Partnership with Royal University for Women in Bahrain
2018 Heiskell Award Winner: International Partnerships
Nomination submitted by: Dr. David Stewart, Associate Vice President
Royal University for Women is the first private university in Bahrain dedicated to the education of women, as well as the first private university in Bahrain accredited by the Higher Education Council of Bahrain. It was founded in 2005 by four brothers, all West Virginia University alumni, who set out to create a university to educate women to be leaders in the Gulf region. For West Virginia University, the partnership fulfills its land-grant mission on a global scale by helping a university to develop its capacity to offer a first-class education. The broad partnership has grown to include both universities, their alumni, and the local and regional business and industrial sectors.
Since 2009, West Virginia University has been engaged in a collaborative, innovative partnership with the Royal University for Women in Bahrain. The two campuses have worked together to develop substantive faculty research opportunities and student exchanges as well as a wide range of activities including curricular collaboration, benchmarking, continuing education, professional development, faculty exchange, and alumni development. Recently, WVU and RUW have collaborated to host a series of professional development workshops in the region focusing on cyber security and forensic accounting. These programs have been well attended by representatives from governments and industries across the Gulf region.
The partnership brings together two regions and economies that have many similarities, but are also very different. Both West Virginia and Bahrain are energy-based economies with strong sectors in tourism, Bahrain offering an ideal model of economic development whereas West Virginia is presently suffering from decreased coal production and a loss of younger talent. Both regions are focused on building skills to help in the shift from energy-based economies, and the university partnership is developing research relationships to help conquer many of the issues that face both regions.
Faculty have engaged in research collaboration in the fields of energy, water resources, healthcare, and women and gender studies. Faculty from West Virginia have presented workshops and have served as Fulbright Scholars on the Royal University for Women campus.
WVU president E. Gordon Gee notes that two initiatives that stand out and speak to the scope of impact from this partnership focus on energy and social justice. “Our institutions’ similar engagement with regional energy production and with energy production as an economic driver has created a foundation for research relationships between West Virginia University faculty and corporate and government entities in Bahrain. Meanwhile, we are also developing an American Overseas Research Center at the Royal University for Women focusing on women’s issues in the Middle East.”
The two campuses collaborate on a conference on Women in Society and are currently developing a second conference on Women in Education. West Virginia University has recently made its U.S. accredited civil engineering program available on the RUW campus, and is working with major engineering companies to provide internship opportunities for students from Bahrain and Morgantown. West Virginia has recently established its first “Global Portal” on the RUW campus in Bahrain. The Bahrain Portal is a joint venture, building on connections in student recruitment and executive education and training, while also serving as a base for WVU alumni efforts in the region by chartering a GCC alumni chapter.
The partnership has helped to change regional perceptions of both the Middle East and rural Appalachia, dispelling the misperceptions people have of both regions through the exchange of students and scholars. Students from both universities participate in an annual joint debate on issues such as gender equality, religion, healthcare, social inequality, and social and economic issues as they pertain to the Gulf region and West Virginia. To date, 600 students have taken part in these debates, and 90 students have taken part in a study abroad exchange program between the two schools.