Class of 2020: Curious, Visionary, and Unforgettable

Curious, visionary, and unforgettable. Just three words that the Class of 2020 and NYU Abu Dhabi’s seventh graduating class use to characterize themselves.
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt acutely by our graduating seniors. Their final semester has not been the one that anyone could have envisioned, but the commitment, care, and can-do spirit that each senior has demonstrated has been a profound source of motivation and assurance. 
Commencement celebrates all of their qualities. Some that can’t be taught, endeavors that don’t make headlines, and achievements - both personal and academic - that aren’t always recognized with awards.
Here are their stories.

Alexander Fleming, Class of 2020.
Reem Al Shami, Class of 2020.
  • Sports have played an important role in Alexander Fleming’s time at NYU Abu Dhabi. The ex-captain of the volleyball team knows how easy it can be for a busy university student to have competing commitments and potentially skip regular practice sessions. But the discipline in sports — turning up and bringing his A-game to each session — has benefited him in the classroom. 

    Fleming made the switch to become a mechanical engineering major later than most engineering students. There were challenges, but he persevered and managed to meet the requirements for the major. He knew that, as in volleyball, consistency meant results. 

    During his time at NYU Abu Dhabi, the Australian native was also a student assistant with the University’s fitness center. Together with the department, he championed wellness and positivity, focusing on advocating a passion for health and fitness over body image. 

    The accessibility and availability of NYU Abu Dhabi’s sports facilities resonated with Fleming. Here, the facilities are for all students, not just student athletes and this inclusiveness is something Fleming really appreciates. “A lot of effort and resources have been put into caring for our student body so that we have a well-structured fitness element to our education.” 

David Kim, Class of 2020.
Mia Mancuso, Class of 2020.
  • You may want to avoid getting into an existential argument with Deok Hyun (David) Kim. If being a philosophy major isn’t enough, he is also an ex-president of the NYU Abu Dhabi Debate Union. 

    Initially drawn to the Debate Union because of its dynamic and engaging dialogues, Kim joined and learned ways to put forward his arguments and how to discuss a point of view that he may not personally agree with.

    Beyond learning how to see and understand perspectives that are different from his own, Kim believes critical analysis is  important to back up arguments because “you can’t get away with saying things without substance as people will challenge your thoughts rigorously.” Pair that with the dialectic nature of being a philosophy major and Kim’s world is all kinds of shades of gray — in a good way. These experiences opened Kim up to how complex the world is, and said it allowed him to be able to embrace “the messiness of life.”

    Four years at NYU Abu Dhabi was “trajectory altering” for Kim. “I will be attending Harvard Law School and I wouldn’t be on the trajectory I am on right now without NYU Abu Dhabi.”

Keziah Ann Johnson, Class of 2020
Liene Pekuse, Class of 2020.
  • Keziah Ann Johnson spent the last four years studying for a demanding degree in mechanical engineering, creating meaningful relationships, and constructing a solar-powered house. 

    Her educational journey at NYU Abu Dhabi was peppered with frequent trips to Dubai to take part in the Solar Decathlon, working with a team of fellow students to build a house that runs entirely on solar energy.

    She dedicated herself to the task, despite an often gruelling schedule. “We’d go to Dubai early in the morning to work on site, then we would return to campus to attend a class, or take a quiz. Then we’d go back!”

    The experience taught her about sustainable building practices and offered the chance to apply her engineering skills in the real world, but it also showed her the importance of teamwork and working with others from all around the world.  

    The opportunity to work with such an international team is one of the benefits of being in the UAE. Johnson, who grew up in Abu Dhabi, says the country’s internationalism is encapsulated in NYU Abu Dhabi and has enabled her to connect with people from all around the world to build bonds that will last her lifetime. 

    “Two things I love about NYU Abu Dhabi are the community I built here and the opportunities I have received. Going to a small school allowed me to make a family, not just of friends but also faculty and staff.”

    As Johnson moves on to life after graduation, she said that the support she received from the community will propel her forward in her future in engineering.