School of Education Receives Saudi Arabia Grant
Saint Louis University’s School of Education (SOE) has been awarded the largest grant
ever in the school’s history from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, which implements
its country’s national educational and training policies.
Susan Everson, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the educational leadership
program, spearheaded the grant application process and serves as its principal investigator.
She heralded this substantial grant as a significant endorsement of the inclusiveness,
diversity and academic excellence of both the School of Education and Saint Louis
“Educational leadership is an essential component in school effectiveness worldwide,”
Everson said. “This proposed grant has been in the making for more than six months.
Naturally, we are delighted to receive approval to carry on this important work.”
SLU is one of only two universities – the other is Oakland University in Detroit –
selected by Saudi Arabia to receive a grant as part of a Saudi program called Building
Leadership for Change through School Immersion. There is also a pilot program in Canada
and another in the United Kingdom.
“We are thrilled that Saudi Arabia has chosen SLU to receive this important grant
to participate in this vital program, particularly in light of its criteria for diversity
and academic improvement,” said Ken Olliff, vice president for research. “For SLU,
this grant represents a new opportunity to carry out SLU's mission while serving the
global community through educational leadership, research, immersion and collaboration.”
This grant is a part of the Ministry’s Educational Improvement Initiative, which was
established to provide its country with qualified educators and educational leaders.
The program sends selected Saudi professional educators to spend six months “immersed”
in schools that serve diverse student populations.
“Saint Louis University and SACM have a well-established educational partnership,”
said Tarig Eltayeb, senior educational advisor, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to
the U.S.A. “Saint Louis University has a proven record of a solid commitment to support
our joint mission to serve and provide the best quality education and training to
Saudi Arabian students and scholars.”
Two important support components of the grant involve introducing the participants
to local culture and providing English language development so they can benefit from
their immersion experience.
So far, the program is slated to include 100 participants who will engage in a six-month
immersion that begins with English as a Second Language courses. This piece of the
program is overseen by Anneke Bart, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and
academic director of INTO SLU and English as Second Language (ESL) language support
“Our program uses the Content-Based Instruction approach to teaching English as a
Second Language,” Bart said. “Using this philosophy, we have carefully created a suite
of courses in reading, writing and speaking firmly anchored in topics related to Education
and professional development. This approach will support the participants as they
build their English proficiency in a directed, steady and sustainable manner.”
Bart and Troy Turnipseed, MBA, orientation and cultural experience team leader, are
a part of a team led by SLU alumna Jaime Welborn, Ph.D., (GRAD ‘16), assistant professor
in educational leadership, who is the program’s director. A former elementary school
principal who completed her doctorate in educational leadership, Welborn will manage
day-to-day grant operations, working with school district partners, SLU faculty and
the Saudi participants.
“This is a very exciting program that we are rolling out in three stages in 2017,”
Welborn said. “We look forward to expanding our partnerships to include more districts.”
The grant supports three cohorts of Saudi educational professionals, totaling 100
participants, said Welborn. They will attend in three overlapping six-month programs,
ending May 2018, she said.
The first cohort of 18 participants arrived in January and is already engaged in the
language immersion phase of the program, Welborn said. In June, the second cohort
of about 40 participants will begin the next six-month program, and in November, the
third cohort, this one also made up of another 40 participants, is expected, she said.
“The fact that Saint Louis University is currently hosting the first cohort of the
Saudi teachers who are participating in the Building Leadership for Change through
School Immersion, is a vivid testament to such commitment,” indicated Dr. Awad Alyami,
assistant director; academic accreditation department. “We look forward to taking
our next steps together as we continue to strengthen our long-standing partnership.”
Many of the Saudi participants are bringing their spouses and children with them to
St. Louis, said Welborn. As a result, more than 20 Saudi children will reside in St.
Louis with their families.
Initially, grant participants are involved in a culturally rich, supportive orientation
phase that prepares them for future grant phases. In that first phase, their studies
at SLU begin with English as a Second Language program through our INTO SLU.
Participants then will move into the educational immersion phase, when they will work
closely with educational leadership faculty, studying evidence-based, effective educational
leadership practices. During this experience, Saudi participants will create a manual
of effective practice information to implement those practices in their schools in
their home country.
Mehlville and Pattonville school districts are serving as pilot partner district,
where participants will observe, discuss and reflect on practices of effective school
leaders. As the program continues, Everson said she hopes other districts will become
partners to serve the increase in Saudi participants — the key is to find districts
with significant diversity and improved test scores.
Eventually, the Saudis hope to expand the training to other disciplines, including
medicine, law and business, she said.
For more information about the program and opportunities to participate as partner
districts, contact Everson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Welborn at email@example.com.