Kent State President Beverly Warren Serves as International Commencement Speaker in Saudi Arabia
The music echoed a pronounced, loud drumbeat as 400 female graduates marched step-by-step to the cadence of the drumbeat, down a very long entryway right up to the very edge of the stage.
“It was the most dramatic ceremony I’ve ever seen,” said Kent State University’s President Beverly Warren. “These powerful women marching directly toward us to the beat of this powerful music, as if to say, ‘get ready, world. Here we come!’ It gave me the chills. I’ll remember that moment for a very long time.”
Warren shared her welcoming spirit and inspiring words of a purpose-driven future to the Effat University Class of 2017 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Warren served as the university’s international speaker in what she described as an important day in the life of the graduating seniors and its “outstanding university.”
“It is my distinct privilege to be with you on this special Commencement day, and to bring you greetings from Kent State, one of the largest public research universities in the United States,” Warren said.
Effat University is a leading private, nonprofit institution of higher education for women in Saudi Arabia, operating under the umbrella of King Faisal’s Charitable Foundation. In efforts to expand the horizons of women in the country and raise their educational level, the university offers academic programs taught in English, and assumes the roles and responsibilities of a major research university. Kent State established an international partnership with Effat University in October 2016 to create an exchange of opportunities for faculty and students.
“Our research mission places us in the role of shaping the future of problem solving and innovation,” Warren said. “Increasingly, we know that the most complex challenges of our day and the transformational discoveries of tomorrow will occur at the hands of interdisciplinary teams who transform barriers into pathways and view collaboration as essential. We are called to bring diversity of thought to the major challenges of the world – and this includes the diverse voices of women.”
Warren expressed her enthusiasm for the common academic distinctions and aspirations both universities share, particularly those related to advancing women in business, architecture and engineering. She also shared four challenges and opportunities as the students prepared to receive their diplomas, beginning with the understanding that the privilege of a degree comes with an obligation to continue the educational journey.
“A life-long learner and researcher is a life-long contributor to her personal well-being, as well as to her family, community, faith and her society,” Warren said. “And, society increasingly will need engaged citizens who can help to contemplate and address challenges in an ever shifting, ever more complex world.”
Warren also encouraged the students to stay true to their ethical and moral compasses and to focus on leadership as a character trait to creatively leverage resources to accomplish goals.
Lastly, Warren challenged students to realize the joy of serving others, “being a source of inspiration and illumination to those in need; those looking for guidance and support; those seeking a community with whom to share knowledge and ideas,” Warren said. “In the field of education, I have found tremendous joy in serving others and in helping students find their passion and purpose in life.”
While Warren was sharing her inspiring words in Saudi Arabia, Kent State was pausing for the 47th commemoration of the events of May 4, 1970, when four students were killed and nine others were wounded during a protest of the Vietnam War.
Warren expressed the need to stand as a beacon for civil discourse, peace and conflict resolution, “a goal we can jointly embrace and advance,” she said.
“I envision our partnership growing, and I look forward to the day when we will have seamless opportunities to study together as one university, learning and growing together and solving the many global challenges through our collective focus on the power of design thinking,” Warren said. “Let’s make the world a better place together – one gift, one contribution at a time.”