Permanent RAK Campus Construction to Begin in Early 2009

Posted: December 4, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

Mason Provost Peter Stearns has announced “a definite agreement” with the government of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the United Arab Emirates to construct permanent student and faculty housing and academic buildings for the Mason RAK Campus.

“This precise agreement is a major step forward for our campus and for our collaborative relationship with Sheikh Saud and his government, and I am gratified by this official support,” Stearns says.

The RAK government is providing additional land and financing the construction.

Earlier building plans for an extensive campus in the desert about 12 miles from RAK City were shelved when it became apparent that getting the necessary infrastructure to the site was impractical. Now, the plan is to keep the campus in the city where the temporary facilities are located.

“Residences for students — that’s our most urgent need,” Stearns says, noting that student housing is currently a bus ride away from the academic facilities.

Thus, the first phase of construction will include student housing. According to the provost, current plans call for student housing construction to begin in March 2009, with occupancy by the spring of 2010. Construction on academic buildings will begin in May 2009, with occupancy set for the summer of 2010.

Mason RAK is in its third year of operation, with about 200 students enrolled in its English Language Program and degree programs in biology, business administration, electronics and communications engineering, economics, applied computer science and health, fitness and recreation resources.

Mason provides and oversees the academic programs, but does not finance the operation. In addition, facilities, information technology and other specialized staff in Virginia are available for consultation as facilities are built.

Stearns expects that the construction, especially the housing, will help in marketing the academic programs to Middle Eastern students and boost the morale of students and staff in RAK. At the same time, new facilities will make study for a semester or longer at the RAK Campus more attractive for American students.

While a few students from Virginia have already spent a semester in RAK, more are on the way. Students from the School of Management, the Middle East Studies program and the Tourism and Events Management program are slated to study in RAK for various periods of time next year.

Stearns also notes that the search for a vice president for the RAK Campus is wrapping up, “with a good selection of candidates” as finalists.

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