White Launches Department in Abu Dhabi

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Barbara Christopher
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering

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When Chelsea “Chip” White was offered the chance to assist in the launch of an industrial and systems engineering department and a logistics center at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, he eagerly accepted.

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When Chelsea “Chip” White was offered the chance to assist in the launch of an industrial and systems engineering department and a logistics center at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, he eagerly accepted.

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When Chelsea “Chip” White was offered the chance to assist in the launch of an industrial and systems engineering department and a logistics center at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, he eagerly accepted.  

“The supply chain and logistics industry is a particularly important one for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of its heavy reliance on trade — for example, more than 85 percent of food is imported,” said White, the Schneider National Chair in Transportation and Logistics in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE). “Thus, there was particular interest in the development of an industrial and systems engineering department and a logistics center at Khalifa University.”

White spent a portion of 2010 and 2011 living in Abu Dhabi, recruiting faculty and helping the new department gain accreditation. Here’s more about his experience.

Describe Khalifa University.

Khalifa University has only been around for a few years, so it has a small student body population, who are mostly undergraduates. The campus itself is also much smaller (there are only six buildings) than Georgia Tech. Unlike other academic institutions in the region, Khalifa is research intensive and is the first public co-educational university in the UAE.

Are the faculty hiring and accreditation processes different in Abu Dhabi from what they are here?

Hiring at Khalifa is essentially identical to hiring at any research-intensive university in the United States that also wants to be acclaimed for the quality of its education. The accreditation process is very similar to ABET, which accredits college and university programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. Any academic engineering unit in the United States would seek ABET accreditation.

What was an average day like?

It was filled with meetings and focused on issues such as the design of a curriculum, the recruitment of new faculty and the identification of areas of research important to the local community. Time that was left over was spent interacting on research with faculty at Khalifa and with students and faculty back at Georgia Tech.

What were some of the challenges you faced working in a different time zone and with a different workweek structure?

The weekend in Abu Dhabi is Friday and Saturday, with the workweek being Sunday through Thursday. That meant there were only three overlapping days between here and there, which made my work week stretch out to almost seven days a week. In addition to the workweek difference, I was eight hours ahead of my research colleagues and graduate students in the United States, making it challenging to communicate. In a way, my day started twice. I would get up and be at Khalifa at 8 a.m. UAE time. When I left work at 5 p.m., the day for my colleagues and graduate students back in the States was just beginning.  

Name a few of your most memorable moments on the trip.

During Ramadan, the Crown Prince of UAE hosts Iftar lectures, which occur right before Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their fast after sundown, and I attended two of them. We also enjoyed a weekend at a desert resort and a day at a camel festival with camel races, camel beauty contests and camel milking contests.

What advice do you have for colleagues who might be asked to do something similar in another country?

Learn and understand the new culture as much as possible. Be ready for, and learn to enjoy, surprises — because there will be surprises. Admittedly, the vast majority of surprises we experienced in Abu Dhabi fell into the category of delights.

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Chelsea White, Chip White, H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, isye, Khalifa University
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  • Created By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jan 9, 2012 - 9:30am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:10pm