Al-Ansari tackling surveys and research

Cornell College’s One Course At A Time curriculum is more than just a way of teaching and learning. For Mohammad Al-Ansari, who graduated from Cornell this May, the fast pace and short deadlines became the way he sees the world.

Mohammad Al-Ansari ’14 will work with SESRI, a public survey initiative at the University of Qatar.
Mohammad Al-Ansari ’14 will work with Sesri, a public survey initiative at the University of Qatar.

Last summer, when he was interning at Sesri, a public survey project based at the University of Qatar and supported by the University of Michigan, Al-Ansari, of Doha, Qatar, found he was able to complete assignments quickly—far more quickly than his supervisors expected.

“At Cornell, every day is a deadline,” he said. “One Course At A Time has gotten into my system.”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that his internship led to a job offer, and after graduation, he’ll head back to Qatar as a researcher at Sesri. The project is the first of its kind on the Arabian peninsula, he said, conducting research into the economic life, social values, education, and attitudes of Qatar’s population, as well as those of other countries in the region.

The surveys include responses by women, and for Al-Ansari, it was interesting to hear what women in Qatar have to say about their own lives, as opposed to second-hand reports. That tied into “Women and Politics,” a course that went to India. There he found out about what India, a nation much poorer than Qatar, is doing to support equality and education for women.

“I saw people doing so much with so little,” he said. “Women are being empowered through programs in India, and I wondered what Qatar is doing for women. It’s been interesting to be a part of.”

His hope is that his experience with Sesri, especially doing research, will serve him well as he applies to Ph.D. programs in international relations. His first choice is Michigan, where his father, an advisor to the Emir, earned his Ph.D. in history, but he’s still in the process of deciding where to apply.

Al-Ansari wants to focus on the relationship between the U.S. and the Arab world, especially the history and connections. It’s a topic close to his heart, as the son of a Qatari father and American mother. He attended middle school and high school in Qatar, but traveled to the U.S. each year, as well.

“I’ve gone back and forth between Qatar and the U.S. my whole life,” he said.

As he heads back to Qatar, he’ll be taking parts of Cornell with him, especially the lessons learned from his professors.

“My professors have challenged me greatly, and helped me become a better writer,” he said. “They’ve also helped me prepare for life after graduation. I could not have done it without them.”