Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar celebrates this year its 15th anniversary of innovative undergraduate and graduate programs that continue to grow and adapt to meet the needs of Qatar’s cultural and professional infrastructures. As the first university established in Education City through a partnership with Qatar Foundation and most recently Hamad Bin Khalifa University, VCUQatar has developed a rich legacy of creative endeavor and leadership in art and design education and research.
VCUQatar opened its doors in 1998 as the Shaqab College of Design Arts with 33 bright young women, six pioneering faculty members and three degree programs. This fall semester, VCUQatar welcomes the first group of students into the new BA Art History program. This is the first non-studio degree, and the fifth undergraduate degree, offered by the branch campus and is intended to support the development of the cultural infrastructure in Qatar. All VCUQatar programs recognize the regional development in the visual arts and innovative industries and align with the vision of Qatar Foundation and the Qatar National Vision 2030.
VCUQatar started the 2012-2013 academic year with Dean Allyson Vanstone, Joseph Seipel, dean of the School of the Arts, VCU Richmond and David Prior, executive vice president and provost, Hamad bin Khalifa University welcoming all new and returning faculty and staff to an all-day retreat. An awards ceremony, recognizing individuals who distinguished themselves over a period of years in service to the school and community was held in the afternoon. Assistant Professor in the Foundation program Jesse Payne, Director of the Liberal Arts & Sciences program Byrad Yyelland and Assistant Professor of Art History Jochen Sokoly, were honored with the Faculty Distinguished Achievements Awards.
Jesse Payne won the Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Award for his development of lesson plans and drawing assignments to more fully meet the needs of students and properly address the focus of each of the majors offered at VCUQatar. Payne teaches drawing to freshmen, a special challenge at VCUQatar since so many entering students have had little formal training in drawing prior to beginning their VCU studies. “The outcome of student work in Drawing is outstanding,” according to the program’s Director, Line Christiansen, “and Jesse’s continuous self-critiquing and the way he develops assignments are most constructive.”
Byrad Yyelland was presented with the Distinguished Achievement in Service Award. Dr. Yyelland has been at the forefront of several initiatives to improve the quality of education for both students and faculty including the Great Teachers Retreat, Instructional Skills Workshops, and Appreciative Inquiry facilitation. During Advising Week, he worked tirelessly yet efficiently with both his own advisees and overflow advisees from across LAS. All of these activities confirm his strong personal commitment to effecting positive change for both faculty and students at VCUQatar. Dr. Yyelland has also always been open to new projects and collaboration, evidenced most recently by his involvement in an NPRP grant as well as in planning and preparing for the upcoming Tasmeem Conference.
Jochen Sokoly won the Distinguished Achievements in Research Award. Dr. Sokoly’s research this past year received international recognition from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where he presented Inscribed Early Islamic “Tiraz” Textiles as Historical Documents: A Silk Textile from Nishapur in the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 13. Dr. Sokoly achieved an impressive research output with the publication of one book contribution and one catalog, and two presentations.
He is currently working on a book project at the Al Sabah Collection in Kuwait, and has been invited to contribute to The Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, which is planned as a landmark publication in the field of Islamic Art as part of the Blackwell Companions to Art History series. In addition to these accomplishments, Dr. Sokoly also developed seven new courses in the curriculum for the new BA in Art History, preparing course outlines and objectives and individual reading lists, assignments, and student activities for each course. He also developed a new upper-level art history course for current students, and traveled to India to study miniature painting, which led to the creation of yet another new course which he team-taught VCUQatar students this summer with renowned Indian painter Ajay Sharma of Jaipur.
“As we celebrate this 15 year milestone, the university looks forward to preparing the first art historians from within the country to step into significant positions in the new galleries and museums in Qatar and the region. We anticipate our new graduates from the painting and printmaking program to share their vision of art from within Qatar outward to the world. We will see outcomes from our first Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) funded research projects and the expanding impact of our emphasis on collaborative and creative research from our faculty, alumni and students,” said VCUQatar Dean Vanstone.
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