Posted by on July 05, 2012 in Blog

By Nicole Abi-Esber

2012 Summer Intern

In the past few years, several American universities have opened up branches in the Gulf. These branches are mutually beneficial; they are lucrative endeavors for the universities themselves, and are used by the Gulf States to expand their citizens’ education options and “import” American higher education. Among the universities to have opened divisions in the Gulf are Cornell University, which has opened a Qatar campus of Weill Medical College; Carnegie Mellon, which offers Computer Science and Business Degrees (also in Doha); and the Rochester Institute of Technology has recently opened a branch in Dubai. These are not headquarters or study-abroad type programs that offer a few classes for foreign and American students studying in the host country. Rather, they are full degree-offering institutions, with American professors and staff. Some of these branches offer only one or two degree options, but others, such as NYU, have opened comprehensive liberal-arts colleges. At NYU-Abu Dhabi, established in 2010, students can receive an NYU-accredited degree in majors from Chemistry to Theater to Psychology.

These projects have been met with enthusiasm and praise from the host countries that generously fund the various degree programs; Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) was recently awarded $2.21 million dollars by the Qatar National Research Fund. There, American and Arab professors and researchers work alongside each other conducting original research into such diverse topics such as the political and social consequences if GCC states ratify international human rights treaties and Islamic bioethics in scientific research.

The establishment of these Gulf-based divisions of American universities has had a positive impact on the Arab American community as well. Some Arab American students choose to study abroad in the Gulf to reconnect with their culture or to establish business connections in the booming region—especially in Dubai and Doha. American students not of Arab or Muslim descent who choose to study in these institutions for a period of time are exposed to Middle Eastern culture, and often come back with positive impressions of the region, and often intentions to return. Arab students at these institutions are exposed to American culture, standards of education, and professors and professionals, and often choose to travel to the U.S. to pursue a career upon graduating. And it has only been a few years since most branches opened—the cross-cultural impact will likely be greater in years to come as they become more established.

Recently, Journalism and Communication students from Northwestern University’s Qatar branch sought to develop their relationship with the Arab American community and travelled to D.C. where they met with community leaders. The students sought to understand Arab Americans’ political attitudes and the extent of the community’s political participation, specifically in light of the upcoming presidential race. They asked questions about feelings of dual identity, discrimination, and issues of importance to them in the upcoming election. They found that “50 per cent of Arab Americans identified themselves as Democrats, 25 per cent as Republicans, and 23 per cent as Independents.” The students developed a website showcasing their findings:

All signs indicate that the emerging relationship between Arab branches of American Universities and the Arab American community will continue to grow in a dynamic and positive way.

comments powered by Disqus