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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 67, Tuesday - Doha

I went to school today, literally. I went up to Education City where Terry works as a professor of Chemistry.

Education City is one of the initiatives of Sheikha Mozah, one of the wives of HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad of Qatar. The idea is that several universities have a sort of shared campus, each housed within its own building and specializing in a particular field. Some of the represented universities include Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, Northwestern, and Georgetown, among others.

I was interested in learning more about this system, whose goal is to brig quality education to the Middle East through a unique method, so I attended a couple of lectures today.

One side of the Carnegie Mellon building
Terry goes to work rather early, so I went with Trish and Dave who also work up at Education City. Trish works at Northwestern and Dave works at Texas A&M. Northwestern is the newest university in the system and so, while they are waiting for their building to be constructed, they are sharing with Carnegie Mellon.

After taking me on a little tour of the building, which is beautiful, Trish dropped me off at Terry’s office so that he could introduce me to Professor Alan Montgomery, whose lecture I would be attending first.

This first lecture was a Marketing class and the topics for the day were International Branding and Business Ethics, two of my favorite subjects! The students were really nice and I got to chat with a few of them before class started.

After the lecture, I went up to chat with Professor Montgomery. We talked a bit about my trip and how Carnegie Mellon operates in Qatar. He was very nice and we had a good conversation until it was time for me to try to find my next class.

From one of the bridges in the CMU building towards outside
The second class was smaller, more like a seminar. The topic of this class is Entrepreneurship; but today, Professor Tom Emerson, also of Carnegie Mellon, was talking about how to give a good presentation. He has coached numerous entrepreneurship teams in case competitions and several of his teams have been top finishers. It was definitely one of the best presentations on how to give a presentation I have ever heard, and I have heard a lot of them in my business classes. :) Bad PowerPoint’s (and presentations) are one of my pet-peeves, so I appreciate a professor who can give a good lecture on the topic.

Once I explained who I was (beyond just being a friend of Terry and Mary Anne) and what my educational and professional focuses are, Professor Emerson asked if he could pick my brain after class, I was happy to oblige. He is interested in conducting research on how culture has impacted the economic development of regions, which I think would be a fascinating project, so we had a great chat about the subject.

We both had somewhere to be at noon, but since I didn’t know exactly where I was supposed to go, he showed me the way. I actually had been given a couple of options for what I could do at noon, and I thought it might be interesting to attend a talk which I believe was about Qatari Arabic. However, when I got to the room, either the talk had already started or something else was going on, so I headed back towards the auditorium where Professor Emerson had gone, and where Terry said he would be at noon, to watch a film.
The main hall in CMU (from one of the bridges)
The film, which was done by PBS and presented by Nova, was about engineering teams trying to program vehicles (cars, trucks, even a motorcycle) to have the ability to drive themselves through a tricky desert course using only pre-programed hardware and software to navigate their way.

I thought it was incredible what the teams were able to accomplish and what the technology was/is capable of.

I said hi to Terry and Professor Emerson after the film and then headed over to the library to check out a study book for the GMAT. After getting the book, I went over to the café to grab a cup of tea before heading off to my last appointment of the day.

The last class I attended was a Logic class taught by Professor David Gray through Northwestern. He was quite funny and I think being in his class would be really fun.

Looking down on the common area
Trish also decided to sit-in on this class. She knew I would be there but she was also hoping to meet Professor Gray’s dad, who was also supposed to be there but whom we didn’t see. Trish is a Writing Counselor for Northwestern and often observes the different classes. Since she had a little time after the class before her next appointment with a student, and I had some time before Mary Anne came to pick me up, we walked back to her office and talked about Education City and its educational environment for a bit.

I noticed that within the campus, the atmosphere feels very American. Most of the professors are American, I believe, and many of the students dress exactly the way American students do in the States, though others dress more traditionally. The interaction between the professors and students also seems more Western. This is difficult to explain, but I can say that the back-and-forth discussion between them reminded me very much of a typical class back home.

In the afternoon, Mary Anne and I went to the grocery store, Carrefour, which is everywhere in the Middle East. I took this picture to demonstrate a point in a previous post about the signs telling you which country the different types of produce come from.
Grapes from the USA!
In the evening, Mary Anne and I went back to the Pearl to see some friends of hers. These friends were having a little gift sale of items which they bring over from Jordan and I think also Lebanon. The items are largely made by people with different disabilities who have a hard time getting other steady work, like the title-work place I visited in Madaba, Jordan.
From the apartment

The proceeds from the sales either go back to the companies where the items came from, and therefore back to the workers, or go to social organizations which work to provide safe environments for women and children who might otherwise be struggling.

The Pearl at night
They were playing Christmas music in the apartment and it made me excited for the approaching Christmas season. It has been a little hard for me to keep track of the progression of the year without the customary weather indicators which I am use to having at home. Here, it just feels like summer has sort of been put on repeat.

All in all, it was a pretty busy day.

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