Posted on September 28, 2011

In a wide-ranging and informal meeting with students at Northwestern University in Qatar Tuesday, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser told students to begin “creating their own journals here, one English and one Arabic,” as part of the Qatar Foundation’s vision of “reconstructing our society.”

“We want places where you can practice your knowledge and your know-how so that you begin to change our society,” said Sheikha Moza, the chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which oversees NU-Q and the five other universities of the Education City campus.

“We’re also discussing having our own television station here [in addition to Al Jazeera],” she told students in response to a question about whether students in NU-Q’s communication and journalism programs would need to move to the West to apply their skills professionally.

“I understand that the market is very limited for you here and in the region but we are trying to create opportunities for you where you can thrive and practice your knowledge,” she told the students.

Sheikha Moza surrounded by NU-Q students from the communications and journalism program.

Dr Abdulla Al-Thani, QF’s vice president of education, urged students not to look to the West: “I disagree that you need to look to the West for opportunity.  You need to be part of the change here, to be a role model in it.”

The crowd of about 150 NU-Q students, staff and faculty members—including a high-level delegation from the university’s home campus in Evanston, Ill., headed by Provost Dan Linzer—gave a standing ovation to Sheikha Moza, the wife of Qatar’s ruler, as she entered the auditorium with Dean Everette Dennis to begin what was billed as a first-of-it’s-kind informal meeting with the NU-Q community.

Throughout the 45-minute session, she fielded questions from students seated on the edge of the stage, draping her legs over and carefully crossing them at the ankles.

“I’m really happy to be here today. This may be our first face to face meeting, but I can assure you, you will always be in my heart,”

The session included short presentations of NU-Q student work and an open Q&A session between in which she encouraged students to be innovative and to change the mind-sets of the local community and organizations by raising media literacy.

“You need to reconstruct everything,” she said.  “Changes take time but we’re counting on you not to give up.”



Her Highness also urged students to be honest in their opinions, insisting that she wanted to hear suggestions to take back to her office and consolidate the ideas presented by the students.

One of those was presented by Zainab Sultan, a journalism senior at NU-Q,, who wondered how to get past the inability or unwillingness of many Qatari ministries and organizations to help provide information to student journalists.

Sheikha Moza suggested that students initiate meetings with these organizations to make them comfortable with the idea of professional journalism.

“You are equipped to change the mentality,” she said.  “Take the initiative.  If you find obstacles, my office can always help you.”

Sheikha Moza also urged NU-Q to make provisions for students who want to be able to work professionally in Arabic, something that Dean Dennis said the school is currently working on.

As part of the program, Sheikha Moza also viewed student work, heard short presentations about current student projects.  Many students also thanked her for providing the opportunities and resources for their NU-Q education through the Qatar Foundation.

“It was impressive seeing someone of her importance…being as down to earth as she was despite being such an internationally known figure these days. She was very approachable and open to new questions and ideas,” said Saif Udin Alnuweiri, a journalism sophomore.

In addition to her role as chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, a private non-profit organization founded in 1995, Sheikha Moza is known for her humanitarian work and particularly for her dedication to promoting the importance of education worldwide.


By Sidra Ayub and Benazir Karim