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VCUQatar Celebrates a Decade of Designers with its 2011 Commencement Ceremony

May 13, 2011
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Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar held its 2011 Commencement Ceremony on 2 May at the Ritz Carlton Doha, conferring 49 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in fashion, graphic and interior design.

The 10th Commencement, which also celebrates the first class of male graduates, brings the number of VCUQatar alumni to 320.

“Today signifies an important moment in your personal and professional life,” said VCUQatar Dean Allyson Vanstone in her message to the graduating students. “You are now prepared to lead and contribute your voice to design initiatives throughout the world. You are about to join an exceptionally talented and influential group, 271 graduates of VCUQatar, that are already contributing to the professional and cultural growth of this nation and region. With the significant support of a great leader and role model, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, I know we can look to you for innovation, creativity, leadership, and service,” she added.

The ceremony marks the culmination of four years of hard work and perseverance on the part of the graduates. They have spent their time at VCUQatar fulfilling an intensive and rigorous curriculum, one designed to foster not just first-rate designers but well-rounded individuals prepared for the challenges and responsibilities of a highly complex professional world. Students, their families, friends, faculty and staff came together to celebrate VCUQatar graduates’ accomplishments and rejoice in their venture into the professional field as they take their expertise and creative capacities to every area of design.

Sonia Ashour, founder and principal of A|G interior design consultants, delivered the commencement address to the 49 graduates during the afternoon ceremonies. Ms Ashour began with her journey in 1992 upon leaving left Saudi Arabia to join VCU’s Master program in interior design at Richmond, Virginia. She returned to find it had been 25 years since the first female architect graduated and yet the Ministry of Commerce was unwilling to license female architects and designers. “I fought for the next three years. I did not just fight for the license. I did not just fight for myself. I fought for all Saudi Women. I would not have endured this period if it wasn’t for my parents. Every time I would falter, they would pick me up. When I could no longer endure the humiliation and wanted to leave, they reminded me that I was the future of this region and may not achieve more than ‘one step in the right direction’, however this one step would set a path for the next generation to follow.”

“Today, my one step in the right direction is over. It is your turn! You are the next generation of this region! You have the skills and intelligence to take the reins! Doors have been opened for you! You don’t need to go back and fight our battles. You live in an amazing era of technology and awareness. You are blessed to live in a country of political stability, financial security and visionary leadership. All that is required from you is ambition! This is your culture and your future! The Gulf Region is in focus and the whole world is watching.”

VCU President, Dr. Michael Rao addressed the graduating students during the ceremony. “As members of VCUQatar’s 10th graduating class, we are very proud of you and your achievements,” said Dr. Rao. “For more than a decade, we have been honored to contribute to education in the region through our collaboration with the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. We are very grateful to Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, whose vision and effort brought design education to Qatar through this important partnership. It is a partnership that has enriched the lives of many, and I have no doubt it will continue to flourish well into the future,” he added.

“I stand here today, a completely different person than I was four years ago,” said Fashion Design graduate and Valedictorian Selina Farooqui. “I have grown in so many ways; I have matured as a person and a professional. VCUQatar has taught me that my dreams are reachable through ambition, hard work and perseverance. I have been blessed to have already started my career as a fashion designer in Qatar even before graduating and I am so excited to see what the future brings. As we take our first steps towards this new chapter of our lives, my fellow classmates and I have always had the talent, and thanks to our experiences in VCUQatar, we now have the skills, knowledge and confidence to make our mark in the region and around the world.”

Fashion Design Class Marshal Esra Sharab said having undergone four years of real design thinking at VCUQatar, her senior year has been that breath into the future of what she hopes will lead to the many windows of infinite opportunities. “To all my cherished professors and classmates, I wish your dreams guide you to the very corners of your bright smiles, to the grand gateways of your professional lives, and to the highest peak of the endless prospects that are lying ahead. My dear class of 2011, thank you for the best four years of my life, I wish you well.”

Interior Design Design Class Marshal Rabah El Sawi said, “To look back now, it is not the good or bad grades received, nor the praises or criticisms made that stand out to me most of all. The words 3 AM have been re-associated not only with lack of sleep, but with the sound of laughter ringing out of our studios, paired with quiet moments of looking around knowing there are 24 other people beside you who know exactly how you feel. There is little we have not shared with each other over the past four years. Our time in university has defined us as students, and we have defined each other as designers, colleagues, and most remarkably – as life-long friends. Congratulations to the Class of 2011.”

The other luminaries present for the ceremony included Dr. Saif Al Hajari, vice chairperson of Qatar Foundation; Joint Advisory Board members – H.E. Dr. Hamad bin Nasser Al Thani, co-chair and general manager of the Qatar Development Bank, Dr. Ahmed Al Hasnah, associate vice president for Education, Qatar Foundation, Dr. Beverly Warren, co-chair and provost of Virginia Commonwealth University, David Ross, Samuel Hoi, Jeffrey Nesin and Mohamed Zakariya, Zakariya Calligraphy; Board of Visitors – Rector of VCU Board of Visitors, the Honorable Anne Rhodes, Dr. Kamlesh N. Dave, William M. Ginther, Dr. Carol S. Shapiro, Stuart Siegel and guests from VCU Richmond – Monica Rao, VCU International Alumni Relations liaison, Dean of the VCU School of the Arts, Joseph Seipel, Dean of the Honors College, Timothy Hulsey and Executive Director, Division of University Relations, Pam DiSalvo Lepley, among others.

This year VCUQatar graduates its first class of six male students as well. The 49 new VCUQatar graduates will join the band of 271 alumni who have gone on to successfully establish their own businesses or take up jobs in various positions in Education City, the semi-government and private sectors and ministries in Qatar.

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