August 5, 2020 | UHCL Staff
A groundbreaking partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar and University of Houston-Clear Lake to expand the range of educational services and training of diplomats and consular officials throughout Houston was formalized in a signing ceremony held July 29 in the university’s Bayou Theater. The initiation of the new Diplomacy Institute was attended by dignitaries from the Consulate of Qatar in Houston, the University of Houston System and the City of Houston.
“This was an extraordinary occasion for the university,” said UH-Clear Lake President Ira K. Blake. “Houston is a crossroads in the world, with the NASA Johnson Space Center and 92 consular offices. We know that diplomacy is of absolute importance for nations to be able to share their ideas and perspectives. We are hoping to bring different countries together to help them learn about each other and to come to agreement about ways in which we can tackle the problems in the world to make it a better place.”
Blake added that the meaning of the partnership was even greater because it is the first time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar has ever partnered with any university. “This honors our entire system and is an opportunity for our university to leverage Houston’s reputation as one of the most diverse and international cities in the world, while advancing the mission of the Diplomacy Institute,” she said.
The Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Diplomatic Institute of Doha, His Excellency Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Mohammed Al-Horr, joined the ceremony live via Zoom from Doha. “It’s a very challenging time we are living in, and our diplomats are living this challenge,” he said. “Therefore, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diplomatic Institute, we are in a continuous search for meaningful partnerships, programs, degrees and certifications that will help our diplomats sharpen their skills, deepen their knowledge and expand their network. We sought this opportunity to sign this Memorandum of Understanding with UHCL to help us develop and nurture our diplomats.”
Through this MOU, Al-Horr continued, we will be exchanging faculty, introducing certificates, introducing new educational opportunities and internships for students and so many other opportunities to explore in the future. “I’m happy we have finalized this agreement and after this ceremony we will be walking the talk together to materialize and realize the activities and the opportunities that will help our diplomats progress in their careers and have the influence they need in the future,” he said.
Qatar selected UHCL based upon its longstanding professional relationship with UHCL’s Assistant Vice President of Global Learning and Strategy Gigi Do, who worked in Qatar to establish the country’s first community college patterned after the American system.
“Because of my experience at the Community College of Qatar, I was invited to work with the Qatar Consulate office in Houston and the Diplomatic Institute in Doha to find ways to help incoming diplomats acclimate to their new assignments and be successful in their work environment,” Do said. “The time is right now for UHCL to cooperate with the State of Qatar to lead in reimagining the way we approach all aspects of diplomacy. Our location in Houston, one of America’s most international cities, will allow us to become innovators. We will work with the State of Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diplomatic Institute in Doha, engaging with them in the growth of our new institute that will not merely teach diplomatic techniques; it will itself become a model of diplomacy.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered remarks via Zoom. “This agreement is innovative, important and instructive,” Turner said. “Our city is forward-thinking, vibrant, and at the forefront of international business, health care, energy, space and education. I am delighted that UHCL’s Diplomacy Institute will serve our consulates, students, and all others interested in the study and practice of effective diplomacy.”
Christopher Olson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Trade and International Affairs, said the agreement would further the great cooperation between Houston and its friends in Qatar. “We received great support from Qatar during Hurricane Harvey, they supported the city and our first responders during the current COVID-19 crisis, and they have demonstrated their continued support through this amazing partnership with UHCL,” Olson said. “This partnership showcases what a great global city Houston truly is, as a capital of education, energy, science, innovation and diplomacy. This partnership builds on these existing strengths to help prepare the next generation of global Houstonians who are the leaders that will see Houston into the future.”
The event included remarks from UH System Regent Durga D. Agrawal. The Honorable Consul General of the State of Qatar in Houston Rashid Al Dehaimi and Blake signed the agreement.