The KAUST President’s Task Force: Maturing a Young Community

By | April 21, 2014

Recently, KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau invited community members to join a task force to help make recommendations towards improving our community. Specifically:

The President’s Task Force is your opportunity to be part of shaping future community, arts and cultural programs, events and activities at KAUST. My hope is that we can build upon our success by asking, what is missing and how can we improve?

The task force will have two simple goals:

  • To gain broad community input about community, arts and cultural events and activities to enhance the social and life experience at KAUST; and
  • To recommend ways we can improve our coordination and communication to support existing and future activities and events.

If you know anything about me, you know I was eager to jump in and get my hands dirty. So I applied and recently was asked not only to be a member of the Task Force, but to Vice-Chair it as well!

I am beyond honored.

Since my arrival in 2011, I have been active in the community, trying to ensure KAUST is as inviting and livable as possible. I see the President’s Task Force as having the same goal, and I hope that my participation will have a positive impact for the group and its goals.


What will it accomplish?

We already have a great community here at KAUST which gives us a strong foundation to start from. We’re aiming to bring some brilliant minds  together to make things even better.

I think that The President’s Task Force has the potential to put great grassroots ideas into action. If living at KAUST has taught me one thing it is that anything is possible. I am excited for this opportunity to collaborate with our most passionate community members to create a better place for all of us to live and work. And I can’t wait to see what we come up with.


Maturing a young community

The “KAUST founders” moved here five years ago. Before that, KAUST was a construction site. Before that, it was sand.

In just five years, we’ve gone from faculty and staff going to work in construction helmets without any amenities at all to an established and fully functioning town. We now have pools, restaurants, sports teams, dive trips, concerts, meetups for kids, and even an annual community talent show. We’re a small town but we’re resourceful and we’re growing up fast.

I like to think that in those five years, we have moved along a continuum from a new community towards an established community. It’s no longer the case that you have to get out of KAUST to experience some culture and have a bit of fun. There is a lot to offer here – and a lot more to come.

An offer to all KAUST community members

Do you have big ideas for our small community? Share them in the comments below and I’ll do what I can to get your ideas heard.



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  • Fascinating opportunity, Claire. Looking forward to see what you’ll do…

  • Thanks Alan! I am too :-)

  • Leona Mueller

    Claire, I am a licensed Kindermusik educator who has been teaching out
    of a Mother-Child Centre in Munich for the past couple years
    <>. Kindermusik is
    a German concept for chldren’s music and movement that was popularized
    in the US. Parents participate with their children (~2 months and older)
    in specialized classes. Families download truly wonderful music albums,
    build up a small collection of musical instruments, dance, explore
    foundational music concepts such as steady beat, and (in the case of
    older children) experience formal story time. I have found it
    exceptional as both an English language learning program and an
    additional support to new moms (e.g. practical tips of how to take home
    and apply child development research). My husband, 10-month old and I
    will be arriving in August. Not sure what form the new studio will take,
    but have some ideas and am always open to others. Hopefully this was the right place to comment. Thanks for your blog. It’s made a night and day difference in our preparations.

  • Hi Leona — this sounds great and sounds like something we definitely need at KAUST! I really recommend you mention your aspirations to your husband’s relocation advisor and see if you can get a meeting with someone from the Facilities and Community team to discuss your ideas. I know my 15 month old would love something like this!

    Hope the packing goes well. August is still a few months away, so you have time!

  • Leona Mueller

    Thanks for the tip. I have a couple other kitchen inventory questions that I will post once I’ve read through some more of your blog. Have a wonderful summer wherever you may be!

  • Sounds good. We’ll be away for 3 weeks this spring, but otherwise here at KAUST all summer long.

  • Leona Mueller

    Hi Claire, is it possible to buy pool noodles, long-sleeved children’s bathing suits, life jackets, water shoes & other similar items in Jeddah?

    In the various children’s toy stores, are there a fair amount of wood toys available? Train sets & Lego? Children’s carpeting?

    Children’s book selection: is it safe to assume that I should bring any books I consider a North American classic with us?

  • Leona

    Checked out the Ikea and a couple other .sa store websites, but still windering if real Lego/Duplo is available anywhere.

  • Hi Leona – sorry for the delay. You got me while I was away!

    I think it’s possible to find all of these items in Jeddah. Sometimes you just have to look hard. I know people have found pool noodles for instance, but I have looking for some time and have never been able to find them. For bathing suits and life jackets check out toys r us (there are several locations in Jeddah). For swim shoes and more bathing suits check out centerpoint.

    You can find kids toys and carpeting all over the place. There are so many kids stores here of a variety of price points. What you don’t find is high quality boutique items. You will get high-end names and price points, but not beautiful home-made one of a kind stuff.

    Wood toys, train sets, and lego can all be found at toys r us. Not a great selection on wood toys in my opinion though.

    I tend to buy my kids books abroad. There are some good books at Jarir and Virgin though.

  • There isn’t a specific lego/duplo store anymore. There used to be one at one of the malls (red sea or mall of arabia, I forget) but it closed. I usually see them at Toys r us though.

  • Um Hadi

    Hi Claire, can I please have your email address to discuss some ideas with you? Thanks.

  • I have just sent you an email

  • Roxana Regueiro

    President Task Force:
    Hi Claire, I noticed that there are some people using wheelchairs in KAUST even kids. At the pool I noticed that they have no way to enter the pool. I think that KAUST should add some equipment so people using wheelchairs can enjoy the pool as we all do. Here are some examples that can easily adapt to the existing pools. Thanks for your help.

  • Roxana Regueiro

    I am trying to post pictures, but they do not show…

  • Thanks for your message here and on the Facebook group. The Task Force is a 6 month project that comes to the end of it’s work at the end of September. Unfortunately, that means that we have already concluded our analysis and are no longer soliciting feedback. We are spending our efforts at the moment formulating and finalizing our recommendations to the President.

    Stay tuned to the Lens and the Task Force Blog (both internal KAUST sites) for updates. It looks like there may already be a solution to this issue per the thread on facebook, but I wanted to be sure to follow-up with the Task Force progress here anyways.

    If you want to chat further, let me know!

  • I see them :-)