Class of 2021 Graduates Honored at NYU Abu Dhabi's Eighth Commencement Ceremony

More than 300 students from over 75 countries graduated at the virtual Commencement ceremony

Press Release

NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) celebrated the Class of 2021 – its largest graduating class to date with some 320 students representing more than 75 countries, who collectively speak over 70 languages – during the University’s eighth Commencement ceremony. The virtual experience attracted a global audience of more than 4,000 graduates, friends, family, and members of the wider NYUAD and NYU communities.

Chair of the NYU Board of Trustees William R. Berkley, NYU President Andrew Hamilton, and NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann officiated the virtual ceremony. 

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president and winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, and Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology, offered remarks to the graduating class. 

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said: "As ambassadors of NYU Abu Dhabi, you have a duty to represent its commitment to inclusion, cohesion, and change. Therefore I urge you to set out to achieve the highest levels of your professions and to continue to distinguish yourselves as change-makers. Never settle for what the existing conditions around you may be knowing you can change it for the better."

Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri said: “Over the past year humanity had to reconsider old ways of thinking and the pursuit of knowledge and truth. It was also a year that celebrated curiosity, brought hope which turned into reality, and one that transformed an entire community, when three spacecrafts from three different countries arrived at Mars. The Class of 2021 have lived through this unprecedented time in history, they have risen to the occasion, with their ability to adapt, rethink and thrive in the face of adversity and today they embark into a new lifelong journey of learning and self-discovery. I would like to congratulate them for their hard work and tenacity and extend my gratitude and appreciation to the wider NYUAD community for their tireless commitment to the universal values of diversity, justice and peace.”

This year’s Commencement included a number of awards and accolades, including the inaugural NYUAD Piano Prize, the Global Leadership Award, the NYUAD Distinguished Alumni Award, and a special Pandemic Leadership Award presented to representatives from NYUAD’s Student Governments from academic year 2019-20 and 2020-21. 

The NYUAD Piano Prize will be awarded annually to a senior who best exemplifies former Provost Fabio Piano’s devotion to science and to the wellbeing and excellence of  the University. This year’s prize was presented to physics major Kacper Lecki. Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received 2021 Global Leadership Awards, and Class of 2019 alumnus Chandan Mishra was recognized with the 2021 NYUAD Distinguished Alumni Award.


“Today we celebrate the tremendous Class of 2021, their successes, goals, talents and most importantly, their determination. This year has brought unforeseen changes and challenges, but through it all our students have adapted with resilience and creativity, continuing to strive, to grow and to achieve, and we couldn’t be prouder of them. I am excited to see how they will be using their talents and creativity to build a better world.”

NYU President Andrew Hamilton

"Class of 2021, the way you conducted your senior year gives all of us at NYUAD tremendous confidence that you have the disposition, empathy, and skills that we expected you to have at graduation. You have them in spades. You will do great things, and you will help many people, near and far along the way."

NYUAD Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann

Nearly two thirds of Class of 2021 graduates will enter the workforce at top businesses and organizations in the UAE and around the world,  including Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, Abu Dhabi Film Commission, Crimson Education, Global Green and Growth Institute.

Others will enter graduate programs in medicine, international security, economics, and computer science at the world’s leading institutions, including  Stanford University,  Dartmouth College, University of Oxford, and University of Melbourne.

Throughout their four years at NYUAD, members of the Class of 2021 have earned a number of prestigious academic accolades, including Rhodes, Fulbright, Mastercard, and Schwarzman Scholarships. 

Speaking on behalf of the graduating class, Malak Adbel-Ghaffar said: “As we leave this institution today, I ask you to consider the NYU Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates values we’ve been cherishing here over the past four years. Our university introduced us to the inequalities happening globally, this country has provided us with a safe and secure place to pursue our education, and our classmates  have taught us compassion and truth. Now, I urgently ask you to carry each other’s voices and stories everywhere you go.”

Originally from Egypt, Abdel-Ghaffar majored in Literature and Creative Writing with minors in Social Research and Public Policy and Visual Arts. 

Emirati student Maitha Al Suwaidi, who is a UAE Rhodes Scholar, also offered brief welcome remarks: “Class of 2021, you have come together with conviction, passion, and perseverance, teaching me so much about advocacy, standing up for what you believe in and rising above hardships, and building a space, whether it be virtual or actual, where we were all able to rely on one another and feel joy, safety, and solidarity in each other’s presence. And that to me is the biggest and most honorable collective achievement I can think of.”

Abu Dhabi Global Market Square on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi displayed a message of congratulations to the graduates, while ADNOC Headquarters, the W Hotel on Yas Island, and the NYU Abu Dhabi campus lit up in purple in honor of the Class of 2021. 

The Galleria Abu Dhabi displays congratulatory message for NYUAD's Class 2021

This Commencement marks more than a decade since the University welcomed its first class, with an ambitious vision to be one of the world’s great research universities addressing complex challenges of local and global significance. In this short time, NYUAD has built a remarkable community of scholars, students, researchers, artists, inventors, and others while establishing a new model of higher education for today’s complex world. 

In September 2021, NYU Abu Dhabi will launch an exciting series of events and activations celebrating its 10th anniversary. The public event will include a range of talks with distinguished guest speakers in conversation with University leadership, faculty, students, and alumni, as well as a feature film premiere on the story of the institution, the launch of an impact report on the University’s contributions over the past 10  years, and an oral history book recounting the  origins of NYU Abu Dhabi.

NYU ranks 26th globally in the Times Higher Education World University rankings for 2021, and 11th in the QS Graduate Employability rankings for 2020. All rankings are based on enrollment and programs throughout all campuses of New York University, including NYU Abu Dhabi.

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.