Master's graduates from Zayed University Abu Dhabi describe how they will use their new postgraduate degrees to forge ahead in their careers. Dina El Shammaa and Marie Magleby report.

Zayed University (ZU) Abu Dhabi campus last week held a graduation ceremony for 48 students who had completed their masters' degrees in Business Administration (MBA), International Business and Healthcare Administration. While 32 graduates were from ZU's 6th MBA batch, seven graduates were from the university's first Masters of Science in International Business batch. The latter degree is being offered in partnership with The College of Business and Behavioural Science, Clemson University, and The William S. Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University, both in the US.

Nine graduates were from the second healthcare administration batch. Faculty from three US universities — Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business; University of Houston, Clear Lake's School of Business and the University of Kentucky's College of Public Health — assisted in providing the students with an international programme.
Important goals

"The graduate programmes at Zayed University address important goals for the UAE — goals of leadership, global awareness and involvement, national economic and social development and excellence," said Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and President of ZU, in his opening address.

He went on to speak about the importance of living the mission of ZU and in contributing to shaping the future of the UAE. "Now that the curriculum at Zayed University has given you an excellent beginning, you are in charge of further educating yourselves as you continue to learn about the world around you. I encourage you to expand and extend your academic and professional horizon, and to explore your personal potential. Your goals should include not only professional success but also your contribution to the society in which you live. Congratulations and best wishes for your future," he said.

Shaikh Nahyan's speech was followed by a speech by Professor Robert Widing, senior president and provost of academic programmes. "Producing graduates with a global mindset, which entails being able to influence individuals, groups, organisations and systems unlike your own, can be seen through the outstanding degree programmes with an international dimension that are delivered by Zayed University in the global culture of the UAE," said Widing.

He also spoke about ZU's commitment to producing responsible citizens for the world.

For the graduates

The final speech brought tears to some of the graduates' eyes.

Fatima Al Awadi, graduating with distinction in healthcare administration, spoke on behalf of her fellow graduates.

"Today is a turning point, a milestone that marks the end of a phase and the beginning of another. By end, I mean the termination of a period in which we were responsible for our future; by beginning I mean the start of actually living our future," she said.

"Today as we stand at this most critical of junctions, at the threshold of our professional lives, we must not forget that education is not just being a student. The things taught in schools and colleges are not education, but the means of education. They compel us to think, rid us of our misconceptions, make us mature, give us the power and skills to critically analyse information, make us aware of our rights and respect those of others; they help us become better people," said Al Awadi.

Al Awadi also shared her personal story with the audience. She spoke of how as a housewife and mother with a full-time job it was not easy to continue her higher education with a master's degree. However her determination to continue her academic journey helped her overcome challenging assignments, impossible projects and nerve-wracking exams.

"Boy did we struggle," she said, "but we hung in there, and eventually succeeded. No matter how difficult the task, we learned to be patient, worked hard and rose to the occasion.

Al Awadi added: "On behalf of the graduates, I would like to thank the people without whose support this day would not have been possible — the ones who believed in us, prayed for us and even paid for us. Thank you!"

Notes speaks to the graduates

For some of the new graduates, having a master's degree heralds a change in their career paths. Mohammad Al Za'abi, who has been general manager for the Horizon International Flight Academy for 28 years, said he now wants to launch his own aviation company.

Juma Al Mazroui also wants to start his own business. "It doesn't matter what kind of business; I just want to be my own employer," he said. Like many other students, Al Mazroui sees his master's degree as a tool for him to help the community and give back to society.

Mariam Al Za'abi, is a processing and business analyst for pension funds, plans to change jobs and pursue a PhD online."The master's degree has opened up many opportunities," she said. Al Za'abi said even though pursuing a master's degree involved a lot of pressure, it also helped to enhance personality, increasing confidence, add value to a career, broaden perspective and help develop leadership and management skills. "There are more advantages than disadvantages," she said.

As head of the Dubai Municipality Clinic, Nusaiba Ahli will be applying what she learned in her master's in healthcare administration. "The clinic is like my home now," she said. "I've faced a lot of challenges.... At the end, we really felt satisfied with what we had done. We learned something useful, not useless."

Other students plan to use their new degrees to give a boost to their current careers. Noura Al Nuwais will use her master's in business administration to continue her job as CEO of a real estate company.

Ali Al Ka'abi, manager of First Gulf Bank, said the master's programme "gives us the tools to excel in our jobs".

Many students had to juggle jobs and family responsibilities while completing their coursework. Al Ka'abi said managing his family, work and studies was a challenge, but he got plenty of support. He advises his colleagues to enroll in similar programmes to enhance their skills.

Fatima Al Awadhi, healthcare administration graduate, said she had her first baby halfway through her healthcare studies, but she finished thanks to the support of her family and faculty members. She now plans to pursue a doctorate degree and contribute to upcoming healthcare issues in the UAE.