Everette E. Dennis, Dean & CEO, Northwestern University , Qatar

24 Feb 02:24 AM

Sector : Education Country : Qatar

Groundbreaking Media Research 


Northwestern University has consistently been in the top 10 rankings for journalism schools in the United States. Established in 1851 in Evanston, Illinois, near Chicago, Northwestern's alumni includes three Presidential nominees, two Nobel Prize laureates, nine Pulitzer Prize laureates and six Academy Award laureates. In 2008, Northwestern opened a campus at Education City, part of Qatar Foundation. B'Here met with Everette Dennis, Dean at NW-Qatar, to discuss research, programs and what's next for the institution after six years in Doha.
Everette E. Dennis is Dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar. He was previously a distinguished professor of media industries at Fordham's Graduate School of Business in New Yorkand founding director of the Media Studies Center at Columbia, founding president of the American Academy in Berlin and a senior vice president of the Gannett and Freedom Forum foundations.


Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) is carrying out a lot of research into media use in the Middle East, and also hosts the Qatar Media Industries Forum (QMIF). What impact is such researching having, and how is it contributing – in practical terms - to understanding the changing media landscape?

This basic research is really groundbreaking because it tells how media consumers are using the media, what they think about the media and more. This is valuable to our students and faculty in understanding more precisely what Arab media are doing and how we might contribute to the landscape by way of trained personnel with creative ideas, based not just on their professional training, but on truly understanding the local culture. The research and the QMIF have also attracted very positive regional and international attention. 

NU-Q recently launched a Media and Politics program and a certificate in Middle East studies, as well as courses in Media Law and Ethics and in Media and Society. Were such courses particularly needed in Doha? And how many programs does NU-Q now offer?

The Media & Politics program is a minor in collaboration with Georgetown University and it has great advantages for the students who enroll as they can use this knowledge and experience which gives them real expertise in their professional lives going forward. Our new courses in Media and Society and Media Law and Ethics are designed to help our students better understand the broad landscape of the media ecosystem, not just one part of it. The Law course has special resonance in Qatar where understanding the legal system is essential to being a professional communicator and informed citizen. As for other programs, we have a vibrant Middle East Studies certificate program as well as a certificate with Carnegie Mellon in business. Our journalism degree is oriented toward news and information media as well as public relations while our communication degree is in Media Industries and Technology.

A new NU-Q building is soon to open. What impact will this have on the university in terms of student intake, faculty and courses? 

Our new building, a world-class communications facility will allow us to have adequate space for our programs now operating in borrowed or temporary space. It will allow for incremental growth of the student body and the integration of new technologies for teaching and for media production. It will also have a one-of-a-kind media gallery or museum.  The building has space for executive education and for a graduate program as well, both being contemplated. 

What is NU-Q's role, as a liberal arts institution with a strong focus on journalism and communication, in realizing the goals of the National Vision 2030?

As I mentioned earlier, Vision 2030 is very much the basis for almost everything we do. The liberal arts coursework in our school and elsewhere in Education City is an insurance policy against becoming a trade school where technical skills trump learning and the advancement of knowledge. The liberal arts are essential to the purpose of a university and the connecting tissue to the four pillars of national development—economic, human, social and environmental - that are the basis of Qatar’s grand strategy. In each of these areas we are making substantial contributions.

In April, Dean Everette E. Dennis was interviewed on the renowned US TV show “Open Mind” presented by the late Richard Heffner. The Dean talked of the complexities of setting up a world-class university abroad. Could you elaborate? And what challenges are there still to overcome?

Yes, establishing a college worthy of our world class university in the U.S. requires the capacity to attract faculty of the highest caliber and excellent students who can connect with a curriculum that is dynamic and ever changing, while rooted in the local culture. This does not happen in a day, though we and all the Education City universities are on a fast track. We began as an outpost of our home campus with parts of three schools—journalism, communication and liberal arts. We have combined these parts into one unified whole and have moved from start-up mode to an intermediate stage now poised for full maturity in six very active years.  In all areas –instruction, research and outreach – we are charting change and seeing greater strength with each passing year. We now have a program comparable with the home campus. 

Are there many NU-Q graduates working for media institutions in Qatar, such as Al Jazeera?

Yes, most of our nearly 100 graduates are either working in local media, doing communications work in local institutions or going to some of the world’s leading graduate schools. We have some eight graduates at the Al Jazeera networks.


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