The Business Year

Everette E. Dennis

QATAR - Health & Education

Foreign Exchange

Dean & CEO, Northwestern University - Qatar (NU—Q)


Everette E. Dennis earned his PhD in Mass Communication, Constitutional Law, and History from the University of Minnesota. He earned an AM from Syracuse University in Communication and a BS in Journalism/Political Science from the University of Oregon. Prior to becoming Dean of Northwestern University in Qatar in June 2011, Dennis was Founding President of the American Academy in Berlin, Founding Executive Director of the Media Studies Center at Columbia University, Dean and Professor of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, and Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication, among a number of positions held.

How does one teach journalism, filmmaking or other communication arts in a region known for censorship? One teaches journalism in the same way one would anywhere; there are certain universal […]

How does one teach journalism, filmmaking or other communication arts in a region known for censorship?

One teaches journalism in the same way one would anywhere; there are certain universal values about gathering news and information, and certain data that must be checked and verified. From time to time, there are issues; for example, when an official does not want to be quoted, or something similar. You try to work through that in an amicable way. Sometimes there are issues of censorship or of not being able to publish certain things. If one is teaching journalism in this region one has to respect the culture and the society, while at the same time trying to pursue the truth. Usually, however, it is a process of negotiation and more about your style of operating than the substance of the topic. It is difficult to get information from public and business leaders anywhere in the world, but here it is even more difficult, as there are legal penalties for doing certain things.

How do you think that the growth and prevalence of Al Jazeera has changed the way we look at news, especially here in Qatar?

Al Jazeera has been an enormous success story, and I think this is primarily due to the quality of its reporting. Its DNA comes from factual reporting, detailed coverage, and the commitment of substantial resources to cover the news. At times, Al Jazeera has been critical of governments and covered the Arab Spring, in general, with distinction. It is expanding today to the US, the UK, France, and Turkey, and has become the largest newsgathering service in the region.

How would you evaluate the challenges you face and measure your successes over the past five years of NU—Q’s existence here?

Our challenge is to help the country produce a talent pool of qualified people who can work in media and communications enterprises, and we are making good progress on that. We have graduated two classes of students who are taking up important jobs, both in Qatar and abroad, and that is very gratifying. We are able to expand our training now and offer more specialized courses in Middle Eastern Studies, and we are launching new programs that cover media and politics, business, and education. Our students have been able to cover stories of global significance, as well as local stories, and they have done it with relative freedom. We have been able to produce films, documentaries, and other visual material too.

What kind of exchange programs do you have with the home campus?

Starting in the Fall of 2014, we will have students from the home campus coming here to study for a full term. Our communications students currently go to the Evanston campus in their junior year and usually spend one semester there. We have had a constant flow of students moving campuses in both directions for weeklong programs. We also have the NU-Q Ambassador Program in which students go to the main campus and talk about problems in Qatar and the region.

Would you say that having the campus in ­Qatar helps students in the main campus understand the Middle East better?

Yes, there is tremendous misunderstanding of the Middle East in the West in general, and the US in particular. Having the campus really helps to create discussion and to share knowledge and ideas. When there is a controversy here, it often gets covered on the home campus in the student newspaper. I would call it an ongoing conversation between the two sides. At the same time, we have people from the US and other parts of the world giving Qataris a better sense of what the West thinks and why. It is a very powerful bridge. On the new campus, we will have a beautiful new building that will be inaugurated in 2014. It is designed by internationally distinguished architect, Antoine Predock.



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