WRITTEN BY MARK HOUSER
A member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, visited campus in June while in Pittsburgh for the opening of a special exhibit about his country at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. A graduate of Syracuse University (and to Pittsburghers’ dismay, a Denver Broncos fan), Prince Sultan is the Saudi tourism minister and the first Arab to fly in space, as a crew member of NASA’s Discovery shuttle in 1985. His visit was an exciting event for the nearly 150 Saudi students enrolled at RMU, and many of them attended a reception for the prince.
“I’m really proud that I’m an RMU student and I’m really proud that I met with him,” said Thamir Almuhimid, a graduate student in communications and information systems. “Hopefully we represent RMU and Saudi Arabia and the U.S. too.”
International enrollment nearly doubled in the last five years at the university and continues to grow. Last year the university had more than 300 international students from 44 countries, and the number is expected to be even larger this fall. Helena Vanhala, Ph.D., director of the Center for Global Engagement, said international students are not the only ones who benefit from coming to Robert Morris. “We are a place of higher education, and diversity is part of that. We live in an interdependent world, so we need to be able to provide all of our students, both American and international ones, with the capability to function in the global economy.”
An associate professor of media arts, Vanhala is from Finland, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English. She was a high school exchange student in Washington state and later came to the University of Oregon as a graduate exchange student before enrolling there to get her Ph.D. in communication and society. “I like it here very much,” Vanhala said. “It’s a big enough country that there’s something for everyone. There’s so much variety of things here. The U.S. is often called a melting pot, but different cultures still shine through, providing diversity even in one city."