We Are Human: The Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity

The NYU Abu Dhabi community — representing more than 100 countries across six continents — is of diverse national, linguistic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Differences are an inevitable consequence of diversity. So, how can we foster deep connection through the lens of our commonality to further appreciate our differences?

To begin to address this question, NYUAD’s Office of Intercultural Education and Spiritual Life (IESL), in an ongoing partnership with The Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity (PACH), launched the We Are Human video campaign at NYUAD.

The campaign is designed to deepen human connections on our campus. In addition to participants completing a video self-portrait, IESL and PACH staff are working to create a film montage reflecting the humanity and diversity of the NYUAD community. The videos will be compiled into a short film to be debuted in April at Culture, Context, and Community, a student conference where the science of human connection will be presented.

Through answering five questions—What is your favorite childhood memory? What is one of the best things that has ever happened to you? Who do you trust the most and why? What is your greatest fear? and What is your greatest desire? — students, faculty, and staff were engaged in a complex conversation about who we are and what makes us human. Many of us approach such a dialogue from the perspective of difference, yet a conversation solely about our differences can present us with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Starting from a place of commonality allows us to enter into a conversation about differences with greater potential for mutual respect, understanding and genuine collaboration.

The five questions are all very personal ones. Answering them openly and honestly puts the participant in an acutely vulnerable position. This vulnerability is only increased by the fact that the NYUAD community is a relatively small one, where everyone knows most other people at least by name and/or face. Entering such intimate territory can be nerve-wrecking, but the results make it all worth it: you learn not only about yourself through deep reflection and introspection, but also about the people who surround you day in and day out.

Many of us go about our busy university lives learning very little about those around us. We know what country they’re from, what major they’re pursuing, and possibly where they want to study abroad. We exist side by side on this beautiful campus, but how often do we engage with one another? How many people do we really know? Adult life does not offer many opportunities to begin deeply personal conversations. We all have a so-called elevator pitches that we offer up while making small talk, but the five questions in the We Are Human campaign force you to go a deeper, more meaningful place.

Filming took place from January 7-25, 2015. A version of the film will also be archived on the IESL website.

For more information and to be a part of the PACH movement, email your video selfie to Kim Nguyen (ktn225@nyu.edu.)