Chunda participates in 2019 VCU Qatar Leadership Exchange
By Briana Williams
November 5, 2019
Sombo Chunda, a third-year doctoral candidate in public policy and administration at the VCU Wilder School, was recently selected to participate in the 2019 VCU Qatar Leadership Exchange.
Established in 2007, the Qatar Leadership Exchange is the premier cross-cultural leadership development program offered by Division of Student Affairs at the university. The program is open to all VCU students, both graduate and undergraduate, and is designed to increase appreciation, awareness and collaboration between VCU's Richmond and VCUarts Qatar campuses.
This year’s call for applications went out during the spring 2019 semester. According to Chunda, approximately 170 students applied and 10 students were ultimately selected to participate.
In preparation for the visit, students were required to participate in a seven weeks training on Quatari culture. Delegates were also encouraged to reach out to past participants to learn more about the exchange as well as share any insight that might be valuable to the group.
“During the training, we reflected on the Qatar 2030 National Vision goals and strategies. We also discussed VCU's Quest 2025 in relation to the university’s leadership role. The conversations that we had with previous participants, Quatari-based VCU staff and Qatari exchange students were extremely helpful,” said Chunda.
“Since this is a program aimed at enhancing student’s leadership, I was asked to share on my independent study on interdisciplinary collaboration at VCU. My study looked at how universities translate policies into action and I gave an overview of what collaboration looks like at VCU.”
While in Qatar, students gained an increased awareness of Qatari history, culture and customs. Chunda shared how she was able to apply what she had learned while at the Wilder School to what she was learning through the exchange program.
“We visited the Qatar Foundation in Doha and learned about the history of the organization and its continued role in the development of the country. In this session, I wore my public policy and administration hat and was able to reflect on different forms of collaboration between the government and the nonprofit sector,” she said.
“This was particularly exciting because I am doing my teaching practice as part of the Preparing Future Faculty Program and teaching a course on the Principles of Nonprofit Management.”
Given the opportunity to present to other students during the exchange experience, Chunda chose a relatable topic that meant something to her personally.
“I gave a professional development presentation to the students titled ‘Advancing one’s career: identifying and taking up opportunities,” said Chunda.
“I loved this opportunity to share about ‘opportunity.’ I have taken on many opportunities in my life and I am happy to share with others how to identify opportunities and work through that. The feedback suggested an appreciation and this is an ongoing conversation.”
Reflecting on her overall experience, Chunda encourages other students to challenge themselves and participate in programs offered by the university such as this exchange.
“I encourage VCU students to seriously consider the Quatar Leadership Exchange. The entire program is structured to challenge one’s perceptions of leadership in addition to learning more about a different culture,” noted Chunda.
“I have held many leadership positions over the years and love to travel. I have been to more than 20 countries and this is the only experience that helped me to reflect deeply on many values of leadership and why we do what we do as leaders.”
“I would also encourage other students to participate because the program fosters collaboration with students from other parts of the university here in Richmond as well as with students based at the Qatar campus. That’s the bonus.”
“I wanted to have an experience that I could look back on and be reminded that in addition to working hard, graduate school should be about creating good memories to hold dearly. There are few opportunities for making those memories and often, graduate students carry a lot of stress,” said Chunda.
“While that seems to be part of the culture, we need to be deliberate about making the change we want to see. I am thankful to VCU for this amazing experience.”