Convocation 2019

Medill Dean: “Your Northwestern Story Starts Here, Starts Now”

August 26, 2019

Speaking to the largest class to ever enroll in Northwestern University in Qatar’s (NU-Q) history, the dean of Northwestern’s famed Medill School told 122 new students they were just “beginning to write the narrative of your undergraduate career. A narrative is the tie that binds us. Particularly at NU-Q, whether in communications or journalism, I think we are all bound by our compulsion to be storytellers.”  

Charles Whitaker, the newly appointed dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in the U.S. spoke at the ceremony where faculty and administrators were clad in colorful academic regalia as NU-Q began its 12th year of operations in Education City. Attending were members of the university’s faculty and staff, students, parents, community leaders and other dignitaries.  Dean Whitaker underscored the unique role that NU-Q plays in educating professionals in communication and media studies.   

He challenged the new students from the class of 2023 to embrace the values and mission of Northwestern, drawing on its traditions and resources and “to remember that your Northwestern story starts here, starts now.”

Throughout the convocation address, he highlighted the unique role NU-Q plays in creating the future media and communication leaders – emphasizing their role as storytellers. “Storytelling is a powerful tool that we use to make sense of a sometimes senseless world and to show the breadth and depth of our humanity,” he said. “Absorb all you can while you’re here, sample from the broad buffet of course offerings available in this amazing institution, but realize you won’t be able to cram it all into these four years. And that’s okay. Learning is a life-long journey that doesn’t stop at graduation,” the Dean added.

“Storytelling is a powerful tool that we use to make sense of a sometimes senseless world and to show the breadth and depth of our humanity”
- Charles Whitaker, dean of the Medill School

Whitaker is the first-ever Medill alumnus to serve as dean — having received both his bachelor and master’s degrees there. He has served on the faculty at Medill since 1993, returning to the campus after a successful career as a journalist and news executive.  He is a respected professional and an expert on the magazine industry with experience at some of America’s most notable media organizations including stints as a reporter at the Miami Herald, and an editor at the Louisville Times before becoming a senior editor at Ebony Magazine where he covered a wide range of cultural, social and political issues and events.  Whitaker was introduced to the NU-Q community as “a legendary master teacher.”

To induct the new students to the Northwestern community, NU-Q Dean Everette E. Dennis charged the Class of 2023 to be active, creative, and engaged as they seek out the faculty and appreciate the diversity of their fellow students. The Dean’s charge urged the new students to “have faith in freedom, the basis for all human inquiry,” and to “embrace education as a serious student who seeks out knowledge and understanding, within and outside the classroom.”

Dean Dennis dubbed the students as the “World Cup Class,” since that global event will occur in Doha during their senior year.  “You arrive here at a very exciting time for Qatar and will be part of an array of remarkable activities and events,” he said.

Also speaking at the Convocation was Sarah Shaath, president of the NU-Q Student Union and a senior in journalism and strategic communication who advised students not to have a “fixed mindset.”

“If there’s one piece of advice I’d like to offer,” she said, “it’s that you should come into this community with an open mind to any challenges you may face, take part in things that come your way, and do not restrict yourself. Don’t let one goal restrict you from doing other things. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone, it’s time to learn and grow.”

NU-Q’s incoming class is the largest and most diverse class in the school’s history. A total of 122 students have been admitted to the Fall 2019 class bringing the total student body to nearly 400 students. The freshmen represent more than 30 nationalities in addition to Qatar, including the first-ever students from Armenia, Lithuania, Macau Tajikistan, Uganda, Venezuela, and Zambia.

The convocation concluded with a reception and the re-opening of NU-Q’s museum, The Media Majlis which is featuring an exhibition on “Arab Identities: Images in Film.”