All Around CMU-Q

An online newsletter run by students from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar

Category: Social

Humans of CMUQ

Story: Bushra Memon

“This is as close to a rugby picture as I could find – it is a picture of me when I went to Australia for a rugby match in 1998.” – Professor Crista Crittenden, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology

“The next day after my university’s rugby team lost the match at State Championships where I also sprained both my ankles, there was a special tradition at the school called “Party in the Park” where they had an all day concert at a local park.  So even though my ankles were killing me, I went.  It got very rowdy at this party, and at one point someone threw a glass bottle up in the air.  And of course out of the hundreds of people there, it came smashing down on my head. I was standing, talking to my boyfriend at the time and he said “Whoa, good thing you were standing there or it would have hit me!” and he walked away (he wasn’t my boyfriend for that much longer).  I noticed that blood was gushing out of my head, so I went over to an ambulance nearby. After they wrapped my head in gauze, I hung around to see the last group (A Tribe Called Quest) play, and I started noticing that people were pointing at me and generally looking horrified.  Apparently, the gauze wrapped around my head was completely covered with blood, and with my two sprained ankles causing me to limp horribly, I looked like one of the Zombies from The Walking Dead.  My friends finally took me to the hospital, where the doctors were more concerned about my ankles (now each the size of rugby balls!) then my head. By the time I left the emergency room, I was in a wheelchair and I had seven large staples in my head.  A week later I went home for the summer looking a little beat up, and my mom said “You are not going back to that school!” I actually agreed, and ended up transferring to the University of Rochester, where I started to become the genius professor that I am today!”

Erica MinKyung Kang Biological Sciences, Class of 2016

Erica MinKyung Kang Biological Sciences, Class of 2016

“When I was in school, a typical Korean girl, I realized that everyone around me who were getting A’s were not really motivated about life but rather were only studying in order to imitate or conform to the society. I did not want to do that, I did not want to follow the majority and have the same mentality. I was young and I wanted to challenge myself, so I decided to travel in order to change my life. The world is wide and big and there is so much to learn from it which I cannot do if I stay in my comfort zone. It was difficult to persuade my parents because I am their only daughter and Korea is still a conservative society. I was scared and nervous when I decided this but the moment my flight left from Korea, I was alright. My motivation really came from the belief I had in myself and in the positive energy of the universe. If you are motivated to do something challenging, you should know that it is the right thing to do. If you really want to do something and change your life, do not give up as it is always difficult to initiate. When you are motivated, there so many ways to solve the problems that arise. When we are young, we need to challenge ourselves because that will decide how we shape our lives. The way you think, the way you perceive, the way you feel is all up to you.”

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Sixty Minutes with Osaama Shehzad: Professor Mark Stehlik

1All photo credit in this story goes to Syed Abbas Mehdi.

Mark Stehlik is a man of many words. From the journey of an attempted-killer to an attempted Ph.D. scholar, he battled against poverty, was saved by a dog, won hearts, transformed lives, and reached top the ladder of success in a truly exemplary and inspirational way for folks like us — who are only driven by our dreams.

WHAT WAS THE MOST NAUGHTY THING YOU DID IN YOUR CHILDHOOD?
“I tried to kill my brother.”

Some of you might be wondering why I referred to Mark as an attempted-killer. The story that I’m telling here might sound humorous, but the facts are not. I asked Mark earlier during the interview if he had done anything mischievous or embarrassing in his childhood. He couldn’t recall any. His innocent response was: I did normal childhood things. But then are always more things to casual answers. After a round of other questions, I paraphrased the question, and I finally got an answer. I was surprised as he shared the most terrifyingly naughty incident that could have ever happened in anyone’s childhood.

Mark’s younger brother, Paul, was only two years old when he became the target of an unintentionally naughty yet dangerous temptation that kicked in Mark’s mind. Baby Paul’s carriage was resting atop the declining driveway. Mark was tempted to push it so it could run against the winds. Assured that Paul was inside the carriage, Mark released the carriage’s brake, allowing it to slide and crash into the garage’s door.Miraculously, for both of them, Paul wasn’t in the carriage. “I am sure I thought he was in there, and if my brother was in it, he would have been pretty seriously injured,” commented Mark.

The crime was punishable for Mark. After the incident, he received a heavy beating from his mother, which is something I could infer when he said, “and boy, didn’t I get beaten for that one!” Mark added, “I remember the beating. I do not remember what I was thinking when I released the carriage brake.”

“You were pretty murderous.”  “Only once.”

“You were pretty murderous.”
“Only once.”

YOU AND YOUR FATHER WERE PRETTY CLOSE, I GUESS?
“It’s never so much about how much you spend; it’s all about the caring.”

Luxury either comes as a blessing with birth or as a product of hard work. For Mark, it was the latter.

Mark comes from a lower class family, but to his parents, it never was an obstacle to their children’s educational and physical nourishment. Mark’s father, Ladislav Stehlik, used to work three jobs to afford housing, his children’s education, and other expenses. To Mark, it was one of the reasons why he described his relationship with his father in childhood as not so close while he was a young child. It was only later that he realized there were financial circumstances that did not allow his father to be more around him. Learning from his father, Mark considers work as his top priority. He said, “I might not be devoted to my job had I not seen his example of devotion to his job and his family.”

But Mr. Ladislav’s busy routine didn’t deprive Mark from his father’s love. Mr. Ladislav found ways that were “within his economic means” to take his family out for entertainment: to places like Central Park Zoo, subway rides to New York, thanksgiving parades, or to sidewalks, simply to “watch things go by.”

