Journey to Belonging

NYU Abu Dhabi has launched a hallmark diversity and inclusion climate survey that will forge the framework for achieving belonging as the University springs into its second decade of growth.

With diversity at the forefront of NYU Abu Dhabi’s growth strategy, the Office of Inclusion and Equity has launched a survey that strongly encourages all members of the community to help the University become a truly inclusive institution. 

NYU Abu Dhabi invites staff, faculty, and students to participate in their newly launched survey aimed at ensuring every member of the University feels a stronger sense of belonging. The 20-to-30-minute survey ensures confidentiality of participants and will be made available online to all from April 18, to May 15.

The results will be utilized by Fatiah Touray, the senior director of inclusion and equity, in her planning to develop programming, initiatives, and ultimately an overarching strategy for inclusion, diversity, belonging, and equity (IDBE). 

Touray who was appointed in December said the purpose behind the survey is to establish a solid framework that will allow her office to enact change in a meaningful and forward looking  manner as the University springs into its second decade of growth. 

“People’s voices matter. For many, NYU Abu Dhabi has been a life-changing community, and when you are part of an institution you care about, you constantly want it to improve. At the ten-year mark, this survey is meant to improve the lives of all members of our community. We are planning for the future, for the people who will shape NYUAD in the many years ahead,” Touray said. 

Having previously launched an inaugural climate survey focusing on IDBE during her tenure as chief diversity officer at Sarah Lawrence University in the United States and being involved in a similar survey, Being@NYU, conducted at NYU, Touray says the demands of each individual socio-cultural climate differ and require surveys be customized accordingly to ensure objectivity and transparency. 

Questions for the survey, which were drafted by NYUAD in collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education (CDIHE), were based on data collected from months of ascertaining community experiences and discerning cultural sensitivities. 

Since her appointment, the University's Implementation committee laid a lot of the groundwork for the survey by leading listening sessions and creating a series of reports. The Office of Inclusion and Equity conducted several focus groups composed of cross sections of the community to help inform the questions being asked in the survey, while drafting objective questions that invite participants to engage in an open narrative. 

“Sharing  your true ideas and opinions can be complicated. Depending on the cultural context people come from, not only can they sometimes not challenge authority, but they can actually get in trouble or be harmed. The benefit of a survey is being able to conduct it anonymously. What we want to do in our community in thinking about all of this, is first to get an assessment of how people identify, and second we are trying to achieve belonging,” said Touray. 

In continuing with best practice in survey formulation, NYUAD is teaming up with CDIHE, who will serve as a neutral third-party capable of providing objective feedback during each stage of the process.

Furthermore, to avoid any fear of repercussions and to deliver on the promise of keeping participant responses confidential, the CDIHE, will be solely responsible for collating, analyzing, and delivering the results of the survey to NYUAD by end of summer.

The survey will serve as a keystone marker in NYUAD’s mission and vision to uphold IDBE since its inception. Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann has been adamant in drawing a strong expectation from the community to uphold these values through active work and the ongoing pursuit of education, engagement, self-reflection, and a willingness to advance practices that lead to more inclusion. 

“Inclusion, diversity, belonging, and equity (IDBE) work at NYUAD is not ornamental or ancillary to the work of the institution -- it is at the heart of our very mission and key to our excellence. But in our quest for excellence, we must also ensure that all community members can thrive, which means we need to create space to be honest about our experiences, so we can learn and grow from and with one another. This is what the campus climate survey is all about, it’s an opportunity to hear from one another to better understand our collective journey and work together to improve upon it,” said Chief of Staff to the Vice Chancellor Jessica Sederquist. 

Last year when the Vice Chancellor made her commitments for a more inclusive NYUAD, she also launched the Implementation Committee on Race, Diversity, and Belonging and initiated the development of an Accountability Framework. This framework was launched to ensure that the community had visibility on what progress was being made across the institution and the Implementation Committee was created to help coordinate these efforts.

Like any survey, the quality of the results is strictly related to participation rate. Touray asserts that this is an exercise in gathering momentum to improve the environment on campus and to ensure decision-making at all levels reflect the aspirations, goals, and collective vision of the community.