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USC Viterbi-Saudi Aramco Master’s Program sees its first graduating class

Viterbi Staff | July 17, 2018

16 Saudi Aramco employees completed a unique master’s degree in construction management

Saudi Aramco program graduates attended the Sonny Astani Department celebratory lunch following commencement. From left to right: Ahmed AlNimer, Rashid Bo Rashid, Abdullah Asseri, Dwight Stout, Rafat AlSharif and Waleed Safarji. Photo/Joseph Nakhost

For the past two years, 16 of Saudi Aramco’s Project Management rising stars took part in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Saudi Aramco Master’s Degree Program in Construction Management. This Spring, they completed their degrees, and eight of the students flew out to Los Angeles to receive their diplomas at the master’s commencement ceremony on May 11, 2018.

The program was developed when Saudi Aramco sought to bring a U.S. education to their employees, rather than sending them abroad, and reached out to several universities.

“Education is a founding value at Saudi Aramco and we have a long tradition of investing in our employees’ development including sending them to the world’s top universities to compete and lead in our dynamic, technology-driven energy industry,” said Fahad A. Ammari, Saudi Aramco general manager for Area Projects. “USC is in the top tier in research and engineering – disciplines that are key to our business. The university’s global academic position and its distance learning capabilities, not to mention our longstanding relationship with USC and our company’s historic ties to California, were among the reasons our company entered this partnership.”

Candace House Teixeira, executive director of corporate and professional programs for Viterbi Graduate and Professional Programs, added that Saudi Aramco chose USC Viterbi’s Master of Construction Management Program due to its flexible delivery method, in addition to the university’s high academic standards. Courses are taught both online through DEN, the school’s distance education network, and on-site with faculty from the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering traveling to Saudi Aramco.

“We were challenged to teach exactly the same content that we teach here in the U.S. in another country,” said Sonny Astani Department Chair and Dean’s Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Lucio Soibelman at the dinner. “It was a unique opportunity for us and we are looking forward to the second cohort. It was an experience that was very positive for both sides.”

“All 16 students far exceeded our expectations. They are very sharp, intelligent and ambitious,” said Henry Koffman, professor of engineering practice and director of the Saudi Aramco master’s degree program. “They are all going to be senior leaders at Aramco.”

The students participating in the program were at least mid-level managers with decades of experience who continued their full-time responsibilities while completing their degrees.

“This program opened our eyes to many things in construction,” said Rafat Al-Sharif in Saudi Aramco’s Project Management Support Services, a student leader of the cohort. “The program brought a lot of new ideas. We looked at things differently and implemented what we learned in the field.”

“Saudi Aramco is the industry’s undisputed leader in oil, gas and chemicals megaprojects that will help ensure that the world’s growing demand for energy will be met,” Ammari said. “The Master of Construction Management program at the Viterbi School of Engineering will help ensure that the best theory and practice of this vital discipline are applied to our projects. I am proud of our graduates and look forward to their greater contributions as a result of their studies through USC Viterbi.”

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