2018 KGSP Convocation


In January, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) hosted the annual KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) Convocation.  This three-day event brings together the KGSP community with KAUST faculty and leadership, to allow students to learn more about the university’s latest innovations in research and development, to provide a wide-range of developmental and educational training sessions, and to support students’ meaningful interactions with the research and faculty of their  future areas of KAUST graduate study.  The 2018 Convocation was the Scholarship’s largest to date, welcoming over 500 participants to Phoenix, Arizona from January 12th – 15th for a weekend of engaging and dynamic sessions focused around the theme, A World of Possibilities.   


Dr. Najah
Dr. Najah Ashry, Vice President of Saudi Affairs, opened the Event with a rousing speech that both celebrated the accomplishments of the previous year, as well encouraged a growth mindset of continuous improvement.   Students were inspired in hearing about the most recent group of KGSP alumni to have joined graduate programs at KAUST this past Fall, and who are already make their mark on the university’s academic community. 

Dr. Najah Ashry addresses students at the Convocation opening

Dr. Michael M. Crow
Following Dr. Ashry’s welcome was the keynote  by special guest Michael M. Crow, President of Arizona State University (ASU).  President Crow shared how his own passion for innovation has guided the transformation of ASU into an institution that combines the highest levels of academic excellence, inclusiveness, and societal impact, motivating students to affect meaningful change through their own hard work and determination.  President Crow’s speech embodied a commitment to building a better tomorrow that is deeply shared by KAUST’s own mission, and set the stage for a truly memorable event.

Dr. Michael M. Crow, President of Arizona State University (ASU)

Over the next two days, students benefited from several faculty-led sessions showcasing the impact and interdisciplinary areas of innovation pursued at KAUST:  These included field of study breakout sessions, a faculty research poster fair, and faculty/student mentoring meetings.  One-on-one meetings were an especially important aspect of the Event, as students received individualized academic guidance from world-renowned experts in their fields, while also cultivated opportunities for future collaboration.  Other popular sessions included “Sci-Cafés”—interactive talks by groups of faculty from across research areas—that focused on topics such as The Internet of Everything; Intellectual Space in Biology; Energy 2030 and Beyond; and Creativity & Innovation: From Global Drivers to Personal Traits.   Through these sessions students gained both the knowledge and inspiration to advance their academic and pre-professional pursuits. 

Dr. Carlos Santamarina
Dr. Carlos Santamarina, Field Of Study presentation on Earth Science & Engineering

Intellectual Space in Biology
Intellectual Space in Biology.” (Left to Right): Dr. James Calvin, Dr. Charlotte Hauser, Dr. Samir Hamdan and Dr. Takashi Gojobori

KAUST Faculty Meeting
Duaa Taskhandi, a senior at Boston University, meets with Dr. Gilles Lubineau

Similarly, student involvement was crucial to the success of the Event:  A student-led Steering Committee identified new sessions to add to the Agenda, recruited student presenters, and developed extensive content.  Highlights included the dynamic Enrichment Fair, during which students presented posters, booths, and videos about their previous internship and professional development experiences to guide their peers in identifying and participating in such opportunities in the future.  This was augmented by student-led interactive sessions on interview and networking skills, resume-writing, and perfecting one’s elevator speech.  Other popular student-led sessions included Ted Talk-styled presentations on “Expecting the Unexpected” and “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” as well as a College Fair, at which current freshmen hosted booths presenting their home universities to Foundation year students, who are currently applying to these institutions.

Design Challenge 1

Students Ghadah Al Shalan, Abdulellah Abualshour, and Basem Eraqi collaborate in the Design Challenge:  A new addition to this year’s agenda, students worked in teams to brainstorm, design, and create an innovation prototype for a fictional research facility. 

The Event’s closing session truly celebrated the leadership and achievements of KGSP students with an Awards Ceremony and the Seniors Commencement Ceremony, which was live-streamed on the KAUST Facebook page and recognized the hard work and dedication of this special group of graduating students.  Awards included:
  • Outstanding Student Presenter Award: Abdulellah Abualshour (senior, Rutgers University) Noorah Al Faddagh (sophomore, University of California, Irvine), and Salman Alahmadi (junior, University of California, Berkeley)
  • New Student Recognition Award:  Olla Almajed (Foundation Year, Boston University) and Hasan Mansour (Foundation Year, University of California, Berkeley)
  • Student Research Poster Award, 1st Place: Redha Al Ibrahim (Senior, University of Rochester)

Seniors 1
Congratulations, Seniors!

Faisal Karim, a senior at North Carolina State University, receives recognition from KGSP Director Mr. Saham Alhusseini and Vice President for Saudi Affairs Dr. Najah Ashry

This year’s Convocation exemplified how the bond that exists among members of the KGSP and KAUST communities is one of the Scholarship’s greatest attributes.  Attendee reflections woven throughout the event highlighted the spirit of the KGSP community, and the pride felt to be part of such a close-knit and supportive scholarship.  We thank all those who participated, and look forward to next year!

Over 500 KGSP students, faculty, and staff attended the 2018 Convocation.