By Tim Cheney
I recently returned from a visit to NYU’s new college campus in Abu Dhabi.
How did I get there? A direct flight from Chicago—mine took me up over Greenland and Iceland, over the North Atlantic. We traveled across Norway and Sweden, over the Black Sea and along the border of Iraq and Iran. The final approach was over the Gulf before we landed in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.
While I was only in the country for a few days, I was able to experience much of what NYU’s President John Sexton has called “both a repository of a great culture and a symbol of that culture’s adaptation to modernity” during my visit.
I was there as part of a small delegation of U.S. college counselors invited to attend “Candidates Weekend.” The “candidates” were prospective students vying for a spot in the Class of 2016—105 of them from all over the globe.
I participated in a set of programs and activities designed to showcase both NYU Abu Dhabi’s academic programs and their faculty and students.
During my first morning on campus, I attended a biochemistry class titled “How to Patch Damaged Genes” with prospective students from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Panama, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Nepal, and Singapore. I was fascinated by the perspectives each of them shared and with the manner in which the professor directed the discussions.
The diversity of perspectives at NYU Abu Dhabi offers a richness and vitality to the classroom that is hard to duplicate. In addition to classroom observations and panel presentations, I was also able to get a taste of local culture; I had dinner in the desert, went on a camel ride, visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, shopped at a local souk (mall) in the city center, and attended a gala reception at The Emirates Palace Hotel.
NYU was created to be “in and of the city” and their new model is intended to be “in and of the world.” Their vision includes becoming a truly global network university, and with campuses in New York and Abu Dhabi (and one that will open soon in Shanghai), they are well on their way.
In addition to these three, NYU has satellite campuses on six continents, allowing students (and faculty) to circulate through the global network with remarkable ease. The early success of NYU Abu Dhabi is promising—with seemingly unlimited financial resources (from the UAE), opportunities to innovate and adapt are plentiful as the global network continues to evolve.
In Abu Dhabi, in particular, I was able to see the blueprint of a campus being constructed on Saadiyat Island, one of the many islands that make up Abu Dhabi. The facility is expected to open in 2014 and will house approximately 2,000 students at full capacity.
To give you a sense of what students might expect when the new campus opens, the Louvre and the Guggenheim will be located in the same neighborhood. I was impressed!
Abu Dhabi and NYU have set ambitious goals for themselves. It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago Abu Dhabi was nothing but sand. What stands today by way of a cityscape is not just a monument, but rather a testament, to the growth and evolution of a nation.
For more information on NYU Abu Dhabi visit the website or stop by to see me.