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NU’s 1st Qatar class graduates

Jassim Al-Romaihi Communicatimajor from DohQatar | PhoCourtesy: Nigel Downes NU-Q

Jassim Al-Romaihi, Communication major from Doha, Qatar | Photo Courtesy: Nigel Downes, NU-Q

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Updated: July 16, 2012 6:34AM

Born in Canada, 22-year-old Shannon Farhoud grew up in Kuwait and attended college in another Middle Eastern country, Qatar.

On Friday, she’ll receive the bachelor’s degree she earned there at the 154th commencement ceremonies of an American university ­— Northwestern.

That’s because Farhoud is among the inaugural graduating class of Northwestern University’s Qatar campus, which opened in 2008. “There were only 36 of us, so in comparison, going through senior week here has been crazy,” said Farhoud, who is among 28 members of the Qatar class who converged on Evanston this week.

“The timing of the school’s opening turned out to be perfect, as no one expected all of the revolution and changes that were to come to the Middle East. And we were right there,” she said.

A legacy of NU President Emeritus Henry Bienen who retired a year later, the school is a joint project with the Qatar Foundation. It offers undergraduate degrees in journalism or communications. NU-Q’s first class drew a diverse group of students from 17 nations on six continents, including Canada, India, Pakistan, Syria, Tanzania, and of course Qatar.

Those students helped tell the breaking story of the Arab Spring uprisings sweeping the volatile Middle East region.

“The media really played an important role in the average Arab person’s life these past two years, but the media industry in the region was not adequately equipped for that uprising,” said NU-Q graduate Florent D’Souza, 22.

D’Souza’s family is from India, but he grew up in Qatar. He already has been hired to work on a political TV program breaking ground by bringing together youths and policy makers.

“Never before in history could you imagine Arab youth asking questions of Arab leaders, holding them accountable,” he said.

He and many of the Qatar students will immediately head back to the Middle East after Friday’s ceremonies.

Paul Farmer — an anthropologist, physician and Harvard professor known worldwide for his pioneering global health work, particularly as U.N. deputy special envoy for Haiti — will speak at commencement.

But while here, the students are sharing with their graduating peers unique perspectives on the region they call home through work they have produced.

Farhoud and three other NU-Q students have launched their own production company, and screened a documentary they produced, “Lyrics Revolt,” about Arab hip-hop artists whose lyrics helped fuel youth participation in the Arab Spring.

“Being Arab youth ourselves, I think we have a sector we can tap into to really tell the underground stories about the culture,” she said. “While everyone else was covering the revolution, we looked at the music and how it played a role.”

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