With a spring in their step and a broad smile on their faces, hundreds of graduates proudly donned their traditional caps and robes as they walked side by side during Hamad bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) Convocation 2012 yesterday.
This was the fifth such event to be held at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), and the first to be held under the auspices of HBKU, which brings together all of the higher education and related research at QF.
One by one, students from each of the eight participating universities were called on stage, as family members and fellow graduates cheered them on during the ceremony held at Qatar National Convention Centre.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of QF, led the charge to the Class of 2012 saying, “I see in you the blossoming of new futures, which I have worked so long to establish through the providing of quality education. And as we have helped create new futures for you, it is now your responsibility to create new futures for the coming generations who follow in your pioneering footsteps.”
Graduates were delighted to receive their graduation rings from His Excellency Dr Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, President of HBKU and Vice President of Education at QF. In his opening speech, Dr Al-Thani congratulated the students on their outstanding achievement.
He said, “I have great pride in our graduates of 2012. I know you will use your skills to overcome the challenges you will face. But I also hope your achievements will give you the confidence to seek new solutions; to lead others, and to be inspired by them also. In this way you will continually develop your creative resources.”
Class of 2012 signifies the highest number of graduates in QF’s history, with 373 students participating in this year’s convocation. Indeed, since 2008 there has been a year on year increase, from 122 that year to 191 in 2009, 200 in 2010, and 243 last year. The gender gap has also narrowed, with an almost equal divide – 188 women and 185 men – making up the class of 2012.
Such progress is a testament to the vision set out to provide future generations with skills that will help the nation make the transition into a knowledge-based economy. And Qatari students seem to have heeded that message by making up 35 per cent of the graduating class this year.
A documentary about the class of 2012 was shown during the event. In the film, students from various fields, including medicine, computer science, design, Islamic studies, engineering, journalism and international relations, spoke fondly of their university experiences.
Josh Spear, one of the youngest and most influential marketing strategists in the world, delivered a memorable keynote speech to graduates. Spear’s insights on trends in art, design, and the future of digital media are highly valued and sought after by companies worldwide.
Spear said, “To the graduating class of 2012, we need to hear your dreams, your mother and father need to hear your dreams, your friends need to hear your dreams, Qatar needs to hear your dreams, and I can assure you that the world is ready to hear your dreams.
“We live in a very special time; you are very lucky graduates to enter the professional world today and I think you all know that. You are graduating at a time when there are more than a billion people connected together by the internet, ready to collaborate, to engage, to learn, to teach and to live side by side with you wherever they are in the world to make those dreams of yours come true.”
Thirty-five students made up the inaugural batch of graduates from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q). They stood alongside 45 graduates from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, 32 from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), 93 from Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ), 66 from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), 30 from Georgetown University – School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar), 41 from Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS), and 31 from HEC Paris in Qatar.
Six exceptional students were granted the ‘President’s Award’ which was created to recognise academic excellence and a deep commitment to making a difference both on campus and within the wider community. Those chosen this year are Mohamed Al-Kazaz from WCMC-Q, Zainab Sultan from NU-Q, Qazi Rashid from SFS-Qatar, Sara Abdulla Al Saadi from NU-Q, Al-Johara Hassan Al-Thani from SFS-Qatar and Mariam Abdulrazak Al-Meer from TAMUQ.
Mariam, a Qatari national, is determined to make a positive contribution to the nation. She has always excelled as a student, and is now keen on transferring her skills to the workforce. Mariam has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering, with a minor in chemistry and mathematics, and expressed sincere gratitude for the opportunities afforded her through studying at QF. “During my time here, I have gained some of the most important experiences that have made me a person ready to take up challenges in the real world,” she said.
The model student would like to see an increase in the number of females pursuing careers related to science, engineering, mathematics and technology. “I believe that females, equal to their male counterparts in skill and potential, can add important perspectives to discussions related to unsolved problems in these fields,” she said. “I would like to be part of the process by starting service-learning projects which can attract young girls to scientific careers.”
Mohamed Al-Kazaz, 23, has been involved in many charitable projects during his time at university, which has enriched his time at QF. “I will never forget the amazing experiences that I had,” he said. “The research and clinical activities, in addition to the fascinating extracurricular events are memorable moments engraved in my mind. Being involved in charity events is what makes me most proud,” says the Iraqi, who now holds a Doctor of Medicine degree and will be pursuing an internal medicine residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in the US.
“Qatar has given a lot to me,” he continued. “It has provided a second home for me and my family after leaving my war-torn country, Iraq. I feel I have an obligation to give back to Qatar and everyone who helped me become who I am now.”
Mohamed’s parents, both doctors, are delighted that their son has made the best of what life has had to offer him. “We are very proud that Mohamed chose this noble profession. This is a very rewarding profession. We are even more proud that he chose it because of his passion for medicine,” said his father, Dr Mustafa Al-Kazaz.
Another talented recipient of the award is Zainab Sultan. The 25-year-old journalism student at NU-Q has also taken advantage of every opportunity that has come her way. “Apart from doing journalistic work, my passion for making documentaries took me to many different parts of the world such as Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Turkey, New Orleans, Tanzania and Jordan,” she explained. “My films have been nominated several times at Al Jazeera Film Festival, at a festival in Abu Dhabi, and in Chicago and Los Angeles. I also received an award at a women’s festival in Los Angeles.”
Zainab, who was born in India but grew up in Jeddah, is enthusiastic about the next stage of her personal development and eager to start work. “I am really excited to go out and get a job and start doing everything that I learned at school. I think it has been a great four years and I got way more out of it than I expected. The whole experience has been amazing. I do feel kind of sad to leave.”
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