Chancellor Syverud and Dr. Chen Meet Students, University Stakeholders in Middle East
Chancellor Kent Syverud, accompanied by his wife, Dr. Ruth Chen, made his first trip to visit Syracuse students, alumni and supporters in the Middle East, when he recently visited Dubai, Kuwait and Bahrain.
As a guest in Dubai of Trustee Abdallah Yabroudi ’78, G’79, Chancellor Syverud and Dr. Chen, a professor of practice in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), attended lectures with civil engineering students from ECS. They also met with members of the University’s Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT) Regional Council, the international regional council dedicated to elevating the University’s profile and building relationships in the Gulf Region, along with Syracuse alumni and supporters in the region.
James O’Connor, the University’s executive director of Middle East advancement and external affairs, says the trip was an opportunity for Chancellor Syverud and Dr. Chen to meet key University stakeholders in the Middle East, and to assess the University’s international advancement strategy in the region. “They were there to listen and learn,” O’Connor says.
The Chancellor and Dr. Chen spent most of their visit in Dubai hosted by Trustee Yabroudi, chairman of the internationally renowned Dubai Contracting Company (DCC). In 2008, Yabroudi made a multi-million dollar gift to the University to establish the James Mandel and Samuel Clemence Civil Engineering Internship, a six-week summer internship program in Dubai for Syracuse University engineering students, and an endowed professorship in ECS. The internship program offers Syracuse civil engineering students the opportunity to spend one month in Dubai studying with students from Lebanese American University. Together, the students get the kind of real-world experience classroom teaching alone can’t provide.
Among those the Chancellor met with during the trip were regional council members Iman Al Bahar ’79, of Kuwait, principal at Al Qatami Trading Company, and Mike Venutolo ’77, of Bahrain, CEO of Raymond International Pipeline Services Group. Venutolo has been a key leader in a unique internship for ECS students that his company has sponsored for the past four years to study the water supply problem on the arid Arabian Peninsula. Venutolo and his wife, Kim, participate in the internship each year.
Venutolo says that he discussed a host of issues with the Chancellor, from Syracuse athletics to the Raymond International and DCC internships in the Gulf. “We also had a few laughs about my 35 years worth of Arabian Gulf adventures, and I told him a few old ‘war stories’ about life in the desert before the arrival of modern highways and Western fast food outlets,” Venutolo says.
“I felt his real desire to make Syracuse University a better place for students and to improve the quality of the education they receive,” says Venutolo. “I feel this is important to attract the best faculty, students and research grants. The Chancellor seems keen to establish such goals and progress in that direction.”
To learn more about Syracuse activities in the region, visit http://syr.edu/middleeast/.