NU-Q celebrates its inauguration

Nathalie Tadena

Last week, Northwestern officially opened the doors of its outpost in the Middle East. Nearly 80 administrators, students, faculty and staff members traveled 7,000 miles from Evanston to Doha, Qatar to celebrate the inauguration of NU’s first foreign degree-granting campus.

NU’s campus in Qatar, known as NU-Q, opened its doors to an inaugural class of 38 students in August. NU is the most recent of six American universities to build a campus in Doha as part of Education City, an initiative funded by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Research and Community Development. Students at NU-Q can receive a bachelor’s degree from Medill in journalism or from the School of Communication in media industries and technologies.

Traditionally, the Qatar Foundation holds an opening ceremony for each participating school in Education City in the spring of its first year, said John Margolis, dean of NU-Q and former associate provost of NU.

For the March 23 ceremony and dinner, a replica of the Evanston campus’ signature arch was built to welcome the 400 guests who attended the event. The attendees included Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned; Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, vice president for education of the Qatar Foundation; Dr. Mohamad Fathy Saoud, president of the Qatar Foundation; Joseph LeBaron, the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar; and representatives of the other Education City universities.

“There were a number of people from Qatar and the region invited to the ceremony,” Margolis said. “The ceremony gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the local community and to explain our mission in Education City.”

The ceremony included remarks from officials from NU and the Qatar Foundation, a musical performance by theater majors from the Evanston campus and videos of NU-Q students discussing their academic goals and their NU-Q experience.

“We are honored to be part of Qatar’s commitment to progressive social change and excited about this momentous new chapter in Northwestern’s history,” NU President Henry Bienen said during the ceremony.

Board of Trustees Chair-Elect William Osborn said the trustees and administrators were “very impressed” with the campus and the programs in Education City.

“It was a very uplifting event and I believe it really made the students over there feel part of Northwestern and vice versa – it made Northwestern feel very much a part of Qatar and of Education City,” said Osborn, one of the evening’s speakers.

The inaugural event was the focal point of a three-day visit by students from NU’s Evanston campus. Four students from Medill, six students from the School of Communication, four students from the Northwestern University Saxophone Ensemble and one recent Medill graduate were selected by the deans of their respective schools to travel to Qatar and present their work to NU-Q students.

Music freshman Brian Bohr said he researched the Qatar campus to prepare for his trip after receiving a call from Dominic Missimi, director of the musical theater department, asking him to perform.

“I went there completely blind and not knowing anything about Qatar and was blown away,” Bohr said. “It was really important to see how NU is not just here in Evanston but has a presence over there.”

Evanston students met the NU-Q students and participated in social events, including tours of Education City and Doha and trips to the Museum of Islamic Art and Al-Jazeera network.

“The biggest part of this trip for me was interacting with the students,” said Associated Student Government President Neal Sales-Griffin, who also traveled to Qatar. “They were so ecstatic to meet us since we’re all under the same umbrella; we have a common bond under the NU community. The experience was probably one of the best points in my past four years at NU.”

Sales-Griffin said the group of Evanston and NU-Q students “really bonded” during a trip to the desert, where they got to ride camels and play volleyball.

“We really got to sit down and get to know the students,” the SESP senior said. “They were curious about the dynamics of NU, how we studied and developed majors. Most of us were upperclassmen and all of the NU-Q students were freshmen so they were curious what their experience in the next three to four years will be like at NU.”

Sales-Griffin said he has kept in touch with many of the NU-Q students through Facebook and hopes to collaborate with the other campus. One student e-mailed Sales-Griffin asking for assistance in starting a spirit club at NU-Q for students who wanted to watch and keep up with NU sports and programming in Evanston. Administrators are planning to bring several NU-Q students to Evanston in May.

Applications for the class of 2013 are 50 percent higher than applications for NU-Q’s inaugural class. The Qatar Foundation will host another ceremony for NU in 2013, when the construction of NU-Q’s new facility in Education City is scheduled to be completed.

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