Reem Al-Ghanim environmental portraitRising Alumni Award winner Reem Al-Ghanim at the McNamara Alumni Center

The power of education

A global leader for human resource development

“I’m passionate about the development of each individual,” says Reem Al-Ghanim, MEd ’08. “Making sure that Sarah, for example, gets her petroleum engineering degree. My job is not about being in the background or in front but about being there, shaping the environment around the individual.”

That’s how Al-Ghanim describes her role in human resources development (HRD). Since completing her degree, she has held progressively senior positions in Saudi Arabian Oil Company, an energy giant employing 65,000. In 2015 she was named head of Saudi Aramco women development and diversity, aiming to increase the number of women in the company’s talent pipeline. She became a founding member of the Gulf Region Organization for Women (GROW), whose members include 30 industry partners, semi-government organizations, and academia. She also chairs the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium, a leading awards program and symposium for women in energy in the Middle East.

“Women in Saudi Arabia have worked in education and medicine for years and are now coming into fields we’ve not been in, and in larger numbers,” she says. “A catalyst is the industry–academic partnership, which often does not get enough attention.”

Al-Ghanim’s first contact with the University came in 1998 when a certificate program was offered in her home country, taught by Gary McLean, now professor emeritus.
“Our department director sat us all down and said, ‘If you want to progress in this company, you will take this degree,’” she remembers with a smile. “Well, in that program, you had to have an opinion, and I hadn’t developed one yet. Being in the cohort of around 20 people in 1999—my direct manager, his manager, their peers—I got to speak up. I enjoyed it and learned so much in the process.”

Al-Ghanim completed the certificate program in about 18 months. Then a master’s in education in HRD became available, with classes taught in Saudi Arabia by CEHD faculty for several years. Al-Ghanim was on board, navigating career and classes.
The degree, she says, prepared her to be adaptable, deal with ambiguity, and anticipate change.

“The answer to every question is always ‘It depends,’ especially living in the world today,” she says. “The power of education is that it helps you understand yourself a lot more and understand your environment. What I learned from Dr. McLean is, if you want to understand something well, you start with critical observation.”

As part of her current work assignment, Al-Ghanim visits with critical technical organizations—for example, visiting on-shore rig sites—to better understand the job environment, which currently has very few women employees.

Al-Ghanim received CEHD’s Rising Alumni Award in 2018 for her outstanding leadership and distinction. She’s also on the CEHD Alumni Society Board and its new international relations subcommittee, with board members from four continents, attending meetings online.

“I am proud to be associated with an education institution that has prepared me so well,” she says.

Learn more about human resources development undergraduate and graduate degree programs in human resources development in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.

Nominate someone you know for the CEHD Rising Alumni Award by January 15.

Story by Gayla Marty | Photo by Seth Dahlsheid | Winter 2019