EDMOND — When David and Carol Hartman left for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in September, they had an outline for the work they would be doing during the five months they spent there.
Once they were in the country, though, their roles expanded well beyond that plan.
David, a professor in the University of Central Oklahoma's Information Systems and Operations Management department, served as a visiting instructor and consultant at the University of Business and Technology in Jeddah, as a part of the U.S. State Department's Fulbright Program.
The two were in Saudi Arabia from September until early March.
During that time, David taught three courses in the university's Master of Business Administration program — two sections for men and a section for women.
His courses dealt with decision science, or the factors that play into decision-making, he said.
The university is relatively young, and officials are looking for examples of institutions and countries that already have successful programs in place.
Although most of the university's faculty members were Saudi, nearly all of them had gone to graduate school in the United States, he said.
Teaching female students in the United States is markedly different from teaching Saudi women, he said.
Whereas women in an American graduate-level program may be a range of ages, his students in Jeddah were all between 25 and 35 years old, he said.
Most of the female students he taught were ambitious, he said, but in a different way from their male counterparts.
The female students seemed to be interested in remaining in Saudi Arabia, but moving into newly developing markets.
The male students he taught seemed to be interested in leaving Saudi Arabia to go to work for multinational corporations, he said.
Some of the more obvious differences came from the backgrounds the women came from, he said.
Although Saudi Arabia is an increasingly Westernized society, its women still occupy a different space in the social structure than do American women.
Trying to be an effective teacher meant keeping that background in mind, he said.
During their time in Jeddah, Carol became something of a novelty, particularly among female students, she said.
Many of the students were curious about balancing a career with a family, she said, and they would share stories about living in their respective countries.
As important as the official instructional purpose of the trip was, David said, cultural exchange between the Hartmans and those around them was equally important.
“What I proposed to do and what I actually did are different, and that's pretty common,” he said. “What you can give to them is so much more than what's written on paper.”