The third week of August saw VCUarts Qatar welcome new and returning students, staff, and faculty to the new academic year, the first semester of which will be conducted in-person at VCUarts Qatar’s campus in QF’s Education City.
The first week kicked off with an orientation programs for new students, and a separate one held by the University’s department of Human Resources for faculty and staff. The three-day program for the newly-joined undergraduate and graduate students was led by VCUarts Qatar’s Student Government Association and the University’s Department of Students Affairs. The new students were greeted by VCUarts Qatar’s faculty, staff and students including Dean Amir Berbić.
“It’s always a privilege to welcome a new class, to see a collection of untapped creative potential raring to explore and experience what this university has to offer,” Dean Berbić told the new students. “Believe me when I say that today your energy is palpable to the rest of VCUarts Qatar’s close-knit family.
And, he added, “The previous year taught us that restrictions cannot curb creativity. On the contrary, VCUarts Qatar seemed to thrive on it. I do not doubt for a second that each one of you is capable of doing the same. You’ve all worked your way across multiple challenges to earn a place in the region’s topmost art and design school. And now it’s your turn to flourish. Hence, over the next few years, I see you taking full advantage of what we have to offer: our programs, our world-class resources, and our experienced faculty and staff who are here to assist you at every step of your journey at VCUarts Qatar.”
The new students were then introduced to the Directors, Heads, and Chairs of the various academic and non-academic departments, who gave the students an overview of VCUarts Qatar’s programs.
Dr. Cherif Amor, VCUarts Qatar’s Dean of Academic Affairs, highlighted the importance of balancing academic studies with the extra-curricular programs that VCUarts Qatar offers.
“In a few years from now, you’ll have the distinction of graduating from the best art and design university in the region,” Dr. Amor said. “However, it’s important to remember that education is not only about exams and grades. Participation in extra-curricular activities during your formative years here at VCUarts Qatar is crucial for picking up new skills for future careers. So, be curious about the unfamiliar, participate in discussions on topics that are new to you, and be open to novel ideas and opportunities that will come your way during the next four years. All this will go a long way in helping you succeed in the workplace, and in life.”
The student orientation program – which, under normal circumstances, would have been a week-long activity-driven introduction to VCUarts Qatar – was adapted in line with the latest guidelines recommended by the MoPH. In addition to being introduced to the University’s facilities, resources, activities, and associations, the new students were also briefed on the health and safety precautions that the University has rigorously implemented across its campus, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keeping in mind the safety and well-being of its community, the Class of 2025 was divided into small groups to tour the University, and to participate in activities organized specifically for the purpose. Stringent social-distancing measures, pre-allotted schedules, one-way movement to enter and exit the building, and low-touch adaptations, ensured a safe – and memorable – introduction to VCUarts Qatar for the new students.
Haneen Shafeeque, one of the Class of 2025 students, said it was her second introduction to VCUarts Qatar, the first being when she joined the inaugural edition of the Summer Art and Design Program for High School Students held by the University’s Community Education Program, in 2020.
“It was exciting to be able to meet other new students and university staff, especially after the restrictions imposed by the pandemic,” the former Doha British School student said. “Despite the social distancing measures in place, I found the atmosphere at VCUarts Qatar to be incredibly warm and welcoming.
“When I did the High School program last year I realized it’s a privilege to be able to study in a first-rate art and design university such as this. And now that I’m a freshman here, I’m pretty sure that the next few years will be both challenging and fulfilling for me.”
For some new students such as Gabrielle Tesfaye, it was an introduction both to VCUarts Qatar, and Qatar. Tesfaye had flown in all the way from Milwaukee in the US, two days prior to the orientation program, to pursue the two-year MFA in Design course at VCUarts Qatar.
“I heard of this university through another MFA graduate who was a friend of mine,” said Tesfaye. “I’d completed my BFA in Painting and Drawing, and Filming and Animation, from UW-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts, at the University of Milwaukee and I was on the look out for a program that would help me combine my love for the fine arts, with technology. VCUarts Qatar’s MFA program seemed to be the perfect fit. Touring this university today makes me feel my choice was spot on. The facilities and resources are world-class, and the best I’ve seen so far. The added bonus is that I get to experience a different culture as well!”
Photographs by Raviv Cohen.