Messages from Leadership

Dr. Tony F. Chan, KAUST President

Dr. Najah Y. Ashry, Vice President, Strategic National Advancement & Senior Associate to the President

Mr. Saham Al-Husseini, Director, Undergraduate and Scholarship Programs

_________________________________________President Tony Chan

March 17, 2020


Dear KGSP Community,


Hello from KAUST,


I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to you directly about the status of COVID-19 at KAUST, and how we are working to keep our entire community—on campus and off—both safe, and functioning at the highest possible capacity while still acknowledging this new normal we are experiencing together. 


We are a community of over 100 nationalities, attracting individuals whose commitment to internationality and borderless research and collaboration result in a rich and diverse campus of permanent residents, guests, and visiting colleagues.  It also makes us especially vulnerable to this type of public health crisis.  KAUST quickly became a visible leader in early and targeted action to stem the spread of COVID-19, working in tandem with partners around the Kingdom.  Thanks to these efforts, to date there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus and we are working hard for that to continue to be the case.  I am especially grateful for the decisive and proactive measures taken by Saudi Arabian leadership and ministries, which have bolstered our efforts and have, until now, prevented the sort of mass outbreak seen in other nations.  Saudi Arabia has received international recognition for this, for which you should feel great pride. 


All such COVID-19 university guidelines and policies are made in collaboration with the Coronavirus Crisis Management Team (chaired by me and with Dr. Najah as a member) and the Coronavirus Taskforce (chaired by KAUST Health Director Daniel Buttigieg), who meet regularly to proactively appraise the situation, and set strategy and policies that strike a balance between protecting the community and minimizing disruption.  As members of the KGSP, you are part of that community and those deliberations, and have our full support.  I have been working directly with Dr. Ashry to receive daily updates on the status of the Program and the students, and have every confidence in the team working to ensure your preparedness, safety, and ability to continue your studies remotely. I encourage you to remain engaged, to follow the Program’s daily communications on programmatic recommendations and public health precautions, to actively own your personal role in preventing the spread of this virus, and to support one another in the way that we all consider intrinsic to the KGSP. 


Hard decisions have needed to be made, and will continue to be necessary as we work through this crisis.  As you know from your own experiences in the U.S., campuses don’t look or feel as they did before.   We have had to drastically, and in short order, reevaluate how we learn, engage with one another, and even conduct research.  Just today, our VP of Research has announced that KAUST will now enter into a hibernation phase (soft shut down) for all campus laboratories.  Making this decision now ensures we can still support critical long-running experiments, and increases the time available for an orderly hibernation process.  While difficult, doing so in line with similar actions by other prominent research universities such as Harvard, MIT and Columbia. 


There is no ignoring the fact that all aspects of our lives will be impacted by this pandemic for the foreseeable future.  I nevertheless have every confidence in the resiliency and determination of both KAUST as an institution, and of its people.   We will come through this challenge stronger, wiser, and more unified.


Be well,

Tony F. Chan

President, King Abdullah University of Science & Technology




March 12, 2020


Dear KGSP Community,

The past weeks have seen an unprecedented response to the global spread of COVID-19.  I have watched these developments with an acute concern for the far-reaching impact this situation has the potential to effect on individuals, families, communities, and the world—as have, I am sure, all of you.   I have been especially aware of the strain this situation has likely placed on you, as students living so far from home at this time, while still managing academic commitments at some of the most competitive universities in the world.

KGSP is actively monitoring this evolving situation, benchmarking its recommendations in consultation with KAUST, your home universities, and other governmental / public health agencies.  The Program is committed to ensuring this process remains transparent, immediate, and flexible in response to quickly-changing conditions, and in keeping your health and safety paramount.  To this end, please carefully review the following updates.  

Transition from in-person to remote instruction

Since KGSP’s initial communication this past weekend, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. 

A growing number of universities have announced a change to their instruction model from in-person to online, as a preventative and precautionary response to encourage social distancing and prevent transmission.   The duration of this change varies by institution, and may range from a few weeks, to through the end of the spring semester. 

The number of universities taking this step is expected to increase over the coming days. 

KGSP advisors will reach out to you if this occurs at your institution. 


KGSP students are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel, both domestic and international.    This advice is consistent with national and international guidelines from universities, governments, and public health agencies stating that, whenever possible, travel should be avoided—especially international travel:

Travel not only increases your own risk of exposure, but also increases the possibility of your transmitting latent virus to other populations—including those more at risk that you may be.  There is no indication that returning to Saudi Arabia would be safer than remaining in the U.S. during this period.  

  • The type of transit travel that would be necessary for your return to Saudi Arabia (multi-city transit, navigating highly-populated airports, etc.) continues to present one of the highest risks of contact with infected individuals. 
  • Traveling internationally also greatly increases the potential of facing difficulties re-entering the U.S.  It is possible, should a location later be designated “high risk” by the U.S. government while you are there, or if other policy changes occur relating to student visas, that you could be denied reentry upon return to the U.S, or placed into quarantine.

