School of Education Receives Saudi Arabia Grant

Saint Louis University’s School of Education (SOE) has been awarded the largest grant ever in the school’s history  from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, which implements its country’s national educational and training policies.

saudi arabia grant

 Jaime Welborn, Ph.D., assistant professor in educational leadership and SLU’s grant program director, and Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., SLU provost, meet with Tarig Eltayeb, senior educational advisor, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to the U.S.A.; and Awad Alyami, Ph.D., assistant director, Authentication andAccreditation Department, Cultural Mission of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the grant for the School of Education’s program to educate Saudi Arabians through an immersion program.

Susan Everson, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the educational leadership program, spearheaded the grant application process and serves as its principal investigator. She heralded this substantial grant as a significant endorsement of the inclusiveness, diversity and academic excellence of both the School of Education and Saint Louis University.

“Educational leadership is an essential component in school effectiveness worldwide,” Everson said.  “This proposed grant has been in the making for more than six months.  Naturally, we are delighted to receive approval to carry on this important work.”

SLU is one of only two universities – the other is Oakland University in Detroit – selected by Saudi Arabia to receive a grant as part of a Saudi program called Building Leadership for Change through School Immersion. There is also a pilot program in Canada and another in the United Kingdom. 

“We are thrilled that Saudi Arabia has chosen SLU to receive this important grant to participate in this vital program, particularly in light of its criteria for diversity and academic improvement,” said Ken Olliff, vice president for research. “For SLU, this grant represents a new opportunity to carry out SLU's mission while serving the global community through educational leadership, research, immersion and collaboration.” 

This grant is a part of the Ministry’s Educational Improvement Initiative, which was established to provide its country with qualified educators and educational leaders. The program sends selected Saudi professional educators to spend six months “immersed” in schools that serve diverse student populations.

“Saint Louis University and SACM have a well-established educational partnership,” said Tarig Eltayeb, senior educational advisor, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to the U.S.A. “Saint Louis University has a proven record of a solid commitment to support our joint mission to serve and provide the best quality education and training to Saudi Arabian students and scholars.”

Two important support components of the grant involve introducing the participants to local culture and providing English language development so they can benefit from their immersion experience.

So far, the program is slated to include 100 participants who will engage in a six-month immersion that begins with English as a Second Language courses. This piece of the program is overseen by Anneke Bart, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and academic director of INTO SLU and English as Second Language (ESL) language support team leader.

“Our program uses the Content-Based Instruction approach to teaching English as a Second Language,” Bart said. “Using this philosophy, we have carefully created a suite of courses in reading, writing and speaking firmly anchored in topics related to Education and professional development. This approach will support the participants as they build their English proficiency in a directed, steady and sustainable manner.”

Bart and Troy Turnipseed, MBA, orientation and cultural experience team leader, are a part of a team led by SLU alumna Jaime Welborn, Ph.D., (GRAD ‘16), assistant professor in educational leadership, who is the program’s director. A former elementary school principal who completed her doctorate in educational leadership, Welborn will manage day-to-day grant operations, working with school district partners, SLU faculty and the Saudi participants. 

“This is a very exciting program that we are rolling out in three stages in 2017,” Welborn said.  “We look forward to expanding our partnerships to include more districts.”

The grant supports three cohorts of Saudi educational professionals, totaling 100 participants, said Welborn. They will attend in three overlapping six-month programs, ending May 2018, she said.

The first cohort of 18 participants arrived in January and is already engaged in the language immersion phase of the program, Welborn said. In June, the second cohort of about 40 participants will begin the next six-month program, and in November, the third cohort, this one also made up of another 40 participants, is expected, she said.

“The fact that Saint Louis University is currently hosting the first cohort of the Saudi teachers who are participating in the Building Leadership for Change through School Immersion, is a vivid testament to such commitment,” indicated Dr. Awad Alyami, assistant director; academic accreditation department. “We look forward to taking our next steps together as we continue to strengthen our long-standing partnership.”

Many of the Saudi participants are bringing their spouses and children with them to St. Louis, said Welborn. As a result, more than 20 Saudi children will reside in St. Louis with their families.

Initially, grant participants are involved in a culturally rich, supportive orientation phase that prepares them for future grant phases. In that first phase, their studies at SLU begin with English as a Second Language program through our INTO SLU.

Participants then will move into the educational immersion phase, when they will work closely with educational leadership faculty, studying evidence-based, effective educational leadership practices. During this experience, Saudi participants will create a manual of effective practice information to implement those practices in their schools in their home country.

Mehlville and Pattonville school districts are serving as pilot partner district, where participants will observe, discuss and reflect on practices of effective school leaders.  As the program continues, Everson said she hopes other districts will become partners to serve the increase in Saudi participants — the key is to find districts with significant diversity and improved test scores.          

Eventually, the Saudis hope to expand the training to other disciplines, including medicine, law and business, she said.

For more information about the program and opportunities to participate as partner districts, contact Everson at eversons@slu.edu or Welborn at jwelbor1@slu.edu.