The mission of the program is to bring together Rice and Qatari students to actively participate in public diplomacy by listening to, learning from, informing and engaging with cohorts from around the world.
In 2009, President Barack Obama expressed his desire for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.” Based on Obama’s call, a group of undergraduates at Rice worked with the Baker Institute to create the Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking Program. The program links Rice undergraduates with their counterparts in the Middle East to discuss issues relevant to both sides, including public diplomacy, interfaith dialogues, energy sustainability and social media.
Since its creation, the program has sponsored three cohorts of students to the Middle East. In 2010, 10 Rice students traveled to Cairo, Egypt, to engage students from the American University in Cairo. The following year, six Egyptian students visited Rice. In 2012, the program switched focus to Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) in Qatar. Rice student delegations traveled to Doha in 2012 and 2014, with HBKU students reciprocating in 2013.
Future student conferences will be organized jointly by the Qatar Foundation and the Baker Institute, alternating locations. The goal of the conferences is to demonstrate how public diplomacy has the potential to give countries the tools and direction necessary to inform, influence and engage the global society of which we are all a part as well as develop future leaders in the United States and Qatar to address these issues. Rice students will engage in discussions with HBKU students on key issues including scientific diplomacy and modern research, interfaith dialogue, energy sustainability, democracy, health care, immigration, knowledge-based economies and other topics. Through discussions, students can learn from each other’s cultures, histories and perspectives that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships, with the shared hope of preventing conflict.
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