When he was a freshman in high school, a horrible car accident left Othman “Toomy” Alkubaisi badly injured, with a broken leg and internal bleeding. It was a life-changing event that also gave him a newfound courage, and eventually led him to Colorado State University.
“When I had my accident, I couldn’t move for two months,” he said. He emerged after several months in the hospital with two main thoughts: Life is too short to be afraid of taking on new challenges, and, if he got this second chance at life, why keep doing the same thing?
Prior to the accident, Alkubaisi said he had been reluctant to leave his native Saudi Arabia to study English in Canada with a cousin. “I wasn’t always a good student, and I was afraid,” he admitted. “But after the accident, I was like, ‘Why not’? Whenever someone would ask me anything, I would say, ‘Why not’?”
He decided that he wanted to go to college in the United States, but first he had to improve his grades.
Alkubaisi became so successful with his studies that he was one of 200 students to land a prestigious scholarship from Saudi Aramco, the world’s top exporter of crude oil and natural gas liquids. He completed a rigorous 10-month college prep program, and he now has a job with Aramco for at least five years after graduation.
He chose CSU over Arizona State University because the weather in Colorado would be a new experience. “ASU is pretty much Saudi Arabia because of how hot it is,” he said, with a smile.
Alkubaisi majored in Environmental Health and has two minors, chemistry and food safety. The first class he took with Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health David Gilkey was also life-changing.
“It was one of the best classes of my life,” Alkubaisi said. “The class inspired me to read more about environmental health, to look up topics including industrial hygiene, water quality, and food safety. You can apply almost every subject to environmental health.”
Alkubaisi said Gilkey was extremely helpful, a quality he found with all the Environmental Health faculty.
“One of the great things about this college is that our professors go to our computer labs and help us. They are so supportive, and this was one of the best things that happened to me in college,” Alkubaisi said. “A person with a doctorate degree comes to you and says, ‘My name is Dr. Gilkey, but you can call me Dave,’ like he’s your friend. He shared books with me from his own collection. This is what I like about this college, and CSU.”
Alkubaisi put his academic skills to work last summer during an internship at Jacobs Engineering in Pasadena, Calif. While there, he developed a construction safety awareness campaign, creating posters, online quizzes, follow-up surveys and PowerPoint presentations. He also helped a team develop a construction safety app.
Alkubaisi put those new app developer skills to use at CSU, creating an app to help students study for the Registered Environmental Health Sanitarian credential exam. Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Program Director Judy Heiderscheidt, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, is an advisor on this project, working with The Institute for Learning and Teaching, or TILT.
What will Alkubaisi miss most about CSU? The weather, and the people. “The people here in Fort Collins, specifically, are the nicest I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “They’re respectful, nice to you, and they want to help you.”