A University of Colorado Denver delegation’s trip to Qatar to strengthen bonds and open doors to new opportunities proved very successful. It left university leaders, including CU President Bruce D. Benson and First Lady Marcy Benson, with a strong feeling that the best of the relationships are yet to come.
The CU delegation met with Qatari leaders and alumni, and even enjoyed a safari and dinner under the stars.
“They were honored to have us, and the fact that President Benson and Marcy came along was a real sign of friendship and commitment from this university,” said CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell. “My goal for the trip was to deepen our relationships and explore new opportunities, and I came away feeling we were enormously successful.”
For Chancellor Horrell, the word that best encapsulated the visit was “abundance.” “We experienced an abundance of hospitality and an abundance of regard for our relationship – that in so many ways we are much more alike than we are different,” she said.
The CU delegation – which included John Sunnygard, CU Denver Executive Director of International Affairs, and Andrea Wagner, Vice Chancellor of Advancement – was honored to have an audience with His Excellency Prime Minister Abdulla Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose son Sheikh Nasser Al Thani graduated in Business Management from CU Denver last May. President Benson met with HE Al Thani at his Ministry of Interior office in Doha.
The hospitality shown through the Prime Minister’s office was top-notch, Sunnygard said. “In addition to His Excellency the Prime Minister, we met with the President of Qatar University Dr. Hassan Al-Derham; the Minister of Education Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Wahed Al-Hammadi; the Minister of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs Dr. Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi; and Mahmoud Sabri, the Director of Academic Affairs, Embassy of the State of Qatar,” Sunnygard said. “Culturally, we were provided with a tour of Doha and Education City, shopped in the Souq Waqif, experienced haute cuisine at the Museum of Islamic Art, and were driven over sand dunes followed by an open-air dinner near the beach. It was truly a remarkable experience.”
The profound impact of this relationship has emerged over the decades. Qatar, which currently has 52 students at CU Denver, is a young country that gained independence in 1971. It is home to some of the world’s most sophisticated infrastructure, including transportation and architecture. Meanwhile, Qatar is preparing to take center stage of global sports as the nation will host the 2022 World Cup.
Because HE Al Thani is keen to provide his personnel top-flight security training for that major event, he plans to send members of the Ministry of Interior staff to CU Denver this summer to attend a National Center for Media Forensics program in the College of Arts & Media (CAM).
The delegation was also honored to meet with Dr. Hajar Al Binali, an alumnus of the CU School of Medicine as well as CU Boulder (zoology), and his wife, Dr. Rachel Hajar. Dr. Al Binali, who is a former Qatari Minister of Health and holds the distinction of being Qatar’s first Western-trained physician, was so taken by his CU experience that he displays in his office a framed photo of Boulder, where he was named an “Honorary Citizen” in 1969.
The CU delegation also enjoyed a gathering with CU Denver alumni living in Qatar. The CU team learned the role that Qatari graduates will play in “Vision 2030,” which seeks to keep Qatar a world leader beyond oil. The Vision 2030 effort was also discussed when the Qatari ambassador to the U.S. visited CU Denver in 2013 as part of a CU Denver Qatari Student Association event.
In looking to CU Denver’s future, Chancellor Horrell said she’d like to increase opportunities for our students to study abroad in the Middle East and elsewhere as well as strengthen an exchange which has been piloted with Dar Al-Hekma University. She said the new scholarship campaign being developed at CU Denver offers an opportunity to open that door. “The opportunity to learn in another place is one of the greatest gifts we can give our students,” the chancellor said.
Doors and hearts open
Horrell said CU Denver will put even more emphasis on reaching out to its international students from the Qatar and elsewhere, recognizing the importance of having them as part of our community. “This is part of our effort to say our doors and hearts are open to them and these kinds of partnerships,” she said.
It’s clear that the State of Qatar values human capital, and that its future is tied to knowledge and further progress. CU hopes to continue be a key education partner and robust collaborator as Qatar grows toward its ambitious vision.
“The incredible reception and hospitality we received in Qatar demonstrated the high regard in which the University of Colorado is held,” President Benson said. “We were pleased to have the opportunity to strengthen ties between CU and our many alumni and friends in the region. International students add to the richness of the experience for all our students, and as we learned on the trip our alumni in different countries are wonderful ambassadors for the university.”