VCU graduates second class in Qatar

VCU School of the Arts in Qatar poineers in "Education City"

DOHA, Qatar – The first American university in Qatar’s Education City – the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar – will graduate its second class in commencement exercises June 12 in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. 

This year’s graduation marks the fifth year of a partnership between VCU and the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which is building an Education City in Doha, a new private university with branch campuses of the world’s top universities.  VCU, with a nationally ranked, leading arts and design school, is the first four-year American university to graduate students.

“VCU not only is providing a world-class visual arts education to students in this part of the world, but it also is working to make education a bridge between our two countries,” said VCU President Dr. Eugene P. Trani. 

VCU-Qatar also is working to ensure that graduates can pursue their careers in their home region, according to the Dean of the VCU School of the Arts, Richard Toscan.  “The real interest is that we’re doing two important things – providing professional design education for women in the Arabian Gulf region and helping to develop a design industry in Qatar,” he said.

The partnership between Qatar and VCU will be highlighted at commencement ceremonies with the award of a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree to the chairperson of the board of directors of the Qatar Foundation, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, wife of the emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.  Sheikha Mozah will be cited for her personal guidance of the development of a visionary education system in Qatar.

“To have an honorary doctorate conferred upon me by VCU is a great honor, symbolic of the successful and dynamic partnership between Qatar and VCU in promoting excellence and innovation in education,” Sheikha Mozah said.  “I am accepting it on behalf of all Qataris who have dedicated and will continue to dedicate themselves to the development of their country.”

Sixteen students – all from the Middle East and all females -- will receive their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in graphic design, fashion design and interior design. There are 120 students enrolled at VCU-Qatar and 26 faculty, most of them from the VCU main campus in Richmond, Va.

One of the faculty, fashion design professor Sandra Bell Wilkins, will be honored for her 25 years of service to VCU, the last four of which have been at VCU-Qatar.  She will be awarded the Margaret Anne Petrie Education Award for her leadership in university service and her dedication to community involvement, both of which have played critical roles in the development of the VCU School of the Arts in Qatar.

Commencement speakers will be Gisue and Mojgan Hariri, founders of the world-renowned architectural firm, Hariri & Hariri.  The sisters, natives of Iran, established their practice in New York City in 1986 after graduating from Cornell University and completing their apprenticeships with distinguished architectural offices. 

Class valedictorian Ghalya Jumah Al-Mohannadi of Doha will offer remarks at the commencement.  Al-Mohannadi, 21, is graduating with a 3.92 average from the Department of Interior Design.

This is the second commencement at VCU-Qatar.  The first class of VCU-Qatar graduated in June 2002. 

VCU-Qatar was formed in 1997 under a 10-year agreement with the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. The programs at VCU-Qatar have the same admission standards and nearly identical curricula as those required at VCU’s main campus. VCU exercises full academic control over the hiring of faculty and staff, curriculum and student services.  All construction, maintenance, personnel and operational costs for the campus are provided by the Foundation.

VCU-Qatar operates under approvals and authorization of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Virginia General Assembly and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges (SACS).

About The Qatar Foundation

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a non-profit organization, which aims to initiate and support educational research and community development and to fully develop the potential of the citizens of Qatar.  Under the aegis of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned the facility will provide educational opportunities from kindergarten to post-graduate programs.  Current units include Qatar Academy, The Social Development Center, The Learning Center, The Academic Bridge Program, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Rand–Qatar Policy Institute and Texas A&M.  For more see

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see