stand and confidently say “I’ve had an impact”.

And I challenge all of you to think, at this moment, about how you will have an impact, how you will make a KAUST difference.

Finally, on this memorable day, I thank everyone who has helped me stand here after a wonderful two-year journey. My biggest thanks is to our beloved father, King Abdullah, whose dream has come true.

We belong here... and it is not only our dream but our duty as believers in KAUST to make KAUST a shining star.

Thank you.