Message from the Associate Vice Provost
Students sometimes ask me why NYUAD’s Core exists, or why we’ve given it the shape it has. Why not simply allow students to take introductory courses in various fields to fill a general education requirement? Or why not, as some schools do, adopt a common Core Curriculum, providing an identical set of foundational courses for all students?
There are several reasons NYUAD has not followed either of those models. Our Core doesn’t merely aim to introduce you to various disciplines or skills; unlike most introductory courses, which are designed to integrate students vertically into larger programs of study, Core courses aim to provide windows onto the world beyond the university, to allow you to cultivate habits of mind and to apply new skills and concepts to real-world problems and situations. Nor do we believe that a concentrated set of courses can provide anything like a com- prehensive set of foundational texts and skills, especially not in a global university.
Rather, our Core courses aim even more specifically to open pathways for you to follow into deeper intellectual engagements in additional coursework and throughout your life, courses that will help you live an examined life and think critically about your place in human history, cultures, and in the broader world we share with other species.
The Core’s primary task, then, is to help you learn to ask big questions—and good questions—about our shared existence, to imagine lives other than your own, and to explore new solutions or approaches to long-standing problems, some that have been around as long as recorded thought and some that have immediate implications for the future of life on Earth.
Over the last several years, in conversation with students and faculty, we have refined a 21st-century Core curriculum with our specific student body in mind. Our Core is lean—comprising just six courses—which is smaller than some similar programs at peer institutions.
We have done this for two reasons. First, we want all students, regardless of how demanding their majors are, to participate fully in this key component of an NYUAD education. Second, we want to offer you the flexibility to follow up your experiences in the Core with additional courses of your own choosing. At the same time our Core remains lean and supple, it still prioritizes an ideal of disciplinary and conceptual breadth and an atmosphere of intimate inquiry that should allow you to learn from stellar faculty and peers from across the entire university. It’s entirely possible that a single Core course can have students from all academic divisions, and also that a single student can take Core courses from faculty based in all four of those divisions.
This breadth should allow you to approach important questions from multiple—and even global—perspectives, while we also recognize the challenges inherent in that quest. In Core courses you may encounter questions or topics that you will carry with you into your majors, providing motivations for and contexts in which you will deepen your expertise. Or you may find yourself pursuing topics in the Core completely unrelated to your major but about which you have some long-standing or newly discovered curiosity.
Liberal education traditionally offers a breadth of study for many reasons, among them personal development, a rich context for one’s vocational training, and the cultivation of civic awareness and engagement. We hope your Core courses allow you to discover passions, interests, or abilities you didn’t know you had and to engage in local and global societies in new ways. Allow the Core to help you transition into the intellectual richness and rigors of university life and an examined life beyond your college years. Strive, as you fill your Core requirements, to make connections across fields. Get to know your teachers as individuals and find out what spurs their interests and research. Use your Core courses as opportunities to get to know your classmates better, to ask questions about what grounds their deeply held convictions, some of which may differ vastly from your own. Use these courses to find common connections that unite you across such differences.
The Core should be a place for exploring new knowledge, exchanging new views, and enhancing yourself as an individual and our campus as a community. But it should also help you find your place at NYUAD. What do you bring to the conversation each time you walk into a classroom? And what will you carry from your courses back into the larger world? We look forward to journeying with you as you find out.
Archita Arun—Class of 2020
Chiamaka Odera Ebeze—Class of 2019
Diana Zhu—Class of 2020
Lama Ahmad—Class of 2019
Lujain Ibrahim—Class of 2020
Sebastian Rojas Cabal—Class of 2017
Samridha Man Shrestha—Class of 2020
Jacob Chagnon—Class of 2019