Mark was brought up in an environment where happiness was not measured by price, and I think that growing up in this kind of love and care is a blessing.

Toys are one of the most desired items in childhood. They contribute to the developments in child’s creativity and they are a tangible form of entertainment. But if you’re guessing computers were Mark’s favorite toy, you’re very wrong.

Mark is a huge fan of model trains and he always wanted to have one. Unfortunately, his dad couldn’t afford it so he would buy him “small things” occasionally, but realistic Mark never felt disheartened. He remained optimistic and when he transitioned into an earning adult, a model train was one of the first things he bought for himself. Surely, Mark believes in the saying “it’s never too late.”
When Mark described how he always wanted a model train, I immediately began to think how children are sometimes tempted to steal items if their parents do not buy them what they want. So, I asked him if such temptations ever crossed his mind. He responded, “Oh no… I mean we saved if we needed to save then we got over not having things at least in that moment.”

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“My brother and I were eating sort of something interesting for dinner and my parents were having kind of soup. That’s how close to the line we were economically.”

I AM HEARING A LOT ABOUT YOUR DAD. WHAT ABOUT YOUR MOM?

Mark’s mother, Miss Lillian Stehlik is a disciplinary lady who used to work as a secretary before she had children, and she returned to the job market only after Paul went to college. Surely, she sacrificed her job even in the restrictive financial conditions for the sake of her children’s emotional nourishment.

Back in Mark’s days, corporal punishment was a common parenting method intending to make children behave. Miss Lillian always kept a wooden stick hidden in her kitchen drawer but it had to be replaced often since it would be used on Mark or Paul. However, Mark had a guardian angel but not in the form of light as usually angels are. Mark’s family had a dog named “PS” whose ears were very sensitive to even most subdued of voices. Every time Miss Lillian would open the drawer to get the spoon out, PS (the dog) would hear it and run as fast as he could, jumping over the drawer to stop Miss Lillian from taking the spoon out. PS knew he wanted to save Mark or Paul, and Mark shared:
“If not for that dog, I don’t think I would have made it.”

Mark’s parents, Ladislav and Lillian Stehlik, on the day they were married (June 5, 1954) and on their 50th anniversary (June 5, 2004)

Mark’s parents, Ladislav and Lillian Stehlik, on the day they were married (June 5, 1954) and on their 50th anniversary (June 5, 2004)

HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR WIFE FOR THE FIRST TIME?
“I met my wife over a pair of size 8 bowling shoes.”

We all know Mark’s famous sense of humor, which is something that he’d won the hearts of the freshmen with during orientation season. However, I wondered whether this was the reason he might have come off as a person with a charming and attractive personality in his old days. I proposed my wonderment as a question, and found out that my assumption was only partly true. He said, “I suppose that’s why my wife… mainly one of the many reasons my wife married me. But I was definitely a total wallflower when I was in elementary school and high school.”

Mark met his wife in a bowling alley, where he was working part-time. Every week, Mrs. Sylvia Stehlik, would come and the two would chat over the exchange of bowling shoes. Soon Mark began to fall for her and after weeks, he finally decided to give in to his feelings and ask her out. Obviously, Sylvia said ‘yes.’ On their first date, Mark and Sylvia fell for each other, and this marked the commencement of their long-term relationship.

Professor Mark while recalling his dad's reaction when he shared his feelings concerning Mrs. Stehlik with his father.

Professor Mark while recalling his dad’s reaction when he shared his feelings concerning Mrs. Stehlik with his father.

They started dating in 1976 but after three years, Mark broke up with Sylvia because he had to go to graduate school. Mark felt he was not ready to be a husband, a father, and a grad student all at the same time since Sylvia had a 5 year old boy, Damian, from a previous marriage. “You’re only supposed to have one big life change at a time. This would have been three: fatherhood, marriage, and grad student, all into one.”

From 1979 to 1981, Mark pursued his graduate school journey, and realized that he had made a mistake by breaking up with Sylvia. He wasn’t dating anyone else and he missed his former partner, so he decided to call her. Although Mark and Sylvia were living in different states at the time, he was fortunate enough to know that she wasn’t dating anyone either. They began talking to each other over phone as just friends, but it didn’t take long for them to be bound by the tie of marriage on June 5, 1982 – the same date Mark’s parents married. However, Mark admits that even though Sylvia still loves him a lot, the way she loved him before breakup changed after they got together again. So word of advice: if you really love someone, don’t let them go.

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Mr. and Mrs. Stehlik in Iceland, 2014.

I asked Mark how he popped the question but, unfortunately, he couldn’t recall the exact words since it was a long time ago. I suggested he email his wife about it. He did, and got an instant response from her:

“You almost proposed to me on the phone but I stopped you. That was in August. I told you that I wanted a proposal in person and on one knee. When you visited in November, you did and your exact words were, “Will you spend the rest of your life with me?” I think I said yes. :-)”

DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE A CS GRADUATE?
“I always wanted to teach.”

Even though this article is not intended to reflect on Mark’s academic achievements, I believe that it’s essential to share his academic side since it completes his identity.

Since the very early age, Mark wanted to teach. It was his passion. All that was left was for him to decide which field he was going to teach in. Fortunately, fate sorted it all out when he won
a full scholarship from Pace University for his Bachelors degree. Although Mark enrolled in Math major, he discovered Computer Science to be more interesting, ending up as double majoring in Math and Computer Science.

To become a college teacher, Mark was told he had to have a Ph.D. , so he applied to Carnegie Mellon (along with three other schools). He was accepted to Carnegie Mellon, a decision that was met with utter surprise and happiness by Mark’s undergraduate advisor who said, “You got into Carnegie Mellon? You have to go there!”

