As a graduate student in educational psychology, Zayed Al-Harethi (Ph.D. ’85) concentrated on attitude formation, development, and change. He wanted to understand how attitudes change and can be changed, especially in the domain of educational and social life.
From his home country of Saudi Arabia, Al-Harethi was attracted to Minnesota by the Department of Educational Psychology and its strengths in the study of social psychology, statistics, and personality. His second focus area was the structure of personality and how it can be measured and developed. His third was methodology and the tools of measurement to validate social and educational theories and studies.
“The scientific environment in the Department of Educational Psychology makes it very distinctive and puts this unity of subject areas and applications in graduate students’ reach,” he reflects.
Al-Harethi was able to study with faculty members who were or would become giants in the field. He took classes from Geoffrey Maruyama, who became his adviser, as well as David Johnson, Mark Davison, Donald MacEachern, and William Bart in the department, Andy Collins in the Institute of Child Development, and Mark Snyder and Paul Meehl in psychology.
He remembers studying in Walter and Wilson libraries, crossing the Mississippi River bridge in carefree summer weather and icy winters, Kinko’s copy shop in Dinkytown, California burgers at Annie’s Parlour, and married-student housing on Como Avenue, where he eventually lived with his wife and young son.
“My experience made the achievement of my goal go beyond my expectations and even dreams,” Al-Harethi says.
An international leader
Returning to Saudi Arabia, Al-Harethi joined the faculty of Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca and immediately became the psychology department’s youngest chair. He went on to lead its Scientific Research Institute and serve as dean of its College of Education, with 11,000 students and 600 faculty, becoming a national leader in the fields of education and psychology.
The research he conducted resulted in more than 50 research papers and books, including four regional grant-supported papers on youth and their problems in the Arab Gulf states. He supervised more than a hundred theses and dissertations and reviewed the works of faculty members across the Middle East. He presented around the world at conferences and volunteered in many civil, social, and educational efforts. In 2011, he was elected by the Egyptian Association for Psychological Studies as one of the eight best psychologists in the Middle East.
In 2014, Al-Harethi was named a recipient of CEHD’s Distinguished International Alumni Award. But it wasn’t until February 2016 that he was able to travel to Minnesota to accept the award. He was delighted to walk again on campus and see changes, including a new home for his department in the Education Sciences Building.
He got to have lunch at Annie’s Parlour with former classmate Kerry Frank, who became a faculty member in psychology at the University of Saint Thomas. And he was happy to reconnect with his doctoral adviser, now department chair Geoffrey Maruyama.
Al-Harethi credits the skills and experiences he gained at the University of Minnesota as the backbone for his impressive career and Maruyama as the one who “introduced, opened, and facilitated the road for me to know and study with great scholars at the University by expanding my background and understanding of psychology.”
Today Al-Harethi is serving as cultural attaché in Malaysia and Indonesia, where his primary mission is to oversee and follow up with Saudi government-supported students.
“It is a rich experience to provide assistance and to help students,” says Al-Harethi.
Story by Bridget Scott and Gayla Marty | Spring/summer 2016