GU-Q holds fourth annual MESSA Undergraduate Conference 2015


Reporting from Urooj Kamran Azmi & Shuhan Zhang | Video by Urooj Kamran Azmi

Students from around the world discussed the Middle East at the recent Middle Eastern Studies Student Association (MESSA) undergraduate conference held by Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

“It’s a unique conference where students take the lead in choosing the topics that are going to be debated and discussed. It broadens the issues that we talk about in university,” said Haya Al Romaihi, president of MESSA.

Selected research papers from the conference will be included in the annual MESSA academic journal, published in partnership with Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.

Selected students are invited to Qatar on an annual trip to attend the MESSA conference and present their work.

This year’s conference, called “Narrowing the Gap: The Conversation between the Governing and the Governed,”  took place from 17th to 19th March 2015. The papers presented issues such as Shariah as opium, the history from a woman’s perspective, Middle East and North Africa and the future of Gulf Cooperation Council.

“The way we worded the theme gave the students the ability to form or mould their own definition of what it means to govern and be governed,” said Romaihi.

18 research papers were presented at the conference, 12 from Qatar and six from United States. Universities represented included Harvard, University of Southern California, University of Virginia and Northwestern University in Qatar, among others.

The numbers and variety of submissions received this year, however, were not very large, said Romaihi. This year’s conference allowed research work to be submitted in Arabic or in form of short films, but no short films were received and the Arabic papers received were not up to the mark for presentation at the conference.

“I think what we faced difficulty with is getting the word out there,” said Romaihi.  “I think there needs to be better communication among the universities [in EC] to really push for such events to get to the students.”

“It was interesting to see how little pieces of information I have picked up over my year [at GU-Q] were brought together in one place, and I was able to understand the general atmosphere [surrounding Gulf politics] better,” said Barbara Gallets, a student from Georgetown’s main campus in Washington, DC who is studying abroad in Qatar.

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