Category Archives: Niagara College Taif

Two Princes Officially Open Niagara College Taif

Their Royal Highnesses and Dave chatting

Their Royal Highnesses and Dave chatting

His Royal Highness Prince Mesh’al bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Mecca and His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities declared Niagara College Taif open on January 15, 2015.

Our management, faculty, staff and students had front row seats for this most auspicious occasion. Campus Principal, Dave Taylor greeted the two Princes and introduced them to the management team. I can attest that they are both very friendly and supremely interested in seeing Saudi’s tourism industry grow. They both took time to speak to some of our faculty and students, which was certainly a big thrill for them. They are still talking about it.

Meeting the faculty and students

Meeting the faculty and students

Later in the evening, Dave Taylor signed an agreement between the local Tourism Commission and Niagara College Taif which will allow both to take advantage of the resources each have to offer. On the job training and careers for our students and the use of our college’s facilities and expertise in tourism to help plan the future.

A new partnership!

A new partnership!

Dave Taylor later gave each of the two Princes carvings of a polar bear created by a Canadian sculpture.

A bit of Canadiana for the Princes

A bit of Canadiana for the Princes

All in all, a pretty royal affair!

Watching our video

Watching our video

Smile for my camera!!

Smile for my camera!!

Our students

Our students

The plaque donated by their Royal Highnesses

The plaque donated by their Royal Highnesses

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

We really do have a nice campus!

I never get tired of that blue sky

I never get tired of that blue sky

Every now and again, as I walk around our campus, I am amazed at how great it is. We are so busy every day that we tend to lose sight of the fact that things get better and better every week.

To look back at what we had in mid August and compare it to what we have today is literally amazing. How did we get so much done in so little time? I’m so proud to be a part of this great team!

Here are a few pictures of this jewel on the mountain in Taif, Saudi Arabia, I hope you get a chance to see it for yourself.

 

Meeting with His Excellency

Governor's Group Photo

A group photo with His Excellency, the Governor of Taif

Last week, a few members of the Niagara College Taif team were honoured to have a meeting with His Excellency, the Governor of Taif. His Excellency was very interested to hear of our progress and was kind enough to offer any assistance we might need. We discussed many topics ranging from the upcoming visit and ribbon-cutting ceremony of two of the Kingdom’s Princes to working together with various tourism councils to help promote tourism in the area.

His Excellency also indicated that he would honour our campus with a visit to witness first-hand the great work being done at Niagara College Taif

It goes without saying that it was quite an exciting day!

Riyadh Meetings – It’s not all fun and games!

Lit palm trees on Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Road, Riyadh

Lit palm trees on Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Road, Riyadh

I’ve just returned from 4 days of meetings in Riyadh. It’s a very beautiful city. Our hotel, Mira, is located on one of the main streets. It reminds me a bit of the Champs Elysées in Paris. It has very wide sidewalks and shop after shop of the world’s top retailers and restaurants. I particularly noticed the car shops. Bentley. Lamborghini. Bugatti. I saw some incredible cars! And the palm trees light up and change colours every minute or so. (That’s how you know you’re not really in Paris!)

There were lots of burger joints of all kind but I managed to stay away from those. On Sunday evening, we had supper at a combination French/Japanese restaurant. Everything was amazing. The décor, the service, the food were awesome. We settled on what was easily the best sushi I’ve ever had! Next time I’m in Riyadh I will definitely be going there again!

Mustafa (2nd from the right) and part of the team at Acadox

Mustafa (2nd from the right) and part of the team at Acadox

I finally had the chance to meet face-to-face with our team at Acadox. They have put in many hours customizing their LMS to our specific needs here in Taif. Great guys. Great work. Great product.

The next 2 days were spent at TVTC (Technology and Vocational Training Corporation). There was a lot of yada, yada, yada and then we escaped back to the hotel. More work there. So much so, we never really got out to do any exploring. We had wanted to check out the National Museum but it was Family Night the evening we had some free time. Ah well, something to look forward to on the next trip.

