Tala Al Ramahi
Chief Strategy Officer, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019
MA, Journalism School, 2010
Born and raised in the UAE, Tala embarked early on a career in journalism, which brought her to pursue her Master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School. Prior to her current role at the Special Olympics, Tala was a Manager at the Office of Strategic Affairs at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, where she led public policy initiatives on topics such as education, health, governance, and citizen wellbeing.
Today, she serves as the Chief Strategy Officer at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi. She has, however, been involved since day one as a member of the Bid Committee that led to Abu Dhabi’s winning bid.
Despite being extremely busy with the Special Olympics less than a month away, Tala dedicated some time to speak with us about her time at Columbia and her work since graduation.
Could you describe what you today?
I currently serve as the CSO of the Special Olympics where I am responsible for the legacy program, which ensures the event serves as a platform to further promote inclusion policies for people of determination across the UAE. I am also working with various partners including government, private companies and NGOs to further promote the agenda of inclusion.
My main focus is on the delivery of three events that are focused on the legacy of the Special Olympics in the UAE.
The first one is the “Host Town program”, which is a 3-day cultural immersion program taking place in each Emirate. It is an opportunity for the UAE to learn more about the countries the athletes are representing and for the UAE to share our culture. The second event is the “Global Inclusion Health Forum”, which is a half-day forum for local and international policymakers focusing on the topic of global health. Our aim is to get a commitment from the attendees to train more health workers worldwide. And the third event is the “Global Youth Leadership Summit”, a 5-day summit for 190 youth leaders who are put in teams of three (youth leader, mentor and athlete with determination) to share and develop their ideas on how to make communities more open and inclusive. We are very excited to be able to also support the realization of these ideas since the winning teams will leave with funding to implement their projects in their communities.
Is this what you thought that you would be doing as a student at Columbia?
I always wanted to make a positive impact on the world - that is why I went into journalism in the first place. I particularly enjoyed writing and meeting people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. The experience of being a journalist in NYC was very eye-opening and I learned a lot.
When I returned to the UAE, I was approached to join the Office of Strategic Affairs at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and I have been making a positive impact - albeit in a different way - ever since. But I do hope that I will go back to writing eventually.
What is your favorite memory of Columbia University?
Finding that perfect apartment close to campus was one of the highlights of my move to NYC. We all know how hard it is to find a good apartment in NYC!
Many of my fun memories are from the RW1 class. This is a mandatory class for all journalism students teaching us on the basics of journalistic writing. Since it is one of the core mandatory classes, we all had to spend a lot of time in this class, and that is where I met some of my closest friends who I see - to this day - at least once a year. We had a lot of fun being in this class together, exploring new areas of New York and sometimes even reporting together.
Are there any values that you have gained directly from your time at Columbia University?
I actually gained a lot from this class and the professor - Ruth Padawer - who taught it. I really grew my love for journalism and diversity in thought through her teaching. She was very progressive and so passionate about journalism. I learned to see the world through the eyes of the people I am interviewing.
Did you have a favorite place on campus?
I lived two blocks away from campus so I visited Westside Market a lot. They have the best chocolate chip cookies!
Do not forget to join the Special Olympics from March 14 - 21, 2019.