From the Steel City to Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University Pursues a Global Course

By Connell, Christopher | International Educator, November/December 2010 | Go to article overview

From the Steel City to Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University Pursues a Global Course


Connell, Christopher, International Educator


WHEN JARED COHON RECEIVED THE CARNEGIE Corporation of New York's Academic Leadership Award in 2005, there was no shortage of worthy academic pursuits on which the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) president could spend the accompanying $500,000 prize. He chose to direct a large sum to a Global Awareness Across the Curriculum initiative, in which faculty from the institution's six undergraduate colleges vied for grants to create new courses exploring international topics and themes. It achieved the desired results. An engineering professor won a national award for a project management course in which students in Pittsburgh collaborate with counterparts in Brazil, Israel, and Turkey. Information technology students teamed up with classmates in Qatar and students in Singapore to design Web sites for NGOs. In classes held synchronously and linked by video in Pittsburgh and Qatar, an architecture professor explored the challenges posed by the construction boom in cities in the Middle East.

An international bent comes naturally to Carnegie Mellon, a private university founded in 1900 by the Scots-born steelmaker and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to teach "practical arts and sciences!' CMU is a bastion for computer science and for engineering and technology, but is also home to a celebrated fine arts program. It boasts not only of Nobel Laureates (16), but also of winners of Academy Awards (56) and numerous Tonys and Emmys. Both mathematician John Nash of A Beautiful Mind and artist Andy Warhol are alumni. Its labs have done pioneering work in artificial intelligence, robotics, and biometrics. Those breakthroughs occurred on the home campus in Pittsburgh, three miles from where the Allegheny and Monongahela meet to form the Ohio River. But today CMU has a wider footprint, with graduate programs in more than a dozen countries and a full-fledged undergraduate branch in Qatar.

One of Six U.S. Universities in Qatar

Carnegie Mellon Qatar is one of the six U.S. universities- the others are Weill Cornell Medical Center, Texas A&M, Northwestern, Virginia Commonwealth, and the Georgetown School of Foreign Service- offering degrees in the oil-rich emirate's Education City in Doha. Carnegie Mellon Qatar occupies a striking new building with golden interior walls on which are etched the words of Andrew Carnegie that serve as the university's motto: "My heart is in the work." A bagpiper in full Scots regalia played at the February 2009 ceremony where Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, wife of the Emir and chair of the Qatar Foundation, and Cohon shared ribbon-cutting duties. The student body, half Qatari and half international students, is small (300) but growing, with roughly 35 graduates each year. It offers bachelor of science degrees in business administration, computer science, and information systems.

Carnegie Mellon, with unstinting support from the Qatar Foundation, has striven to replicate in Doha the educational offerings and the cocurricular experience afforded in Pittsburgh. Some faculty are hired from the region, but others such as Kelly Hutzell and Rami el Samahy from the School of Architecture alternate semesters' teaching in Pittsburgh and Doha. Hutzell calls it "a joy" to be teaching her "Mapping Urbanism" course in a city undergoing dizzying changes. Carnegie Mellon deans and department heads visit Doha regularly and there is a brisk, two-way traine of students on breaks, over summer and for full semester stays. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Gates have spoken at events hosted by Carnegie Mellon Qatar.

"If you spent enough time here in Pittsburgh to get the essence of Carnegie Mellon and then went to observe our program in Doha, you would say, 'Gee, this really is Carnegie Mellon," said Cohon, a civil engineer who has piloted Carnegie Mellon since 1997.

Surging International Enrollment

The number of international students has doubled over the past decade, from 1,747 in fall 1999 to 3,518 in fall 2009. …

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From the Steel City to Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University Pursues a Global Course
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