Kingdom Tower - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Kingdom Tower – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Next weekend I hope to get over to Cairo and finally visit the pyramids. Politically, things are a bit testy at the moment so my plans may change. Either way, I’ll have much more exciting pictures than I do on this entry.

But it is good to get back home!

View out my office window

View out my office window

So…the Canadian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia dropped by.

So…the Canadian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tom MacDonald, dropped by. Oh, and the Chair of our Executive Board, Allan Schmidt, is also here.

Canadian Ambassador Tom MacDonald (6th from left) and Chair of our Executive Board Allan Schmidt (7th from left)

Canadian Ambassador Tom MacDonald (6th from left) and Chair of our Executive Board Allan Schmidt (7th from left)

What a great honour to have both Tom and Allan here on campus. Allan’s visit was planned but we were surprised by Tom ‘s last-minute stopover. The Ambassador was in Jeddah with our Minister of Foreign Affairs meeting with the Saudis.

We had a nice lunch and then showed Tom and Allan around our beautiful campus. While most of our main Academic building is near completion, construction continues on our other three buildings and the hotel. We cleaned up the best we could though. LOL.

What a team!

What a team!

Afterward, we took the Ambassador to the Telefric (cable car) for the ride down to the water park. Once there, we were toured and shown the facilities. By that time, the Telefric and park are usually closed for the night but it’s amazing what can be done when you have a Canadian Ambassador with you!

There was one more surprise for us before we left the water park. Supper! So…we sat down for another big meal…if only not to insult our gracious hosts!! 😉 The meal was excellent, as always.

Today I’m desperately trying to catch up on the work that should have been done yesterday, but that’s nothing new either.

Oh…I’ve been called to Jury Duty back in Canada. Ummmm…Nope!! LOL

The Big Unknown

Canadian RockiesThe Big Unknown

As the date of my big move to Taif, Saudi Arabia draws near, I can’t help but look back at the last few months of preparations, both professional and personal, and wonder if I’m ready for this! Uprooting your entire life for a two year span requires a lot of planning.

I worry about every little detail. Who will feed the dog? Who will water the plants? You will cut the grass and shovel the driveway? Then I remember I have no pets or plants and I live in an apartment! If only those were my only concerns.

The college has been incredibly helpful with all the paperwork; insurance, visas, flights, schedules, etc. The superintendent of my building, my brother and a friend have all volunteered to check up on my apartment and make certain all is well.

That part of the move seems to be under control. Now there’s only that little matter of curriculum!

Luckily for both the college and I, my good friend and colleague, Beverly Davies, has been on this working night and day. Bev is one of the best curriculum and mapping experts in the province of Ontario and has taught a lot. She has been doing this for Niagara College Canada for more than 6 years. I have been working closely with her for the last 3 years. Her knowledge and memory are borderline mystical. Even after those three years together, I know that I will never be as good at this as she is. Once Bev is on the job you can be assured that it will get done. The amount of time she spends for research, writing and revision always astounds me. Whether from home or our office, there are always new and revised documents popping up in our Dropbox!

Our task is made that much more challenging due to the very different requirements and expectations between here in Ontario and there in Saudi Arabia. Our Taif curriculum is outcome based and our teaching plans and evaluations are clearly mapped. Evaluate what you teach and teach what you evaluate.

Our Niagara College Taif Campus is one of 18 new Colleges of Excellence starting up in September 2014. There were 10 others that began last fall. The Saudi government is investing a lot of time, money and resources in this great program.

The big unknown we face at NC Taif is the academic level of our incoming students. I have spoken with a few of the College of Excellence who began operations last year and have received mixed information. Bev and I attended group meetings with some Saudi students here at Niagara College Canada and they also indicated the academic levels fluctuated greatly.

So…Bev has developed curricula that will be very adaptable. Once we get to see the level our students are at, we will ‘fine tune’ everything and proceed with the correct teaching plan. We will also be giving assessment tests in English and Math to quickly evaluate those levels and have prepared remedial exercises for any students that may need a bit more assistance.

We are fully confident this is the best approach…kinda!