qatarperegrine: (hippie)
International Day at Carnegie Mellon Qatar is always one of my favorite events of the year. Students, faculty and staff come to school in their national dress and bring in national foods and other representations of their culture. (As you can see from the photo shamelessly stolen from Alex, I again represented NorCal.) In the evening there's a fashion show and performances of cultural songs, dances and poetry. I'm glad that this was one of the last events I will experience on the Doha campus, because it makes me so proud to be part of such an amazingly vibrant community.

I put together a short video of clips of some of the cultural performances last night: a nasheed, or Islamic religious song; dances from Tamil Nadu and Persia; a W.H. Auden poem; Bengali and Keralite songs; Pakistani, Ghanaian, Palestinian, Dominican and Latin American dances, and a Coldplay song. :-)

The video quality improves after the first clip, so don't despair.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
For readers more interested in CMU-Q's goings-on than baby names, the new issue of the campus magazine is out: The Akhbar. I guess I am obliquely mentioned, since I led one of the controversial Pizza & Politics listed on page 7.

For readers more interested in baby names than CMU-Q, a new clue will be posted in a few minutes.
qatarperegrine: (CMU)
A video about the awesomeness of CMU-Q's BotBall program, which was started by my good friend Leland, and is now run by my good friend and colleague Mohamed.

And, even if you're not interested in robots or Mohamed, American viewers may enjoy watching it just to get an idea of what high school students in Qatar are like (or what the CMU building here looks like!).

qatarperegrine: (Default)
I just procured from my friend Yan a nice picture from International Day last semester. It's fun to learn about our students' widely varying national dress -- this is not how they dress for class!

qatarperegrine: (Default)
The cool videos that were shown during the CMU building opening can now be seen online here.

I'm particularly fond of this one featuring our students.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Every few days the university receptionist sends out a "lost and found" email, alerting the campus community as to what items can be claimed by their owners at reception. Normally these include keys, cell phones and high-end sunglasses.

Today's notice, however, requests that the owner of two misplaced SWORDS come pick them up.
qatarperegrine: (CMU)
Sunday was the official inauguration of the Carnegie Mellon building in Education City. When I moved to Qatar in 2004, I never dreamed I'd be here long enough to see groundbreaking on our own building, let alone the celebration of its completion -- but here it is 2009 already, and there I was at the celebration!

I loved all the videos, and watching the emir and sheikha joke around with the students while waiting for a photo op. Most of all, perhaps, I loved the chocolate-covered ice cream balls. Mmm.

Media coverage:

Update, 15.3: official news release here, with all the videos here.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
CMU-Pittsburgh students or recent students: Do you know how much undergraduate TAs are paid? Do you know if it varies by department or if it's standard across the university?

I'm getting pushback from higher-ups about our payscale so it'd be handy info to have.
qatarperegrine: (hippie)
The students have been dressing inexplicably all week (as twins, in pyjamas, etc.); eventually I worked out that it's some sort of spirit week, and each day has a dress theme. Today was slated to be "traditional dress day," so I wore a tie-dye T-shirt, jeans, Birkenstocks, and a bandana in my hair.

Since the clothing themes weren't communicated to faculty or staff, I figured I'd get comments on my attire at the liberal arts faculty meeting this afternoon. I didn't. Apparently my personal fashion sense is such that I can show up to faculty meetings in tie-dye and a bandana without eliciting comment. Scary.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I don't know if it makes me happy or sad that, when I hear a student excitedly shouting "Quick! Where's Marjorie!", I know that there's a rodent loose in the ARC. Burtuqal III has been successfully released in the bushes outside. I wish I knew if mice are even capable of living in the bushes outside; it'd be pretty tragic if he came across the bleached, sandblasted bones of Burtuqals I and II out there.

Unrelatedly. There are many people to pity in the current economic crisis, but I keep finding myself pitying the news agencies. Every single day, they have to find new photos to represent "economic crisis!" on their front page. Sometimes it's a picture of sad people on a trading floor, sometimes it's a picture of a sign displaying some industrial average or other, sometimes it's a dismal line graph. But it's always really boring. It must make them sad to have such an unphotogenic event dominate the news.

Speaking of unphotogenic events dominating the news, news sources are currently offering mixed reports about whether the U.S. military has confirmed having attacked a village in Syria yesterday. If they did... well, I just don't know what to say anymore.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I was just commenting to my parents how much my work-life balance has changed in the last few years. For my first few years in Qatar, my job was boring and undemanding, and my life revolved around my friends; for a long stretch of time, in fact, the only reason I didn't quit my job was that it would mean seeing less of my friends.

Now all those friends have left. I miss them, and haven't really replaced them adequately. However, now that my job is interesting and stimulating, it's fine that I no longer have a tight-knit circle of friends for my life to revolve around. (The downside: my new workaholic life does not lead to interesting blog entries.)

