Saudi Arabian delegation visits WKU

President Gary Ransdell (left) greets Saudi Arabian students and officials before a dinner gathering Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 at the Presidents home. President Ransdell and his wife, Julie, hosted nearly 200 Saudi Arabian students along with officials from Saudi Arabia who are visiting to learn more about Western Kentucky’s Center for Gifted Studies. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has sent more students to Western Kentucky University than any other country. (Photo by Joshua Lindsey/Herald)

Tyler Prochazka

President Gary Ransdell isn’t kidding when he says WKU has “international reach.”

Standing in front of the American and Saudi Arabian flags, Ransdell welcomed 17 Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education representatives to campus at a dinner also attended by WKU students from Saudi Arabia at his home on Tuesday.


After learning Gatton Academy was ranked No. 1 in America’s Top High Schools by Newsweek magazine, representatives from the country traveled to WKU in order to learn more about accelerated and gifted learning to apply that knowledge to its country’s educational system.

“We hope you will take back many lessons of how to educate the most gifted and talented among us,” Ransdell said to the representatives.

Ali Rayyni, the head of the Gifted Department at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education, said the focus for this trip to WKU is to improve accelerated learner education from elementary school to high school.

“So far we are very delighted,” Rayyni said. “We have found a lot of good practices.”

Ransdell said when he received word the Saudi Ministry of Education representatives were interested in coming to WKU, he quickly approved of their trip.

However, Ransdell said he also wanted to make sure the representatives got to meet the WKU Saudi students as well, so he decided to host the banquet.

“I think this is an impressive way to welcome guests,” Ransdell said. “But also to make our students feel more welcome here.”

Julia Roberts, the director for WKU’s Center for Gifted Studies, said she was thrilled the Saudi Ministry of Education came to WKU to see the programs she directs, because it shows the center is known and appreciated.

“They have the opportunity to learn everything about the center,” Roberts said.

Roberts introduced the Saudi representatives to Gatton students and showed them various spots in the Bowling Green area.

In January, the Saudi Minister of Education will visit WKU again to further examine the educational system, Roberts said.

The Saudi Ministry of Education representatives visiting WKU is not the only relationship WKU has with Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry of Education representatives aren’t the only Saudis interested in WKU.

According to Ransdell, WKU has 174 Saudi students and 100 Saudi students who are studying at the English as a Second Language Institute at WKU, the largest of any country represented.

Freshman Mohammed Shaibi, a student from Saudi Arabia, said his time at WKU has been “fantastic.”

“Here is more intelligent and has more opportunities,” Shaibi said of the educational system at WKU.

Although Shaibi said there has been some discrimination toward him and his friends at WKU, he said this was only about “2 percent” of the people he’s encountered.

“Everywhere you go you will see bad and good things,” he said.

Ransdell said he wants to make sure the relationship continues and more students from Saudi Arabia come to WKU on scholarship from the Saudi government.

“It’s really an honor that they would study at WKU in these kinds of numbers,” he said.