Thursday, May 15, 2008

Carnegie Mellon Qatar on PBS

Tomorrow PBS will feature a show on Education City, to be shown at 8:30pm (EDT) local time in Pittsburgh. (Check out PBS Website for local showtimes- Looks like the show will air on Channel 11 in Chicago on Sunday, May 18 at 12 noon CDT.)

The program entitled, "Should American universities be trying to win over young hearts and minds in the Middle East?"should feature a good amount of Carnegie Mellon Qatar and our students. However, I'm wary about what angle the show may take.

The title of the program alone makes me suspicious about their portrayal of our campus. However, a recent story Dean Thorpe told at Carnegie Mellon Qatar's first graduation also leads me to believe the story may not be entirely favorable.

As the graduation ceremony wrapped up, Dean Thorpe offered true story with a bit of random advice attached. He cautioned the students, whom we fully anticipate to be the leaders of tomorrow, that when they encounter media and the press, to be prepared for 'ambush journalism'. He said a camera crew from the States was in a few weeks ago and brought all their lights and cameras into his office and 'just wanted to ask a few questions'. So after the normal niceties and the usual questions, they sprung on him a question something along the lines of 'How would you respond to the accusation that you are taking away good educational resources from your home campus and/or America?'

Uh. Um.

He said he responded something about how this campus offers our students and faculty a chance to be exposed to different cultures, to become more active and engaged in world affairs, and be better global citizens when they rotate back into the Pittsburgh campus.

I understand he had to come up with that on the spot, in front of a rolling camera, and needed to address the issues related to the 'accusation'. However, as one not intending to 'roll' back into the Pittsburgh campus or for those faculty not from the Pittsburgh campus, this is a bit of a stretch. I'd would have to joke and say I'm here as an immigrant worker, seeking opportunities not available to me in the United States.

But getting back to the PBS show, I'm curious how they will present Education City. How they will bring up or address hostile comments towards our community and if they will embrace the idea that education is crucial ending the ignorance, hostility, and unrest that permeates this region. (Check out Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's Three Cups of Tea for another take on the importance of education).

Monday, May 5, 2008

Some Feedback on the Sustainability Mini

Yes- I need to update (especially about India and Jordan!) and I'm thankful that Blogger now incorporates the ability to schedule future posts. That will be especially helpful while traveling.

I'm sorting through the piles of '51-276 Examining Sustainability in the Gulf Region' self-evaluations I requested of the students. I originally did not plan to request these self-evaluations but I was curious how they would rate themselves (and I was also unsure how to grade the students).

In going through the evaluations- I noticed a few interesting observations:

1) One student commented and wondered if anyone would honestly give themselves lower than an 'A' ? Actually, yes- some did. And interestingly enough, they were all non-Arab students.
2) One student (Palestinian) informed me that 'doing such evaluations is very hard for us. Our culture is more of community based rather than individualistic, so we tend to underestimate our work to favor community.' I'm going to email the student and hopefully get more of an explanation about this statement.

(On a related note- I've heard that it's hard to student groups to have true club elections- for students won't run against each other for fear of shaming the other person by beating them. I've also heard it's been hard to have a debate club on campus- for students don't want to shame the other person by pointing out the faults or errors in the other's arguments. Interesting.)

[Breaking News Alert- freak rain shower in progress here at 3 pm in May!]

Regarding the course, I received some positive feedback.
"I enjoyed this course very much. I learned about many solutions and systems that I have never heard about before. ...I would like to thank you for every thing you have done for us. Your feedbacks were very helpful and valuable to me. I hope to see you the next semesters."

"Thanks for the course again :) was fun thinking about the environment and not code design. If the same amount of smartness and work is put by students into environmental sustainability, there surely can be a change."

"I hope this course will continue and more students take it as its very interesting and fun learning at the same time. I found out very fascinating facts from the book we read and from class discussions."

"I really enjoyed the class and enjoyed doing the project"

"Thank you for the course , it was really [sic] benefical. "

"Thanks for a great mini course!!"

"I’d like to add that I really enjoyed the content and idea of this course, and wish it would have been a full semester course as that would have given us plenty more time to work on the final project. Thanks a lot for this course!"

I'll give my own assessment of the course when I have a little more time to think about it- but overall I think I achieved the original goal of having the students begin to recognize the importance and prevalence of systems in our everyday world.