Gerd Nonneman, Dean, Georgetown University School Of Foreign Service Qatar
03 Jan 12:08 AMSector : Education Country : Qatar
Educating the Diplomats and Leaders of the Future
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Qatar (SFS-Qatar) was established in 2005 at Qatar Foundation’s Education City. A branch campus of Georgetown University in Washington D.C, SFS-Qatar offers a four-year Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree with the ability to major in one of three fields: International Politics, Culture and Politics, and International Economics. B’Here met with the new dean of SFS-Qatar, Gerd Nonneman, to discuss new programs, career diplomacy and extra-curricula activities.
After eight years in Qatar, where does Georgetown SFS-Qatar stand today?
The campus has changed dramatically since the first class of 23 students back in 2005 in our temporary location. We have matured rapidly in size, achievement and recognition, and we are now building on opportunities to support of Qatar’s National Vision 2030 (QNV) and contribute to society in the wider region and beyond. We now occupy an absolutely stunning, stateof- the-art building that is the envy even of our colleagues! Our student numbers will soon hit 300. We have had four graduating classes, with our alumni going on to a wide variety of jobs or to top graduate schools. Looking at the talent of our faculty, students and graduates, it is clear to me that Georgetown’s most important legacy to Qatar and beyond is our contribution to human capital, whether in our research, topranked curriculum and world-renowned staff, or the many gifted graduates whose work is benefiting society.
How has the transition been, heading such a renowned university in Qatar after coming from Exeter University in England, where you were a professor of International Relations and Middle East politics?
Given my long-standing admiration for Georgetown and the Georgetown scholars I had worked with before, it is a huge honor for me to be here. The chance to build Georgetown’s presence here has been exhilarating during this period of breathtaking global and regional change. At Exeter I also occupied the “Chair in Gulf Studies” so I have long been interested in this region, where I have many very good colleagues and friends. In that sense, too, the transition felt very natural. But everything I have experienced since moving here has exceeded my expectations, both in terms of Qatar’s focused commitment to higher education and research, and in terms of Georgetown’s own application of its values, which are all about helping young people to be the best they can for others, and about engaging with other cultures, faiths and views.
In May 2012, you graduated your fourth class, with 31 students earning Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) degrees, majoring in International Politics, and Culture and Politics. Where do graduates end up working?
Qatar is booming and thus quite a few graduates remain in the country to work in government jobs, private industry, or NGOs. Some choose to stay in the region and others go overseas. Some join established multinationals in industries like oil and gas, accounting firms, or wellknown software companies, but others join new companies focused on humanitarian goals, such as Silatech. And then there are those who have gone on to some of the best graduate schools abroad, from Oxford to Chicago and Columbia, as well as Georgetown in Washington.
How is a career as a diplomat perceived in Qatar?
Qatar’s high diplomatic profile means its diplomatic corps is finding itself very busy and welcoming of talented recruits. Some SFS-Q graduates have been recruited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). We have an agreement with MOFA’s Diplomatic Institute to collaborate on curriculum support and in other ways. It is important to note that while the degree is the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, the liberal arts curriculum is so broad that we are developing experts in a wide range of fields from finance and energy to conflict studies, or aspects of culture and history. Here the students get a very meaningful understanding of an array of subject areas. To put it simply, they learn to think for a wide variety of circumstances and to look at how the subtle details impact on the big picture.
You state that SFS-Q will have 300 students within two years, up from the current 235 and the school will recruit 20 new faculty in the next three years. How many students and faculty do you foresee in say five or 10 years?
We expect our current ceiling of 300 undergraduate students will remain in place, as will our aim of 54 faculty. We are also exploring, alone and with sister universities here, possible new programs at the graduate level, in line with Qatar’s needs. If those come to fruition, with the support of Qatar Foundation, there will of course be additional students and faculty.