Barnard students with President Spar, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, and his daughter Shaikha Amneh Saud Saqr al Qasimi.

This week, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, visited Barnard and met with a group of students to discuss their academic interests and how globalization is effecting higher education and the world at large.

“He made a great point in emphasizing how there is absolutely no distance anymore between anyone in the world,” said ethnic studies major Nancy Trujillo ’12.

Salma Echahly ’15 was impressed with Sheikh Saud’s enthusiasm for not only sharing his ideas, but also hearing from the students about their own lives and experiences. “It was surprising how interested he was to learn about every one of the students and how he [made] conversation with everyone in the room,” said Echahly, who is from Morocco and plans to major in political science. 

Education is a key issue for Sheikh Saud, who has been deeply involved with social development in Ras Al Khaimah. Under his leadership, the American University of Ras Al Khaimah was established to help give citizens access to world-class higher education. He also set up a special scholarship fund to help local students pursue degrees at top universities around the world. Additionally, he spearheaded an aggressive reform program to improve access to quality education at the elementary and secondary level.

A member of the Supreme Council of the UAE, Sheikh Saud has led Ras Al Khaimah since October 2010. He attended the American University of Beirut until the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon in 1975, when he transferred to the University of Michigan where he completed his degree in economics and political science. When he returned to the UAE in 1979, he was appointed chief of the Royal Court in Ras Al Khaimah. In 1986, he became chairman of the Ras Al Khaimah Municipal Court. In 2003, he assumed day-to-day leadership of the emirate due to the ailing health of his father, the late Sheikh Saqr. Since then, he has led broad-ranging initiatives for improving Ras Al Khaimah’s economy, infrastructure, public sector, and education and health-care systems.