The Appointment of Arlie Petters as Provost of NYU Abu Dhabi

July 24, 2020

I am thrilled to announce the appointment of Arlie Petters - Benjamin Powell Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Duke University, and former Dean of Academic Affairs for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Duke - as the Provost of NYU Abu Dhabi, effective September 1, 2020.

The selection follows a comprehensive, wide-ranging, nine-month global search. The Search Committee - chaired by Professor of Economics Yaw Nyarko - sought input from across the NYU community to guide their search for a Provost who would be a strategic academic partner to me, who would nurture and advance our educational and research mission, and who would build on NYUAD’s bedrock of excellence and trajectory of success established by Provost Fabio Piano over the past ten years.


Arlie’s distinguished scholarly qualifications, leadership experience, knowledge of international education, research breadth, commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging, focus on students, deep understanding of academic excellence, and integrity and energy give me great confidence that he will serve the University well in his role as Provost. He will provide outstanding academic leadership as we embark on NYUAD's second decade of growth and accomplishment.

No institution offers a more profound sense of the possibility and value of learning, or prepares students more effectively for leadership in any human endeavor, than NYUAD. It will be inspiring and rewarding to work with Arlie as we advance our resolutely international model of liberal arts education and address the complex challenges we face today.

Arlie is a world class scientist with principal research interests in mathematical physics and scientific methods in business administration. Much of his research explores how gravity acts on light. He pioneered the mathematical theory of weak-deflection gravitational lensing, which brought powerful methods from pure mathematics to bear on astronomy. He also advanced applications of gravitational lensing, which includes predicting effects that probe the nature of spacetime around black holes, and developing tests of Einstein’s general relativity and modified gravity models. He has published fifty articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as five books, including the monograph Singularity Theory and Gravitational Lensing, the textbook An Introduction to Mathematical Finance with Applications, and three problem-solving books on mathematics and scientific reasoning. In economics and business studies, he has focused on mathematical finance as well as entrepreneurship and innovation in STEM fields in developing nations.

With notable achievements in these different fields, Arlie holds multiple faculty appointments at Duke University as the Benjamin Powell Professor of Mathematics, as a Professor of Physics and of Economics in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and as Professor of Business Administration at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Having joined Duke’s faculty in 1998, he eventually served as the Dean of Academic Affairs for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and as Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education from 2016 to 2019. He was also elected to the university’s renowned Bass Society of Fellows. Before joining Duke, he was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University and an Instructor of Pure Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Arlie received his PhD in mathematics from MIT, and has a BA and MA in mathematics and physics from Hunter College of the City University of New York. At Hunter, he received several awards in mathematics and physics, was inducted into the Hunter College Hall of Fame in 1999, and awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2008. Among his other honors are an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Career Award, and the first Blackwell-Tapia Prize in the Mathematical Sciences. He was selected in 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences to be part of a Portrait Collection of Outstanding African Americans in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Arlie has a deep understanding of the place of the mathematical sciences in society, and has long been committed to giving back to the African American community and other communities that have historically been underrepresented in science and the academy. He has mentored numerous students, faculty, and professionals, earning community-service awards for his dedication. In his native Belize, he founded the Petters Research Institute to help develop human capital in STEM fields and foster national development through environmentally sustainable applications of STEM tools in entrepreneurship. In recognition of these contributions, he was made a member in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2008, and appointed in 2010 as the inaugural Chairman of the Council of Science Advisers to the Prime Minister of Belize.

Upon accepting the appointment, Arlie said, “I am thrilled to become a Desert Falcon. NYUAD is truly a precious pearl. Within a ten-year span, the institution has developed a world-class innovative liberal arts and sciences undergraduate program and premier interdisciplinary research environment. It has created a collaborative culture of global citizenry among its excellent students, faculty, and staff. It has fostered diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, empathy, and openness. It has become a university in and of the city of Abu Dhabi. This gravitational pull of NYUAD was simply irresistible. I am delighted to serve under Mariët’s amazing leadership driving NYUAD onwards and upwards, to take its place among the world’s great universities.”

I want to thank the Search Committee members (listed below) for their collective focus, time, and energy, and for their willingness to serve on this important committee, which they did while maintaining their regular responsibilities. Their thoughtful and comprehensive approach to the search resulted in an extraordinarily diverse slate of truly outstanding candidates from around the world, and has now resulted in an inspiring appointment for NYUAD. Their ability to keep the search moving forward well even during an unprecedented global pandemic is especially notable.

On behalf of all of us at NYUAD, I would also like to extend heartfelt thanks to Fabio Piano for his exceptional academic leadership over the past ten years. His prodigious contributions to laying the very foundation of NYUAD have helped create a truly innovative and excellent liberal arts institution fueled by the intellectual plenitude of a research university. Fabio is one of the most inspiring, dedicated, and selfless academic leaders I know, and his willingness to continue to serve in my first year back at NYUAD has been precious in so many ways. His accomplishments have been many, and they have continuously renewed our young institution throughout his term, most recently with his magnificent efforts to help our community understand the evolving science and policy implications of COVID-19. I am delighted that Fabio will continue to be a part of our community as he focuses on his genomics research with the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology he developed here and in New York.

We are profoundly grateful for all that you have done in the role of Provost, Fabio. Thank you.

Please join me in congratulating Arlie Petters on his appointment, and in welcoming him warmly to the NYU Abu Dhabi community.

Mariët Westermann

NYU Abu Dhabi Provost Search Committee


  • Yaw Nyarko – Professor of Economics, FAS, and Director of NYU Africa House

Other Faculty

  • Justin Blau – Professor of Biology and Neural Science and Chair of Biology, FAS
  • Rosemary Byrne – Professor of Legal Studies, NYUAD
  • Reindert Falkenburg – Visiting Professor of Early Modern Culture and Special Academic Advisor, NYUAD
  • Nelida Fuccaro – Professor of Middle Eastern History and Associate Dean of Humanities, NYUAD
  • Sehamuddin Galadari – Professor of Biology, Managing Director of the Research Institute, and Senior Vice Provost of Research, NYUAD
  • Sunil Kumar – Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Tandon School of Engineering, and Interim Vice Provost, Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, NYUAD
  • Ann Morning – Associate Professor of Sociology, FAS, and Academic Director of 19 Washington Square North
  • Joanna Settle – Program Head of Theater and Associate Arts Professor of Theater, NYUAD
  • Bryan Waterman – Associate Professor of Literature and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Development, NYUAD
  • Denis Zorin – Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics and Chair of Computer Science, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences

NYUAD Staff Representative

  • Bianca Arkeen – Center Manager, Center for Prototype Climate Modeling, and Chair of the Staff Council

NYUAD Academic Staff

  • Beth Russell – Head of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Associate Academic Librarian
  • Susan Wei – Director of Academic HR Affairs

NYUAD Student Representative

  • Motoi Oyane – Class of 2020

Jessica Sederquist – Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice Chancellor, served as Coordinator to the Search Committee