Global Think Tank Aims to Better Integrate Study-abroad Students at NYUAD

The small size of NYU Abu Dhabi's student population means, for most, a tight-knit community, intimate social circles, and the luxury of knowing almost everyone on campus. However, this perk can also have its drawbacks. Study-abroad students spending semesters in Abu Dhabi may find that many NYUAD students have already established close relationships with each other and may feel intimidated by the University's close-knit environment. This was the impetus for the recent Global Think Tank, a competition hosted at NYU Abu Dhabi that aimed to find ways to integrate study-abroad students into the University community in a seamless and organic manner, thus eliminating feelings of exclusion and instead forming connections between NYUNY and NYUAD students that would result in academically and socially meaningful study-abroad experiences.

Despite the high-pressure atmosphere of the competition, many students found that they were able to make friends and meet new people. "The Global Think Tank experience was a form of integration in itself," said Elisa Yi, an NYUNY junior. "I was surprised by how easy and fast we were able to connect and form closer ties in such a short period of time. It was a great collaborative effort that really brought the best ideas from each member together. From this experience alone, I feel much closer to and comfortable with the NYUAD community."

The day after the pre-panel, the remaining teams presented in front of the judges and offered a wide array of solutions. The winning team, consisting of NYUAD freshmen Geo Kamus and Diana Gluck, NYUAD sophomore Haley Smith, and NYUNY junior Alexandra Lenihan, proposed the idea of NYU Squares, which entails the formation of miniature support systems within the University. Each square would contain eight students from different backgrounds, majors, and study-abroad sites. Throughout the semester, the individuals in the squares would provide help and advice — and be a source of comfort — to their fellow group members.

"The competitive environment [of the Global Think Tank] helped form very constructive conversations," said Kamus. "Honestly, in the end, NYU Squares was a very polished product. But the process itself was just a really organic back-and-forth where we threw around terms that exemplified NYU philosophy. It was a really valuable experience, learning how to make a professional proposal and creating an idea with a team."

Kamus also noted that the Global Think Tank's mission of integration and co-operation was partly achieved by the competition itself. "Ironically, there are more New Yorkers this semester, but I feel closer to them than I did with the New Yorkers last semester, even though there were less of them."

The competition involved 12 teams, each made up of NYUNY and NYUAD students who, for the most part, did not know each other well. The teams assembled at the Downtown Campus to brainstorm and create proposals that they would later present in front of a panel of judges. Their proposals, as stipulated by the Global Think Tank rubric, were required to include a statement of the current problem and offer an intended method of solving the issue, as well as the ways in which their plans would be executed. The proposals would be evaluated on feasibility, sustainability, and adaptability.

Over two days, team members sprawled out on the campus' sunny quad or organized themselves in conference rooms as they conceived their complex proposals and presentations. At the end of the brainstorming session, the teams' proposals were reviewed by a pre-panel, during which four of the 12 teams were eliminated.

The Global Think Tank experience was a form of integration in itself. I was surprised by how easy and fast we were able to connect and form closer ties in such a short period of time.

Elisa Yi, NYUNY Class of 2014