I did have a fun social occasion last night: a group of TAs, young professors and staff went out for iftar (the fast-breaking meal at sundown during Ramdan) at a Lebanese restaurant. I had a blast. Even if I don't get as much social time as I'd like, I love that working here gives me the opportunity to interact with such a fun, smart, diverse crowd of people. (IIRC the 14 of us represented 9 nationalities.)

I think this is one of the interesting realities of living overseas. I imagined that moving to Qatar would mean meeting lots of Qataris and learning about their culture. That turns out not to be very easy: Qataris already have their own social networks and life routines that don't include me. This may be partially because Qatari society is rather insular, but I think that people living abroad in other countries often find the same thing. On the other hand, if you're lucky, you end up meeting lots of other expats in the same situation as you and learning about their cultures instead, so it all works out in the end.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
From: [listname]
To: [me]
Date: 8:25 AM
Subject: Your message to [listname] awaits moderator approval

Your mail to '[listname]' with the subject

Better monthly time card

Is being held until the list moderator can review it for approval.

From: [listname]
To: [me]
Date: 8:25 AM
Subject: [listname] post from [me] requires approval

As list administrator, your authorization is requested for the
following mailing list posting:

List: [listname]
From: [me]
Subject: Better monthly time card

What do you think; should I approve it?
qatarperegrine: (Default)
As the director of a university tutoring center I get assigned lots of interesting tasks: hiring and training dozens of course assistants and peer tutors each semester, working with faculty to develop new methods of supporting courses, researching predictors of student success, presenting at conferences in exciting locations.... But today was the first day my job also involved playing rat-catcher.

Ever since we moved into the new building there's been a tiny beige mouse-like thing running (and more often hopping) around the ARC. Today one of my coworkers cornered it, but it escaped from the container she trapped it in. Luckily, I have many years' experience corralling pet rats, so I led an effort to coax it into a trash can.

It was an awfully cute little thing, like a little kangaroo rat, with enormous back legs and front legs so small they're barely visible. My coworker says it's a jerboa (although it doesn't have a tufted tail?). I desperately wanted to keep it, but I know taming wild rodents isn't very smart, so I released it outside.

This is not a very large trash can; the jerboa is tiny!A coworker put this on my door after the escapade.

For additional rodent yumminess, click here for a video of me squeeing over the mouse while my coworker tries to feed it an oatmeal cookie. (It did eventually calm down enough to eat some.)
qatarperegrine: (CMU)
After four years of anticipation, CMU-Q moved into its own building today.

Verdict: it's pretty!

Architect's renderingPhoto, different part of the same atrium

It's really all in the details, though, as you can see from this glorious elevator call button (look closely):

Though really, it's an improvement. Last time I saw that elevator shaft, on a construction site walkthrough a month ago, it looked like this:

More pix here.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
One of the main topics of this conference I'm attending is whether the spread of English as a global language is good (yay intercultural communication!) or bad (boo Anglo-American hegemony!).

As I suspect is typical wherever Anglo-American academics gather to criticize Anglo-American hegemony, there has been a fair bit of capitalism-bashing going on. The opening plenary speaker extensively quoted Marx in his talk on whether English is a panacea or a pandemic. The final speaker of the day wondered whether English can ever be culturally neutral, or whether it is too tied to the failing capitalist international regime.

I'm not normally one to sing the praises of rampant unchecked capitalism, but giving a speech on the failure of capitalism in the middle of Hong Kong struck me as a little humorous.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Yesterday, the PBS show NOW aired a segment on Education City. The video, as well as a slideshow and student interviews, can be viewed on their website here.

As a bonus, near the end of the video you can see some footage of our first class of students graduating. I haven't blogged about that at all, but I should soon. :-)

(Also, to alleviate various heart attacks I seem to have caused, let it be noted that the poll I posted earlier this week was inspired by a conversation in an English textbook, not by a real-life example.)
qatarperegrine: (Default)

1) I ran our end-of-year stats yesterday, and discovered that during the 2007-2008 academic year, the ARC held 1337 tutoring sessions. We are officially leet.

2) Yesterday, a student asked me the most amazing question about citing sources. When citing the online version of a print source, you cite it as you'd cite the print source, but then add the URL at the end. Thus,

If I read it on paper:

Krug, M. (2008, April 30). CMU-Q students studying migrant workers' woes. Qatar Tribune, p. 15.

If I read it online:

Krug, M. (2008, April 30). CMU-Q students studying migrant workers' woes. Qatar Tribune, p. 15. Retrieved May 2, 2008 from

The student's question is this: if you are citing a movie that you (illegally) downloaded, do you cite the torrent file?

I cannot find this issue addressed in any citation guidelines.

qatarperegrine: (CMU)
CMU-Q students studying migrant workers' woes
Matthias Krug, Qatar Tribune, 30 April 2008

DOHA - A group of three Carnegie Mellon-Qatar (CMU-Q) students from Education City and three faculty members are carrying out surveys to ascertain the challenges facing the migrant labourers. These surveys are being conducted as part of the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF)-backed 'Migrant worker survey' research project. The groundbreaking project, which altogether involves six students from CMU-Q, is one of 47 innovative research projects which have been allocated a total of $25million fund by the QNRF, a member of Qatar Foundation.

