Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz

I was in Logan UT May 4 and 5 to attend ceremonies surrounding by brother getting an honorary Doctor of Science from Utah State University.  Lars Hansen, my youngest brother, is a world-class economist.  This is the third award ceremony I have attended celebrating his accomplishments.  At these events, I always get to meet and hear about a wide variety of interesting people (besides my brother who is very interesting). 

Also, receiving an honorary degree at Utah State University was Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz.  According to the commencement booklet:

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz has transformed educational policy and practice in Saudi Arabia and has become a model of female leadership in the Islamic world.

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz, Vice Minister for Girls’ Education in Saudi Arabia

Serving as the vice minister for girls’ education since 2009, Mrs. Al-Faiz holds the highest ministerial rank reached by a woman in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The appointment was a significant indicator of the broadening role for women in politics and education in Saudi Arabia.

Mrs. Al-Faiz was named one of TIME Magazine’s 2009 TIME 100 for being one of the most influential people in the world. . . .

After earning a bachelor’s from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia in 1978, Mrs. Al-Faiz came to the United States to attend Utah State University, where she earned a master’s in instructional technology in 1982. . .

For her service as a power role model to women aspiring to careers in education, Utah State University

bestowed upon Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz the honorary degree:  Doctor of Education.

Liz Cheney writing for Time magazine in 2009 said the following about Mrs. Al-Faiz:

In Saudi Arabia small changes carry deep meaning, so the appointment earlier this year of Norah al-Faiz as Deputy Minister for Women’s Education was nothing short of an earthquake.  Educated at King Saud University and Utah State, al-Faiz, in her early 50s, was the most significant sign yet of the quiet revolution under way since King Abdullah ascended the throne in 2005. . .

Saudi reformers welcomed the changes, especially the appointment of al-Faiz, but the real est will be whether she is allowed the authority to get things done.  The education of girls has long been a battleground within the kingdom.  Al-Faiz faces practical difficulties too.  She can’t, for example, work face to face with male counterparts without violating the kingdom’s strict religious code–so she has said she will conduct meetings through closed-circuit television. . .

The path for al-Faiz will not be easy.  But something important is under way in Saudi Arabia, and al-Faiz, and her King, are two people to watch.

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