University of Toledo Makes a Hit in the U.A.E.Written by Dan Johnson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a whirlwind trip. Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, President of the University of Toledo, and Vice President Chuck Lehnert arrived at the Abu Dhabi International Airport Tuesday evening. After a quick greeting, we drove to Dubai and got them into their hotel for a short night’s rest before two hectic days of meetings and discussions with government and university leaders.
One of the great pleasures of my job at Zayed University here in the United Arab Emirates is hosting visiting university delegations from all over the world. They come here for many reasons. There are also those who come not quite sure what they are seeking but knowing that this small country in the middle of the Middle East is emerging rapidly on many fronts—economic, social, cultural, trade, tourism, energy—and with this emergence is coming unusual opportunities. In this context, it was, indeed, a very special pleasure to receive and host the University of Toledo for this visit to the U.A.E.
The visit by Dr. Jacobs follows the participation of UT for the past two years in the annual World Future Energy Summit sponsored by Masdar in Abu Dhabi. Masdar is the world’s leading alternative energy conglomerate with a dynamic program of research and development, advanced higher education, systems evaluation and testing, technology transfer, and innovation. The purpose of the UT trip to the U.A.E. was part of an effort to identify strategic locations globally where UT’s faculty and students can find unique opportunities to enhance their knowledge, research, education and entrepreneurial interests and where the University can forge linkages and partnerships that lead to new economic development opportunities for the state and region.
Starting at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday, we began the day with a meeting with His Excellency Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali, Minister of Health. The conversation covered a broad range of issues including major changes underway in the U.A.E., hospital accreditation, physician licensing, public health challenges, research needs, the role of international health care institutions, and other topics. The groundwork was laid for future collaboration between UT and the Ministry of Health in areas of mutual interest.
From there we went to the Zayed University Dubai Campus for a round of meetings and a quick tour of the campus that just happened to concur with the visit of a high ranking public official and a member of the Royal Family who was on campus to inspect demonstrations of student entrepreneurial talent. Dr. Jacobs enjoyed being a part of the entourage and I was proud to show him the creativity of our students reflected in their small businesses and highly decorated booths.
Following lunch with campus leaders and administration officials, we traveled to Dubai World Trade Center for a meeting with U.S. Consul General, Justin Siberell and his senior staff. The discussion centered on education and trade opportunities in Dubai. Consul General Siberell stressed the importance of partnerships with local universities noting the difficult challenges that many international universities have encountered in their efforts to establish campuses of their own in the U.A.E.
After a brief stop at their hotel to freshen up, we went to one of my favorite restaurants just outside the Dubai Mall located at the base of the new Burj Khalifa, the tallest and one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Over dinner, we reviewed the day’s meetings and recounted areas of potential interest for UT faculty and students.
Thursday morning we drove to Abu Dhabi where we had an audience with Shaikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, at his palace. Shaikh Nahayan also happens to be my boss. There Dr. Jacobs brought greetings from University of Toledo and discussed the potential partnerships with universities in the U.A.E. and Zayed University in particular. His Excellency Shaikh Nahayan extended an invitation to Dr. Jacobs and the University of Toledo to become involved in the U.A.E. He also invited Dr. Jacobs to return when he could spend more time exploring substantive partnerships that could lead to long term benefits for UT and Zayed University. Our tight schedule prevented us from accepting Shaikh Nahayan’s invitation to lunch.
At 10 a.m. we arrived for our scheduled meeting with Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar, the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, education, and innovation. Joining us in the meeting were three senior staff at Masdar including the Dean of the Masdar Institute of Technology. Masdar’s university partner is MIT. Dr. Sultan and Dr. Jacobs described their respective programs in alternative energy and noted UT’s leadership in photovoltaic research. Several areas of potential collaboration were identified, elements of which could possibly involve MIT. There was a very positive response from Dr. Sultan to Dr. Jacobs’ invitation to visit UT and I am confident that there could well be a Masdar delegation visit Toledo in the future.
After discussions with Dr. Sultan, we were given a guided tour through the developing campus of Masdar and the solar fields where high level testing and evaluation are underway, including the testing of products from Toledo’s First Solar.
From Masdar, we returned to Zayed University ‘s Abu Dhabi campus for lunch during which Dr. Jacobs met with two young scientists conducting studies of Vitamin D deficiency and diabetes. It was a quick lunch because we were due at the U.S. Embassy for a meeting with Richard OIson, U.S. Ambassador to the U.A.E. Upon arriving, we were met by the Ambassador’s assistant, a young woman who had been recently treated at UT’s Health Science Center. She took special care and considerable delight in expressing her deep gratitude to Dr. Jacobs for the treatment she received at the University of Toledo Health Science Center. It was, indeed, a very special moment.
The discussion with Ambassador Olson centered on health care and alternative energy. The Ambassador also briefed Dr. Jacobs on the economies of Abu Dhabi and Dubai and offered
encouragement and support for building connections between UT and U.A.E.’s institutions.
By the end of the meeting with Ambassador Olson and a short de-briefing with members of his staff, there were just a few hours left to see the Grand Zayed Mosque and the plans for the future developments in Abu Dhabi including the Guggenheim Museum.
I was very pleased with the round of meetings and the level of discussions that centered on issues of health care, alternative energy and potential partnerships. I was also very proud of the University of Toledo and believe these meetings helped to establish it as a highly desirable potential partner for the U.A.E. and its institutions of health care and higher education. The next step for Dr. Jacobs and the University is to forge its own strategy for global engagement and to determine if the Middle East is a part of it. My view is that there is much to be gained for UT, Toledo, the region and the state through a strategy for global engagement that connects with the United Arab Emirates and its major cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Dan Johnson is Provost and Chief Operating Officer of Zayed University, U.A.E. and President Emeritus of the University of Toledo.