Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Haifa Reda Jamalallail, Ph.D. ’91
Dr. Haifa Reda Jamalallail graduated with her Ph.D. from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy in 1991. Today, Dr. Jamalallail is the president of Effat University, the leading institution of higher education for women in Saudi Arabia.
Can you please describe the work of your institution and its mission?
Effat University is the first private institution of higher education for women in Saudi Arabia. It was established in 1999 by the Queen Effat Al Thunayan, wife of late King Faisal. In keeping with Islamic quest for knowledge, Effat University is committed to being a leader in academic excellence and professional development. The aim of Effat University is to educate tomorrow’s ladies to become leaders at an international standard.
How large is the university in terms of enrollment?
Thirteen years ago we started the university in 1999 with 25 students in three majors: Information Systems, Psychology, English Language and Translation. The current student body of Effat University consists of more than 2,200 students enrolled in the 12 majors under three colleges: the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Engineering and the College of Business.
What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your work as president? What is the most challenging?
Being the first president for the first private university in Saudi Arabia is a pioneering role that I play nationally and internationally. I am in a position where I have to draw balance between cultural norms and demands for reform and change; I am leading an ambitious academic institution that is missioned to qualify tomorrow’s competitive leaders with a world-class education by providing an interdisciplinary environment in a conservative society.
On the other hand, leading such an institution in a country where higher education is offered for free is really challenging. We succeeded in overcoming this challenge by offering new programs that have not been offered to girls before like Architecture and Electrical and Computer Engineering. In addition, we open the door for organizations and individuals to contribute to our mission by joining our Compete to Give campaign. The campaign marks a significant milestone for our nation and the evolution of women’s education as we move from college to university status; it aims to encourage donors to contribute to the Effat University Grant Fund, which supports the day-to-day operations and growth of the institution.
Could you elaborate the role that institutions, like Effat University, are playing in expanding opportunities for Saudi women?
Effat University believes that the future of the nation lies in the divine act of reading as expressed in the Holy Quran. Hence, Effat University’s core values are based on the divine commandment IQRA, “read.” In addition, we, at Effat, believe in building our students’ professional, social, academic and personal skills through our Effat Ambassador program. The Ambassadors Program equips students with the required soft skills and competencies and develops them into well-rounded individuals who lead a meaningful life.
Equally, our alumnae enjoy the benefits of our holistic approach of development through the services of our Effat Alumnae Association (EAA). EAA provides valuable benefits and programs that allow around 400 alumni to tap into a vast network of national and international relationships whether to pursue further studies or find the job that fulfil their dreams.
Effat University recently signed an MOU with the USC School of Cinematic Arts. What does this partnership entail? What do you hope will be the ultimate result of this collaboration?
In September 2012, we signed an agreement with the School of Cinematic Arts in the University of Southern California to collaborate in the establishment and development of a world-class academic program in Media and Digital Production. We both will work hand-in-hand to train Saudi students in the use of the moving image to convey stories, experiences and information to advance the industry of news and media in the Saudi Arabia. We are sure that this newly established relationship with USC will be very rewarding because international benchmarking is central to Effat University’s mission, and developing curriculum in consultation with the SCA is a step toward elevating the educational standards of Saudi Arabia, and transforming the kingdom to technology-driven country.
As president, what is your vision for Effat University?
I envision Effat University to be recognized as the best women’s university in the Saudi Arabia by gaining international accreditation, and ensuring that the University is among the top international leading academic institutions.
Your leadership position now — was this something that you always aspired to achieve?
I was raised by my parents who were leaders by nature. My father held a governmental leading role which had a big impact on the way he raised me. And my mother played an influential role in shaping my ambitious personality. Holding leading positions was something I experienced since 1993, when I was appointed in several leadership positions at King Abdulaziz University after my graduation at USC and immediately after my return to Saudi Arabia. These positions started with heading the Public Administration Department, followed by Vice Dean of The College of Economic and Administration till I became the Dean of the Girls Campus at KAAU, which is equal to president of a University supervising seven Colleges and 34,000 students. These positions helped promote my leadership skills. Then Her Majesty Queen Effat and her daughter HRH P. Lolowah Alfaisal invited me to be part of establishing Effat College in 1998. I started the College in 1999, and after 10 years I transferred Effat College to Effat University in 2009.
How did your education at the USC Price School prepare you for the work that you’re doing today?
My education at the USC Price School made me value the importance of openness and the benefit of multiculturalism. I learned that learning from others and building on other experience is a key instrument towards making any kind of positive difference whether at a personal, professional or national level.
What was your favorite aspect as student at USC Price?
The international culture of USC created my attachment and love to the internalization as an important factor for higher education institution all over the world. It actually introduced me to the importance of the well-rounded individuals in building communities and societies, and that exactly is what we need in today’s world.