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The American University of Bahrain - A New Private University

During our February 16 webinar "Cross-Border Business Development; Palm Beach & Bahrain" we were honored to have so many diplomats and professionals speak about the evolving relationship between the business and educational communities of Palm Beach and Bahrain, including Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, the American University of Bahrain (AUBH) Provost.

Thank you very much Al, and it's great to join you all. Thank you very much. It's been fascinating and interesting to hear all of the opportunities that exist, and I'm pleased to be with you and represent our President, Dr. Susan Saxton, who is unfortunately traveling and unable to be with us. But I know she's very excited about the prospects of this opportunity. She and Al and Rose had dinner while they were here. So she extends her well wishes. And I'm happy to say she's well connected because her hometown is Boca Raton. So she's our cherished President. We have her here in behind, but she's got strong connections to your region.

So I'll be brief in my remarks. I wanted to introduce to you at the American University of Bahrain, which is a truly new institution here in Bahrain. We're a private University licensed in Bahrain, and we only began operations in September of 2019. So at this point, we have freshmen and juniors and sophomores, and we'll have our graduates next year. So our first group of graduates. But it's been a great start as a new institution of higher learning here in Bahrain.

Bahrain seeks to become a hub of education for the region. If you come to Bahrain, you'll see that many young people and their families want to come to visit Bahrain. Whether it's from Saudi or from Kuwait — wherever it might be, because it's a great place to be and it's got a great lifestyle. There's a lot of familiarity in the region with Bahrain, and it's lifestyle. And for that reason, the startup of our institution was to leverage that and to say we're a great place to visit, but we're also a great place to study. Many Bahraini families have the experience of having an education in the United States, and so that model is one that's very familiar and that is well valued. That's part of the rationale for the establishment of the institution is to create a truly American style experience right here in Bahrain for families. Offering opportunities because of the way we've designed curriculum, starting with foundation years and then moving into the majors. Students can choose to start here at AUBH, and they have the option to conclude with us, but also to finish elsewhere because the model that we've created is a mirror image to what you would see in the U.S.

The major investor for AUBH is an organization called Mumtalakat. Now, that might not mean a whole lot to you in the west, but for us, it's a big deal. Mumtalakat is the sovereign wealth fund here in Bahrain, and we are the first investment in higher education that Mumtalakat has made. Other investments are the airline, Gulf air Alba, One of the largest aluminum firms in the world. Patelco, the telephone company, National Bank of Bahrain, all Premier blue chip organizations. And so we're privileged to be a part of their world. So that is what is behind us.

We have, as Al has mentioned, a state of the art facility designed by a renowned architectural firm out of the US because we wanted to create a curriculum that was American, but not just that as an experience that's American. So it's truly an American campus. With all of these sports facilities, you expect the students gathering spaces, the library, everything. You walk on campus and you think you're on a campus in the United States. So it's beautiful. It's state of the art and has the capacity for 3500 to about 4000 students, as I mentioned, or maybe I didn't mention our intention is to serve the needs of Bahrain, but beyond that, to serve the needs of the region.

Currently, 70% of our students now are Bahraini, but 30% are from other parts of the region. The largest proportion of that is from Saudi. And Saudi is a mammoth market. And so we have been successful in attracting a good proportion of our students from Saudi Arabia. However, COVID, as we all know, has been a little bit problematic in that regard. But as we move out of the pandemic phase, we anticipate seeing many students from different parts of the region, and so that's a little bit about we've prevailed.

I'll just finally say we've prevailed through the pandemic very successfully by offering our programs in a dual modality where students have the opportunity to come to class with proper social distancing and safety measures. But they've also had the chance to join us online. And so we've met many students in the region who couldn't otherwise come to us because of the challenges of travel during COVID but have nonetheless succeeded and been successful online. I just met with a young student today from Saudi who has been online and is now coming back and joining us face to face.

We've been resilient as an organization. We're growing, we've got the capacity and we've got the backing to be a great success here. So I would love to talk to people subsequently to this event about education opportunities, and we're open to lots of interesting alignments and partnerships, so look forward to it.

Thank you, Al, for organizing this. It's a mammoth effort, but obviously a great success.

Thank you, everybody.

— Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, AUBH Provost


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