A decade of innovation: Information Systems at Carnegie Mellon Qatar
CMU-Q degree program celebrates 10 years of education, impact
In 2008, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) introduced a new degree program to its offerings in Education City. The Information Systems Program educates students in a field that is at the forefront of a knowledge-based economy. Students learn to analyze problems and challenges in an organization and create innovative, technology-based solutions. Since the program began in 2008, 150 young professionals have earned their degrees and are now contributing in a myriad of ways throughout Qatar and the world.
Selma Limam Mansar, senior associate dean for education and teaching professor of information systems, notes how the program has grown since it was first introduced in 2008 with just six students.
“There are two principles that have guided us over the past decade: first, we strive to make all members of our community achieve their full potential, because we believe each of our students possesses unique talents and skills,” commented Limam Mansar. “Second, as part of the CMU-Q community, we support creativity and innovation, and that’s why our alumni make such a positive impact wherever they go.”
CMU-Q’s Information Systems Program is based on the internationally recognized degree program from Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which is located in the USA. The program is challenging and rigorous, and provides students the intellectual freedom to work outside of traditional disciplinary boundaries. Students learn to analyze, design, implement and test information systems. Perhaps more importantly, they learn to work in teams, to communicate with colleagues in a variety of fields, and to find solutions that are thoughtful and creative.
Impact in Qatar
The majority of graduates from the Information Systems Program now work in Qatar and contribute to the knowledge-based economy. Alumni serve in prominent positions in both government and private sector organizations, working as entrepreneurs, designers, analysts and consultants.
Salwa Al Mannai, who graduated in 2011,is from one of the earliest cohorts in the Information Systems Program. “During our time at CMU-Q, we gained skills that differentiate us from any other school or program.” said Al Mannai, “Among those is the desire and capability to learn and develop new skills.”
After graduation, Al Mannai served on the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations, and she is now the head of policy and research at the Education Above All Foundation. “There is no one-solution-fits-all in development. Each project is a puzzle, and that’s the beauty of it.”
Within Qatar, graduates from the program work in a wide variety of roles in organizations that include Qatar Airways, Qatar Central Bank, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and Qatar Petroleum.
An entrepreneurial ecosystem
Throughout the Information Systems curriculum, students are encouraged to bring creativity, teamwork and technology together, which results in graduates who are often drawn to innovation entrepreneurship. Each year, students and new graduates create startups to address a wide variety of needs. As the program grows and matures, more of these startups are garnering attention.
One such venture is Meddy, a startup that was first developed by alumni Abdulla AlKhenji and Haris Aghadi as a class project. The app provides physician recommendations and reviews from patients. They launched the app in September 2014 with a list of 200 doctors. As of 2018, Meddy has grown to include more than 4,000 doctors with between 80,000 and 100,000 site visits each month.
“We could not have created Meddy without CMU-Q,” AlKhenji remarked. “Now more than ever, it is important for us to sustain our entrepreneurial ecosystem with ideas that are ‘Made in Qatar’.”
The future of Information Systems
As technology infuses nearly aspect of modern life, the need for information systems professionals will continue to grow. A fundamental aspect of the program is that students learn the quantitative skills and theory to analyze problems; project-based courses provide the opportunity to put the theory into practice. Students learn how to assess user needs, create solutions and evaluate their work, which is excellent preparation for the professional practice of information systems.
Recent graduate Muhammad Ali Bashir believes that this integrative approach is the reason an Information Systems degree from CMU-Q is opening doors for him.
“The best thing about information systems is that it gives us the flexibility to discover a lot of different career fields. A lot of people have the misconception that it is mainly about technical education, but that’s not entirely true,” Bashir said. “I have explored design, explored business, and finally found my passion in how technology can impact business solutions.”
After his graduation in 2018, Bashir began his career at Siemens Qatar in the process industries and drives, digital factory division.
Graduates of the program find their education is a gateway to emerging career paths, and they have the skills to adapt and learn as new technologies come to the forefront.