When Northwestern’s founders were looking for a site for their new university in the 1850′s, legend has it that some of the founders traveled some 12 miles north by wagon from Chicago to a site on the shore of Lake Michigan, where entranced by the oak groves and low bluffs on the shore of Lake Michigan, several of them threw their hats in the air and declared, “This is the place.” Today, a group of Northwestern students and faculty traveled more than 7,000 miles to Education City, an area of Doha, Qatar, and demonstrated clearly that this, too, was the place for Northwestern.
Presentations by five Medill School of Journalism students and three School of Communication faculty captured an audience of more than 100 Northwestern University in Qatar students, faculty and staff for nearly three hours. From the award-winning work of Medill senior Andrea Hart on her journalism residency in South Africa to Communications Professor Noshir Contractor’s pathbreaking work on how communications networks function in the 21st century, the Northwestern students and faculty showcased Northwestern’s strengths. At the break between the presentations by Medill and SoC, students from Northwestern University in Qatar, clustered around their counterparts from Evanston, exchanging ideas and, the best tradition of students everywhere, comparing notes on their professors and complaining about how much work they had.
The afternoon featured a tour of the vast grounds of Education City. Rising from the desert on the west side of Doha, the scale of Education City is staggering: the nearly 3,000-acre campus is more than 10 times the size of Northwestern’s campus, covering an area larger than half of Evanston. Already in place are huge buildings for Carnegie-Mellon, Texas A&M and other institutions designed by internationally known architects, while planning sessions were held this week for Northwestern’s new home now being developed. Across a busy roadway from Education City, the equally large Qatar Science and Technology Park houses massive new buildings that will house major international science and tech companies.
Later, a group of Medill students, faculty and alumni were given a tour of the headquarters of the Al Jazeera television network by Lauren McCollough, GJ04, a top communications official for the network, which is the largest Arabic-language network in the world and based in Doha. Now broadcasting in English as well as Arabic, the network’s newsroom and studio are state-of-the art facilities, with live broadcasts going around the world 24 hours a day.
Today concluded the visit, sponsored by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, to the new Northwestern campus in Doha. Under the leadership of Dean John Margolis, the faculty and staff have created the new branch campus from the ground up and were welcoming and gracious hosts to the visitors from Evanston. While many challenges remain, the consensus opinion among the pioneers is that for Northwestern, this indeed is the place.