On 12 July 2018, VCU Alum visited QAI for Qatari and Mediterranean cuisine, networking, and a special presentation from two recent graduates who participated in the leadership exchange program at the VCU campus in Qatar. The night began with a warm welcome from Josh Hiscock, the Associate Vice President of Alumni Relations at VCU, who discussed the impactful role of the exchange program that sends sixteen students every year to Qatar. The Doha campus opened its doors 20 years ago and was the first American university in Education City; VCU now has 63 faculty and 677 alumni.
Danielle Johnson, a recent undergraduate who is starting at the VCU Brandcenter graduate program, participated in the exchange program in the fall of 2017. This fully funded program allowed her to experience the Qatari culture firsthand, attend a senior fashion class, and even ride a camel. “We grow while we are there and go back and teach others,” said Danielle as she reflected on the daily discussion sessions throughout the week. VCU hosts an annual “Qatar Day” which celebrates the arts and culture of Qatar, which Danielle mentioned allowed her to recreate her experiences living in Qatar.
Hanan Kourtu, a recent undergrad in social work, participated with Danielle in the exchange program. She discussed the importance of attending courses prior to going abroad to learn about cultural norms, the region, and what they would be experiencing. She believes that the greatest part of the program is that the sixteen students selected represented the diversity of the VCU campus with undergrad and graduate students in mixed academic programs. Her takeaway was that both the Richmond and Doha campus are welcoming to all and prioritize diversity. While the students were abroad they helped with “Richmond Day,” – a day that brings the life and culture of VCU’s main campus to its Doha campus – in which the main campus students taught the Qatari students school chants and ate traditional American cuisines such as hamburgers and fries.
Hiscock, concluded the evening by stating that Qatar Day and Richmond Day, two festivals that celebrate cultural understanding in each campus, occur in the fall semester. In addition, the exchange program sponsors Qatari students to come to the Richmond VCU campus in the spring semester to show off their fashion designs.
Connecting the Richmond and Doha campus is a main priority for VCU and they aspire to continue this exchange program for future years. QAI was happy to provide an evening of networking and cultural exchange for all VCU alum!