So after completing his undergraduate degree at Pace, Mark enrolled in CMU’s Ph.D. Program, but after two years his heart wasn’t really into it. But fate did him a favor again by opening a vacant faculty position in the CS department. He seized the opportunity right on the spot by applying for it. In the beginning, he was offered a provisional faculty position, of which he taught a Programming class for the first time for non-CS majors. His performance made the department happy, as it was obvious for them that classrooms are where Mark’s heart belonged. Since then, Mark became a fulltime faculty member in 1981.

When the School of Computer Science at CMU opened in 1988, it needed someone to run it. Mark was interested in the role, and he was asked to take it. However, Mark confessed that he’d accept it if he would be still allowed to teach. He narrated the specific scenario to that moment:

DEAN OF CS DEPARTMENT: “So let me get this right. If we let you do more work, you will take this job?”
PROFESSOR MARK: “If you put it that way, yes. I just want to do what I like and I am good at.”

I asked Mark if teaching is his real passion, and why is he doing it a lot less now, he gave an interesting reply: “There are other teaching opportunities within this environment, in this office, outside this office… right… I think that is also present.”

During his 25 years of running the CS program at CMU, Mark discovered that teaching is not only limited to academics. It extends to advising, discussing and sharing all sorts of support to students, including emotional. This is one of the reasons why Mark describes he developed a very close relationship with many of his students during his career, and why he was actually asked by one of his students to be his best man on his wedding. It is 101% without doubt that Mark is not only very generous in spreading and receiving love, but he enjoys it. He explains how he sometimes feels jealous of Professor Oliver who gets to know the freshmen from teaching the calculus class. Mark says, “I actually feel a little jealous of Marion because he gets to see, virtually, every student coming through the door. I don’t anymore.”

Professor Mark as his student's best man at the wedding.

Professor Mark as his student’s best man at the wedding.

WHAT IS THE MOST TRAGIC OR SADDEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN YOUR LIFE?
“I cried an awful lot when my dad died… I will cry now if I am not careful.”

As mentioned earlier, Mark and his father did not have a very close relationship in childhood and early adolescence. Mr. Ladislav was occupied by multiple jobs to keep his family financially sound. However, the dark clouds drifted away as Mark and Paul grew up, and Mr. Ladislav began to come more around the family when Mark’s son, Matthew, was born. This was the beginning of a very close father-son relationship, which formed over the years until Mr. Ladislav passed away in last April due to complications that arose during a heart surgery.

Mr. Ladislav’s demise was the saddest moment in Mark’s life. He was torn apart between his dad and students — the people he loved most. CMUQ’s first CS graduation was coming up and Mark had formed a very close relationship with his students. While he wanted to be in his home in the US with his family, his students desired for him to be with them on their great day. It was a very hard decision for him to make, but he made the right choice when Dean Baybars put him on a flight to the US since family comes first. Even though Mark wasn’t there for his students at their graduation, he received loads of letters and condolences from Qatar, which helped him cope with the saddest tragedy he’s ever experienced.

"If anything, I would have loved to see him one last time... you don’t get to make that choice either... we managed to say ‘I love you’ and all those other things over the course of many conversations, sometimes explicitly, sometimes not... There wasn’t much left to say other than goodbye. So what I would wish for you and for anyone is that you have... you ultimately over the lifetime come to a place where you have said all the things needed to be said and you have had all the good experiences you needed to have and so you can separate your hurt, and not feel like I needed to do. What I would have liked to do is very different than I needed to do."

“If anything, I would have loved to see him one last time… you don’t get to make that choice either… we managed to say ‘I love you’ and all those other things over the course of many conversations, sometimes explicitly, sometimes not… There wasn’t much left to say other than goodbye. So what I would wish for you and for anyone is that you have… you ultimately over the lifetime come to a place where you have said all the things needed to be said and you have had all the good experiences you needed to have and so you can separate your hurt, and not feel like I needed to do. What I would have liked to do is very different than I needed to do.”

WHAT WAS THE HAPPIEST MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
“If I could relive those three weeks… we didn’t have to do anything… just three weeks.”
Life is full of mysteries, surprises, and tragedies. There are some things we hope we never came across, while other things are what we would want to relive again. But we are not the one to make this choice. When I asked Mark about his happiest moment in life, he couldn’t answer it. I rephrased the question as “any moment you would want to live again” and what followed next was a three-second silence —literally!
There’s no doubt that Mark has always been a busy man. But work never stopped him from making time for his kids. Mark has two sons (one is adopted) and a daughter: Damian (40), Matthew (30), and Kristin (26) who is also a mother. Mark is also a grandfather of a very cute baby, Gabriel, who was born about a year and a half ago. When I told him he’s lucky to have such a huge family, he said “it is I who am lucky to have them.”
The Stehlik Family.

The Stehlik Family.

So coming back to the happiest moment, when Matthew and Kristin were 16 and 14, Mark took them to a cross-country road trip for three weeks in summer. Mrs. Stehlik was also supposed to go with them but work called her back, which turned out pretty well for Mark because he got the whole three weeks with his kids to himself.

When Mark’s friends heard about the cross-country trip, they said, “you’re going to walk yourself into a car with two teens for three weeks? None of you are going to survive!” Fortunately, the trip didn’t turn out to be scary or worrisome, but a memorable experience for father and kids.

