Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) in Education City opened its doors to another year of creative teaching and learning this week, when they welcomed the Class of 2023 for an entertaining and insightful few days of orientation activities.   

The Class of 2023 has 86 students from 14 countries, with 79 joining as undergraduates and seven joining the Masters of Fine Arts in Design programme.

Amir Berbić, the recently appointed Dean of VCUarts Qatar greeted the Class of 2023 and encouraged students to be ‘dedicated to their studies while also being active participants in their communities’. He reiterated the unique context of Education City and urged students to ‘connect with their peers across the multi-university campus and take advantage of the vibrant cultural activities in Qatar’.

The new students were introduced to the orientation team leaders who organised and guided them through a wide range of activities that were created to acquaint them with the university.

Teslim Sanni, the Student Government Association (SGA) President said that every year, the VCUarts Qatar’s SGA chooses an orientation theme and works on it throughout the summer.

VCUarts Qatar Class of 2023

This year, the SGA chose a carnival-themed orientation. A team of 22 volunteers, including all SGA members, worked tirelessly, decorating various parts of the University building. They also prepared fun events such as a scavenger hunt, departmental design activities, and other fun tasks that made the three-day orientation exciting, but also made sure the incoming class of 2023 felt like a part of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) family.

As the SGA President, I am absolutely impressed with the amount of commitment that has been shown and the level of effort that was put into all of these activities by the SGA and volunteers to welcome the incoming class!’

Ameena Al Boinin, the SGA Vice President added that the SGA team and the student volunteers put a lot of effort into making this orientation run as smoothly as possible and to welcome the new students and guide them to lead a fulfilled university life.

This year’s orientation team decided to have a circus/carnival theme, so that the new students could enjoy their first week and understand how VCUarts Qatar functions through the activities that were presented during the orientation days.’

Sarah Faheem, Senior Specialist for Student Development said that in her role, she has come to realise how important it is for students to experience leadership opportunities during their time at the University, to learn the art of building relationships within working teams, defining identities and achieving their collective goals effectively.

This provides an opportunity for them to learn to identify and display effective communication and interpersonal skills. I create an environment for them where they can experience all this and more – and I truly enjoy every second of it.’

VCUarts Qatar also welcomed 11 new faculty and staff to the university. They include the 2019/20 Artists in Residence Ekta Aggarwal and Brynn Higgins-Stirrup. The Artists in Residence will have the opportunity to work at dedicated studios at VCUarts Qatar, while also teaching and mentoring students from within the Painting and Printmaking programme. Their nine-month period of research and practice in Qatar will culminate with an exhibition in April.

In addition, the University welcomed Christopher Fink, the new Chair of the Fashion Design department, Aissa Deebi, the new Director of the Painting and Printmaking department, and Kathryn London-Penny, the new Director of the Communications department.

Welcoming the new faculty and staff, Dean Berbić expressed his enthusiasm to ‘work with faculty, staff, and students in charting an exciting new chapter for the University’.

The new academic year began with an annual faculty and staff assembly at Multaqa, Education City’s Student Center. The Distinguished Achievement in Service award was presented to Assistant Professor of Painting and Printmaking, Fleming Jeffries. The Distinguished Achievement in Research award was presented to Assistant Director of Art History, Dr Radha Dalal. The Distinguished Achievement in Teaching award was presented to Assistant Professor, English, Dr Robert Bianchi.

The Excellence in Commitment award was presented to Marlon Villones, the University’s IT Coordinator. The Excellence in Customer Service award was presented to Shankar Padmanabhan, the Fab Lab, Woodshop and Print Lab Assistant Coordinator. The Excellence in Achievement award was presented to Isabelle St-Louis, the Manager of Exhibitions and Lectures.

Find out more about VCUarts Qatar at