Commencement Speakers

Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak

President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for the leadership team of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the UAE

Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak is a United Arab Emirates native who for more than twenty years has played a vital role in guiding her country toward a more sustainable future while spearheading progressive environmental protection, species conservation, and global climate action. She was elected President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it, in September 2021. She is the second woman to lead the organization in its 75-year history and its first president from West Asia.

Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak serves as UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for the leadership team of COP28 Presidency, which will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12, 2023. Her diverse experience leading the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi, the largest environmental regulatory agency in the Middle East, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, an international philanthropic organization supporting species conservation projects worldwide, and Emirates Nature — WWF, a Dubai-based NGO focused on citizen engagement, earned her recognition as one of the top 100 Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum in 2018.

William R. Berkley

Chairman of the New York University Board of Trustees 

William R. Berkley is the founder and Executive Chairman of the W. R. Berkley Corporation, a Fortune 500 property-casualty insurance holding company.

A graduate of NYU (Stern ‘66) and the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, he was made chair of the Board of Trustees in 2015. Prior to being elected chair, he served as vice chair of the Board, chair of the Board of Overseers of the Stern School of Business, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the NYU Langone Medical Center. He has also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Georgetown University, and was a former Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut.

Mr. Berkley has received numerous awards for his business, civic and philanthropic contributions, including an honorary doctor of law degree from  Mercy College, and the Charles Waldo Haskins award from NYU’s Stern School of Business. He was also the recipient of the Valentine Mott Award, from NYU Langone Medical Center, for exceptional and long-standing support and leadership.

Andrew Hamilton

President, New York University

Andrew Hamilton, a distinguished chemist and a Fellow of the Royal Society whose scholarly work lies at the  intersection of organic and biologic chemistry, is the 16th president of New York University.

He came to NYU from the University of Oxford, where he served as the vice chancellor, after an academic career that took him from Princeton to the University of Pittsburgh, and then to Yale, where he was ultimately named provost. Throughout his time in academic leadership positions, he has maintained his scholarly work, including an active research laboratory, which he continued to do at NYU.

He received his PhD from Cambridge University, his master’s degree from the University of British Columbia, and his undergraduate degree from Exeter University.

Hamilton will step down as president on June 30, 2023, and return to his scholarly activities after a sabbatical.

Mariët Westermann, NYU Abu Dhabi

Vice Chancellor, New York University Abu Dhabi

Mariët Westermann joined NYU Abu Dhabi as Vice Chancellor and Professor of Arts and Humanities in 2019.

Dr. Westermann previously served as executive Vice President at the Mellon Foundation. Prior to joining the Mellon Foundation, she was a member of the faculty at NYU, frst as director and Paulette Goddard Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts and then as the frst provost of NYU Abu Dhabi.

Before joining NYU in 2002, she had been associate director of research at the Clark Art Institute and a faculty member at Rutgers University.

Dr. Westermann is a widely published scholar on the art of the Netherlands, her native country, and on higher education, the humanities, cultural heritage, and diversity and inclusion.

Her current research is focused on Gardens of Eden in the Abrahamic faith communities. She earned her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, at Williams College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and she received her master’s and PhD degrees from NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts.

Arlie Petters, NYU Abu Dhabi

Provost, New York University Abu Dhabi

Arlie Petters joined NYU Abu Dhabi in 2020 from Duke University, where he was the Benjamin Powell Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, former Dean of Academic Affairs for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

Prior to joining Duke, Petters served as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University and an Instructor of Pure Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

As a prolific and award-winning scholar, Dr. Petters has published numerous articles in the top-tier journals of his field and has written five books. His principal research interests are mathematical physics and scientific methods in business administration. He pioneered the mathematical theory of weak-defection gravitational lensing and advanced innovative applications of the theory.

Dr. Petters 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.

Baishakhi Taylor, NYU Abu Dhabi

Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

Baishakhi Taylor oversees the Division of Student Affairs, which comprises residential education and leadership, career development, community outreach, spiritual life, intercultural education, the student Health Center, student success and wellbeing, and athletics.

Prior to joining NYU Abu Dhabi, Taylor served as the Dean of the College at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She oversaw academic advising, international students, student affairs, residential life, student engagement, health and counseling services, athletics, career services, and disability services.

Taylor holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Northern Iowa, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India. She is fluent in several languages, including Bangla, Hindi/Urdu, and German.

Ghaya Mohammed Alshamsi, BS

Welcome Speaker Class of 2023

Ghaya grew up in the UAE, and majored in computer engineering with a minor in political science. She was also a teaching assistant and research assistant in the Computer Engineering department. During her time at NYUAD, Ghaya has been involved in the Sufara’a cultural group and also served as cultural advisor and Vice President of UAE Majlis. She also chaired the Domestic Student Advisory Board, through which she worked closely with senior University leadership. Last summer Ghaya interned in the Office of Strategic Affairs at the Crown Prince Court, which is now the Presidential Court. This year she served as a Youth Ambassador to Japan under the Crown Prince Court, and as a Global Shaper, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.

Seo-Hee Hong, BA

Student Speaker Class of 2023

Seo-Hee was born in South Korea and grew up in Qatar. She majored in Economics with a minor in Creative Writing. Seo-Hee worked as a First-Year Dialogue Facilitator, Global Career Peer at the NYUAD Career Development Center, Economics Student Representative in Student Government, and a Resident Assistant. She is passionate about sustainability and climate action and served as the Chair of the Dining Committee, which developed an action plan to reduce food waste and increase vegan options. She was a member of the Sustainability Committee, and the organizing committee of the Higher Education Climate Dialogues Conference. She was a cast member in the first-ever virtual RealAD Show in 2020, played classical violin in ensemble performances, and danced in recitals.