MARCH 2010

Students “IMPAQT” the Carnegie Mellon Experience
By Abby Houck, The Piper, March 2010

Eight students will spend part of spring break dune riding, sword dancing and camping in the desert. Their destination is Doha, home to Carnegie Mellon in Qatar (CMU-Q), and their purpose is to make an IMPAQT.

Facilitated by Renee Camerlengo, Student Affairs liaison to CMU-Q, IMPAQT is the result of a joint proposal by Fifth Year Scholars and students leaders in 2008 to cultivate meaningful relationships between the students in Pittsburgh and Education City. IMPAQT members make an 18-month commitment to create awareness among Pittsburgh’s student body about what life is like for students in the Middle East. After spending spring break at CMU-Q, the students facilitate networking among similar interest groups on both campuses.

Camerlengo and Chris Menand from the Office of International Education (OIE) are accompanying students on the trip. IMPAQT members have been meeting weekly since the end of January to learn more about the culture of Qatar and to plan their spring break itinerary. The group is serving as hosts for 12 students from CMU-Q who were scheduled to visit Pittsburgh during their Feb. 28–March 5 spring break.

Eda Akyer, a junior biological sciences major, said her involvement with the 2010 IMPAQT team has helped her clarify assumptions she made about CMU-Q. Akyer originally thought CMU-Q had the same enrollment as the Pittsburgh campus and that students lived in dorms.

“I found it really interesting that students are mostly commuters,” Akyer said. “I’m interested in seeing how this affects student life.”

Nicole Rappin, a junior in the Bachelor of Humanities and Arts Program, said the group is meeting student leaders and visiting classes. The team is eager to experience similar social and cultural activities that predecessors, including sophomore Caroline Kessler, raved about — dune riding, sword dancing, camping in the desert, henna ceremonies and homestays with Qatari families.

Jessica Dickinson Goodman, a junior philosophy major, enjoyed her 2009 experience with IMPAQT so much that she is spending the entire spring 2010 semester at CMU-Q. In addition to working with the OIE to streamline the approval process for studying there, she’s planning to host a “girls’ night in” with female IMPAQT members and her friends in Qatar.

Junior Christian Young, is also looking forward to meeting students and faculty in his program at CMU-Q. “I’m interested in seeing how we can expand the Information Systems Program on both campuses, because it leads to a very global-minded career path,” he said.

2010 IMPAQT members plan to build on the work of the 2009 team, which hosted a photo exhibit at the Frame Gallery and spoke at the Community Collage during orientation. The 2009 team also applied for a grant through the International Festival Awards to purchase webcams to increase collaboration with CMU-Q students.

While many students involved in this year’s trip have traveled abroad before, this will be the first time any have visited Qatar. “Study abroad is a cool way to reflect and understand more about the world and how you fit into it,” Rappin said.