One of the incidents that Mark described from the trip was a sibling fight. Mark was driving the kids while constantly listening to Matthew and Kristin’s screaming and yelling at each other. Hoping that they might calm down, Mark kept controlling his temper but the wait seemed to be eternal. So he finally gave up, screaming at the top of his lungs: “Stop! Stop the stupid stuff!” Mark rarely used to yell at his kids. Unable to believe what happened, Matthew and Kristin suddenly became silent, trying their best to not let their laughter burst out. Pretty soon, they cracked up, laughing really hard after witnessing that funny Mark can actually yell.

Professor Mark with his son, daughter, and wife.

Professor Mark with his son, daughter, and wife.

FINAL WORDS
Through Professor Mark’s insightful stories, I hope we all can learn the values of family, relationships, and work from his life. At the end of the interview, I asked him to share any thoughts and messages he might have for the students. He said, “Caring about people is important. People are number one. Whether they’re family, or they’re the people you work with, or the people you teach, or your peers.”

A New Era, A New Majlis

BY FATIMA AL-EMADI

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The semester came to an end as we drew closer to the New Year and, with it, a new Student Majlis Administration.

The current Majlis have faithfully represented us and worked hard to better our Carnegie Mellon experience and now they pass this responsibility on to a new Majlis Administration.

The results of the voting were announced during the last Thursday Majlis of the Fall semester and this year saw the highest number of votes (and percentage of votes) reaching a remarkable 322 votes. 137 votes by BA students, 64 votes by CS students, 80 votes by IS students, 35 votes by BS students and 2 votes by CB students (4 abstained from specifying). 71, 64, 91, and 88 seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen voted respectively (8 abstained from specifying). The results of the voting are as follows:

President: Mohamed Al Hor

Vice President: Maryam Al Haddad

Head of Finance: Yousuf Akhlaq

Head of Communications: Mounir Sheikh

Head of Clubs & Orgs: Shashank Shetty

Head of Academics: Vishan Popat

Head of Sports: Sherif Rizk

We can already see contact and coordination between the new members and their predecessors as is to be expected as institutions like the Student Majlis can be analogous to a chain; while each individual link is an entity on its own, it is nonetheless closely connected to its predecessors and successors. The new Majlis members will no doubt learn from their predecessors’ experiences and knowledge and they too will pass on similar knowledge to their successors.

The most notable change that we will see with this coming term is the full implementation of the new Majlis structure. Our Director of the Office of Student Activities and First Year Programs, Kevin D’Arco,is excited to see how the new structure plays out.

“Tarek’s Majlis and the executive branch did a really nice job of thinking of new ways to include more voices in the student government and student government decisions. This comes from all the work that they did last spring to get people’s opinions and get suggestions to come up with a structure that worked. And they did a lot of work in the fall to put it in place. I think one of the most exciting things for me with this new Majlis is we get to see it play out.”

-Kevin D’Arco,

Director of the Office of Student Activities and First Year Programs

Indeed, it will be very exciting to enter this new era of increased representation in the Majlis where Tartans’ voices will be heard to an even greater degree than before.

Sixty Minutes with Osaama Shehzad: Professor Marion Oliver


Oliver 1

Who is Marion Leon Oliver? 

Marion Oliver is one of the prodigious professors at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, and a tartan who earned his Ph.D. in 1971. But what roles does Dr. Oliver have as a son, a husband, a student, and a father? What does he love to do and what does he regret? What makes him unique? To know him beyond his aca­demic personality, Let’s walk through the exceptionally wonderful seventy-one years of his life.

HOW WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD WITH YOUR PARENTS?
“I am a product of a single mom raising me.”
With nothing but gratitude, Dr. Oliver appreciates the strict environment he was raised in by his mother only (since his parents did not get along). Upon asking if he misses his fa­ther or not, he said that “there was no bond established that would cause me to miss him” and that “I have got my mother, that’s all I need to know.”
One thing I am sure Oliver’s mother would be proud of is Oliver himself. Growing up in a divorce environment can lead to many negative changes in a child’s personality. But Oliver’s mother, Queen Elizabeth Oliver (yes, her name was as royal as her personality!) did an outstanding job in raising him into the respected and educated personality he is today.
In the strict environment he was raised in, Oliver did have mischievous childhood temptations that he satisfied when his mother was not around — temptations that got him penalized when caught. Here’s an incident that cost him a permanent injury in his left arm.

“I was probably naughty within bounds.” 

Reflecting back on our childhood, we all laugh at the embarrassing and stupid things we did, but who knew that Dr. Oliver, in his childhood, would break his arm while remaining “naughty within bounds.”

Dr. Oliver’s mother ─may she rest in peace─ had bought a new bed mattress, not knowing that it would become a victim of Oliver’s most embarrassing childhood moment of life. As amazed the young Oliver was by the new mattress, his childhood temptations kicked in, and he started going all superman on the bed. He would climb the back of his big brother and jump from there on the mattress to feel the incomparable pleasures of free fall. Even though it was risky and his mother warned him not to do it, Oliver attempted to pull out the fancy James Bond stunt again, but this time fate did not accompany him. He lost his balance while climbing his brother’s back and fell behind, breaking his arm into half. Yes, half, and it hurt a lot!

As soon as Oliver landed the floor, his inner Superman and James Bond self deserted him, and he started crying out loud in pain. Hearing the cries of young and naughty Oliver, his mother rushed to him, founding him on the floor in crucial pain. Watching his mother witnessing him in torment, poor Oliver was expecting sympathy and love, but all he got was a “shut up” full of rage and frustration. Surely, Ms. Queen was raged that Oliver did not follow her orders, but obviously her love for him did not deny him the assistance from hospital.

Oliver went to the hospital but the doctors, who were “white folks” and those were the days of racism, did not consider his broken arm worth their precious time, so they fixed it hastily and incompletely. Even to this day, Oliver cannot rotate his left arm around completely. However, that doesn’t stop him from pulling dents at 4:00 am in the morning even today at the age of 71.

