Syracuse University

SU LAUNCHES FIRST REGIONAL COUNCIL OUTSIDE OF US AT INAUGURAL MEETING IN DUBAI
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Regional Council Members in Duba with SU staff (left to right): Nicci Brown, vice president of marketing for SU; Reda Raad, of Dubai, chair of the Regional Council; Iman Al Bahar, of Kuwait; Mike Venutolo, of Bahrain; Jim O'Connor, executive director of Middle East external affairs; Eric Spina, vice chancellor and provost; and Sherlyn Sychua, regional director of SU's Dubai office. Missing from the photo is Nabil Habayeb, of Dubai.

Syracuse University has further strengthened its presence in the Middle East with the creation of its first international regional council. The Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT) Regional Council will focus on elevating the university’s profile, while selectively building relationships in these key geographic areas. SU Provost and Vice Chancellor Eric Spina presided over the council’s inaugural meeting, which was held in Dubai. 

The MENAT Regional Council will initially target its activities on the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Oman and Turkey. Recruitment and alumni relations in these regions are priorities for the University, and efforts to date have been fruitful. For the upcoming fall semester, SU received 150 applications from Gulf students. 

In addition to the goals of increasing interest among prospective students and enhancing alumni relations, the Council is tasked with forging strategic programs and partnerships. “With the Council in place, we see significant potential in enabling other SU students access to the expertise in the region through programs and internships situated here and facilitated with the assistance and guidance of our alumni,” said Spina.

The founding Regional MENAT Council members are accomplished professionals and ambassadors for Syracuse University. Reda Raad, who will serve as council chair, earned a degree from SU’s Whitman School of Management in 1995. He resides in Dubai where he is COO of TBWA/Raad. Iman (AlBahar) Al Qatami, of Kuwait, is a 1979 graduate of SU’s L. C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (LCS) and a principal in Al Qatami Trading Company. Mike Venutolo, a 1984 LCS graduate and current resident of Bahrain, is the CEO of Raymond International. Nabil Habayeb received his undergraduate degree from LCS in 1980 and graduate degree in 1982. He is the CEO of GE Middle East and Africa and is based in Dubai. Abdallah Yabroudi, a Syracuse University trustee, is an LCS alumnus (1978 and 1979) and serves as CEO and managing director of Dubai Contracting Company. 

According to Raad, the Council is ready to build on the momentum achieved by SU staff in the region. He sees alumni relations as an integral part of that. “The more our alumni feel connected to the University, the more likely they are to share their experiences both as a student and as a graduate, which is exponentially beneficial in recruitment,” he explained. “They will also be more inclined to use their influence and connections to help create valuable opportunities in the region for current and future SU students.”

In addition to Vice Chancellor Spina, Jim O'Connor, executive director for Middle East advancement and external affairs, and Nicci Brown, SU vice president for marketing and communications, also represented the University at the kick-off meeting. Brown will maintain contact with and look to the MENAT Council for guidance as the University crafts messaging and marketing campaigns specific to the region.