VCUarts Qatar recently held a virtual social gathering online to honor the graduates of the Class of 2020. This year 67 students are intending to graduate from the art and design university, which is located in Education City.
The virtual gathering, which was organized by Student Development Senior Specialist Sarah Faheem, brought together the graduating students from VCUarts Qatar’s Art History, Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, MFA in Design, and Painting and Printmaking programs.
It was also attended by VCUarts Qatar’s Dean, Amir Berbić; Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Cherif Amor, Dr. Valerie Jeremijenko, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, the chairs of the University’s many programs and departments, and the faculty and staff, some of whom wore their traditional graduating regalia of gown and cap to honor the Class of 2020 who have not yet had the chance to wear theirs formally.
VCUarts Qatar, which was the first University at Qatar Foundation, was founded in 1998, and has a long tradition of producing graduates who are creative problem solvers.
“Artists and designers feed off adversity,” Berbić said, and this has been known throughout the history of art and design. I reiterate the point that I count on all of you to come out of the current difficult situation, first of all healthy and strong, but also perhaps with a new perspective on the world and how you can contribute to it in meaningful ways, despite the circumstances.”
Berbić also reminded the Class of 2020 to thank all those who supported them along the way, including their family, friends, colleagues, and the faculty and staff of VCUarts Qatar.
“It is important to recognize those who contributed to your success. Of course we are here to celebrate you, but you had help, you had parents, you had siblings, you had other family members who were supportive of you, and have being cheering you on for all of these years, and it is important to say thanks to all of them.
“It is also an opportunity to recognize your professors and all of the faculty and staff who have stood by you and have guided you throughout this journey. I know how much heart is involved in the work that our faculty and staff do, so take the time to reach out and offer them your gratitude. I can tell you this as a teacher that nothing will make them happier to hear they had a positive impact on a student. Congratulations. You made it. I am super proud of you.”
The Class of 2020 includes 18 Graphic Design graduates, 18 Interior Design graduates, nine Painting and Printmaking graduates, nine Art History graduates, eight Fashion Design graduates, and five MFA in Design graduates.
Salutatorian and Painting and Printmaking major, and Art History minor graduate Yara Elfouly said, “This community is very special, and I am so grateful to have been lucky enough to be a part of it. Being with you like this, I continue to realize what I have been missing for the last month and what I will continue to miss for a long time. So, thank you for making it very difficult to part. I will always carry VCUarts Qatar with me wherever I go.”
The acknowledgement of momentous times and of being on a journey was felt strongly by everyone, and those sentiments were emphasized by Valedictorian and Art History graduate Daniah Farooq, who said, “I know that none of us ever imagined that we would bid farewell to VCUarts Qatar like this, virtually. I would like to congratulate all of my fellow graduates for making it to the end without failing or giving up despite the unprecedented circumstances. I believe that it is a testament that we all have matured enough to deal with the difficulties of life with a better sense and with the attitude of a warrior.”
She added, “Thank you so much to the professors because of you we were able to discover our potentials we were able to evolve into strong individuals because you believed enough and encouraged us when we didn’t believe we could pull it off. Thank you so much for always being there for us. We all came from different backgrounds, and with different identities, but now we all have one common identity, that is: Rams of VCU.”
Dr. Valerie Jeremijenko, the long-serving Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, who is retiring this year after joining VCUarts Qatar in 2002, and who put in place many of the programs for students that didn’t exist when she arrived to VCUarts Qatar, said, “It’s amazing to be together in spite of the fact that we are not together, and to have this pre-celebration of an amazing celebration that will happen in the future.” Dr. Jeremijenko’s considerable legacy as a preeminent member of VCUarts Qatar can be seen across Education City, such as with the collaborations with other Education City universities, and the exchanges with students from the University’s home campus in Richmond, Virginia.
Teslim Sanni, the Student Government President, and 2020 Art History graduate spoke for many of the Class of 2020’s sense of being ready for anything when he said, “When I look back at the past four years, we started that journey and we thought that everything would go a specific way. We started in the “olden times” as I like to say, in a world back before the great pandemic of 2020, because that is how we will remember these times. But one thing is certain: we have definitely made it through a time of great sacrifice and great need. No one will be more ready to the task of restarting the normalcy than us.”
Resilience and the powerful sense of belonging to a close knit family were the oft repeated phrases during the gathering as graduates, faculty and staff spoke eloquently and sometimes emotionally about how proud they were of the experiences they shared together.
Liam Colquhoun, the Interim Chair of Interior Design said, “The fact that you are graduating into such challenging times, whilst it is not ideal, points to your resilience and your ability to face adversity and overcome it, and these are really important characteristics. It speaks well to your ability to adapt and to face a challenge and find ways to overcome it. Thank you for participating in our program, and for giving as much to us as we gave to you.”
Graphic Design Associate Professor, Levi Hammett echoed Colquhoun when he said, “These strange circumstances that surround your graduation this year point to your resilience and your strength, and I hope that you can really own this. It is a troubling time, but it is a sign of good things to come. I hope you can own it and understand that you are part of something, a really special group across the world.”
Hammett, like Berbić, urged the Class of 2020 to “stay in touch with everybody, whether faculty or staff, because we really are going to miss you. And stay in touch with your fellow classmates. I can’t stress how important it is to maintain these relationships.”
He added, “One of the things that you are getting from VCUarts Qatar are the amazing relationships that you have made, and these relationships will help you in the future in more ways than just being there to support you as friends - they will help you with opportunities that I couldn’t start to put a label on.”
Rab McClure, the Director of the MFA in Design, VCUarts Qatar’s postgraduate program said, “The things that categorize and characterize this class have to start with laughter. Every time this group got together there was so much joy and so much support for one another. You inspired us.
“There is a quote by the painter Chuck Close that goes, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work” and I think that explains the reason why all these students were all so well prepared when the crisis hit. They had put in the hard work. They were prepared to be resourceful and to succeed.
“We have graduated bigger classes, but never better. Congratulations.”