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Saudi student learns about business, American culture, at IU Kokomo

May 27, 2014
KOKOMO, Ind. — Talal Al-Hammad graduates from Indiana University Kokomo not only with a degree, but with new understanding of American culture, and a desire to be a bridge between the United States and his home country.

Talal Al-HammadTalal Al-Hammad

Al-Hammad, 37, was the first of the current group of students from Saudi Arabia to enroll in the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program, two years ago. He is taking his final class during the summer session.

"This has been a great investment in my future, to go to graduate school in the United States," he said. "I'm ready now to go home, and to be a link between Saudi and American countries. I leave here with good memories, and good friends."

His wife, Reem, also is finishing her graduate studies, in Indianapolis, and they plan to return home after the birth of their first child this fall.

His experience has been positive at IU Kokomo, as he has built relationships with faculty and his classmates. He believes both sides have benefitted from knowing one another.

"It's good when you are in a diverse environment, to learn about many points of view," he said. "You can look at things from different angles. Sometimes during class discussions, we can bring in examples from our experiences in our country, and add something new to the class."

Gloria Preece, M.B.A. program director, called Al-Hammad "an exceptional student," and noted that he added an international aspect to the program. He didn't just concentrate on his classes, though, but became part of the campus community.

"I am always inspired and humbled by Talal's thoughtfulness towards our community and towards his fellow students," she said. "During the last two years, he has dedicated much of his personal time to mentoring new students, as well as current students who needed help. I believe Talal is destined for great success, and I wish him all the best."

Al-Hammad helped start a Saudi Student Club, which hosted a Saudi cultural celebration for the campus. They served traditional foods and had educational presentations about their culture. Club members also cleaned up damage from the November tornadoes in Kokomo, anxious to be of service in their adopted community.

He has found American students are interested in learning about Saudi Arabia, and a few want to come visit their Saudi classmates after they've returned home.

"American students like to ask about our culture and religion," he said. "They show so much respect of that. We have had discussions of what we share, and what we don't."

He learned about IU Kokomo's M.B.A. program while researching online. He contacted Preece through Facebook with some questions, and was impressed when she responded within an hour. She then worked with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to gain approval of IU Kokomo's programs as one Saudi students may attend on its scholarships.

The campus has earned good word-of-mouth from its current students, who like the quality of the classes and the friendly atmosphere.

"More and more Saudi students are coming here," Al-Hammad said. "Everybody is bringing everyone else. At first, it was just M.B.A. students, but now more are coming for undergraduate study too."

He recommends it to other students, based on his own experiences.

"I appreciate that when you have a question, you can contact your professors directly, and they will answer your questions quickly," he said. "Everybody at IU Kokomo knows everybody by their first names. It makes you feel like you are at home."

While in the program, he's run his business back in Saudi Arabia, via e-mail and telephone. It hasn't been easy, but the time was well spent.

"You can do great things with experience and education," he said. "The M.B.A. focuses on 10 areas of business. Now it's like I speak 10 new languages. Now I know the accounting language, the finance language, the legal language. It puts me ahead of people who don't have this education."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 09/16/2014