Penn State offers tailored learning for company in Saudi Arabia

Program serves as model for international partnerships

Saudi Aramco, the state-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia, wanted to educate its employees in the foundations of supply chain and recognized Penn State's expertise in that area — specifically, the Smeal College of Business's Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems. That department offers a graduate certificate online via Penn State World Campus. While Aramco wanted to learn more about Penn State's online learning environment, the company was more comfortable with traditional face-to-face learning for its employees.

The solution: Amy Stever, Penn State Outreach client development manager, approached Peter Forster, World Campus associate director, and Gary Gittings, Penn State instructor of supply chain and information systems, to develop a model to alleviate the company's concerns. Because the company was new to Penn State and online learning, Forster and Gittings collaborated to customize the online curriculum to include an initial week of on-site, face-to-face learning, in order to first establish trust with Penn State. The 12-credit certificate program began in August 2007; the first cohort of 26 students will complete the certificate this August.

"We shared a lot of information with them and gave them a demo of the online learning environment," said Stever, who dressed in a traditional black abaya to blend in with the local culture of Dhahran. Negar Davis, director of Penn State's International Student Services, provided other cross-cultural advice to the Penn State team that went to Dhahran — such as allowing break times during the day for prayer and when to shake, or not shake, hands.

When it came time for online delivery, all the students adjusted and performed well, reported Gittings.

Aramco employee and American expatriate Steven Killmer praised the program, calling it "the best training and development activity that I have seen out of a company."

"We are anticipating two more cohorts to begin the certificate this summer, and a number of students from the first cohort to enter the Master of Professional Studies in Supply Chain Management," said Forster. He added, "The program represents Penn State's willingness to work with clients and provides a great model for international partnerships."

This story is from the spring issue of Penn State Outreach magazine. To read other stories, go to http://www.outreach.psu.edu/news/magazine/CurrentIssue/ online.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009