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Arab cinematographer visits NMSU Creative Media Institute, university colleges

LAS CRUCES -- Waleed Al Shehhi has the opportunity to combine his passion with his occupation. The self-taught cinematographer has been given the task of developing a creative media and communication program at Higher College of Technology-Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, where he is the student service coordinator.

Jeanne Gleason, director of NMSU's Media Productions, shows Waleed Al Shehhi, cinematographer from Higher College of Technology-Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, how to use the video editing program NMSU Media Productions uses. Shehhi visited NMSU to learn about its Creative Media Institute and Media Production program. He also visited the student services department and various colleges, including education and engineering. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

To see what such a program could become, Robert Moulton, the new chief administrative officer at the government-supported Higher College of Technolog- Ras Al Khaimah, suggested Shehhi visit New Mexico State University to tour its Creative Media Institute and University Communications and Marketing Department.

"Waleed and the United Arab Emirates are about the same age. Like his country, Waleed is young and blessed with almost unlimited resources. His passion is creative media and communications, and there is no better place to learn about those disciplines than at NMSU," said Moulton, former NMSU interim executive vice president, provost and dean of the College of Education via email from his new position in the United Arab Emirates.

In the last two weeks of January, Shehhi visited NMSU, where he experienced the friendly atmosphere of a United States university, while visiting deans, faculty and staff of various NMSU colleges and departments.

"We screened four of his films during his visit. He is a very talented filmmaker. It was a pleasure to have him meet our staff, and we hope we were able to give him ideas he will be able to use," said Walter Zakahi, department head and director of NMSU's Creative Media Institute, which is a cross-disciplinary program that prepares students for careers in digital filmmaking, and animation and visual effects.

"Our team enjoyed exchanging ideas and creative energy with another filmmaker, especially one from the Emirates," said Jeanne Gleason, director of NMSU's Media Productions, which includes educational video and game production and the Learning Game Lab. "Waleed is starting his department the same way we did - with a little money and tons of enthusiasm. We hope that our two universities can continue exchanging ideas and films and that perhaps, someday soon, Waleed's group will also expand into animation and games."

When Shehhi returns to Ras Al Khaimah, Moulton said Shehhi will help the university start the Center for Creative Media, which will contain elements similar to NMSU's Creative Media Institute and University Communications and Marketing Department.

"It has been an honor to meet with the leaders of New Mexico State University. I have learned so much, and there are so many ideas I want to take home and implement in our school," Waleed Al Shehhi said. "One thing that impressed me is that the university's library is open to the public. Our library is only for the students. I would like to implement public access to our collection of books."

Shehhi's responsibilities at Higher College of Technology-Ras Al Khaimah's Men's College include work placement; coordinating student services; tracking academic progress, student counseling and advising; managing student evaluation programs; and conducting community outreach.

Before assuming this position in 2003, he was the university's audio/video technician and was responsible for managing the college's audio/video studio and providing marketing and public relations material. His privately owned production company has produced and shown films at film festivals in the Middle East and Japan, where they have received honors and accolades. "Ahmed Suliman" won Best Arab Documentary at the Jordon Short Film Festival and "Aushba's Wall" took awards at the Muscat Film Festival in Oman and the Baghdad Film Festival.

During his visit, Shehhi hosted a showing of four films he helped to create in Ras Al Khaimah, including "Ahmed Suliman" and "Aushba's Wall."

"This new assignment will combine my love of cinematography and my desire to encourage students to attend our university," Shehhi said. "Seeing the Creative Media Institute and Media Productions at NMSU gives me ideas about how to design our new department."

Ras Al Khaimah College, which includes a men's campus with 1,800 students and a women's campus with 1,200 students, is part of the government-supported 18-campus Higher College of Technology system of higher education that serves 18,000 UAE national students.

Approximately 10 percent of UAE's 5 million people are national citizens, those indigenous to the UAE. While there are many private universities from various countries serving the general public, the Higher College of Technology serves only national citizens and provides them with tuition free education.

Shehhi said the university began as a community college, but is expanding into bachelor's degree programs. Courses are offered in applied business and technology, classroom assistant, information technology, and mechatronic engineering technology, with bachelor degrees in education, information technology, mechatronics engineering technology and applied science in information management.