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More Coverage at Northwestern NewsCenter Site

Thank you for following along on our Qatari adventure on this blog!

For complete coverage of the Northwestern University in Qatar opening ceremony as well as video and photos from the trip, please visit our Qatar Trip feature on the Northwestern NewsCenter Web site.


Doha Decompression

After a 13-hour flight from Doha to New York (or Washington, for the other half of the group) and a connecting flight back to Chicago, the visit to the Northwestern University campus in Qatar is now just an extremely pleasant memory for the 70+ students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees who journeyed to the Middle East for the campus’s opening ceremonies.

There are plenty of stories to tell, and we have hundreds of photos and hours of video to sift through to share those stories with you. Check back soon for more in-depth coverage, but here is a quick slide show of photos from Monday’s magnificent (and extremely purple!) opening ceremony and Tuesday’s long-awaited visit to Education City. Northwestern students and faculty from the Evanston campus spoke about their work and interacted with their NU-Q counterparts. More to come!

Home again, home again

After a brutally early departure (5:30 am Doha time for the early bird group) the Northwestern contingent from Evanston began their homeward journey from Northwestern University in Qatar. The weather in Doha had turned cloudy and muggy, the start of a brief spring season when it is often humid with occasional rains. The weather coupled with the Mcmansion-style houses being thrown up along the roadways of Doha made the city look and feel more like the west coast of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico than a desert city on the Arabian Gulf.

As is often the case at a university, the stars of the entire trip were the students, both those from NU-Q and NU-E (as it’s probably never been called before). The excitement and eagerness of the students in Doha at being “Wildcats” was truly heartening. And the talents displayed by the students from Evanston were, as always, remarkable. There clearly are many,  many academic and logistical issues that remain to be worked out, particularly in regard to the Northwestern building on the Education City campus slated to begin construction in spring 2010. But if the University can continue to attract students as determined as the pioneers in Doha and as accomplished as those in Evanston and Chicago, the odds of success for the University’s venture are good.

Come back for lots of photos in the next day or so and some multimedia shows early next week. Jet lag is setting in after 20 hours of travel time, with another 6 hours to go, but we’ll be back with more!

This is the Place

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.

Northwestern Paparazzi?

There’s been a running gag on this trip that the Northwestern crew (party of 70+) is a little bit like the paparazzi. As we behold each new Qatari sight, several dozen digital cameras of various brands and megapixel-dimensions are whipped out, and the Doha skyline is practically illuminated by the sheer volume of camera flashes. The new campus in Qatar isn’t the only Northwestern history being made here. This also has to be the most-photographed trip ever taken in the history of the school…

To that effect, today we feature the fine photographic efforts of Jack Doppelt, a longtime Medill professor who also happens to be a fairly good point-and-shooter. Check out his handiwork below. Even the tricky nighttime shots are well-executed!

Purple Reign

Northwestern purple turned royal Monday night when Northwestern University in Qatar was officially opened at a ceremony in Doha attended by leaders of the University, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned.

The students, faculty, staff and guests who attended the event, sponsored by the Qatar Foundation, entered the building through a replica of the iconic arch that marks the entrance to Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Inside, the room was bathed in purple light while purple banners with the new “Northwestern University in Qatar” logo decorated the walls.

“A campus here expands Northwestern’s global visibility and gives us a presence in a vital part of the world,” said Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen. “Last August we began an important chapter in the story of NU-Q when we welcomed our first class of students. This evening we celebrate that milestone, in hopes of celebrating many more achievements in the coming year as our programs here evolve and grow.”

The ceremony included videotaped interviews with NU-Q students, who voiced passionately their excitement at being part of the program and “becoming a Wildcat.” In addition, students from the Musical Theater program performed songs after dinner while other students from the Bienen School of Music performed music beforehand. The NU-Q students, who are enrolled in Northwestern’s School of Communication and Medill School of Journalism, attended the event.

Also speaking at the event were Abdulla Bin Ali Al-Thani, vice president of education for the Qatar Foundation, William Osborn, chair of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees, John Margolis, dean of NU-Q, Barbara O’Keefe, dean of Communications, and John Lavine, dean of Medill.

On Tuesday, NU-Q students in the two schools will make presentations to the visitors from the U.S. Stay tuned!

Islamic Religion and Art 101

For those of us whose knowledge of the religion and art of Islam was limited to survey courses in our undergraduate days, today proved enlightening. The Fanar Islamic Center in Doha offers a remarkably thorough intro to Islam, led by knowledgeable English-speaking guides (who were all abaya-clad women). From poster-sized diagrams of the family tree of Islamic prophets to samples of calligraphy and a brief explanation of the Islamic worship service, the Center provided great information on the religion that dominates the Middle East. Interestingly, when we arrived at the Doha airport, the call to prayer (which must be done five times daily) was being sounded from a nearby mosque.

After the Fanar Center, it was on to the stunning new Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the striking new building sits on the edge of the Gulf in a dramatic setting accented by fountains and still-new landscaping. The museum just opened in December and features vast open spaces that allow natural light into the center of the building while the collections are housed in galleries around the core. The collections include antique rugs that would inspire collector’s envy in any fan of Oriental rugs, beautiful jewelry and lovely glass and ceramics.

The official opening ceremony of Northwestern University in Qatar will be tonight. Check back later for more.

A few new photos here!

About This Site

A contingent of Northwestern University faculty, staff and students traveled from Evanston, Ill. to Doha, Qatar for the official opening ceremony of Northwestern’s Qatar campus. This site contains the sights, sounds and stories of the opening ceremony events and offers a glimpse into the life of the Northwestern community in Qatar.