NU-Q students concerned about drop in funding for summer program
December 1, 2016
Students at Northwestern University in Qatar will no longer be provided financial support or scholarships for Engage Chicago, an immersive summer field-study program organized by Northwestern’s main campus, according to an email sent out by D. Charles Whitney, associate dean for academic affairs at NU-Q.
NU-Q has been funding selective students to participate in Engage Chicago every summer since 2014. A total 21 students have taken part so far. In an information session on Engage Chicago and the Global Engagement Studies Institute, another summer field-study program, Dean Whitney said the NU-Q administration came to the decision that Engage Chicago is least in line with the kind of programs Qatar Foundation and NU-Q want to fund. The program is still open for NU-Q students, but students must self-fund themselves or find external funding opportunities.
The Center for Civic Engagement at Northwestern’s main campus, which runs the Engage Chicago program, told The Daily Q that it was disappointed to learn about the NU-Q administration’s decision. “The global and international perspective brought by NU-Q students adds a crucial element to class discussions [and] our organizational partners in Chicago have loved having interns from NU-Q because of the particular experiences and skills those students bring,” said Heidi Gross, assistant director at the Center. She added that NU-Q’s involvement in Engage strengthens the connection between the Doha and the Evanston campus.
According to Gross, the Center was not consulted about the decision to cut the funding. “We are very committed to this collaboration and would have been happy to work with NU-Q to try and find some creative ways to make the program more affordable for students if cost was an obstacle,” she said.
Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, who made the final decision on removing the funding for the program, said the decision was made after a review of the various program options provided by NU-Q. It was determined that the GESI Program, which provides students the opportunity to participate in immersive service learning in countries like Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, India and Uganda, is more global in nature as opposed to going to the city of Chicago, and hence, a better fit for NU-Q and more in line with NU-Q’s academic mission. He added “because GESI is more cost effective, it will allow us to offer more travel and study opportunities for students.” Last year, NU-Q sent four students to participate in GESI and plans to increase its support for GESI in future.
NU-Q students are concerned about the cancellation of funding for Engage.
According to Habibah Abass, a journalism junior at NU-Q who participated in GESI last year, many students don’t have the means to fund such programs, and the administration’s decision will limit opportunities for students. “Because these are trips that students are going to be on, they should have asked us and I’m frustrated because they didn’t ask us what we would be interested in before making these decisions,” Abass added.
“It’s a program that affects you [personally] and you come out of it with something, unlike many other trips,” said Maram Riyadh, a junior at NU-Q who participated in Engage last year. Riyadh said that learning about social issues in the United States by directly interacting with the city changed her. “I have more patience now and appreciate things more [in my life],” she said.
Students are also worried that the lack of funding for the program will limit their educational opportunities. Student who participate in Engage earn academic credit that can be used towards a certificate in civic engagement, offered by School of Education and Social Policy at the main campus.
“The most important thing I got out of Engage was the opportunity to pursue a certificate in civic engagement and delve deeper into the academic side of community development,” said Urooj Kamran Azmi, a senior at NU-Q pursuing the certificate. “Since you can only take SESP courses at main campus, not doing Engage makes it more difficult for you to finish courses required for the certificate.”
To deal with some of these concerns related to funding, NU-Q student affairs is composing a list of alternative funding opportunities that students interested in Engage Chicago can use. “We want to make sure that there aren’t any roadblocks that students can’t get through on their own,” said Greg Bergida, director of student affairs at NU-Q. Although students who were hoping to participate in Engage Chicago are upset about the decision, those who were interested in GESI appreciate the steps taken toward the inclusion of this trip and have given positive reactions, Bergida added.