NU-Q Passes Media Baton to 33 New Graduates

May 05, 2013

Northwestern University in Qatar celebrated Sunday its second graduating class, made up of 33 graduates, at the Qatar National Convention Center.

The Class of 2013, among them 15 Qataris, received bachelors of science degrees in journalism (16) and communication (17). Several graduated with minors in public relations, business studies and, for the first time, certificates in Middle East studies. Nine seniors graduated with academic honors: three summa cum laude, three magna cum laude, three cum laude.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera Media Network and member of NU-Q’s Joint Advisory Board

According to Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, 24 of the 33 graduating seniors made the Dean’s List at least once, having achieved a grade point average of 3.75 for communication and 3.7 for journalism.

“This graduating class has accomplished an incredible amount in their four years at NU-Q. Our seniors have produced, filmed, animated, edited, directed, researched, written, reported and broadcast no less than 500 works during their time at university,” stated Dean Dennis.

“Through their contributions to numerous publications, film festivals and even the Qatari theater and sports realms, our graduates have already begun shaping the knowledge and creative industries in Qatar and the region, and I can only imagine what they will accomplish once they are fully engaged in professional spheres.”

Speaking at NU-Q’s 2013 Graduation Ceremony were H.E. Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Mohammed Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera and a member of NU-Q’s Joint Advisory Board, as well as Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and Dean Dennis.

Special awards were given to outstanding seniors for their special academic achievements at the NU-Q President’s Lunch on Saturday. In his opening remarks, Schapiro expressed his pride in what the Qatar campus has achieved, saying, “I am always proud to say that this not a branch campus; along with our campuses in Chicago and Evanston, this is one of the three Northwestern University campuses, and our students and faculty here are every bit as good as our students and faculty in the U.S.”

Dana Atrach was announced as the Class of 2013 Valedictorian as well as recipient of the Communication Award and Student Leadership Award.

In a speech before President Schapiro and the graduating class, Atrach said: “Our past four years have seen us as the stars of theater performances, award-winning filmmakers and journalists, speakers at international conferences, and so much more. As journalists, we have breached the borders of different countries to report on numerous political and social issues. As filmmakers, we have braved inconvenient/inopportune locations and as media students, we have learned how to think on our feet and to critically analyze.”

“Most importantly, we have learned how to apply the fullest extent of ourselves and become selfless as we chase the stories or ideas that we care about, because we know they will impact and make a change in our world,” she continued.

In addition, the recipients of the Dean’s Award were announced to be Jassim Kunji and Motasem Kalaji, while the Liberal Arts Award and the Journalism Award were received by Shahd Dauleh and Sidra Ayub respectively.  

The graduation ceremony also featured a keynote speech by Qatari writer and film-maker Sophia Al-Maria, author of the critically acclaimed The Girl Who Fell to Earth.

Born to an American mother from Puyallup, near Seattle, and to a Bedouin Qatari father, Al-Maria spent her childhood between the Pacific Northwest and Doha. Today she is an author and film-maker who researches “Gulf Futurism”—a term she coined to describe the glorifying of speedy urban development in the GCC.

“I think young people in the Gulf in particular are at the center of this question of being some of the most traveled, educated and culturally eclectic people in the world and yet are expected to live in an increasingly mono-cultural environment,” she says of the young graduates.

NU-Q has some 16 nationalities on its campus, and many of its Qatari and Arab students have grown up around the world and are now graduating from an institution that brings over 150 years of intellectual evidence, largely from its home campus in Evanston.

Will the multiple identities help them or hinder them in their task? “My greatest hope is that Gulf-born journalists will bring rigor and intelligence to their task of observing the truth about this place and that they do it for the benefit of people here and not just for the show,” she responds.

“Western media is deeply affected by the region’s PR. By that I mean, they come here to report events they are invited to report about. That leads to an easy ‘in’ for Western journalists to poke at the facade and not take us seriously,” added Al-Maria.

Al-Maria, who received a B.A. in comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, and a master’s degree in aural and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, will also be NU-Q’s “One Book” speaker next fall and will deliver a series of workshops and seminars.

More than an author, Al-Maria has followed inspiration in its various creative forms. In 2009 she won an award at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival for her one-minute short, “The Racer,” the story of a truck-driver who died as a result of speeding, told through a montage of cars racing on the streets of Doha juxtaposed with mounds of wrecked cars.

“At NU-Q we work with our students to foster media talent that can lead Qatar’s knowledge-based industries—and in large part that means shaping the media and creative industries,” said NU-Q Dean Dennis. “We are fortunate to have Sophia—as someone who has shaped her own creative career and is very much a benchmark in the industry—speak to the graduating class about her experience and inspire them to be unique thought-leaders in their own right.”