High school workshops show career paths in business, science and tech
It is Saturday, and the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar building buzzes with activity. More than one hundred high school students are attending the Mindcraft workshop to learn about the field of computer science. During the day-long session, students get a taste of what studying computer science might be like: they program a robot to maneuver through a maze, and learn about computational thinking and problem solving.
“Computing will be important to these students, no matter what they study in university. Many advancements in other fields, like science, engineering and even humanities, were made possible because of computer science,” remarked Khaled Harras, associate teaching professor of computer science at CMU-Q.
Harras, along with a team of faculty members, research associates and student volunteers, introduced computer science to more than 1,100 students in the last academic year through Mindcraft.
What do I want to do with my life?
Like many students in high school, Zenab Siddig struggled with what she wanted to study in university. She heard about the BioTechnology Explorers Program, a weekend session for science-minded high school students at CMU-Q.
“The workshop brings students into the lab, they conduct an experiment and they see what it would be like to study experimental biology,” says Annette Vincent, assistant teaching professor of biological sciences.
After the session, Zenab knew she wanted to explore the area more before she made a decision. She enrolled in CMU-Q’s flagship program for secondary students, the Summer College Preview Program. During three weeks in the summer, students attend classes and complete a project in their specific area of interest.
“Each year I see students leave SCPP energized to study and get into a good, challenging university program,” says Damian Dourado, director of pre-college programs at CMU-Q.
For Siddig, SCPP cemented her feeling that she wanted to study biological sciences. “On the last day of the program I knew that this is what I wanted to do.”
Haidar Al Haidar had a similar experience. He wanted to stay in Qatar after high school, so he looked carefully at the different Education City programs: “Why would I want to leave? We are lucky in Qatar to have been provided with these resources in Education City. I knew I wanted to study in Qatar.”
Still, he found it difficult to decide between studying business or engineering. Al Haidar attended the Summer College Preview Program and followed the business administration track, which ultimately helped him decide.
A streamlined college application process
Shouq Al-Khuzaei also attended the SCPP program, which reinforced her decision to pursue information systems. During the program, she learned that attending an outreach program for secondary students qualified her to apply for Early Decision.
“CMU-Q was my first choice, so it was an easy choice to apply for Early Decision,” she said.
CMU-Q invites students who have attended one of their workshops or programs for secondary students to apply for Early Decision. The application deadline is November 1—a full four months before the regular application—and students who are accepted are obligated to enroll.
Siddig also applied to CMU-Q through Early Decision. “It saves time, it saves money, and I was very certain I wanted to study biological sciences at CMU-Q. It was worth it for me,” she said.
Easing the transition to university
According to Michael Trick, dean of CMU-Q, outreach workshops like Mindcraft, SCPP, the business-oriented Young Entrepreneurs and Tajer Investment for Qatar, and the information systems-based Ibtikar, lay the groundwork for a successful transition to university.
“We want high school students to explore the different areas of study, to be inspired to pursue fields that will ultimately drive the future of Qatar,” says Trick.
Statistics show that the outreach workshops are working. Nearly one quarter of CMU-Q students in last year’s incoming class completed SCPP; some students did the program twice to learn about a second field of study. Almost half of the incoming class attended at least one outreach workshop.
Trick remarks: “We put significant resources into our outreach efforts: our faculty, staff and students tweak and tailor the experience so young people will be enlightened and inspired. It is worth it: the more we can show them now, the stronger and more directed they will be when they start university.”
Workshops in four fields of study
CMU-Q hosts outreach workshops in each of its four programs of study. BioTechnology Explorers introduces students to experimental biology. For business administration, students can take Young Entrepreneurs to learn about starting their own business, or Tajer Investment for Qatar, where they negotiate and trade in a mock stock market. Mindcraft introduces students to computer science, and the Winter Institute is an invitation-only, week-long program for Qatari students. The field of information systems is introduced through the Ibtikar Workshop.