Rebuilding MSU Dubai, Middle Eastern programs

MSU continues financial commitment to graduate programs in Middle East


In the summer of 2010, Firas Nabil entered the two-story location of MSU’s Dubai campus for the last time, only to be told he could not return.

And Nabil has not looked back since.

“Honestly, last time I checked on MSU Dubai was two years ago when I left,” Nabil, a construction management senior, said. “I just got my transcripts and left.”

Nabil was one of a few students forced to relocate when an overestimate of the demand for students at MSU’s branch campus in the United Arab Emirates led to the closing of its undergraduate programs in 2010.

The Dubai Spartans were faced with the option of attending different colleges in the Middle East — or East Lansing.

Nabil decided to travel thousands of miles away from home to MSU, which he said was his plan before finding out about the closing.

Jeff Riedinger, dean of MSU International Studies and Programs, said there still is a demand in Dubai, which is why two graduate programs were added this fall semester.

“Too many people misunderstood what happened in 2010; (they think) that we pulled away completely,” Riedinger said. “(I want to) inform academic colleges that we are still in Dubai, (and I) invited them.”

The history
In the fall of 2008, MSU became the first public American university to have a branch in Dubai.

Other universities, including Texas A&M and Northwestern, have created branches in neighboring countries.

There were only about 50 students enrolled when the campus first opened, according to a past State News article.

MSU Dubai is part of the Dubai International Academic City, which includes more than 30 national and international universities.

MSU Dubai’s campus is located in Knowledge Village and consists of two floors. The complex also contains a food court, pharmacy and post office.

Knowledge Village only is open to faculty and students from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, according to MSU Dubai’s web page. Students can enter the facilities with a personal security code.

MSU Dubai has two teaching rooms — the main classroom holds between 25 and 30 students, and the seminar room seats six to eight.

The space also includes a small library, Wi-Fi and computers.

Most, if not all, classes are taught by MSU faculty from East Lansing who are flown there to teach classes.

The Dubai campus also supports faculty research and a freshman seminar abroad.

For the fall 2010 semester, MSU expected between 400 and 800 undergraduate students to enroll, but only 85 signed up, according to a past State News article.

“We had overestimated the demand for undergraduate demand and course offerings, at least at that time,” Riedinger said.

The lack of demand for MSU Dubai’s undergraduate programs led to the elimination of them altogether.

There only was one graduate program offered at the time, human resources and labor relations, which stayed despite the elimination of undergraduate programs, according to a past State News article.

Finding its place
Many of the classes at MSU hold more students than the whole campus population of MSU Dubai.
Nabil said when he attended MSU Dubai, the largest class offered was biology, which was a university requirement for all students and consisted of 45 people.

According to MSU International Studies and Programs, there currently are between 38 and 42 students enrolled — six to 10 in human resources, 20 in public health and 10 to 12 in law.

Currently, there is a total of four graduate-level majors — a master of human resources and labor relations program, a two-year hybrid masters of public health program, and two new courses this fall — Master of Laws, or LL.M., and Master of Jurisprudence, or M.J.

The programs offered in Dubai are the same as those offered in East Lansing, and the students are held to the same standards and requirements, Riedinger said.

The number of faculty varies each year, but by the end of 2012, about 10 faculty members will have taught in Dubai, according to MSU International Studies and Programs.

Michael Lawrence, professor and associate dean for graduate and international programs at MSU’s College of Law, left Oct. 2 to be the first professor to teach one of the new law programs.

Lawrence said he is teaching 10 students, which was the goal.

“We are starting modestly purposely … (to) find a level,” Lawrence said. “Whatever sorts of numbers we can accommodate (is good).”

Lawrence said he is pleased with the number of students who signed up.

What’s next?
Lawrence said the focus has switched from undergraduate to graduate programs in Dubai, and it makes sense for the College of Law, which is a graduate school, to have a graduate-level course there.

“The university (has) had a very vibrant outreach around the world,” Lawrence said. “Michigan State never left; it just scaled back.”

Riedinger said the local market has been responsive and that it makes financial sense for MSU to have a presence in Dubai, however, he said they must continue to make sure it remains profitable.

“We don’t want to be in the business of (using) East Lansing funds in Dubai, (or) not support academic programming — those have to stand on (their) own,” Riedinger said.

Riedinger said he never can see MSU Dubai offering all the degrees MSU’s main campus offers.

“It’s a strong portfolio of advanced degree programs that makes sense for the needs to the region and (is) in high demand,” Riedinger said.

Nabil said he is happy with his decision to come to East Lansing.

“Honestly, it’s a better education for me, (and) it’s more like college life,” Nabil said. “I’ve been in Dubai for my entire life; I just wanted to explore new stuff, like, ‘How is the college life?’ and ‘What’s it like outside (of Dubai)?’”

Riedinger said MSU’s presence in Dubai fits MSU’s international goals.

“(Dubai) fits in a larger array of engaging regions,” Riedinger said. “We have a long-term commitment to the region and Dubai.”

MSU Dubai on Dipity.

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