Empowerment begins with chalk and a blackboard. That may be why people who seek to change the world covet education and people who want to keep the status quo that suits them seek to curtail it.
An old African proverb says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” Women leaders are playing a pivotal role in transforming and empowering a nation and enabling betterment for future generations. One such woman inspiring and empowering the generations is Dr. Haifa Reda Jamal Al Lail, President of Effat University.
Dr. Haifa is a distinguished leader, a respected academic, a renowned advocate of youth engagement, and the author of several articles. She has also delivered many keynote speeches on women’s education in the Middle East, women and change, entrepreneurship and business.
In 2005, Dr. Haifa was one of the recipients of 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded to peace activists from around the globe in order to give more visibility and recognition to women’s peace work worldwide. For her exceptional work, Dr. Haifa has also received awards such as the Innovation Award, Saudi Sayidaty, Queen Effat’s Distinction Award, Leading Woman CEO, Distinguished Arab Woman Award, World Family Summit Award, and the Distinguished Arabian Woman Award.
In an exclusive interview with Insights Success, Dr. Haifa shares how she is transforming lives globally with her work.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Briefly describe your professional journey up until now.
I am currently serving as the President of Effat University, a premier institution of higher education located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Throughout my career, I have been a leading voice in the education community, advocating for education reform and promoting the importance of education for the development of the country.
I have published numerous articles on various topics, including women empowerment and privatization, and have been involved in education reform in Saudi Arabia since 1991. My work in this field has been widely recognized, and in 2005, I was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1,000 PeaceWomen campaign, a global movement to recognize the contributions of women in peace and social justice work. I received my Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Southern California.
What challenges did you face along the way?
Effat University’s journey has been one filled with both challenges and successes. At the start, we faced significant obstacles, but with the support of our Board of Founders, Board of Trustees, and members of the academic and administrative bodies, we were able to overcome them.
The early days were difficult, but we remained focused on our ambitious goals and were able to move forward steadily. From a single college consisting of two academic departments, we have now grown into a university with four colleges and 12 bachelor’s degree programs, as well as four master’s programs.
At Effat University, we take pride in being a leading research center in the Kingdom that brings together researchers from different fields to build and expand our knowledge base, which contributes to the future of Saudi Arabia. We are committed to becoming a prestigious research institution in the coming years through continued investment and development in this field.
Today, the university is home to four advanced research centers: the Smart Building Research Center, the Virtual Reality Research Center, the Electronic Arabization Research Center, and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Center. Each of these centers is designed to provide a safe and comfortable environment for researchers to conduct studies in the field of social and physical sustainability.
As President of Effat University, I must balance cultural norms with the demands of reform and change in society. My international studies exposed me to the importance of diversity and inclusivity in building strong communities, which is something that is crucial in the education industry today.
At Effat University, we strive to provide innovative solutions to meet changing social challenges and to develop leaders and scholars who contribute to the legacy of Queen Effat Al-Thunayan’s vision (may God rest her soul).
What significant impact have you brought to the education industry?
As a distinguished leader in the field of education in Saudi Arabia, I have made significant contributions to the promotion of education and the improvement of the education system in the country. My efforts have been instrumental in providing students with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in their future careers. I have implemented several innovative programs and initiatives that have helped to raise educational standards and improve student outcomes. My commitment to excellence and my passion for education has made me a role model for others in the field.
Additionally, I have been an active voice in the education community, advocating for education reform and promoting the importance of education for the development of the country. My contributions to the education system in Saudi Arabia have been widely recognized and have earned me numerous awards and accolades for my work.
Can you tell us about the foundation pillar of Effat University?
The foundation pillar of Effat University is rooted in the values of excellence, innovation, and social responsibility. The university’s mission is to provide education that contributes to scientific discovery, technological advancement, and the resolution of societal challenges. Effat University also places a strong emphasis on international cooperation and partnerships, which allow the university to provide global quality education to its students. Effat University offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in areas such as engineering, business, and the humanities.
In summary, Effat University’s foundation pillar is to provide a world-class education that is grounded in excellence, innovation, and social responsibility and that prepares students to become leaders and change-makers in their respective fields. The university also values the importance of international cooperation and partnerships in order to achieve global quality in its educational programs.
How does Effat University promote workforce flexibility, and what is your role in it?
Effat University promotes workforce flexibility through its academic programs, research initiatives, and partnerships with industry leaders. The university conducts research in a wide range of fields, including engineering, business, and the humanities, and it collaborates with industry leaders to develop new technologies, processes, and systems that will help to improve the workforce.
Effat University also promotes workforce flexibility by building partnerships with industry leaders, which allows it to stay abreast of the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in the workforce. As the President of Effat University, we play a key role in promoting workforce flexibility by leading initiatives that provide students with a broad range of skills and knowledge through academic programs, conducting research to develop new technologies and best practices that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce, and building partnerships with industry leaders to stay abreast of the latest trends and technologies in the workforce.
What is your take on technology’s importance, and how are you leveraging it?
I believe technology is crucial to improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and competitiveness of the workforce. As the President of Effat University, I am leveraging technology through research initiatives that focus on developing new technologies, processes, and systems that will help to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and competitiveness of the workforce. Additionally, we are leveraging technology by building partnerships with industry leaders, which allow her to stay abreast of the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in the workforce.
What will be the next significant change in the education industry, and how are you preparing for it?
It is difficult to predict exactly what the next significant change in the education industry will be, as it is constantly evolving and adapting to new technologies, changing student demographics, and global policy changes. However, educators and educational institutions need to be flexible and adaptable and be willing to incorporate new technologies and approaches into their teaching methods. Additionally, educational institutions and educators need to be aware of the needs of diverse student populations and be prepared to meet those needs. At Effat University, the leadership is continuously monitoring the changes in the education industry and adapting accordingly to ensure that students receive the best education possible.
What are your goals in the upcoming future?
Our wise leadership has emphasized transforming from an economy dependent on oil to an economy with diversified sources, which is the economy of knowledge. And the Kingdom embarked on its journey towards achieving this goal, as this is evident in the enormous investments that the Kingdom directed to the education sectors, initiatives to nurture the gifted and build qualified national capacities in the scientific, technical, and knowledge fields, and other areas that pour in this direction.
What advice would you like to give the next generation of aspiring business leaders?
I would like to advise the next generation of aspiring business leaders to approach their work with seriousness and commitment, to be proud of their cultural identity, and to continuously strive to educate and develop themselves, not just in their field of specialization but in all areas such as the arts, culture, sports, and more. They should aim to become responsible and active members of Saudi society, as well as global citizens. Additionally, they should focus on learning from others, be patient, develop analytical thinking skills, and find innovative ways to apply them to new challenges. Furthermore, they should serve humanity in all they do.