Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar is not confined to the physical limits of the classroom. The university aims to instill a spirit of critical thinking in all its students – a skill that has universal application. The four Carnegie Mellon teams who competed in the 5th Qatar Universities National Debate Championship embraced this spirit with their resounding performances both in this past weekend’s championships and throughout the debating year.
In a closely contested final, a Carnegie Mellon Qatar team of Business Administration students - Dana Al-Ansari and Patrick Steinhagen - overcame teams from the College of the North Atlantic, Georgetown University and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar to win the debates.
John G. Robertson, assistant dean for academic affairs at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, and Abdellatif Sellami, educational programs manager for QatarDebate, were on hand to congratulate the winning debaters, who challenged motions that ranged from transnational adoption policies to state-led cultural identification initiatives.
The 5th Qatar Universities National Debate Championship – referred to commonly as ‘Nationals’ – is the culmination of the universities’ debating year, during which Steinhagen and Al-Ansari finished as Best and Second Speaker respectively. And, in a sign of Carnegie Mellon’s future debating potential, Freshman Mohammed Benkermi was presented with the award for Best Novice Speaker during the Qatar Universities Debate League.
Ilker Baybars, dean of Carnegie Mellon Qatar, lauded the debaters following the championships saying, “Our students’ performance this weekend is a true testament to Carnegie Mellon’s mission to develop students who are able to logically reason and quickly dissect complex issues –not only in the confines of our university, but in their professional and extracurricular lives as well.”
Steinhagen, awarded Best Speaker at the Nationals, said, “I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved as a debating society. Our continued commitment and passion have paid off and I have no doubt that we will continue to succeed and perform at the highest level.”
Having previously represented Qatar as a member at the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) 2009 in Athens and at the WSDC 2010 in Doha, Al-Ansari, a sophomore studying business administration, is a “dynamic and committed young lady who has an undying passion and love for debate,” according to the QatarDebate Center.
Al-Ansari this time around was awarded Second Speaker at the Nationals. Commenting on the importance of debating, Al-Ansari said, “Debating helps open new arenas for people to be able to voice their opinions and allows them interact with each other. In order to be a successful debater, it is important to be on top of current issues, to read a lot about what is going on in the world around us, in politics and economics. Because of this, my abilities have developed. I am now able to debate many different topics, even with only 15 minutes preparation.”
Debating helps to not only grow the individual, but a society as well. A culture of intellectual intrigue is integral to social development.
By encouraging people to engage with and question the world around them, debating helps Qatar reach its Vision of becoming a knowledge-based economy and “benefits Qatar and the students of Qatar on so many levels,” Al-Ansari added.
Narcis Jafarian, a sophomore studying business administration, rounded out Carnegie Mellon’s accolades over the weekend finishing as the 10th best overall speaker.
Ian Lacey, debate coach and associate teaching professor of information systems, commended his team’s skills: “Competitive debating teaches students to analyze an issue, to develop arguments and to speak confidently - skills that are beneficial in university as well as the work place. In our debating format, the motion is only announced 15 or 20 minutes before the debate, so case analysis must be done not only thoroughly, but also quickly. Above all, debating teaches the important principle of challenging the ideas being presented and not the person who presents them. These concepts - respect of the individual, while engaging in robust discussion of the merits of their ideas will be a valuable skill for Qatar as she transforms into knowledge-based economy.”
For both the students and debaters at Carnegie Mellon, critically analyzing issues and challenging established ideas will continue long after this past weekend as the university continues to push its students to innovate and exceed expectations.
Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar was represented by four teams: Team 1 - Dana Al-Ansari and Patrick Steinhagen; Team 2 - Narcis Jafarian and Zuhair Ghalib, a sophomore studying information systems; Team 3 - Tarek Al-Hariri, freshman, and Aveed Sheikh, sophomore, – both studying business administration; and Team 4 - Ameena Hassan and Mohammed Benkermi - both freshmen studying business administration.
Twenty teams debated from six Qatar universities including Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, College of North Atlantic Qatar, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Qatar University, Texas A&M University at Qatar and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.