The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology on Friday celebrated its 13th commencement.
Around 380 graduating students and a packed audience consisting of family and university community members, and guests attended the event.
Forty percent of this year’s graduates from the Thuwal-based research university were from Saudi Arabia.
In his speech, KAUST President Tony Chan invited graduating students to ponder “a world we would like to live in,” with a talk centered on the theme of applying talent to shape a better future.
He said: “The youth intelligentsia is the point of the arrow of transformation. You combine the inspiring passion of the young and the know-how and skills of the learned few.
“You have the ability, energy, and commitment to transform the ways and implements of the past, and to turn the present into that future world that you would like to live in. A world worth living in.”
Chan highlighted three outstanding graduating students as having embraced challenge and change.
He praised Eman Alhajji for her dedicated leadership as founding president of the KAUST Students for Sustainability, and the Saudi Youth for Sustainability programs, Lyndsey Tanabe for her work on the protection of sea turtles and coral reef ecosystems, and Wedyan Babatain, whose soft programmable materials were helping to make cities smarter.
Ten alumni recently honored at the KAUST 2022 Alumni Change Makers Awards event were also spotlighted by Chan who advised that, wherever possible, it was always best to try and “surround yourself with quality people.”
Chan welcomed distinguished speaker Alice Gast to the stage. The emeritus professor of chemical engineering and former president of Imperial College London from 2014 to 2022, was also a board member of KAUST between 2009 and 2018.
In her address, she talked about KAUST as having a culture of risk takers “jumping the curbstone of tradition,” with many traveling far from home to immerse themselves in research and innovate alongside those from other cultures.
She quoted Steve Jobs, the late chief executive officer of Apple, whose childhood story about turning ordinary backyard rocks into polished rocks through friction and grinding became a metaphor for the team, that “through that group of talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise and working together, they polish each other, and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these beautiful stones.”
Gast said: “My message to you is to build those teams. Polish your ideas by seeking people with different views and talents, and don’t be afraid of your competitors; they may hold the key to your success.”
A celebratory video featuring a cross-section of KAUST graduates was shown to the audience after Gast’s speech, followed by the conferral of degrees.