Though the students at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar are more likely to be spotted wearing abayas and hijabs rather than heels and hip-huggers, their studies are the same as their Pittsburgh peers.
With the fourth school year about to begin, 160 full-time students are enrolled in the university's first international undergraduate branch campus on the Arabian Peninsula. Carnegie Mellon Qatar offers undergraduate degrees in computer science and business administration, and has just announced it will be adding an information systems program.
"The programs parallel the degrees offered in Pittsburgh," says Milton Cofield, executive director of Undergraduate Business Administration at the Tepper School of Business. "In fact, several Tepper faculty members are working in Qatar right now, teaching the future business leaders of the Gulf region."
Carnegie Mellon Qatar was established in August 2004 with 39 students, nearly all of whom will be graduating next May with degrees in either business administration or computer science.
"We have been very impressed with the students, their capabilities and their achievements," says Cofield. For the undergrads, who hail from Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries, plus Europe and Asia, the feeling seems mutual. "It's hard work, but it's so much fun," says Sara Abdulla Al-Asmakh (Tepper, 2009).
"Carnegie Mellon Qatar expands Carnegie Mellon's global focus and gives the university an opportunity to gain a foothold in a part of the world that is of tremendous political and economic importance," says Cofield.
Carnegie Mellon Qatar is part of Education City, a unique, 2,500-acre educational complex that is home to branch campuses of some of the world's most prestigious educational institutions including Weill-Cornell Medical College, Texas A & M University, Georgetown University and Virginia Commonwealth University.
"When the government of Qatar invited our university to establish a presence in Education City, we considered it a reflection on the reputation of our business administration and computer science programs."
Though the two campuses are nearly 7,000 miles apart, undergrads from Pittsburgh and Qatar have come together to take courses at the same time. In a recent current events class, students on two continents connected via web simulcast for an open dialog on American and Arab relations. Some students from Qatar have even made the trek to Pittsburgh to spend a semester or two, and several spend their spring break performing community service in Pittsburgh.
"One of our goals for the future is to more fully integrate our campus in Qatar with the educational experience here in Pittsburgh," says Cofield. "Whether it's through video conferencing or a student exchange program, we aim to bridge distance, cultural and time challenges to bring the U.S and Middle East closer together."