Posted on October 05, 2015

Qatar University Core Curriculum Program (QU-CCP) launched its upcoming conference on general education in the MENA region at a press briefing held yesterday. The conference, the first of its kind in the MENA region, will be co-organized with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

CCP Director and Chair of the conference’s steering committee Dr Maha Al-Hendawi led the press briefing that also included QU and CCP officials. The conference will be held on October 15 under the theme “General Education in the 21st Century: A Paradigm Shift”. It aims to promote high-quality practices and research on general education pedagogy in and for the region, and to address the fundamental starting point for collaboration on general education, which is seen as the foundation of undergraduate education in the 21st century, Dr Al-Hendawi said.

The conference will bring together presidents and representatives of universities from countries in the MENA region and over 150 participants from academia and industry to discuss the challenges of educating youth who will become the future generation of leaders in the region. The opening ceremony will be inaugurated by QU President Dr Hassan Al-Derham, and will feature addresses by QU Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Dr Mazen Hasna, Dr Al-Hendawi and AAC&U Vice President of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success Dr Susan Albertine.

QU to co-organize conference 2 [].jpgDr Al-Hendawi stated that during the conference Dr Al-Derham will launch the MENA General Education Network which aims at ensuring high-quality general education programs for undergraduate education in the MENA region. It will also serve to promote best practices in general education pedagogy at QU and other higher education institutions in the region by providing opportunities for working closely together on common goals and concerns, she said. 

Keynote speakers will be Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Development at the University of Minnesota Dr Lorrie Carrel and Head of Direct Investment at Saudi Aramco Investment Management Company Dr Ibrahim Almojel. Discussions will focus on the paradigm shift of general education programs in the west, and on the essential role these programs play in preparing graduates to tackle the complexity and challenges of the 21st century.

The conference agenda will comprise sessions in the form of workshops that address the importance of leveraging general education courses to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive in the labor market. Participants will also share ideas on best practices in STEM education, student-centered teaching and learning, and the dimensions of future general Education programs. On the sidelines of the conference, a pre-conference meeting will be held on October 14 for the members of the General Education Network as well as a STEM workshop entitled “Coding for all: Expanding access to computer science through general education” for participants.

Dr Mazen Hasna said: “The conference reflects QU’s pivotal role as a key driver of progress and innovation in higher education in Qatar and the region. It is also an important opportunity to build a global partnership on quality education, and we look forward to the outcomes and recommendations that will emerge from these discussions, and which will enrich our general education component that contributes the most to QU graduate attributes.”

Dr Susan Albertine said: “AAC&U is very pleased to welcome Qatar University as a global partner. AAC&U and Qatar University bring together educators who share a passion for general education and a commitment to help all students achieve both broad learning about the world they will inherit -- through studies in science, humanities, the arts, and the social sciences -- and the critical skills they need to help create solutions for our future. We hope the partnership will help educators in Qatar and in the United States to offer college students the best possible preparation for purposeful work and generative citizenship, as well as flourishing lives.” ​​

Dr Maha Al-Hendawi said: “This is the first undertaking between CCP and AAC&U as stipulated in our partnership agreement which was signed in May this year. We expect this conference to bring new ideas and shared experiences that will benefit leaders of MENA universities and higher education institutions. We hope that new approaches on general education programs will emerge from the discussions, in line with best international practices and current trends in the field of higher education.”

The conference’s steering committee includes members from universities in the MENA region: Dean of the Preparatory Year at King Saud University Prof Nami Aljehani, Chairperson of the Academic Assessment Unit at the American University of Beirut Prof Ali El Hajj, and Director of Undergraduate Research at the American University in Cairo Dr Amani Elshimi.