Home from Qatar, Whalin Harter-Leahy ’04 is a project coordinator who is actively looking for her next adventure.
By Donna Parker
When Whalin Harter-Leahy, who received a degree in anthropology from Trinity in 2004, first stepped off the airplane in Qatar, she had two thoughts: that it was "stunningly beautiful" and the temperature was 125 degrees at 10 p.m.
"I could see it was a wonderful juxtaposition of old crumbling desert style and unpaved roads with the most modern futuristic architecture you'll ever see," says Whalin.
Although she recently left Qatar to spend time with her fiancé in Houston, for the last 3½ years, Whalin has worked in the Qatar Foundation's Education City which is 1500 hectares and has nearly 4,000 students from pre-school through graduate school, including six American university branch campuses.
"As senior projects coordinator, I worked in a division with 45 people and I was the only Westerner, so my anthropology degree really came in handy. I served as a bridge and translator, mainly translating the subtle nuances of English communication."
Whalin's final project before leaving Qatar in July was coordinating the very first graduate school management degree being offered-the executive MBA from HEC Paris.
"These were daily negotiations and I'm proud to have established the program. The driving purpose behind this foundation in Doha is to become the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. It has the non-profit funding and educational power to ensure it becomes a knowledge capital destination."
Texas A&M, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon, along with five other institutions, have established campuses in this 900 acre space.
Whalin, who hails from a sixth generation organic farming family business in Northern California, is now dedicated to establishing the family's rice product overseas and has worked with the Moroccan government to formalize the organic agriculture business. Specifically, she is working on transforming one arm of the family business into an internationally based non-profit organization aimed at empowering women and marginal populations through appropriate and sustainable development, primarily through education, healthcare and agriculture.
She also has studied in Kenya and worked in Bolivia since graduation. In fact, she ran into several people who knew one of her Trinity professors.
"I met Dr. John Donahue, department of sociology and anthropology, when I was interviewing to attend Trinity. I can't tell you what a powerful influence he's been on my life and when I was in Bolivia, I actually met people with whom he'd worked with when he was a Catholic priest in the 70s and 80s."
There also were several Trinity alumni she ran into while in Qatar, including the first person she met in the embassy and one, in of all places, the shopping center.
"I was in the mall in Doha. I'd just been there three days and saw my Trinity friend Sarah Miller '05. I thought, this is amazing!"
Whalin says Trinity's small size and welcoming professors and friends helped shape her life, especially since she started at Trinity at age 17 and had no family nearby. During her college years, she and her freshman roommate restarted Amnesty International and she joined Alpha Chi Lambda.
"Trinity gave me so many opportunities to be flexible and to get along with any nationality or culture. It influenced many of us who have built lives within other cultures."
You may contact Whalin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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