Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar held its 2014 Commencement Ceremony on Monday at the Education City Student Centre, conferring degrees on 62 graduates.
While 57 were presented Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees in fashion, graphic, interior design, or painting and printmaking, five graduated with Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in Design. The 13th Commencement brings the number of VCUQatar alumni to 473.
“At VCUQatar we encouraged you to dream and offered you exceptional programmes, dedicated faculty, dynamic peers and outstanding opportunities to help you pursue those dreams,” said VCUQatar dean Allyson Vanstone in her message to the graduating students. VCU president Dr Michael Rao addressed the graduating students during the ceremony. “As members of VCUQatar’s graduating class, you have distinguished yourself in many ways, and we are very proud of you and your achievements. You are more than the next generation of leaders in our cities. You are the new embodiment of that boldest idea that human potential is still the greatest resource in our world.”
Emirati animation director and Lammtara Art Production chairman Mohamed Saeed Harib, in his commencement address talked about his journey in the world of design - how he was the only male Emirati student in arts out of the 100 Emiratis studying in the US.
He elaborated on the numerous obstacles he faced for over three years before he was able to get funding for his famous animated TV series Freej and how that was just the beginning of his journey which now includes folklore, wedding production, music production, photography, films, events, and much more.
Harib told the students Freej was based on his idea to create a superhero, as the region is always looking for them, so he created a superhero for Freej - his grandmother Umm al-Saeed.
Commencement Speaker Mohamed Saeed Harib
He told the students Qatar needed superheroes like them to contribute with their creativity. “When I was a child I watched movies like the Lion King and when I started working on Freej in 2006, I worked with the director of Lion King, so dream big, don’t let people tell you, you can’t. Your country needs you, Qatar’s hosting the World Cup, it needs you contribution, the region needs you, Dubai’s hosting the World Expo and I hope many of you will make great contributions to both.”
Freej, which means neighbourhood in the Emirati dialect, was voted by viewers as the number one show of 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the first season also received the Special Country Award at the Hamburg Animation Awards and Harib won the Emerging UAE Talent Award at the Dubai International Film Festival.
Harib also won the title of Young CEO of the Year in 2008 from CEO Middle East magazine and has been recognised as one of the World’s Most Influential Arabs from 2008 to 2012 by Arabian Business magazine.
Harib studied General Arts and Animation at Northeastern University in Boston, before pursuing his dream to create the Middle East’s pioneering 3D animated series. He recently served as a creative consultant for “Cruel Summer,” a project that featured Kanye West and Hayat Alfahad and was launched in the Cannes Film Festival.
He is currently working on the animated feature The Prophet with Roger Allers, the director of The Lion King, and actress Salma Hayek who is acting as a producer on the project alongside The Doha Film Institute.
Painting and printmaking graduate and Valedictorian Diego Mendoza Sanchez in his address to the graduates narrated their various experiences on their journey as the class of 2014 - especially the all-nighters they pulled that involved the corridor chats about projects, fast-food deliveries, coffee/karak sessions, power naps and waking each other up to finish projects among several other memories.
Dr Beverly Warren, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at VCU, presented the candidates of the Master of Fine Arts degree in Design Studies their diplomas; Dean Vanstone presented the candidates for the BFA degree their diplomas and president Rao conferred upon them their MFA and BFA degrees. Dr Warren also recognised the honours graduates.
The other luminaries present for the ceremony included HE Dr Abdulla bin Ali al-Thani, president of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and vice president for Education at Qatar Foundation; Dr David Prior, executive vice president and provost, HBKU; Joseph Seipel, dean of the School of the Arts, VCU Richmond; Rector William M Ginther from the Board of Visitors; and Dr Jelena Trkulja, director of education, Qatar Museums Authority and Joint Advisory Board Member, among others.
The 62 new VCUQatar graduates will join the band of 411 alumni who are pursuing successful careers within the government, non-profit and private industries in Qatar and around the world.
Many VCUQatar graduates have gone on to establish their own businesses, thereby contributing to the development of the small and medium enterprise culture in Qatar.