Official Updates

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

December 16, 2020

Dear members of the NYUAD community, 

At the cusp of 2021, I am thinking about the unimaginable losses this year has brought for members of our community, while taking great heart in the news about well-tested vaccines now fast becoming available.

I write to wish you a winter break of rest, renewal, and reconnection with loved ones, whether in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere in the world. While genuine time off work and study must be the priority, I hope you will, with just pride, reflect on your manifold contributions to NYUAD. There is no resilience without struggle, and we have come through this year together thanks to your care, solidarity, adaptation, and persistence.

It hasn’t been easy. Work and life boundaries have blurred beyond recognition. Whether in the UAE or abroad, we are all missing in-person interaction with friends and colleagues, study away, gatherings and events, and myriad important routines at the heart of our community and daily lives. But our community has persevered by focusing on the health and safety of all and the continuity of our academic mission.

Our faculty have shown exceptional leadership in adapting rapidly to online instruction, refining, and strengthening our virtual courses to be student-centered and inclusive. Our professors and researchers have responded to vital challenges, and have made significant contributions to the fight against COVID-19. With the visionary leadership of our provost, deans, and faculty, we have begun the process of charting the academic strategy for our second decade.

Our students, both on campus and off, have remained a connected community bridging distances and time zones. They have continued to grow as learners, artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors. Our undergraduates, our first Master’s students, and our Global PhD Fellows have not put their futures on hold. Our staff - most of them working remotely - have driven our vigilant community health efforts, successfully supported remote learning, teaching, and research, and maintained and adapted essential campus operations, student services, and administrative functions. 

As we head into the spring semester, we must stay the course. Screening, testing, and tracing, which have been so effective in preserving the health of our campus this fall, will continue with an even more robust program. Starting in mid-January, we will implement a weekly testing requirement. The weekly testing will be facilitated through our own COVID-19 screening study, which will offer saliva screening for students, faculty, and staff who reside on campus as well as those approved to access campus for work and research. We will also look to continue with a health provider (currently PHD Laboratories) to offer on-campus diagnostic nasal swab testing for campus residents. Additional details on our testing strategy for the spring, including how and where to get tested, will be shared soon.

The good news on the horizon is about vaccines. We are closely following vaccine developments here, at NYU in New York, and around the world. As we gain a clearer view of the scientific results, approvals, distribution of vaccines, and policies around them, we will have more guidance to offer. In the meantime, we must continue to keep each other safe, and stay vigilant and focused. Wearing masks, physical distancing, limiting gatherings, and following other health and safety protocols on and off campus will continue to be necessary to hold this virus at bay. My administration will also continue to examine how best to support all our community members in dealing with the work and stress brought on by the pandemic. 

With the promise of a better year, we have much to look forward to: more community members on campus; fostering mental health and well-being; refining our academic strategy; and advancing campus diversity, inclusion, and equity as well as environmental stewardship and sustainability. 

And with our amazing class of 2021, we will celebrate Capstones and a Commencement that will recognize their collective and individual achievements. We don't yet know what the ceremony will look like, but conversations and scenario planning have started with our Commencement Committee and senior year representatives. What we do know is that we will do everything in our power to make Commencement an inspirational, joyful, and grand celebration of all that our seniors have accomplished. Families and friends will have opportunities to participate in this celebration no matter what form it takes. 

In the four weeks ahead, please pause, decompress, and recharge. Be kind to yourself and others. Safeguard your health and wellness. 

I am so proud to be a part of our learning community, and look forward to seeing you in a more hopeful new year.