As such, it remains the Program’s strong advice that you avoid travel and remain in the U.S. even if your home university transitions to remote coursework for the remainder of the academic year.   If you chose to return to Saudi Arabia despite this recommendation, you assume all associated risks and responsibilities.  

For those students living on-campus housing, KGSP will assist you in finding alternate accommodations if your university has restricted remaining on campus during the period of remote instruction via both a published policy, and in denial of any appeal process.   KGSP advisors will be in touch with more details and next steps.

This is an evolving situation, with new information available daily.   Recommendations will be updated on a rolling basis as appropriate.  Additional guidelines relating to the general population of Saudi students currently studying in the U.S. are expected from the Saudi Cultural Mission and/or the Saudi embassy in the near future.

Current Conditions & Reducing Risk

As of today, there are no diagnosed cases of COVID-19 within either the KGSP or KAUST communities.  

Remaining vigilant of your personal behavior and your surroundings is the first step to guard against contracting the virus:  Understand and follow best practices in sterilization, preventative care, and social distancing outlined in previous communications.  The KGSP is defined not only by the academic excellence, but also by the resilience and strength of its members and their strong sense of community.  I encourage you to safeguard your wellbeing as well as your physical health, to avoid relying or transmitting rumors, and not to panic.

Please continue to stay up-to-date on information provided by your home university and your KGSP advisor, and expect more communications in the coming weeks.   

Be well,

Najah Ashry

Vice President, Strategic National Advancement & Senior Associate to the President

King Abdullah University of Science & Technology




August 6, 2020


Dear KGSP Community,

The start of a new academic year is a unique time that invites both anticipation and reflection, this year more than ever.  The coronavirus has upended nearly every facet of quotidian life, yet throughout this unprecedented period I have been continuously impressed by the response of KGSP students in continuing to pursue opportunities for advancement.  Once again, this community has demonstrated its very particular skillset of dedication, resiliency and flexibility—characteristics of increasing importance as we all adapt to this new reality.

The far-reaching implications of COVID-19 have resulted in numerous shifts in educational, public health and governmental guidelines, policies, restrictions, and offerings. We are aware that these shifts have led to various programmatic and logistical questions about fall 2020 study.  Please know that the KGSP is proactively striving to understand and address these issues in a manner that puts your safety and wellbeing first. In turn, we ask for your continued trust that guidance will be shared as soon as sufficient information is available to make informed recommendations and decisions. 

KGSP has developed programmatic guidelines in conjunction with KAUST’s own strategic directives for COVID-19 response, in collaboration with your home universities, our corporate partners, governmental / public health agencies, and benchmarked against international best practices.  These guidelines also reflect the need for ongoing flexibility and evaluation, acknowledging that this situation’s highly unpredictable nature requires customized solutions and prevents broad, one-size-fits all decisions. 

In closing, I encourage you to consider the continued importance of your actions:  This pandemic has compelled an examination of individual and collective commitment to education, public health, and scientific discovery, as well as of the relationship between personal accountability and society’s greater good. To meet these challenges will require long-term efforts on all our parts.  Please continue to take that responsibility seriously by maintaining good hygiene, wearing protective equipment as appropriate, and practicing social distancing.   We each have a role to pay in combatting this crisis, and together we can all make a positive impact. 

I wish you all the best in the term to come,


Najah Ashry

Vice President, Strategic National Advancement & Senior Associate to the President

King Abdullah University of Science & Technology



Saham Al-Husseini 

November 11, 2020


Dear Students,

I hope that this message finds you healthy and well.

As with every passing year, KAUST’s rigorous commitment to innovation and research excellence continues to intensify; indeed, the unprecedented challenges of these past months have further amplified the critical role served by KAUST, and the individuals committed to its mission.  As part of that community, I applaud the flexibility you have demonstrated in adjusting to this new reality, as well as your collective refusal to let these setbacks detour your educational journeys. These traits are pillars of the Program, and vital to not only your personal achievements, but also to your collective ability to meet the challenges of the coming decades. 

With student safety a top priority, the KGSP continues to closely monitor the coronavirus situation in both the US and Saudi Arabia; while advancements have been made in the treatment and eventual prevention of the virus, COVID-19 currently remains a considerable public health concern.   As such, the Program Guidelines shared in August regarding student location, travel, and instruction modality remain in place and unchanged at this time. Please re-review these guidelines and work closely with your Advisor to understand them and any specific requirements put in place by your home university. 

For our Foundation Year students, your coursework will continue to be held virtually for the first half of the spring term, with the hope that the second will be completed in-person at your assigned FY program.  This is, of course, dependent upon the situation at the time and subject to change. The spring term of the Foundation Year is critical to a student’s KGSP experience, and you will continue to receive academically rigorous college-level courses to ensure you are prepared to be successful at the undergraduate level. 

The Program is here to support you; should you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your Advisor directly. On behalf of the entire KGSP team and myself, I wish you all the best for the upcoming term.

Saham Alhusseini

Director, Undergraduate & Scholarship Programs

Strategic National Advancement

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology