A new University of Central Florida program will seek to advance public awareness and knowledge about the United States-Saudi Arabia relationship, including the two countries’ close connections on issues such as natural resources, security and the economy.

UCF is launching the new initiative in partnership with Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, a private university in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, that enrolls about 5,550 men and women.

The Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and Studies at UCF will address four broad areas that are vital to both countries’ futures: governmental ties, security and regional stability, culture and the economy.

The initiative will include public presentations by distinguished scholars and practitioners, an annual forum on American-Saudi topics, student fellowships and research activities – all at UCF. Additionally, the collaboration with Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University may include the exchange of scholars and students. Details, including a start date, still need to be worked out.

Both universities share a commitment to scholarship, partnership, leadership and outreach, as well as a focus on the future.

“The people of the United States and Saudi Arabia have a vital stake in each other’s security and well-being,” said UCF President John C. Hitt, who recently led a UCF delegation to Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University.  “Our university family and members of the Central Florida community will benefit from new opportunities to learn about one of this nation’s most important partners and to better understand the common challenges that face both countries.” 

The partnership is the second major international undertaking at UCF this year. In January, UCF expanded an India program similar to the one planned about American-Saudi ties. No state or tuition dollars are being used for either initiative.

The Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and Studies will be supported by a $1 million pledge from the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University Annual Fund that will be paid over four years. The program will be operated by the university and led by a director whom UCF will hire. An advisory board will consist largely of UCF staff and faculty members with expertise in the four areas of focus.

John C. Bersia, special assistant to the president for Global Perspectives, has headed the effort to secure the program for more than two years. He noted that Americans and Saudis have critical connections that go back the better part of a century. “The two have shared interests ranging from natural resources to regional security, and the program will help enhance both sides’ understanding of these ties,” he said.  

The new initiative, like The India Center, will be part of the College of Sciences.

“This will open a very important part of the world to our students and faculty, in education and scholarship, in a way that would have been inconceivable without this program and its supporters,” said Michael Johnson, the college’s dean.

Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, which opened in 2008, is named after the governor of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Its system and academic program were designed by a Texas-based consortium of universities. The university offers programs in areas such as engineering, computer science and information technology, has an Executive MBA program and is planning a college of medicine. Many of the school’s courses are taught in English.