NYU Abu Dhabi Announces 2021 Commencement Speakers

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri to speak at the University’s eighth Commencement ceremony

Press Release

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s First Elected Female President and Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology, will speak at NYU Abu Dhabi’s virtual celebration of the Class of 2021 on Saturday, May 22. 


“We are delighted that President Sirleaf and Her Excellency Al Amiri will offer messages of encouragement and inspiration to our graduates. These two distinguished speakers are trailblazing leaders and forces for change whose commitment to public service and advancing societies are powerfully aligned with NYU Abu Dhabi’s mission. I look forward to a joyous virtual event where we will honor our Class of 2021 graduates and celebrate the promise and hope they bring to our world.”

Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann

Former President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will offer keynote remarks. President Sirleaf won international acclaim for leading Liberia through the Ebola Crisis and the reconciliation and recovery process that followed her nation’s decade-long civil war. As Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state, and Liberia’s first female president, she is credited with achieving dramatic economic, social, and political change culminating in Liberia’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 73 years.

President Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011 for her achievements as a global leader for women’s empowerment. She is also the recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom—the United States’ highest civilian award. On stepping down from the presidency in a peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 2018, she became the first woman honored with the Mo Ibrahim Prize, considered the most prestigious award for African leaders. In 2019, President Sirleaf was appointed as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Ambassador for the Health Workforce.

UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri will also offer remarks to the graduating class. Al Amiri works to promote research and development in the advanced science and technology sector, fostering new industries that drive the shift towards a knowledge economy while guiding the ambitious space sector and ensuring its contribution to the UAE’s sustainable development. Al Amiri also worked on the Emirates Mars Mission, which made history this year with the UAE Hope probe successfully entering orbit around Mars. Additionally, Al Amiri is currently the Chairwoman of the Emirates Scientists Council, Chairwoman of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Council, and Chairwoman of the Dubai Future Academy Board of Trustees. She served as the Deputy Project Manager and Science Lead of the Emirates Mars Mission at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) before being appointed Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency.

NYU Abu Dhabi’s graduating class comprises some 320 students from more than 75 countries and speaking over 70 languages. 

Class of 2021 student Malak Abdel-Ghaffar will speak on behalf of the graduating class. Originally from Egypt, Abdel-Ghaffar is majoring in Literature and Creative Writing with minors in Social Research and Public Policy and Visual Arts. Emirati student Maitha AlSuwaidi who was recently selected as a UAE Rhodes Scholar will also offer brief welcome remarks. 

The virtual ceremony will feature a video tribute to the Class of 2021, as well as awards and accolades including the inaugural NYUAD Piano Prize, the Global Leadership Award, and the NYUAD Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as the Ceremony of the Torch. The NYU torch, symbolizing “academic purpose and authority,” has been an integral part of NYU's identity since 1911, and a part of its commencement ceremonies since 1938.

This ceremony will be NYUAD’s eighth Commencement since graduating its inaugural class in 2014. 

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.