What's Your Favorite NYUAD Core Class?

Students attend a class taught by Ralph Katz, held outdoors at the Central Plaza on NYU Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island. (Photo / Silvia Razgova - Philip Cheung)

At the heart of NYU Abu Dhabi’s curriculum lies “The Core” designed to challenge students in a variety of disciplines across the arts and humanities, engineering, sciences, and social sciences.

The core curriculum consists of two types of classes: core colloquium and core competency, which seek to equip students with the necessary tools to address global challenges, and the ability to ask questions, think critically, and keep an open mind. The core competencies are offered in four areas:

  1. Art, Design and Technology

  2. Structures of Thought and Society

  3. Cultural Exploration and Analysis

  4. Data and Discovery

For students, selecting six cores out of seemingly endless possibilities can be a huge challenge. Once that’s done and dusted, however, a lot of us come out of these courses as changed human beings. These are just a few favorites of students from various disciplines and classes.

Lies and Lying with Scandar Copti

“I really enjoyed taking this class not only because I found the topic intriguing but also because I really liked my professor’s teaching method. When I first heard about the course, I was curious to see how we could even begin to talk about the notion of lying given that we all have varying definitions of what lies are or how acceptable lying is. Professor Scandar Copti helped us to think through complex concepts such as ethics and morality by engaging us with different advertisements, films and texts. It was a very enjoyable class and I learned a great deal from it.” — Hayat Seied, Class of 2017

Faith in Science, Reason in Revelation with Justin Stearns

"Despite the workload, I've fallen in love with this class because it explores thought-provoking philosophical questions and examines the nuances of the relationship between religion and science. It brings to life the scientists and discoveries in my Foundations of Science textbook, from Aristotle to Galileo to Darwin. We've discussed meaningful questions, everything from why a benevolent God would allow suffering to occur, to whether science is truly bringing us closer to discovering absolute truth.  Professor Justin Stearns is witty, sarcastic, and extremely knowledgeable about Middle Eastern history, while also giving detailed feedback on our writing. Every class challenges my preconceptions about Christianity, Islam, and the history of science.” — Alison Waterman, Class of 2020

NYUAD's core classes have a low faculty-to-student ratio.

"Laughter" is a core class that really forces you out of your comfort zone ... it's the most fun class I've taken and the one that's shaped who I am now the most.

Rida Maryam Zafar, Class of 2019
Laughter with Aysan Celik

“I loved Laughter because Aysan Celik was a great person and a great teacher, I think you really need a good teacher to actually learn something at the end of the day. I liked the creativity aspect of the class. The professor gave us space to write what we wanted on the final essay. Sure, we had to write a memoir and the page limit was defined but we could write whatever we wanted. We also had to make Vines (remember when they used to be a big thing?) and our final project was supposed to incorporate laughter. I had a lot of fun doing that.” — Ghaniba Ali, Class of 2019

“Laughter is a core class that really forces you out of your comfort zone without compromising on an enhanced learning experience that helps you engage with the class, your home culture and other cultures and what humor means to you. Some aspects of it, like a mandatory clown workshop, are daunting but despite that it's the most fun class I've taken and the one that's shaped who I am now the most.” — Rida Maryam Zafar, Class of 2019

Human Voice with Martin Daughtry

“Martin is an amazing human being, mentor and teacher. He is full of passion and experience from which you can learn so much about music, art, life, the self and each other (our class bonded and shared a lot more than we thought we would). He also expects a lot of effort and for us to dig deep within ourselves to produce unique material and learn something despite our varying levels of interest and expertise.” —
 Gracie, Class of 2017

“Martin changed my entire approach to the arts, inspired my Capstone, connected us with the most amazing artists and academics in New York, is generous and experimental, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.” — Isabelle Galet-Lalande, Class of 2017

Tolerance and Relativism with Matthew Silverstein

“If you're interested in getting a taste of philosophy with an amazing professor, I highly recommend this class. It gives one a new perspective on how we perceive the world and what it means to be tolerant. I questioned my life every time I walked out of that class." — Lama Ahmad, Class of 2019

Students take professor Dris Soulaimani's elementary Arabic class at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. (Photo / Silvia Razgova - Philip Cheung)
Migration in 20th and 21st Century with Catherine Coray

“She is a wonderful professor, thanks to her elaborate work experience at Tisch, which really means that she understands that as much as it's important to have your articulation in essays, you should know how to absorb the entire experience of the class too. The class is very diverse in its approach of explaining the concept of migration. Every reading and movie has managed to pull a string in my heart. Our class is also really small and really, really smart, so our discussions have always been very engaging and productive. All in all, you will always look forward to going to this class.” — Shivani Mishra, Class of 2020

Reinventions of Love with Rubén Polendo

“Long before I stepped into Rubén's classroom, I had already heard horror stories about people getting Fs, of having a whole grade dropped and locked out of the classroom if you were late. And, of course, Ruben's infamous rule of breaking your phone if it rang in class. When we began the semester, Rubén confirmed that all those rumors were indeed true, and stressed that he means it when he says he's going to break your phone. I almost dropped out of that class because he was so scary. Five months later, I'd taken Cindy Sherman-esque photographs, drawn a self-portrait inspired by Frida Kahlo, rewritten a section of the Bible, and reinvented my own definition of love every other week. Oh, and Rubén had become this warm cuddly teddy bear who I sought love advice from. Then, Rubén dropped a bomb on us by informing us that he'd been promoted to the chair position of Tisch's Drama Department, and that he was leaving Abu Dhabi. Many of us publicly mourned the loss of Ruben, and yes, tears were shed. How could we not, when we were losing this life-changing professor who pushed us all beyond our comfort zones and opened new worlds of philosophy, art, music, theatre, religion and so many other things for me to redefine and love. It's not the first time I've written a love letter to this class, but I'll write it, again and again by living life every day changed by Reinventions of Love.” — Diana Siu, Class of 2019


Hafsa Ahmed, Class of 2020, is from Lahore, Pakistan and as such a passionate biryani enthusiast. When she isn’t engaged in intense table tennis matches in the Baraha or elsewhere, she can be found taking aesthetic pictures for her Instagram or watching cat/dog videos online. She is a student contributor for #myNYUAD stories, a growing collection of articles by students about students at NYUAD.