Special Feature: Inaugural Commencement in Doha
NU-Q's First Convocation
“Tomorrow is yours. Don't let it take you by surprise."May 9, 2012 | by Storer H. Rowley
DOHA, Qatar --- On the eve of their graduation from Northwestern University in Qatar, the inaugural class of graduating seniors joined students from seven other foreign and Qatari schools to participate in NU-Q’s first convocation and pass through “the Door to the Future.”
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned, chairperson of the Qatar Foundation, hosted university presidents, deans, trustees, dignitaries, guests, parents and 373 graduating seniors, including NU-Q’s 36 inaugural class of soon-to-be graduates.
President Morton Schapiro, President Emeritus Henry S. Bienen, Board of Trustees Chairman William Osborn, trustees, deans, faculty and students from NU-Q joined their counterparts from Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Commonwealth, Texas A&M, Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies and HEC Paris to celebrate together the 2012 convocation.
“Just as you once were students at Education City, now you will be graduates of Education City,” Sheikha Moza told the students assembled in an ornate hall with purple decorations at the Qatar National Convention Centre event.
“Tomorrow is yours. Don’t let it take you by surprise. Rather, go out and meet it,” she added, exhorting the graduates to seize this unique opportunity to have studied at the finest schools and unleash their potential to follow their dreams and make their mark on a changing world.
His Excellency Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al Thani, President of Hamad bin Khalifa University and vice president of education at the Qatar Foundation, told the students, “I have great faith in our graduates, and I know you will use your skills to overcome the challenges you will face.”
Hundreds of people from many nations attended the celebration. Marking the culmination of four years of study as the inaugural NU-Q class, Northwestern students joined the other schools already established at Education City for the fifth annual convocation.
Two members of NU-Q’s graduating class, Sara Al Saadi and Zainab Sultan, received President’s Awards Tuesday night at the convocation. They were among the six students who received the special awards, which recognize academic excellence and contributions to the community. There were 18 nominees from the six American universities.
President Schapiro said in an interview that it was an indication of the overall excellence of Northwestern's program that its students were singled out for the Qatar Foundation honor in the very first graduating class. "Eighteen students were nominated for the President's Award -- and we were two out of the six," he said. "I was very pleased."
It was remarkable to see the students from so many schools all assembled on the podium for the honor. Then Sheikh Abdulla was joined by individual deans from each school -- including NU-Q Dean Everette Dennis -- as they presented each one of their students with special Class of 2012 rings to mark the event.
At the end, all of the students stood for a group photo. They then walked out in single file and passed through the “Door to the Future,” a Qatar Foundation tradition. Erected on the stage, the door marks “the transition from one stage of life to another and the beginning of life’s new journey” as students venture out into the world.
One of the most memorable moments of the evening was the showing of a film with many students voicing their joys and ambitions as they prepared to graduate from the various schools the Foundation has brought together in Education City to further their futures and that of Qatar.
Cheers and clapping erupted sporadically in the audience in various sectors as faces of friends appeared in the film with symbols of their individual schools and the iconic ancient-style lanterns that evoke the light of learning and loyalty to Qatar and its traditions.
“I say light the world with big hearts, kind words and a smile,” declared one woman who was graduating. At the end, the group of students released white balloons that flew skyward and eventually formed a sidra tree in the sky, symbol of the Qatar Foundation.
All the schools and students owe their presence here to Sheikha Moza and to the Foundation, which have generously funded and supported their efforts to establish world-class educational institutions in this tiny nation that aspires to build a knowledge-based society.
Northwestern graduates now join a growing group of multinational graduates from Education City who will carry their skills into the world and teach them to the generation coming behind them.
Commenting earlier on the landmark occasion, H.E. Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani, director of His Highness the Amir’s Office and a member of NU-Q’s Joint Advisory Board, said: “Northwestern University in Qatar’s first graduation is a milestone event for Qatar.
“A thriving media industry is crucial to a knowledge-based economy of the future, and this field of graduates is poised to make a powerful mark. I look to these fresh graduates to work diligently to translate their education into meaningful contributions to our nation’s development, driving our media industries to new horizons of progress and freedom.”