New York University: A Beacon of Progress
by Sana Bagersh
This ed’s note, I want to focus on an institution that is a beacon of progress; quietly revolutionizing education, and giving us hope for a better future…
At a time technology is disrupting mainstream industries, it is comforting to know that education remains the essential backbone of human progress. Universities can guide us the through the dizzying pace of transformation, and prepare the next generation to lead the future.
Within the UAE, New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) which was established by the government of Abu Dhabi to serve as an excellence centre for education, can teach organizations about best practice, good governance and effective execution.
I have had considerable interaction with NYUAD through direct collaboration on projects, and relationships with faculty, staff and students. The university’s social impact is obvious in the quality of education, its focus on creativity, its innovative programmes and its community outreach.
I want to share a personal experience… I registered my 14 year old daughter in a theatre workshop, provided free of charge to the community, by Scandar Copti, a prominent Palestinian filmmaker whose debut full-length feature film “Ajami” won the Camera d’Or Special Mention and was nominated for the 82nd Academy Awards.
As my daughter took her class I wondered through the campus. It was 9.30 pm in the evening and yet the campus was abuzz with activity. Students and faculty were working and interacting in the campus’ restaurants, its library, class rooms, sport centres and the spacious atria. In the back of the Arts Centre, there was an expectant huddle waiting for a performance. I joined them to watch Trajal Harrel performing “The Return of La Argentina,” an intriguing piece of theatre that plays in top arthouses globally.
Where else, in what other educational institution in the UAE, do you see so much happening on a campus, at so late in the day? Such a highly immersive, energizing ambience can only be a place where students are learning new things, creating new ideas and shaping our future.
What we can learn from NYUAD is that educational institutions must champion art and creative expression as they are vital in shaping human intellect. The impressive lineup of events organized by NYUAD on it campus of just over 1000 students, rivals the art calendars of some cities.
We can learn from NYUAD that education is better when it is in an ecosystem that is conducive to meeting, sharing and learning. Almost all NYUAD students live in the dorms, and this policy is designed to encourage continuous engagement and interaction. To make living on-site enjoyable, the campus is an aesthetically pleasing environment of building clusters rich with amenities, urban spaces, and impressive facilities. Everywhere you go, there is a palpable feeling that learning is happening around you; whether it is students debating theories in science and engineering, teams working in the tech shop, or faculty and staff exhibiting projects around campus.
We can also learn about the importance of community engagement. For a small size population, NYUAD has a giant community footprint that includes seminars, events and outreach programmes that are open to the public, and free of charge!
More than anything, NYUAD can teach institutions about openness and optimism, and the importance of providing a place for staff and faculty to believe they can make a difference.