A New Chapter for Northwestern Qatar

August 16, 2020

Northwestern University in Qatar will begin its new academic year with a colloquium for faculty and staff that will include a panel on publishing academic research during a pandemic and a session where Dean Marwan M. Kraidy will outline his strategic priorities for the school.

This will be Kraidy’s first year as dean and CEO at Northwestern Qatar. An authority on Arab media and a global communication scholar, he recently discussed the changes in the media landscape and his research agenda in an interview for the school’s website.

The popularity of media and communication studies, Kraidy noted, is taking place during an uncertain job market. “If you look at any university, what you’ll see is that the number of majors in media and communication is quite high, compared to a lot of other disciplines.”

This popularity, he noted, means that students today need to be proficient in the skills necessary to succeed in a digital world – including writing well, speaking persuasively, thinking critically, and navigating multiple media platforms. “You cannot be overspecialized,” he said. “You need to learn to be nimble, you need to learn to be open to learning new things, which we did not think about as much before.”

On his research agenda for Northwestern Qatar, Kraidy emphasized three central components: using Qatar-based research as a prism on global affairs, fostering a culture of interdisciplinarity, and ensuring that faculty grants and fellowships focus on original contributions to knowledge, and are only the beginning of “active and engaged scholarship.”

In the week leading up to the start of the 2020-21 academic year, the school will host a colloquium that will include presentations by Mary C. Francis, a national leader in the university press community and the director of the University of Pennsylvania Press, and Zizi Papacharissi, professor and head of the Communication Department at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Francis and Papacharissi will discuss with Kraidy the challenges facing academic publishing in the midst of a global pandemic. Another panel will highlight Northwestern Qatar faculty research and creative activities.

Kraidy, who grew up in Lebanon, is returning to the Middle East after several decades in the United States. “What excites me is that my two worlds are now coming together. For years I have been a U.S.-based scholar who did research on and in the Arab world and had emotional and historical connections to it,” Kraidy said. “Now I’m part of a world-class U.S. university, but I work and live in the region, and I’m very excited about that because it gives me more accountability.”