"There are a lot of stories in the newspapers about issues related with migrant labourers but there are no real quantitative data to support them. This project is aimed at doing exactly that," CMU-Q faculty member Marjorie Carlson told Qatar Tribune before embarking on the Friday trip to Electricity Street in the Souq area. "Out of the total 250-300 surveys envisaged by the team, 50 have been conducted. The questionnaire of the extensive survey has 126 posers and 15-30 minutes are needed to complete it," he added.

At the Electricity Street, a large number of curious onlookers gathered around those who were answering the questions of students and faculty members. "We do not usually have visitors from outside our community," one of the workers said citing reason for the crowd. Another said, "If they are trying to know about us and the way we live it is good. We are happy to talk to them."

Sometimes language barrier does come up while conducting the survey, as the questionnaire is only in English. It is likely that it will be translated into Arabic, Hindi and Nepali during the next stages of the project. "Sometimes it is difficult to communicate with the workers because many don't know how to speak English," one of the students involved in the project said. "But we have methods of finding out workers who can communicate with us. It is difficult to conduct the survey in the Souq area on working days, but on Fridays we are able to talk to the migrant labourers who come here to spend their weekend," he added.

"When the workers are unable to communicate in English, we take the help of their friends who know English," said Dr. Silvia Pessoa. "Our experience has been really good. Once we approached a group of workers who first refused to talk to us. But when we explained the purpose of the survey they became so eager that they almost mobbed us. One man kept bringing more and more people to talk to us even though he himself was unable to answer our questions," he added.

The questionnaire has been split into eight sections containing posers on issues ranging from personal and family information to employment in Qatar and housing facilities. The students ask questions on the workers' academic qualification and the number of years they had taken to complete it. They also seek information regarding the contract and salary from the workers, besides their emotional state.

"It took a long time for the survey to get off. The final version is our tenth draft and we consulted several people to make sure that it was right," Pessoa said. "Since we did not want the questions to be suggestive we had to put in a lot of effort. Now we just have to go out with the students and complete the 300 questionnaires. Hopefully when we complete the work we will be in a position to inform the community about the challenges being faced by the workers in Qatar. We are also looking forward to publishing our research work in an international journal," he added.


I count five errors, several of them hilarious. Oh, and yes I am in the picture; I'm just to the right of Erik (the tall guy with a ponytail), wearing a blue polo shirt with a white stripe on the collar.
qatarperegrine: (CMU)
Sunday's New York Times kicked off a series on the internationalization of American universities, with a picture of our students on (I hear) the front page! U.S. Universities Rush to Set Up Outposts Abroad. Yesterday's installment in the series was specifically about Education City and featured quotes from many of our students and staff: In Oil-Rich Mideast, Shades of the Ivy League.

Each of these articles also featured an online Q&A, the first with our dean and the second with one of our students. Chuck has already responded to readers' questions here and Dana is still accepting them here. (EDIT: She's now answered them very nicely here.)

Reading through the questions posed to Chuck made me surprisingly angry. When I first heard about the branch campus I voiced some concerns about the enterprise, and the same concerns were raised by various people I knew. I think the top four of these concerns were:
  • Does providing a Western education overseas constitute cultural imperialism?
  • Are we being used to put a happy, liberal face on an oppressive regime?
  • Will the campus discriminate against GLBT employees?
  • Is it really possible to reproduce the Carnegie Mellon experience in Qatar?

The people asking questions on the NYT webpage ask some of these same questions. But another concern I'd never heard before was raised repeatedly: why are we educating foreigners when there are Americans who need educations? "EDUCATE OUR OWN CHILDREN FIRST." says one commenter. "The American taxpayer is subsidizing education and job growth overseas while they are being priced out of an education for themselves and their children," says another, who seriously misunderstands the capital flow involved in a branch campus in the Middle East. A third raised concerns about how America will maintain its competitive advantage in "knowledge-based industries" if "critical masses of graduates with a US degree can be found in any emerging market." Educational protectionism? What a lousy reason to oppose providing American-style education in the Middle East.

There's been some controversy on the Pittsburgh campus about plans for CMU to cooperate with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia's answer to Education City. I haven't yet decided how I feel about that. Obviously my four big questions about the wisdom of establishing CMU-Q were answered to my satisfaction, or I wouldn't be here. But I'm less sure they can be answered positively when it comes to Saudi.


Dec. 3rd, 2007 11:13 am
qatarperegrine: (Default)
My coworker Silvia and I were just awarded a UREP grant for our proposed study, "Low-skilled Migrant Labor in Qatar: The Workers' Perspectives." Next semester we'll be working with six CMU-Q students to design and administer a survey to low-skilled laborers about their experiences in Qatar, and then conduct in-depth interviews with selected participants.



qatarperegrine: (Default)

August 2011

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