NYU Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Scholars Program and Stevens Initiative Launch a Virtual Exchange Program

The pilot program connects students in the UAE and the US

Press Release

The Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Scholars Program (SMSP) operated by NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the Stevens Initiative launched a virtual exchange program connecting youth from the UAE and the US. Funded by the Stevens Initiative, the new program provides access to international experiences and fosters dialogue between students.

The program will virtually connect students from the SMSP at NYUAD with their peers who are enrolled in NYU New York’s University Leadership Honors Course (ULHC).

Taking place at NYUAD, SMSP is a nine month leadership oriented program for high achieving students from three federal universities in the UAE, while ULHC is a semester-long leadership course for high-achieving undergraduate students from all three of NYU’s global campuses.

Created in 2015 by the Stevens family as a living legacy to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Stevens Initiative is a public-private partnership that is building global competencies and 21st century skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. Through virtual exchange, the initiative connects youth through technology to collaborate and learn together, giving them access to a substantive international exchange.


“Last year, the Stevens Initiative team contacted us about participating in their international exchange program. We became intrigued by the opportunity to build on the leadership and global awareness objectives of the two NYU classes I teach - one in Abu Dhabi through the SMSP and the other at NYU New York via the ULHC. The classes typically meet once a year in person, but the dialogues provide a more extensive chance for the students to interact. We look forward to a meaningful and enriching experience."

Executive Director of the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Community Programs and Advisor to Leadership at NYUAD Diane C. Yu.

Piloting this semester to foster meaningful and long-lasting connections between the students of both programs, the new SMSP-ULHC Virtual Exchange Program will be implemented by Soliya, a non-profit organization and pioneering virtual exchange provider that is also funded by the Stevens Initiative.

“Twenty-first century leadership skills and attitudes and what is expected from our future leaders are significantly different than the past. We are looking forward to bringing young leaders from the two countries together to discuss current events and tackle global challenges through inter-faith and intercultural lenses. In the process, through the activities we designed for them, they will acquire essential leadership skills including skills in conflict resolution and advance their emotional intelligence.”

Chief Program Officer at Soliya Salma Elbeblawi

Since its inception in 2015, the Stevens Initiative has been connecting youth in the United States, the Middle East and North Africa through technology to collaborate and learn together, giving young students access to a substantive international exchange.

“The Stevens Initiative proudly funds this virtual exchange program that brings together students from the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Scholars Program and New York University,” said Christine Shiau, Managing Director of the Stevens Initiative.


“In our effort to raise the profile of virtual exchange in the UAE, we are enthusiastic about reaching such gifted students and about playing a role in helping them achieve their learning goals as well as developing cross-cultural communication skills.” 

Christine Shiau, Managing Director of the Stevens Initiative

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.