In late September, the Arabic Department of the School of Foreign Service’s Qatar campus announced plans to spearhead the development of a groundbreaking Arabic-learning program that targets students with backgrounds in Arabic language and culture, otherwise known as “heritage learners” or “native speakers”. The press release was sent to campus media last week.
Unlike most students at the SFS-Q who study Arabic as foreign language, “heritage learners” and “native speakers” are unique that they already posses fundamental knowledge of Arab culture and language from their personal backgrounds.”This new initiative will address two groups of students of Arabic who fall outside the traditionally predominant group who learn Arabic as a foreign language,” Dr. Gerd Nonneman, Dean of SFS -Qatar, said.
Studies carried out by a team from the SFS Qatar campus and funded by the Qatar National Research Fund found that, on average, standard Arabic among students in primary and secondary public schools was three years below their age level. Thus, the initiative will target students who have some experience in Arabic, but whose knowledge of the language lacks fluency and professionalism.
Professor Abbas Al-Tonsi, one of the initiative’s principle developers states: “The new initiative will enable a student of business to continue learning about his or her major but also much expand the ability to read and write in the clearest of Arabic. The same is true for a media student or a political science student. They will then know business or media or political science not just in English, but also in Arabic. ”
Several days after naming a new dean for the MSB, Georgetown has announced the selection of Gerd Nonneman as the new Dean of the School of Foreign Service in Qatar, effective in September. Nonneman will succeed interim dean Mehran Kamrava, who has served at SFS-Q since 2009.
“Dean Nonneman has had a rich and varied career working in both academia and foreign affair,” wrote President John DeGioia in an email. DeGioia wrote that Nonneman was selected by a search committee led by SFS professor David Edelstein, in consultation with Dean of the SFS Carol Lancaster.
Since 2007, Nonneman has been on the faculty at Britain’s University of Exeter, where he served as director of the school’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies before becoming director of its Center for Gulf Studies. Prior to his tenure at Exeter, Nonneman was professor at Lancaster University, where he served as professor of Middle East politics and head of the school’s M.A. program.
From 1998-2002, Nonneman was the executive director of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies; and in 2003-2004, he served in Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs designing the curriculum for the school’s Diplomatic College.
Dr. Nonneman holds honors in development studies and oriental philology (Arabic) from Belgium’s Ghent University and earned his Ph.D in Middle East politics from the University of Exeter.
Last Saturday, the Gulf Timesreported that the Georgetown Unviersity University School of Foreign Service-Qatar had graduated its third class of undergraduates. As in previous years, University President John DeGioia delivered the commencement address to the class of 46.
In his address, DeGioia told the graduates, “When we live our lives at the frontiers, we work at the forefront of the possible. We seek out new learning and knowledge, new ways of leading and being, new ways of understanding others and ourselves. We embrace the tensions and ambiguities created by the unexplored to address the greatest challenges before us.”
Thirty-three of the graduates were majors in international politics, while 13 majored in culture and politics. These were the only majors available at the satellite campus until international economics was added this year.
Approximately 38 percent of the students hailed from Qatar, but the U.S., Canada, India, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a handful of other Arab states were also represented at the podium.
Last Wednesday, students at Georgetown’s SFS-Qatar campus released the first issue of Diwan, a bilingual, student-run news and culture magazine.
“The term Diwan is an Arabic word that refers to a collection of poems or scholarly articles by an Urdu, Persian, Arab, or Turkish scholar or poet,” Noora Al-Manni (SFS ’13), co-editor of Diwan, said in a University press release. “We chose this name for the magazine because we would like it to be a collection of scholarly discourse for the benefit of Qatar’s community.”
The biannual publication will contain articles on politics, English and Arabic literature, Georgetown affairs, society, and economics. The inaugural issue of Diwan is organized around the theme of “revolution,” featuring coverage of the ongoing social and political revolutions in the Arab world.
In addition to a press release on SFS-Q’s website, Diwan has received recognition in twomajor Qatari English-language dailies.
In an email sent earlier this afternoon, Georgetown University president John DeGioia affirmed that the undergraduates studying at the AUC campus “are out of Cairo and have now landed safely in Qatar.”
Getting the students out of Egypt was the first concern. Now, according to university spokesperson Julie Green Bataille, ”We will now begin to focus on appropriate next steps as students consult with family members and academic advisors.”
SFS-Q may not be the only overseas Georgetown campus in the future, if Minister Kapil Sibal has anything to say about it.