So, now even though we don’t know much about Dr. Oliver, we can safely assume that he would never jump on a comfy spring mattress when he sees one after a long, tiring day. Also, there is a lesson to be learned: always obey your mother if you’re wise enough to not go looking for trouble.

Oliver 2

Professor Oliver showing defect in his left arm while sharing his most embarrassing moment [Credits: Syed Abbas Mehdi]

“She paid for me to take the test.” 

We all have our favorite high school teachers who we wished would be guiding us through challenging phases of life, but not all of us are lucky enough to remain in contact with them after college life grab a hold on us. However, on asking Dr. Oliver what’s the happiest memory of his life, he shared one of his favorite high school mentor, Lydia McKeldin, who’s “ninety years old now and still kicking, and she’s a fifty years survivor of breast cancer.” Surely, that should be a Guinness record of how weak cancer is when combating Dr. Oliver’s favorite mentor.

During his high school days, Oliver did not believe in himself and was unaware of academic talents he was blessed with. Fortunately, Ms. McKeldin recognized those talents in him and strived to bring them out by making him take an advanced placement test, so Oliver could become a man he is today.

This test was a sponsored program by Oliver’s favorite college which would offer early admission if the test was cleared successfully. Not only Oliver had no plans to register for it, he lacked dough to do so. However, Ms. McKeldin, who believed in Oliver’s ingenious brain, paid for the test and made him take it when he was in 10th grade.

Unaware of how his potential could be compared to other folks who were taking the test, Oliver was not really optimistic. However, he boldly went for it and to his surprise, not only he passed the test, he was offered early admission to his desired college in 10th grade.

Surprised at his own potential but realistic at the very moment, Oliver knew that he had no money to attend college two years earlier. Anxious and confused, he went to his teacher and explained this to her, and what she said displayed was one of the wisest moves a teacher could have made to prepare her student for his outstanding yet challenging future.

Ms. McKeldin told Oliver that she did not pay for the test so he could graduate earlier but it was to make him witness his own extraordinary talent, so he could start preparing himself for college. Had she not believed in him, Oliver would have never been aware of his talents and would have never reached the top of the ladder.

Following the test, Oliver began working in evenings at a clothing store for two years along with his high school to prepare himself financially for college. However, fate had not stopped favoring him yet.

After the freshman year of college, Oliver got help from Russians to pave his way, financially, through the upcoming years of college. Seeking help from Russians may kick in the common Russians-are-gangsters stereotype in your mind, but let’s be real. Oliver is cool not fool.

Coming back to how Oliver made it through college, financially, who knew that Russian’s launch of spacecraft, Sputnik, in 1957 would be beneficial to Oliver’s forthcoming success. Worried that US did not reach in space first, the US government initiated a loan program that would loan money to every college student who was studying science ─ the very field Oliver was majoring in college. So for his sophomore, junior, and senior year, Oliver got a $3000 loan (it was a LOT in 1960’s) to become a prodigy. Surely, Oliver is not only his teacher’s but fate’s favorite too.

Oliver 3

Professor Oliver sharing his experiences during interview [Credits: Syed Abbas Mehdi]

“The sole purpose of this visit was to ask her mother if I could marry.” 

If you’re having a hard time looking for an example of a real life till-death-do-us-part love story, you have to stop by Office 1175 at Carnegie Mellon Qatar.

Marion and Connie Oliver are an unparalleled example of an unbelievably successful marriage that lasted 43 years until Mrs. Connie met her demise in 2008 due to pancreatic cancer (may she rest in peace).

Oliver first met Connie in his freshman year of college, and this is when their spark of love (which is still glowing) lit the lantern of their romantic life.  In fact, it was only a month after graduation that they married, securing their love forever.

So how did the mighty Oliver pop the question? If he bending down on his knees with a ring in hand is the first thought that strikes your mind then you’re absolutely wrong in comprehending what kind of man Oliver is. Sure that way of proposal is romantic but it’s not outstanding. Oliver always love to be a bold, classy gentleman; hence, like one, he went to Connie’s hometown, in his junior year, for the weekend with the sole purpose of asking for Connie’s hand from her mother. What a daring mission he went off to!

When Oliver arrived, he stayed at Connie’s neighbors so he could only see Connie during day, and the days passed quickly. It was the last day and Oliver had to leave at 2 ‘o’ clock.  1 ‘o’ clock had already kicked but Oliver was still gathering the audacity to ask the most important question of his life.  Frustrated by waiting, Connie also began kicking Oliver, and eventually the following words came out of his mouth in front of Connie’s mother: I have nothing to offer. I am in a school, a normal graduate. All I have to offer your daughter is my love, and I would appreciate it if you would let me marry her. Notice that Oliver did not speak any romantic words; he remained realistic and direct, and that surely earned him a yes from his mother-in-law.

After graduating on 7th June’65 from Fisk University, Oliver and Connie married joyously a month later on 17th July, remaining happily married ever after. Even upon asking who he misses most every day, Oliver replied I miss my wife more than I can describe. Then he told us (and also showed some) about the numerous collages he has made and the relishing memories he has in his head, which he look at and recall when he misses his wife. Truly, Oliver is man of character, man of faith, man of heart.

In these 43 years of wonderful marriage, Oliver and Connie adopted a four week old, beautiful baby girl, Ramona Oliver. Moreover, when he mentioned about adopting his angelic daughter, Oliver said it was “the best decision we ever made.” Once again, it has been proved that when it comes to spreading and sharing love, Oliver’s generosity is unparalleled.

