Jul. 12, 2021


Ahmad S. Dallal

Qatar

Ahmad S. Dallal

Dean, Georgetown University in Qatar

By quickly adjusting to the new educational reality, Georgetown University in Qatar was able to connect with and support its students even while in a virtual environment.

BIO

Ahmad S. Dallal is Dean of Georgetown University in Qatar. Until summer 2017, he was a professor of history at the American University of Beirut, where he served as provost from 2009-2015. He previously served as chair of the Arabic and Islamic studies department at Georgetown University and held positions at Smith College, Yale, and Stanford. Dallal has written and lectured widely on a variety of topics, including the Islamic disciplines of learning in medieval and early modern Islamic societies, the development of traditional and exact Islamic sciences, Islamic medieval thought, the early-modern evolution of Islamic revivalism and intellectual movements, Islamic law, and the causes and consequences of September 11, 2001 attacks.

He received his PhD from Columbia University in Islamic studies and his BE in mechanical engineering from the American University of Beirut.


What were the highlights for Georgetown University in Qatar in 2019 and early 2020?

We had an extremely rewarding year up until the COVID-19 outbreak. The year was marked by close collaboration with the Qatar Foundation and the Qatari government, particularly through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. The aim of these partnerships is to contribute to the development of a highly skilled and flexible workforce that can sustain the national vision of Qatar. The first thing we did in 2019 was expand our academic offering, and now our students can benefit from five new minors: economics, government, history, philosophy, and theology. We also introduced 21 new innovative courses, including one multiversity seminar jointly delivered with another Education City university, Northwestern University, and one course on state security which featured, among others, the deputy prime minister and minister of state as a guest speaker. In addition, we have enhanced the engagement and exposure of our students through internship partnerships with more than 50 local partners. The majority of our students have at least one opportunity to work in the public sector and gain real-life experiences.

What is your assessment on the potential of Education City to support the creation of the knowledge-based economy envisioned under Qatar National Vision?

Qatar Foundation's idea of creating an educational hub is visionary by any measure. When the Qatar Foundation was conceived 25 years ago, it was established by a small group of people who had great ambition. Today, any reasonable observer would agree it has achieved something truly remarkable. The vision has been to transform the nature of the Qatari economy and build a diversified and education-based economy that goes far beyond oil and gas. Quite clearly, Qatar has made tremendous achievements in this regard, particularly thanks to the establishment and development of Education City and the development of the education sector across the country. The idea of Education City was not just to invite one university to establish itself as a satellite campus, but multiple universities selected for specific areas of expertise. Once that was established, there has been a natural expansion in the offering from each of the institutions. Qatar Foundation and Education City have played a significant role in the social and economic transformations of the country. It is an important intellectual center not just for Qatar but the entire region; however, Education City is not the only relevant project to transform Qatar's education landscape, just the jewel of the crown

How is Georgetown University in Qatar coping with the rapid digital transition that the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing us to implement?

One of the most important things about our reaction is that it was driven by measures taken by the country. The government, through the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and Qatar Foundation, has continuously guided and supported us during this transition. In addition, we have an emergency instructional continuity plan in our university, which many universities have. We have had instructional continuity exercises last semester and early this semester in which we simulate disruptions, so our faculty members were trained to respond to situations like this one. We have multiple resources for instructional continuity. Still, no one ever imagined that we would have to do it for this long and 100% remotely. We have multiple resources for online instruction though again nothing on this scale. We are fortunate the government acted in this deliberate consistent way, and we have gladly followed its lead. In early March, we immediately moved our students to online instruction, and students were no longer able to come to the university; our staff moved to working from home shortly after and still works remotely. We have adjusted rapidly to this new reality and have held hundreds of lectures and seminars online, and have developed a number of ways to connect and support our students in the virtual environment.

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