North Island College alumna’s research career takes her to Saudi Arabia

NIC alumna Dr. Laura Strachan visits a Bedouin camp north of Najran, Saudi Arabia. || NIC submitted photo
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North Island College (NIC) alumna Dr. Laura Strachan was determined to work towards a university degree, despite being a young mother and balancing full-time work to support her family. 

“As a young mother, I was dedicated to raising my family, but I had promised myself that one day I would pursue a university degree at NIC. Once my youngest child was in elementary school, I decided the time was now or never to begin my higher education journey,” she said.

Strachan is now an assistant professor and archeology-anthropology researcher in Saudi Arabia. She said she was not sure at first about what university degree she should focus on.

“I took an elective in anthropology and the instructor was filled with passion and shared films from around the world. From that moment onwards, I was hooked.”

As part of her anthropology studies, she travelled to Jordan to participate in one of the college’s field schools.

“This is where I was introduced to Bedouin culture. The experience was transformational and led to my future graduate degree studies investigating Bedouin tribes and environmental protection,” said Strachan.

She completed two associate degrees at NIC in science and arts and went on to complete a bachelor’s degree, a collaborative master’s and PhD in sociocultural anthropology.

“The Wadi Rum Protected Area was in its infancy when I first visited it in 1999. I didn’t realize at that time that it was a new conservation area or its significance in terms of my future studies,” Strachan said.

After completing her PhD at McMaster University with her research focused on Bedouin, tourism and protected area management, she also became involved in the team that nominated the Wadi Rum Protected Area as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Soon after, she began working in private universities, starting first with a role as an assistant professor in Oman and most recently at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Her current research focuses on investigating petroglyphs of the goddess Alia in southern Saudi Arabia, in addition to collecting oral histories to learn more about the cultural impact of Saudi Aramco, one of the largest oil production companies in the world, on the lives of Saudi Arabian citizens.

While her work as a professor takes up most of her time, Strachan said she is still dedicated to research focused on human-environmental interactions, traditional and local knowledge systems and sustainable development. 

“I have been so fortunate. As a mother, I went to NIC with a dream and started a career that I never even knew existed,” said Strachan.

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