Last Wednesday, Sibal, who spoke at Georgetown in October 2009, met with Senior Vice President Spiros Dimolitsas to discuss the possibility of building a campus in India.
Dimolitsas, who was joined by officials from Virginia Tech and American University at the meeting, told Sibal that Georgetown is “looking at institutions and projects [that aim] at social science research,” according to the Indian Press Information Bureau. He specifically mentioned programs that involve “professional and executive development for policy makers and business leaders” and “research in emerging areas of climate change.”
Coming at the heels of legislation introduced last May that aims to aid and regulate foreign universities’ plans to build campuses in India, Sibal’s visit to DC was meant to encourage and attract American universities.
But, don’t hold your breath—Georgetown has only begun to pursue a handful of options in the sub-continent.
“There’s no specifics regarding Georgetown and India. As we do routinely with a variety of entities, Georgetown is exploring opportunities to develop a range of possible partnerships in India that could further the university’s mission,” University spokesperson Julie Green Bataille wrote in an e-mail to Vox. “Conversations are at a very preliminary stage to determine what feasible options may exist. There are no specific projects identified or time frames outlined for moving forward at this time.”
But planning aside, let’s all agree on one thing—SFS-I has a nice ring to it.
The main points were that Qatar doesn’t offer the same academic quality as the main campus, and that students there aren’t exposed to Georgetown’s real campus culture. There are also complaints that SFS-Q is “a glorified finishing school for the royalty of Qatar and the surrounding Gulf States.”
After lying dormant for awhile, a current SFS-Q student happened to find the post and left a passionate response, reigniting the debate.
In his response, the SFS-Q student argues that while the culture at SFS-Q is different from that of the main campus, most students spend some time in D.C. during their college career and SFS-Q offers opportunities—like Service Learning trips—that the main campus doesn’t.
Not content to the disagreement lie, Fear and Loathing Georgetown posted its own lengthy rejoinder, attempting to rebut the claims made by the SFS-Q student and sticking to its original diagnosis of the school.
The universities at Doha’s Education City, including Georgetown’s SFS-Qatar campus, are supposed to have the same admissions and academic standards as their home institutions. It’s this presumed equivalence that allows them to issue the same degrees in Qatar that they issue here in the U.S.
However, the National, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, recently did an investigation of the SAT scores of students admitted to Education City schools and found that in most cases—including Georgetown’s—scores for students in Doha are lower than those of their peers at the American main campuses.
Representatives at the government-funded [Education City] project say while mean SAT (scholastic assessment test) results of incoming students may be poorer, standards for the awarding of degrees are not being compromised …
In the past, both [the Qatar Foundation] and university representatives have insisted that maintaining the same admission and academic standards between the home campuses in the US and their branch campuses in Qatar was essential to the credibility of the project.
The universities did not want to cheapen the quality of the degrees they awarded and the foundation was keen not to settle for anything less than world-class educational programmes, they said.
The National also interviewed SFS-Q Dean James Reardon-Anderson for the piece. Reardon-Anderson admitted that SAT scores for SFS-Q students were indeed lower than for students in D.C., but argued that a large part of that is due to American students having more familiarity with standardized testing.
“If we weren’t satisfied we had students of comparable talent, it wouldn’t work,” he said. Student and faculty exchanges indicated that standards in Qatar were as high as those in Washington, he added.
“All indicators are that we’re operating at standards that justify the Georgetown degree,” he said.
Earlier this week, Georgetown named Mehran Kamrava interim dean of the School of Foreign Service in Qatar. Not knowing much about SFS-Q or Dr. Kamrava, it seems like a pretty good fit given Kamrava’s impressive publishing record and stint as the director of the Center of International and Regional Studies. But, haven’t you always wished you could pick the interim dean for once? And, while you’re at it, maybe create a new satellite SFS campus? Here’s your chance!
Tomorrow morning, Georgetown’s SFS-Qatar campus will be holding its first-ever commencement. The school’s inaugural graduating class includes 21 students from 9 different countries. Everyone’s favorite University President, John DeGioia, is taking some time off from his newfound Twitter passion to head out to Doha (and to think we were miffed about sharing Gwen Ifill…).
Pioneers in every way, the Class of 2009 has set the foundation for Georgetown’s presence in Qatar. “These students arrived in August 2005 at a university with 7 faculty members, 1 classroom and a library that was essentially a couple shelves of reference books and a trickle of periodicals,” said Director of Admissions, Liz Kepferle, who helped to recruit the first class. “Today, there are 34 faculty members, numerous classrooms and study spaces, and a library of more than 30,000 volumes.