President of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, Dr Michael Rao, recently paid a visit to the university’s Qatar campus. Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) is the international branch campus of VCU School of the Arts, a top-ranked art and design programme in the US. Dr Rao was in Doha as part of a 23-city tour, visiting VCU alumni around the world.

VCUarts Qatar was established in 1998 through a partnership deal with Qatar Foundation. It was the first university in Education City.

During his visit to Qatar, Dr Rao met with QF Vice Chairperson and CEO, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani and with VCUarts Qatar faculty, staff and students. The school hosted a special luncheon for him and his wife, Monica Rao, at the university’s Saffron Hall.

Dr Roa and Dean Baker during their lunch with faculty and staff of VCUarts Qatar
Dr Michael Rao and Dean Baker address the faculty and staff of VCUarts Qatar

Alumni Dinner 

VCU has more 190,000 alumni worldwide, with VCUarts Qatar’s alumni now at 642, representing 50 nationalities. An alumni dinner was held at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha and more than 70 alumni attended, as well as 20 members of the faculty, some of whom were also VCU alumni. VCUarts Qatar alumna Bouthayna Al Muftah opened the gathering sharing how the school brought out her full potential as an artist.

Dr Rao, in his speech to address the alumni gathering, stressed VCU community’s commitment to design thinking and highlighted the creativity and entrepreneurship shown by VCU alumni.

Dr Rao credited his wife, Monica, with the idea of building VCU’s alumni networks. He remembered how, when the first VCU Alumni gathering at VCUarts Qatar took place in 2010, that only several dozen attendees were expected, but more than 200 alumni turned up from throughout the region. That, he explained, was a true measure of the impact that VCU, both in Richmond and in Doha, has had on the region. Dr Rao also recognised the important roles played by the university faculty.

The gathering ended with a speech from Executive Dean Donald Baker, who acknowledged the accomplishments of the local alumni.

For more information about VCUarts Qatar, visit their website at

Tasmeem Doha Art and Design conference, which will be held on 13-15 March at VCUarts Qatar, will, for the first time, be co-chaired by four VCUarts Qatar alumni – Noha Fouad, Wajiha Prevez, Hadeer Omar, and Yasmine Sulieman. 

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