Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar held its 2014 Commencement Ceremony on 5 May at the Education City Student Center, conferring 57 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in fashion, graphic, interior design and painting and printmaking and five Master of Fine Arts degrees in Design. The 13th Commencement brings the number of VCUQatar alumni to 473.

Emirati Animation Director and Chairman of Lammtara Art Production Mohammed Saeed Harib delivered the commencement address to the 62 graduates during the afternoon ceremonies. He talked about his journey as a male Emirati making his way in the world of design – how he was the only male Emirati student in arts 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. He told the students Freej was based on his idea to create a superhero, as the region’s always looking for them, so he created a superhero for Freej – his grandmother Umm Al Saeed. He told the students Qatar needed super heroes 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 neighborhood 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.

The ceremony marks the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance on the part of the BFA and MFA graduates. They have spent their time at VCUQatar fulfilling an intensive and rigorous curriculum, one designed to foster not just first-rate artists and designers but well-rounded individuals prepared for the challenges and responsibilities of a highly complex professional world. Students, their families, friends, faculty and staff came together to celebrate VCUQatar graduates’ accomplishments and rejoice in their venture into the professional field as they take their expertise and creative capacities to every area of art and design.

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.

Sanchez said:

We’ve been stretched and transformed in every possible way. It would have been a much more difficult path had it not been for the guidance of the faculty and staff who prepared us.’

He went on to thank all the families of the graduating class, the faculty, staff and the graduating students for being a nurturing and dynamic group of people.

The 62 new VCUQatar graduates will join the band of 411 alumni who are pursuing successful careers within the government, nonprofit 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.