NU-Q students join 159th commencement
Doha-based students are ‘pioneers in their families and in their countries’
EVANSTON – Representing a growing segment of Northwestern’s global student population, a small group of graduating students from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) trekked halfway across the globe to participate in the University’s 159th Commencement ceremony Friday at Ryan Field.
Six purple-clad NU-Q students soaked in the pageantry and fanfare of Commencement on Northwestern’s main campus, highlighted by tennis legend and equality advocate Billie Jean King’s keynote address.
“She was talking about inclusion and diversity, and that applies to a global world,” said NU-Q graduate Shakeeb Asrar. “We come from a developing region that needs a lot more change, so her speech definitely applies to us.”
The Doha, Qatar, campus includes students representing 31 countries and various religions and backgrounds.
“It was a nice reinforcement of what we teach and what we are as an inclusive school -- to build tolerance among many different people,” said Everette Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q.
Several of the students had previously spent time in Evanston as part of exchange programs between the main campus and NU-Q, making connections with peers from all walks of life and augmenting the communications-focused education they receive in Doha.
NU-Q graduate Jemina Legaspi completed a theatre minor and joined two student organizations during her six months in Evanston last year as part of the Evanston Communication Exchange Program.
“My experience in Evanston was definitely an unforgettable one,” said Legaspi, who served as president of the NU-Q Student Union. “I had something to do every weekend. I was busy academically, but was still able to dedicate time for extracurricular activities. I loved how there are various theater shows in Evanston, and I made a lot of friends, all of whom I’m still connected with today.”
While conferring degrees on the six NU-Q students, Dennis acknowledged his campus’ status as a beacon of intellectual discovery and achievement amidst recent diplomatic tension in the Gulf region.
“NU-Q is a school that stands resolute and strong at the intersection of education and geopolitics, especially today,” Dennis said.
For Dennis, the day was all about his graduating seniors.
“It’s incredibly gratifying, because this is a rare opportunity to have a first-rate, American-style education delivered in the Middle East,” he said. “I know all the students and their backgrounds and how they got to where they are, and it’s a real achievement and incredibly hard work.
“It’s a lot of risk-taking, particularly for women, who historically didn’t get higher education in the Middle East. These folks are all pioneers in their families and in their countries,” Dennis said.
Legaspi and her fellow graduates will now move on to the professional world armed with hands-on experience at major media organizations. Asrar and Vibhav Gautam both work at Al Jazeera English in Doha, Gautam as an assistant producer and Asrar as a member of the online team.
Legaspi, meanwhile, is as a producer at The Film House, a production company in Doha.
“It has been wonderful so far, since I get to work and network with people in the industry locally and internationally,” she said. “It’s definitely a place for development, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to begin my working career.”
Gautam, the class valedictorian, spent a total of eight months in Evanston.
“Many people know what Northwestern’s brand means, so for me to be in Evanston and experience that, it gave me an idea of what people refer to when they think of Northwestern and the Evanston campus,” he said. “It gave me a sense of what Northwestern pride is.”
Other NU-Q students who participated in the Evanston commencement were Urooj Kamran Azmi, Bohao Liu, Amanda Melhem, Muhammad Faizan Shakir and Shuhan Zhang. All of the students earned communication degrees, except for Asrar, who earned a journalism degree.