Academic Update for AY 2020-21

July 15, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

With my first academic year as NYUAD’s Provost behind us, I write to share some thoughts on the past two semesters and our plans for the future.

Although it certainly was not the first year that I had envisioned, I was awed by the dedication and resilience our community continues to display during a global pandemic. I am deeply grateful to all our faculty and staff for keeping our academic and research operations going in the face of many obstacles, personal hardships and financial constraints, and for teaching, guiding, mentoring and supporting our students throughout a very difficult year. I am particularly proud that we went through the past year together as a community, united by and committed to a shared vision of fostering academic excellence.
The success of our students and this great institution is made possible by the dedication and commitment behind your work, and I cannot wait to meet you all and thank you in person when we return to campus this fall.

Faculty Diversity

Despite ongoing challenging global circumstances, we have continued to grow our faculty with a focus on diversity and excellence in research, teaching and learning last year. To that end, we have continued to build a diverse faculty body, with our 320 standing, visiting, and affiliated faculty members now representing over 45 nationalities. Of the new standing faculty members who joined us during the past academic year, 40% were from the Middle East and North Africa, East Asia, and South Asia. We are also expanding our pathways to recruit and foster emerging talent in critical areas, an example of which is our Assistant Professor Emerging Scholar program.

Awards, Honors, and Fellowships

NYUAD faculty members received numerous international and local awards, honors, and fellowships last year through individual and collaborative research, reflecting the quality and impact of our research and teaching.

Furthermore, in the past academic year we launched the distinguished NYUAD awards for research, teaching, and service to celebrate our world-class researchers and scholars, devoted teachers and mentors, and colleagues who are extraordinarily dedicated to serving our institution and their disciplines.

In addition to the recognition of NYUAD’s outstanding research contributions to the UAE and the region, the impact extends beyond teaching and research through faculty consulting, community service, and professional society engagement with over 95 UAE-based entities in the past two years.

Research Development

NYUAD's research and creative activity continued to flourish during the past academic year. Researchers, scholars, writers, and artists at NYUAD produced over 1,000 internationally recognized academic papers, creative works, articles, and books in 2020. Our annual research outputs doubled in the past five years, increasing twice as fast as our faculty.

During the past year, we added three new research centers, bringing the NYUAD Research Institute’s portfolio to a total of 16 centers, and funded 10 research grants to combat COVID-19. We also continued to deepen our local and international partnerships, signing additional agreements with a current total of more than 50 organizations. Additionally, I am delighted to announce that NYUAD is now part of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN via the UAE cluster.

Undergraduate Students

Our total undergraduate student population in the past academic year was over 1,600 students from over 115 countries. In Fall 2020, NYUAD welcomed its eleventh class of 490 students from 82 countries and six continents, who speak more than 75 languages. The Class of 2024's academic credentials, which reflect rigorous secondary school programs and top test scores, place NYUAD among the best universities in the world.

Our alumni continue to excel, building on their time at NYUAD. For the Class of 2020, the 6-month placement rate for employment, graduate school, or other placements was 93%, at par with top US universities. In the past academic year, we celebrated many prestigious student awards and fellowships, including two Rhodes Scholars, one Truman Scholar, one Fulbright Scholar, one Clarendon Scholar, six Schwarzman Scholars, as well as one Erasmus Mundus and one Piano Prize awardee, the latter honor being awarded for the first time by NYUAD.

Graduate Students

Our Global PhD Fellows finishing in 2020-21 have received industry placements at Google, Tesla, Qualcom, and Cycled Technologies, as well as postdoctoral positions at the US National Institute for Health and Texas A&M University. Our graduate students and postdocs have received a number of laurels, including conference awards, first-authored publications, and the 2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award.

This year NYU Abu Dhabi also launched its first Master’s program, the Master of Science in Economics, with an initial cohort of seven students. We look forward to a class of 16 in Fall 2021, when we will also welcome seven students as the inaugural cohort of our Master of Fine Arts in Art and Media. We are looking forward to the continued expansion of our graduate programs in the coming years.

Looking Forward

A 48-member faculty-led Academic Strategy Task Force was formed in the fall and charged with drafting a strategy in support of the academic vision to help distinguish NYUAD on the world stage in certain key scholarly and creative areas and in strategically chosen master’s and doctoral programs while maintaining its preeminent undergraduate core, to elevate our institution as one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities, and to continue enhancing the culture of belonging in our academic community. We look forward to sharing the results with the community for feedback in the fall.

Two successful dean’s searches led to the appointment of preeminent scholars Awam Amkpa as Dean of Arts & Humanities and Paula England as Dean of Social Science starting in the next academic year.
Based on feedback from faculty and staff and in partnership with the Vice Chancellor's Office and the Chief Administrative and Business Officer’ team, we have begun to address administrative challenges. This ongoing work includes the recent consolidation of some organizational structures and processes as well as new appointments in the Office of the Provost to align with our long-term academic strategy.

During our academic convocation last November, I spoke about NYUAD as an enduring university and used the image of an oyster to illustrate how a level of discomfort and difference over time would produce true beauty and significance. More specifically, I stated that welcoming the challenges we face in higher education around diversity, inclusion, and belonging would help us develop our capacity for tolerance and openness and connect us with our common humanities, and it would also create pearls within us.

In the relatively short time that I have been part of the NYUAD community, I have seen many pearls growing within our institution. As your Provost, I am committed to fostering that growth, and that means fostering a community with organizational health. In other words, an ecosystem with vulnerability-based trust, healthy conflict, commitment, peer-to-peer accountability, and sustainable high performance. These enduring pillars will help us continue to attract and retain the best students, faculty, and staff from across the globe.

As a relatively young university, we can distinguish ourselves through a culture of acceptance of and openness to other ways of knowing, and a truly global knowledge production. We can replace entrenched silos in the academy with a desire to listen to and communicate with colleagues from other fields, guided by mutual respect and collegial solidarity. That prospect is what drew me to NYUAD. Despite the impact of the pandemic on our community and the challenges that still lie ahead, I am more excited about this opportunity than ever before.

After such a tough year, I wish all of you and your families a fantastic, restful, safe and healthy summer. I very much look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the fall.

Arlie Petters