Last month we were pleased to share Dr. Isobel Coleman’s story about the Effat University Class of 2012 commencement. The Jeddah-based women’s institution of higher education is among the organizations at “the forefront of change” in the Kingdom according to Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Initiative, The Council on Foreign Relations.
“This past weekend, I had the honor of being the commencement speaker at Effat University, a private university for women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was hardly the staid affair I expected. Colorful klieg lights lit the way of arriving parents and dignitaries; forget “Pomp and Circumstance”—the more than two hundred graduates and faculty paraded in to a pulsating techno beat, while stage fog swirled to dramatic effect. The array of high-heeled shoes under the graduates’ sky-blue abayas was breathtaking—everything from six inch high, hot-pink platform wedges, to cowboy boots, to the latest snakeskin and metallic Manolo Blahniks. What really impressed me was the energy and passion of the graduates. The president of the student government in her speech exhorted her fellow graduates—in a chant of “yes, we can”—to change the world around them.”
After sharing her blog post with you on SUSRIS we asked her to talk about her recent experiences in Saudi Arabia, including what she has learned about reform in education and women’s empowerment over time by visits to Effat and other harbingers of change. That exclusive SUSRIS interview is provided in a separate post. Dr. Coleman was the commencement speaker at the Effat graduation and she graciously shared her remarks to the Class of 2012 with us. They are provided here for your consideration along with our congratulations to the women of the Effat University Class of 2012.
Dr. Isobel Coleman
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
May 12, 2012
It is a great honor to be here today to address Effat University’s class of 2012. As graduates of this fine university, you are indeed your country’s future.
I like to quote the great Egyptian poet, Hafez Ibrahim who said, “A mother is a school. Empower her, and you empower a great nation.” You are graduating at a time of great change, and tremendous potential, particularly for women in this county. In many ways your generation will set the pace of change going forward. That pace of change has only quickened in your lifetime and will probably continue to accelerate.
Just think, when you were born in the early 1990s, the Internet was still a relatively simple communication tool, and more than half the world’s population had never made a telephone call. Today, all our lives are daily touched by the Internet; 85% of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone, transforming lives in so many ways; and Facebook, a company which didn’t even exist a few years ago, is poised for a $100 billion IPO.
Isobel Coleman is senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, where she directs CFR’s civil society, markets, and democracy initiative and the women and foreign policy program. Her areas of expertise include democratization, civil society, economic development, regional gender issues, educational reform, and microfinance.
She is the author and coauthor of numerous publications, including Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East (Random House, 2010), Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President (Brookings Institution Press, 2008), and Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security (Hoover Institution Press, 2006).
Dr. Coleman’s writings have also appeared in publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor, and Forbes, and online venues such as TheAtlantic.com and CNN.com. She is a frequent speaker at academic, business, and policy conferences. In 2010, she served as the track leader for the Girls and Women Action Area at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Prior to joining the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Coleman was CEO of a healthcare services company and a partner with McKinsey & Co. in New York. A Marshall scholar, she holds a BA in public policy and East Asian studies from Princeton University and MPhil and DPhil degrees in international relations from Oxford University. She serves on several non-profit boards, including Plan USA and Student Sponsor Partners.
- Effat University – Home Page
- Effat University on the Forefront of Change in Saudi Arabia – Coleman – SUSRIS – May 17, 2012
- The Need for Education Reform – “Saudi System is the Problem” – Isobel Coleman and Rachel Bronson – SUSRIS – May 31, 2005
- Building Bridges: A Conversation with Princess Loulwa Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Jun 2, 2005
- Women in Higher Education – Saudi Initiatives & Achievements – Ministry of Higher Education, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – 2010
- Change and Reform: A Conversation with Khaled Al-Seif – SUSRIS Exclusive Interview – Jan 22, 2012
- Business Forum: Education – Investing in Human Capital: Prince Faisal – SUSRIS – Jan 9, 2012
- King Abdullah Interview – SUSRIS – Oct 22, 2005
- Pioneer who gave wings to Saudi women’s dreams – GulfNews – Aug 7, 2008
- US ambassador gives blessings to Effat graduates – Saudi Gazette – May 18, 2011