Ramona is now 45, works in Washington, and lives with her three and a half year old son (yes, Oliver is also a grandfather), both of whom Oliver occasionally skypes with and meets twice a year during spring and summer break. On asking why he doesn’t Skype more often, Oliver said that he doesn’t like Skype since it’s not like a phone call where he can walk and talk concurrently.

Professor Oliver with his beautiful wife, Mrs. Connie Oliver, and daughter Ramona Oliver [Credits: Syed Abbas Mehdi]

Professor Oliver with his beautiful wife, Mrs. Connie Oliver, and daughter Ramona Oliver [Credits: Syed Abbas Mehdi]

In 2010, Oliver married again to a woman referred by his classmate but, unfortunately, it’s not working out, so they are going to proceed with divorce. On asking why the marriage failed to work, Oliver said that his second wife feels that he did not let go of his former wife, which he admits, claiming that how do you not love a person you lived with for 47 years.

 “If I had been running, it would have scared him away.” 

Let’s clear out the myth that Oliver runs around the campus at 4 in the morning. True that he comes very early and he’s an exercise lover, it doesn’t mean that he loves to run. Moreover, the claims he made in the favor of walking actually make me reconsider my decision to run too.

Oliver believes that when you run, you fail to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature around you. Back in United States, he used to observe greenery, trees, plants, deer, alligators in ponds (yes, he used to walk by wild ponds), and other animals on his every morning walk, and this is what he misses a lot in Qatar.

Oliver’s most excitingly thoughtful, morning-walk observance, which I believe is most worthy of sharing, is that of an owl feeding on its prey. Once walking in the morning, Oliver observed an owl beside a tree which was feeding on its prey. Oliver stopped and looked at it him; the owl glanced back, and then continued eating its breakfast. At that time, Oliver realized that had he been running, he would have scared away the owl, making himself responsible for        its unsatisfied hunger. Inarguably, Oliver’s love and appreciation extends not to just his family or students, but towards animals and plants too. In fact, Oliver is a huge gardening fan. His garden is one of the top things he misses most about US. If you ever get chance, must stop by his office to witness the lush, green, and strikingly natural décor of his office.

Yes, that’s one of Professor Oliver’s beautiful houses in United States [Credits: Syed Abbas Mehdi]

Yes, that’s one of Professor Oliver’s beautiful houses in United States [Credits: Syed Abbas Mehdi]

 “If I could go back and undo it, I definitely would.” 

Let’s accept the fact: we are never perfect. All of us make mistakes no matter how pure our soul is. You made mistake, I make mistakes, and so did Professor Oliver. Yes, he has made a mistake which he regrets even to this day. I know you must be thinking of all sorts of crimes and brutal mastermind stuff which Oliver might have executed and now regrets, but I ask you to hold on to your imagination because you are never going to guess what is it that Oliver could have possibly  done to be haunted by it until this day.

On your mark… get set… go! Oliver accused someone wrongly of stealing a teacher’s purse in elementary school. Yes, you’re thinking right; it’s the elementary school, which means Oliver regrets something he did when he was just a child, in 3rd grade, about more than sixty years ago (that’s even before your parents were born).

So what really happened? That’s something you would have to go and ask him in office…. I am just kidding. He boldly shared the whole story with us.

There was a guy in Oliver’s school who stole the teacher’s purse and Oliver saw him with it in the washroom. When he returned to the class, the teachers asked if anyone had seen the purse. Since Oliver had already seen the guy who stole it in the washroom, he stepped out and told the teachers what he saw. The teachers then took him to every classroom, asking him to point out that boy who stole the purse. Upon entering the classroom, where that boy was, Oliver became reluctant to identify him since that boy passed him a threatening look. Afraid that the boy would seek his vengeance by “beating a pulp out of him,” Oliver pointed at another innocent student, and the teachers punished him instead of the real stealer.

While sharing this incident, Oliver also said that even though blaming the wrong person did not affect that person’s career, he would still do anything to make amends or undo it if he will ever be given a chance. It’s amazing that how some deeds, which are done even at such young age, continue to haunt us for the rest of our life. So, the moral we should all be learning here is never to be unfair to anyone. It can haunt us forever no matter how trivial it is.

“I am here by choice.” 

Walking through the thrillingly insightful journey of Oliver from an adventuring baby to a brilliant Ph.D. scholar is an outstanding and preciously meaningful guidance for all those who want to understand life.

Many of us guess that why Oliver has chosen to live in Qatar when he can live in US instead with his family. Some of us may think that Oliver is alone in Qatar, but allow me to warn those who think that’s the case.

Upon asking Oliver what message he would want to be conveyed, he said “I am here by choice,” meaning that Oliver has chosen Qatar because he likes it, not because he likes to be alone. Prior to joining the faculty of CMU-Q in 2004, Oliver had been working with Mobil Oil Corporation for 10 years. Part of his job description included the position of Manager of Training in Middle East, meaning that he has been working and living in Middle East long before he joined CMU-Q. When Carnegie opened its campus in Qatar in 2004, Oliver gladly offered to provide any assistance required from him; hence, he was offered the position of teaching professor. However, don’t let his preference of Qatar make you assume that Oliver has separated himself from his family. Every year, twice, during spring and summer vacations, Oliver flies back to his family in US and spends one fourth of a year there. Surely, Oliver’s living a gifted life, masterfully balanced between work and family. He is a man who knows how to spread love, education, guidance; he knows how to live life. Not only we are gifted to have him, this is what that separates Carnegie from any other college, making it unique. It is doubtlessly inarguable that people like him are hard to come by and this is what that makes us fortunate.

