VCUQatar crosses the ocean to visit Richmond

Kris Mason
Staff Writer

For many students on the VCUQatar campus, their Monroe Park counterpart is a foreign university 7,000 miles away that just happens to share their university’s name. This perspective changed last week for 15 VCUQatar students from when the Richmond campus hosted a weeklong exchange of art students from their sister campus.

The international students were selected from a very competitive pool of applicants and were flown into Washington, D.C. on Sunday, Sept. 28. They then participated in a tour of the nation’s capital before venturing south to visit VCU the next day.

The Monroe Park campus hosted QatarDay on Tuesday, Sept. 20 which featured an art and design project display, full-grown camel and activities such as henna for students to participate in throughout the day, followed by an eventing reception at the VCU Qatar house.

Allyson Vanstone, the Dean of VCUQatar, said the trip is an eye-opening experience for the students.

“When they get the chance to visit the home campus they see the wealth of what they’re really involved in terms of the university with thousands of students and all the different facilities and faculty, ” Vanstone said.

Students Dana Barghouti and Maryam Almalki were two of the students who made the trip from Qatar to VCU. Both students had been to the United States before, but neither had been to Richmond.

Almalki, a Qatari native, said she almost didn’t have the opportunity to make this trip as she was originally skeptical about attending VCUQatar.

“At first I was not convinced to go there because there wasn’t much of a reputation in Qatar about it,” she said.

After she applied following a teacher’s suggestion, she didn’t expect to be accepted because of the extremely competative admissions process.

Barghouti had a very different application experience from Almalki.  The sophomore in the Interior School of Design program heard of VCUQatar through friends that worked there.

“I was really interested in this school so I took a community class just to try it out and loved it,” Barghouti said.

Both students were excited to see the Richmond campus and use the opportunity to meet some of the American art students.

Students from VCU’s two campuses have begun to collaborate more. Two interior design professors, one from each campus, had their students work together on a project last year by communicating through Facebook.

Art students from both campuses will also contribute to the biennial VCUQatar Art and Design Festival. The conference, entitled “Tasmeem,” will take place March 8-12, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. The theme of the festival is playfulness.

Levi Hammett, a co-chair of the festival, said that students on both campuses are currently working on projects in their respective disciplines. Of those projects, the best work will be displayed at their home campuses, and digitally displayed at the other.

Joe Seipel, the Dean of the School of the Arts in both Richmond and Qatar, feels that this integration of cultures is particularly important now due to the current state of international relations.

“If you look at what’s going on in the world, it’s important that we can understand that people are people no matter where you go,” Seipel said. “We are really kind of an example of what the world would love to be.”

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