NU-Q Students Express Frustration Over Selection Process of a Summer Trip

Photo retrieved from

By Reem Saad

Photo retrieved from
Photo retrieved from


For the first time, students at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) will be taking part in Engage Chicago, an eight-week summer field study offered by NU’s Evanston campus every summer since 2010.

The program, originally put together by the Evanston campus, will invite only six students from NU-Q to participate in internships, classes, field experiences and weekly seminars for the eight weeks. Students will be living in downtown Chicago in a residence hall at the University of Illinois.

While the program at main campus offers an online application open to all students, many NU-Q students were left unaware of this because they didn’t know and weren’t told about the application for the Engage Chicago experience.

Students said the program wasn’t advertised or talked about in open meetings. Instead, students were approached individually by faculty or staff and were asked to speak to Dr. Jeremy Cohen, associate dean for academic affairs at NU-Q, if they were interested.

According to Cohen, the selection process was not based on any specific criteria. A small group of students were identified as people who might benefit from participation in the program and then were told that if they were interested, they could apply. When asked who made the recommendations, student affairs refused to comment.

“The pilot project with Engage Chicago was not intended as an open call for students. This is a pilot for us. We want to know on this first occasion whether or not this is a program that we should put effort into,” said Cohen.

“Their applications were received and judged not by NU-Q, but by Engage Chicago,” he added.

However, students still feel that the selection process should have at least been based on merit or student involvement, such as participation in student clubs and other university initiatives. For example, students who maintain a 4.0 GPA and are actively involved in student organizations felt that the selection process was unfair because they didn’t even know about the program until after selections were made.

“It’s not fair that everyone wasn’t given an opportunity and it is not fair that we didn’t know about it either. They should have equaled the playing field and made the experience based on merit and not on some arbitrary decision,” said Chantelle D’mello, a journalism freshman at NU-Q.

Some students, however, were not upset by the decisions or the process.  

“People are hand picked for things all the time. The faculty can choose whether or not it’s an open or closed application process,” said Yazan Abughaida, a communication sophomore at NU-Q.

“They’re organizing the trip and they think someone would serve well. That’s up to them,” he added.

According to Cohen, the reason behind selecting a very small number of students is because NU-Q wants to make sure the program is a success before it becomes open to all students in the next few years.

“If, after talking with NU-Q students and the Engage Chicago at the end of the summer 2014 program, we find that this is an academic enrichment program worth pursuing, then we will add it to an already extensive list of widely shared program descriptions,” he said.

“There are, literally, thousands of opportunities available to individuals.  A student searching Northwestern University’s web pages…would come across a remarkable number of potential things that would be of interest. I don’t want students to be disappointed,” he added.


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