Experiential Learning and the UAE

Last week, I was honored to attend the World Student Scholarship Education Program in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on behalf of IIE, which, for nearly 100 years, has specialized in the management of some of the world’s most elite student programs around the world. This conference brings together government scholarship administrators and higher education institutions to develop partnerships, and share updates on how we are all moving the needle forward to develop new talent, strengthen key fields of study, and to build new pathways for students within and between each of our countries. Representatives from government agencies in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, Kazakhstan and Bahrain were in attendance as well as U.S. and foreign higher education institutions.

Experiential learning is an emerging trend in U.S. higher education, and I learned at the conference that our global peers throughout the world are also utilizing experiential learning in their educational programs to further the development of key sectors, academic fields, and professional skills. In Bahrain, The Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program includes internship opportunities for students during their summer break, and universities in Qatar and Saudi Arabia also highlighted how they incorporate experiential learning into several of their academic programs like nursing and engineering.

Following His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development in the United Arab Emirates, Ed Monks, Director of Academic and Experiential Learning and University Placement at IIE, offered opening remarks to highlight IIE’s work and showcase some examples of innovative programs with our partners in the United States. His focus on the importance of experiential learning mirrored the speech from Sheikh Nahayan who also highlighted how educational programs increasingly need an internship or practical component to train and prepare students for the workforce. The event took place at ADVETI, the Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute, which is an initiative of the Abu Dhabi government to empower Emiratis with competencies needed to contribute to future development through workplace focused education and training. From the venue to the sessions and in between, I was excited to build on this theme throughout the event. The opportunity to meet with dozens of HEIs and government representatives during the program undoubtedly set the groundwork for expanding our partnerships in the MENA region. While meeting with the variety of stakeholders present, I was reaffirmed of this commitment and look forward to working together to provide experiential learning opportunities for students around the world.