First Class Graduates at SFS Qatar
The Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar) marked a milestone in its history on Saturday with the completion of its inaugural commencement exercises.
The ceremony, held at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, was attended by more than 500 friends, family and community members, including the Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Misned, as well as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
It's now your time—it's now your moment -- to help build bridges of understanding. - President DeGioia
In his remarks, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia congratulated the Class of 2009 and urged them to make “positive change” in the world. “Just as you brought your energy, idealism, passion, service, and scholarship to our School of Foreign Service,” DeGioia said. “it’s now your time—it’s now your moment … to help build bridges of understanding.”
DeGioia highlighted the global character of Georgetown University and the importance of these first alumni from the Qatar campus. “We recognize that being global entails an engagement in the world that is multilateral, multinational, and multicultural … an engagement that requires partnerships that transcend national identities, national boundaries … an engagement like what we see here in Doha.”
Established in 2005, the School of Foreign Service in Qatar is graduating 21 students from 12 different nations. In his remarks, James Reardon-Anderson, the founding dean of SFS-Qatar who helped to recruit the very first class, offered a simple piece of advice on how the students should view their education. “Your Georgetown experience is not to be left behind as a brief passage, a training program meant to prepare you for life, but as an inspiration and a constant reminder that learning is among the greatest expressions of the human spirit and a reason for living itself,” he said.
As the first students to enroll in the Qatar campus, the Class of 2009 set the foundations of the enterprise. Referring to the entrepreneurial spirit of the new graduates, Liz Kepferle, Director of Admissions said, “These students arrived in August 2005 at a university with 7 faculty members, 7 courses offered in the first semester, 1 classroom, and a library that was essentially a couple shelves of reference books, access to online databases, and a trickle of periodicals.” However, they addressed the challenges well. “In their first year, they created from scratch the student government, several clubs, a soccer team, and a newspaper,” Kepferle continued.
Graduating students have mixed feelings about leaving Georgetown. “It is exciting, overwhelming and scary,” said Farjana Tripti (SFS ’09). “But thanks to all for giving me this opportunity. I am very glad to have gone through these four years and now wherever life takes me, I am prepared for it.”
Assma Al-Adawi (SFS ’09), currently pursuing job opportunities in the private sector, is both excited and sad at the same time. “I think it is going to be hard to leave all of this behind, but at the same time, this is the natural next step.”
Her classmate Dana El Kahlout (SFS ’09) shares similar emotions. “It feels great graduating from a highly esteemed university,” exclaimed El Kahlout. “A university with top professors, great experiences and amazing people, and I am glad to be part of that.” Kahlout is planning on working for a few years, followed by a post-graduate degree in Comparative Literature to return to teach at her Alma Mater.
Her friend Farjana Tripti (SFS ’09) is preparing to follow a similar route. “I am hoping to work for a few years and then study Humanitarian Law at graduate school,” she said.
No matter which path they take, this is not a goodbye. “You guys will see me all the time, just like I never left,” Al-Adawi said.
“This is my second home,” remarked Tripti, with a smile on her face. “Sometimes it has been my first home. There were days that I did not see my parents, but I saw my friends, faculty and staff every single day.”
Al Kahlout’s feelings confirm her peer’s thoughts. “SFS-Qatar was not just a university I studied at; it was my home, my second family.”
SFS-Qatar is not planning to let go of the graduates either. Alumni events are already underway. “On May 18, we will be hosting a screening of a Georgetown alumni-produced documentary, titled Chronicles of a Refugee,” noted Kepferle. “The film’s two Georgetown alumni creators will meet with Class of 2009 on this evening,” Kepferle believes the graduates will be regular visitors to campus. “This has become their second home,” she said.
As they move on, the students offered advice to their colleagues that haven’t yet graduated. “Enjoy it, it’s wonderful, it’s perfect,” said Al-Adawi. “Make the most out of it and don’t be too focused on studies all the time, take it all in.”
“It will take you here and there … Georgetown is an experience you cannot take lightly,” Tripti said. “There are standards and expectations and it takes time, patience and hard work to get there.”
Both faculty and underclassmen are well aware of the standards that Class of 2009 established. Safa Arshad (SFS’12) believes that they set a model to be emulated. “We look up to them. As we came over here, everybody welcomed us,” she said.
Haya El Khatib (SFS’11) extends her best wishes to the new graduates: “We hope this great institution prepared you well for the future.”
Professor Ibrahim Oweiss has very high expectations from their students. “I do hope that the graduating class will elevate their interest from personal ones to their society, to their nation, and to humanity and the world at large, and to humanity.”
The ceremony concluded a weekend of events celebrating the inaugural class of the Qatar campus. On Friday evening, an awards ceremony and dinner was held for the families of the Class of 2009 to celebrate the academic achievement of the students.