Complex Made Simple

Universities join forces for innovative seminar exploring life, history and culture in Qatar

Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) this month launched the first “Doha Seminar” – a new interdisciplinary honors seminar, open to outstanding undergraduate students in Education City (EC) and taught jointly by leading professors from Qatar Foundation Education City universities, Qatar University and the Brookings Doha Center.

The idea for the landmark liberal arts seminar originated with the academic affairs deans in EC, who for several years have wanted to craft a project that would bring together students and faculty from the various campuses. This seminar offers an extensive academic view of Qatar and the Gulf, covering family, art, history, culture, consumerism, environmentalism, and foreign affairs.

The Doha Seminar includes lecturers from: NU-Q, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ), Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQatar), Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFSQ), Qatar University, and the Brookings Doha Center. NU-Q’s own Professors Khaled Al Hroub and Sandra L. Richards are the Seminar’s Co-Conveners.

Richards, director of the Liberal Arts program at NU-Q is intrigued and excited by the challenge of putting together an interdisciplinary program of this scale.

“Our world is not discipline-specific, so it is important to help students make these connections, to understand that a variety of educational approaches are required to achieve a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the issue they’re studying, in this case Qatar.”

The seminar whose theme is “Uneasy Cosmopolitans,” reflects Qatar’s challenges “connecting traditional values with a global society,” said Dr. Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q.

“It is an exemplar of how a local educational institution can function as an educational common market benefiting students and the community itself.

This seminar also demonstrates the importance we place on the Liberal Arts, here at NU-Q. Study of the liberal arts is the foundation of a great university education and essential to the professional practice of first-class journalism and communication.”

The dean credited Dr. Jeremy Cohen, NU-Q’s associate dean for academic affairs, for his leadership in proposing the seminar and working with other schools to establish the course while encouraging Professors Sandra Richards and Khaled Al Hroub of NU-Q’s liberal arts faculty to teach and coordinate the course. Cohen said “the rich interdisciplinary talent from different schools and different traditions will, we believe, provide students with benefits far beyond this course and also use many assets of the local community as a platform for learning.”

To date, Dr. Abdullah Baabood (Qatar University), Professors Denielle Emans (VCUQatar) and Ben Reilly (CMUQ) have given presentations on history, conceptual mapping of Doha, and cosmopolitanism, respectively.

A special feature of another recent session was a master class on Doha’s architecture and urban development led by Hannes Werner of the Guiding Architects organization, who is a practicing architect in Doha and Dubai and a faculty member at the American University of Sharjah.

Upcoming lectures include: Sustainability and Water by Dr. Daniel Stoll of SFSQ; Qatar on the World Stage by Dr. David Gray of CMUQ and Dr. Ibrahim Sharqieh of the Brookings Doha Center; Consumerism vs Citizenship by Dr. Mark Farha of SFSQ; Education by Dr. Mark Newmark, Academic Bridge Program and Professor Mary Dedinsky, Director of the Journalism program at NU-Q; Media by NU-Q’s Dr. Everette E. Dennis and Dr. Khaled Al Hroub; Art by VCUQ’s Dr. Dina Bangdel; and Changing Identities by Drs. Al Hroub and Richards of NU-Q. The Doha Seminar runs through December 2.