Posted on March 17, 2013

Three students at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) have been awarded two Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) grants from Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) in support of research projects related to Qatar’s national needs. These students and their two SFS-Q faculty mentors are part of the growing Georgetown community engaged in high-quality, innovative research that applies academic tools and concepts to understand real world situations. 

As for the real world, ever wonder how many positive tweets Qatar gets on Twitter each day? Ever think about the causes of a spike in negative tweets? This is part of the research that SFS-Q student Danah Dehdary is using her UREP grant to explore.

“Using Social Media to Assess Qatar as a Brand” is the title of Dehdary’s research proposal. She is working with economist Alexis Antoniades, assistant professor at SFS-Q, to critically examine how Qatar is perceived in the social media. It will be one of the first studies of its kind. The research will utilize a massive dataset of all tweets from around the globe over a 365 day period.

Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide a platform for people to connect, communicate, share information, and discuss topics. Because the online community plays an important role in shaping Qatar’s image at home and abroad, this study of social media will help assess Qatar’s image and evaluate it as a brand.

John Crist, director of research at SFS-Q, said, “Our undergraduates have a great deal of talent and our faculty encourage a thinking-outside-the-box approach to issues relevant to Qatar and its future. Danah’s UREP project is an example of our students and faculty working together creatively to explore important issues.”

Another Georgetown research project supported by a UREP grant is called “Understanding the Construction of Qatari Society: Subjectivity in the 21st Century.” Two students, Fahad Alkhater and Emilio Eibenschutz, will work with anthropologist Rogaia Abusharaf, associate professor at SFS-Q, to ascertain Qatar’s residents’ sense of identity and to examine how social circumstances are affecting the social development of Qatar.

The project will look at Qatar’s cultural heritage and how tradition has developed. But it will focus most on the modern State of Qatar, its national policies, its economic openness, its regional branding, and more. The students will use the Qatar Heritage Library, theoretical literature, ethnographic data, anthropological tools, and interviews to produce a scholarly qualitative work on the construction of modern Qatari society in the 21st century.

Dr. Abusharaf will also serve as a mentor on another awarded project, a collaboration with Qatar University called “Collection and Coding of Popular Myths and Folktales in Qatari Popular Culture.” This project is a pioneering effort to observe the popular myths and folktales related to animals, birds, fish, and mythical creatures found in Qatari heritage. It will be the first of its kind in Qatar and the region.  

Dr. Abusharaf will be part of a team that includes Qatar University’s Dr. Kaltham Al Ghanim, associate professor of sociology and the project’s primary investigator, and Qatar University’s Fatima al Kubaisi, assistant professor of sociology. Nine Qatar University students will also work on the research project.

Gerd Nonneman, dean of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, said: "The kind of learning-by-doing that UREP enables, through these high-level research projects where students collaborate with experienced professors, is a valuable extension to Georgetown’s undergraduate curriculum, which generally aims to integrate research and learning. By supporting such original projects, UREP affords our students a wonderful opportunity that fits perfectly with the Georgetown mission of providing a holistic education that builds human capital for a purposeful life. I am especially delighted that one of the awards will further promote collaboration between faculty at SFS-Q and faculty and students at Qatar University.”

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