2022 KGSP Convocation
Over the weekend of January 14th – January 16th, the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) held its 2022 Convocation event with 429 KGSP students and 58 members of KAUST leadership and faculty in attendance. The theme of this year’s Convocation was “Challenge Reset: The Future Reimagined,” which not only celebrated the perseverance, adaptability, and commitment demonstrated by KGSP students in facing the new reality since our last in-person Convocation in January 2020, but also embraced the role that KAUST’s ambitious academic and research agendas are playing in fueling the innovation and technology necessary to do so. Although this year’s Convocation had initially been planned to be held in-person, shifts in public health circumstances required a change to a virtual format, serving as another reminder of the ways in which the pandemic continues to impact the world and the essential importance of perseverance, dedication, and adaptability for moving forward into a future of innovation, progress, and positive change.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Najah Ashry, Senior Associate to the President and Vice President of Strategic National Advancement, encouraged the KGSP students to maintain their diligent resolve to pursue their education and their aspirations in the midst of challenges, saying, “We designed the Convocation with the hope that you leave the event seeing a larger vision for the world than you entered with and appreciating the role that you as the KAUST/KGSP community have to play in making that future a reality.” KAUST President Tony Chan encouraged students to continue their pursuit of academic success so that one day they can contribute to the innovative research being conducted at KAUST that so positively impacts the world around them.
Dean Hamdan’s presentation on KAUST’s Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division
Bringing together students and faculty is a hallmark of the Program and furthers the professional development of KGSP students. Following the welcoming remarks, Dr. Samir Hamdan, Acting Dean of KAUST’s Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division; Dr. Ravi Samtaney, Dean of KAUST’s Physical Science and Engineering Division; and Dr. Khaled Salama, Associate Dean of KAUST’s Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Science and Engineering Division gave informative presentations about the divisions that they lead, helping students hone in on the larger areas of research and study that KAUST offers.
During a segment of the event entitled “Fields of the Future,” faculty showcased the innovative work being conducted in KAUST’s research centers and labs that spur innovative solutions for the Kingdom and the world. These projects, which seek to address some of the greatest challenges the world faces today, varied from the Coral Reef Protection, Rehabilitation & Restoration Initiative; the Circular Carbon Economy Initiative; Artificial Intelligence; and the Climate and Livability Initiative.
To provide further instruction and insight to KGSP students, students met and spoke with faculty members of KAUST’s 16-degree programs in small group breakout sessions. In addition, Juniors and Seniors received customized advice from KAUST faculty in individual mentoring meetings on each day of the event.
“As a faculty [member], I am inspired to see the passion and excitement of the students. These informal meetings also help me to identify potential roadblocks that would prevent the students from reaching their full potential,” said KAUST Statistics Professor Hernando Ombao, one of many KAUST faculty who mentored talented KGSP students during the event.
For this year’s Keynote Address, the KGSP invited Dr. William McDonough, CEO of McDonough Innovation and Distinguished Research Professor at KAUST to speak on sustainability in a keynote entitled “Discovering the Obvious”. The innovative ideas that he highlighted were highly motivating for the students and demonstrated the ways in which creative application of ideas can have worldwide impact in promoting peace through collaborative scientific achievement. “It’s your generation now that we have to hand this challenge to, and we are very proud that you are going to join us,” Dr. McDonough expressed.
The Senior Commencement Ceremony at the end of the event is an annual tradition eagerly anticipated by the students. Like last year’s ceremony, this was livestreamed on YouTube so that family and friends from around the world could join in celebrating the accomplishments of the KGSP’s graduating seniors. Ahmed Aljohani of Emory University and Raghad Al Taleb of University of Rochester were selected as this year’s Commencement Speakers, offering congratulations to their peers and introducing the names of their fellow graduates. The Commencement Ceremony is a testament to the achievements of KGSP students as well as the strong bonds of friendship and support exemplified by the KGSP community. The Commencement Ceremony concluded with a tribute video of students and team members offering their own personal congratulations to the graduating class.
Through the past year’s challenges, KGSP students have shown great resilience and unwavering commitment to their academic studies. Their diligence has resulted in remarkable achievements in unprecedented circumstances that are a testament to the resilience, commitment, and excellence of the Program’s students. In his closing remarks, Saham Al-Husseini, Director of Young Talent Development programs at KAUST, praised the students for the success he has witnessed: “Whether it’s me or the advisors who work very closely with you, seeing you grow and develop over the years is an unmatched experience.” This year’s Convocation was an inspiring gathering that demonstrated the KGSP’s ability to reset expectations in the face of unprecedented change to meet the challenges of a new future.