Once again, I would like to thanks Dr. Oliver for affording me the courtesy of spending 60 minutes with him to get to know more about the value of life from his precious stories. Surely, he has countless more and if you want to know them, just stop by at his office and have a memorable chat!

P.S. Special thanks to Syed Abbas Mehdi for taking out his time and offering his brilliant photography skills for this interview. 

Humans of CMUQ

Story: Ashwini Kamath, Photography: Fatma Tlili

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Zan Naeem
Computer Science, Class of 2018

“On the first day I came to CMU, I thought I was going to meet a bunch of nerds. And I was right, but they were cool nerds, and that’s really what matters. Everybody is kind to each other, everybody treats each other with respect, and that’s what I was seeking in a community. I didn’t want to be in a community that was one extreme or the other extreme. They’re all in the middle, and they’re all intelligent people. I’m glad to be a Tartan. Zan, the Tartan,” he recalled.

Muna Al-Husseiny, Co-president of the Big Movement Club Business Administration, Class of 2016

Muna Al-Husseiny, Co-President of The Big Movement
Business Administration, Class of 2016

“The inspiration came from the amount of stress we saw people exhibiting throughout the semester. People are very fast paced, and they get a lot of stress because they’re worried about the grade they’ll get. We just want to tell people that it’s okay to stop, take a break, have pancakes, eat some comfort food, and it is okay to relax and unwind.” [On Crunch Time Lunch]

2014’s Tartan’s Got Talent

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As 2014 marks its fifth year anniversary, the annual Tartan’s Got Talent show never fails to entertain and surprise the CMUQ community with the hidden amount of talents. Singing big hit songs, dancing to great Desi music, and playing nice melodies on instruments were all showcased last week on Thursday by some of our community members.

As the performers ranged from faculty and staff to students, the acts had a lot to say about the creativity our campus embraces.

If you have missed the show, here is a list of some of the performances:

‘Can’t Hold Us’: Faculty, staff, and alumni dance by Kevin D’Arco, Melissa Deschamps, Amy Walker, Jennifer Gray, Rafay Manzoor, Fatima Mujahid, and Maria Khan.

‘Nassam Alaina El-Hawa’: Strings by Abdullah Al-Khenji and Sakib Mahmoud.

Beat boxing by Zehni Khairullah.

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‘November Rain’, originally by Guns N’ Roses: Band performance by Sakib Mahmoud, Vanessa Fernandes, Bilal Sheikh, and Prince George Abraham.

‘All of Me’, originally by John Legend: Band performance by Parmiss Goudarzi.

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Piano performance by Fatma Abdulla Al-Emadi.

Desi dance by Sanjeet Sahni, Vanessa Fernandes, Shahan Ali Memon, Andreea Nan, Sharmin Islam Ahona, Mehak Manwani, Sampriti Jain, Dana Samhadaneh, Sulaiman Mahmood, Shashank Shetty, Talha Anis, and Zain Najam Minhas.

‘Ya Mal El-Sham’, originally by Sabah Fakhri: Band performance by Mohammed Zehni.

‘Little Talks’, originally by Of Monsters and Men: Band performance.

‘We Are Tartans, We Are Stars’: A poem.

CMUQ’s Annual Public Debate

“This House Believes That Reality Television Does More Harm Than Good”, CMUQ’s Debating Society debated yesterday.

As an activity of promoting the organization to the audience of CMUQ, the Debating Society hosted its first public event of the year, which took place in lecture hall 1062 during lunchtime. The event witnessed a good turnout of students and a faculty member from the Student Affairs, with most students from the Class of 2018.

The debaters of the topic were returning students from CMUQ (i.e. seniors, juniors, and sophomores), and they volunteered to showcase what university-level debates are like for the audience. The two sides of the debate consisted of the following students:

  1. Opening Proposition: Syed Zuhair, Valerie Garcia
  2. Closing Proposition: Mohamed Benkermi, Tarek Al-Hariri
  3. Opening Opposition: Nawal Mir, Ameena Al-Haroon
  4. Closing Opposition: Bilal Sheikh, Yousuf Akhlaq
  5. The debate was chaired by Bashayer Al-Saadi.

Due to demonstration purposes, no winning team was announced after the debate was over.

The Freshmen Story (Fall 2013)

By All Around CMUQ

So it’s been a month since the fall semester of 2013 has started. And, it’s not too late to say that everyone’s already getting along the rush of university work, club activities, HBKU events, and much other stuff. Some of our Tartans around the campus, however, are still on the verge of finding themselves: The Freshmen. Change must be coming at them rapidly! It is not easy for upper classmen to adjust to such a change either. After conducting a minor role of being the sociologist in the house, I have observed few things commonly taking place in campus this year. And, as far as I have investigated, I wasn’t the only one.

Common Incidence #1: As a junior student who has already established her life in campus, I find it frustrating to find a group of freshmen occupying my table at the food court in any given day. The fact that my friends and I have a meeting spot for us to gather (that is, our table at the food court) after almost every class clearly facilitates our university routine. But it’s not like that when you can’t help but face situations of niche invasion! Asma Al Naama, a Biological Science freshmen said, “I really don’t care if I happen to see myself sitting in some upper classmen’s spot. After all, the tables in the food court aren’t labeled by people’s names!’ Al Naama has also added, ‘I think the upperclassmen hate it whenever we talk. They always have this look on their faces that read, “You’re kids therefore you’re wrong, and we’re right.”’

Common Incidence #2: Whoever hasn’t complained yet about how noisy the library has recently been have probably been there only to print something and leave. The place isn’t a study-oriented place anymore, as it turned out that it is the perfect place for steamy freshmen discussions. Apparently, they’re getting it wrong. Yes, we see them doing calculus problems while in the library, but our young Tartans might probably need to acquire the norms of working in the library. Are the signs posted in the library not enough? If so, then that should probably be a whole new discussion..

These were a couple of the common incidents starring the freshmen while they, unfortunately, seemed like they were trying to violate some campus ‘norms’—the Don’ts! Any Dos, though? Feel free to contribute to this story in the comment section below.


 

Marwa, and Marwa the President.

By, Maryam Yousuf

Marwa AlFakhri, your not-so-typical senior double majoring in BA&IS and the former Student Body president, shares her insights and reflections on presidency with All Around.

-What encouraged you to run for president 2012-2013?

In the previous year, as VP of clubs and orgs, when our term was coming to an end I felt like I still had more to offer. I felt like I have more to contribute with Student Majlis. I generally feel that Student Government is a beneficial experience for any student. Both for the executives, they’ll grow professionally and personally, and the student body to have someone that cares about what they want.

-Reflect back to the year you’ve spent as president, what would you say was the one most important decision or change you’ve made?

I think the main accomplishment was building a very concrete link between the Student Body and officials of the university. We’ve had regular meetings with Dean Baybars, Dean Gloria, Dean Mark Stehlik. Maybe its not something that everyone was able to see on the surface, but this gave us the advantage of directing the students’ issues to the right people.

One other major decision that I think somewhat did not receive the credit it deserved. People did not want Bateel, and we gave people what they wanted! Yes, I do agree the new firm is not the best thing in the world, but the decision was not ours. However, you have to realize that we were the first Student Government that got QF Food Services and other officials to actually hear the students’ complaints and took our input into consideration. So looking at the big picture, this gave us credibility, voice and power! Ultimately, it’s not me, or my VP, it’s the voice of the tartans! We had influence. And I believe that this should’ve got more positive credit.

-What did the experience give Marwa AlFakhri?

The experience definitely added a lot! A close friend once asked me: “Do you regret any of it?” and I answered honestly “No!” I don’t regret the year I spent as president, the year I spent as VP, I don’t regret a day off the four years I spent at CMUQ. If I had the option of going back in time, I would redo everything! As cheesy as it sounds: It is a life changing experience. I can see things differently. I think we should all take initiatives to make CMUQ a rich and better place!

-What did the experience take away from Marwa AlFakhri?

At the time, I felt like I lost my own voice. Not that I did not have an opinion, I had an opinion! But whenever I gave my opinion as just Marwa, it was taken as the Majlis opinion! I wanted to make Marwa aside from President Marwa, and Majlis aside from Marwa’s personal opinion. I felt that people were not that forgiving, they were very judgmental. I would understand, I guess, because even my friends fell into the same thing. For a year, it felt that being the voice of the Tartans deprived me from my own! It was one of those hidden contracts that I never knew I signed up for. But when incidents happened, I clearly realized I couldn’t say what I wanted to say as a person, I needed to consider how will this affect Majlis and what people thought of Majlis.

I think the new Majlis is great, and Saleh will be a great president. But what I would ask for from people is to give him a chance to give his own opinions sometimes, as Saleh and not the president.

-Tell us a memorable story, let it be a challenge or a funny coincidence, Anything ranging from people not taking you seriously, Allouba shouting in meetings, frustration with your members or Student Affairs, ANYTHING!

 So, almost 75% of the Student Majlis was females was very empowering. I’m very thankful that our community is not stereotypical or judgmental, but there are certain individuals who are! They thought a women could not lead. I took this as a motivation, a challenge, to prove them that I can do what they said I cant. On the other hand, there were others very encouraging and proud, such as Dean Gloria and Dean Baybars.

­-Thank you Marwa for your time, any last remarks or something to leave All Around readers with?

I would want to Thank….

Meme?

Haha, Meme of course! And everyone else. For the good and the bad! They all created moments that I will hold very dearly in my heart. I wish the new Majlis best of luck, as we expect a lot from them. I wish All Around best of luck going online, I think it’s a nice move. I also look forward to maybe writing for All Around soon.

Is the Students Lounge Excluding Qatari Girls?

By Amna Al-Noaimi

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CMUQ’s Student Lounge (or recreation room) was built for students to hang out during their breaks or after their classes’ time. It is equipped with many entertainment facilities like table tennis, foosball, video games, vending machines, a computer cluster (that includes a printer as well!), and a couple of couches for the students to relax or do their homework on.

However, if you’ve been there, you will notice that a wide range of students uses the recreation room except for Qatari girls! You can barely see them spending time there!

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In a response to a question I asked, Ghaya Al-Sulaiti and Sara Al-Sulaiti, two Qatari Female students at CMUQ, expressed that the places they like to hangout at in CMU are the atrium (The Majlis Area) and the library.

‘I had to go to the recreation room once for a book club meeting that was hosted there, and that was it,’ said Sara. On the other hand, Akhmed Sungorov and Khalid Allouba, two other students that go to the recreation room everyday, think that the place is ‘fun and convenient’, as Allouba likes to describe it. ‘We sometimes see some Qatari girls in the recreation room. They come only for either the vending machine or for the computer cluster,’ added Sungorov.

Khalid thinks that the reasons Qatari girls don’t come to the Students Lounge is because it is loud and full of guys. He also pointed out that he he’d heard from some of the girls that the smell of the rec room is bad but he doesn’t think it is. To this day, there seems to be no proper and explicit answer for why do Qatari girls don’t go to the Students Lounge.