by Eddie Rayner

NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) hosted its first in-person Commencement ceremony after two years to honour the Class of 2022. A total of 364 students representing 85 countries who collectively speak over 115 languages participated in the largest graduating class that NYUAD has held since its inception in 2011.

In the presence of Her Excellency Sheikha Lubnabint Khalid Al Qasimi; His Excellency Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman, Department of Community Development; His Excellency Dr Obaid Al-Hairy Alketbi, Chairman of the Board, Dr O Holding Group; His Excellency Mohammed Abdul Jalil Al Fahim, Chairman of Al Fahim Group; along with ambassadors and other officials in the UAE, NYUAD Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann officiated the ceremony at the University’s campus, along with NYU President Andrew Hamilton, who will step down from his role in June next year after eight years in the position. 

Ellen Stofan, PhD, Under Secretary for Science and Research at the Smithsonian Institution, and internationally renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor offered keynote speeches.

“Today marks an incredible personal milestone. When you decided years ago to come to NYU Abu Dhabi, you probably had no idea what was in store or how these years would shape and change you. The experiences you’ve had, the friends you’ve made, the professors who inspired you – they helped you discover your best self. You couldn’t have imagined that your college years would get caught up in a global pandemic, changing everything and making everything harder,” Stofan said. “Yet here you are, in person, for the first time since Covid began. There is no better tribute to the challenges you have faced, than being able to hug your fellow classmates and share this with your family. You did it!”

“Do something that comes from your deep self. Something other. This takes a great amount of work and then an even greater amount of courage,” Kapoor said. “I say to you onwards and inwards, dear sisters and brothers, thank you.”

To date, NYUAD has grown to an undergraduate population of 1,834 students from over 120 countries speaking more than 115 languages, and a graduate population of 114

This year’s Commencement included a number of awards and accolades, including the inaugural Alfred H. Bloom Scholarship for Global Liberal Arts, NYUAD’s Piano Prize, the Global Leadership Award, and the Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as the Ceremony of the Torch.

The four-year Alfred H. Bloom Scholarship for Global Liberal Arts will be awarded to an incoming first-year student who shares the inaugural Vice Chancellor’s vision of building an inclusive and peaceful world, and his commitment to cross-cultural communication.

Hamilton said: “Here is my charge to you: you have all followed, each in your own way, an adventurous path to get here. Wherever your path takes you from here, whichever community you decide to join, make it better. Find ways small or big to make it more welcoming, more just, more global in outlook, more culturally aware, and more engaged. If you keep doing that, your impact in the world and as NYU alumni will be profound.”

A total of 364 students from 85 countries graduated at the University’s ninth Commencement

“Your journey, Class of 2022, has been enlightening in so many ways, to you, and to all of us who have come along with you. Your hard work, your creativity, and your persistence led us to your graduation, with all of us here to cheer your accomplishments. You, the Class of 2022, made this day possible,” Westermann said. “You learned that good change does not come easy, but you kept us focused on the enduring promise of NYU Abu Dhabi, which is also the promise of this country: that it is possible to make common cause for a better world,” she added.

NYUAD Associate Professor of Literature and outgoing Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Development Bryan Waterman gave a valedictory speech. Class of 2022 student Yusril Nurhidayat spoke on behalf of the graduating class. Originally from Indonesia, Nurhidayat majored in Social Research and Public Policy with a minor in Theater. Emirati student Hessa Al Abbas, who majored in Civil Engineering, also offered brief welcome remarks.

Nurhidayat said: “For us, NYU Abu Dhabi has been a dream come true but the work must certainly continue. We owe it to the people who believed in us and supported us, to pass their kindness forward, now more than ever. Today is just one of our many beginnings, and I hope that as we move forward into the next chapter of our lives we continue to put our focus on who we want to be. Class of 2022, you all are some of the most passionate, hardworking, kind, and resilient people I have ever met in my life, and so if anything, you should all just continue being yourself but remain open and curious to exude your best and seek to be better than your past-selves.”

Recruited from high schools around the world, NYUAD’s student body consists of 1,834 students from diverse national, linguistic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds to date.

Keynote speakers Ellen Stofan, PhD, Under Secretary for Science and Research at the Smithsonian Institution, and internationally renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor addressed the audience

From its inception, NYUAD has been one of the most selective higher education institutions in the world. Only four percent of those who applied to be a part of the Class of 2022 were accepted for admission, and the standardised test profile of the Class of 2022 matched those of the most elite higher education institutions in the US.

During their four years, the Class of 2022 has excelled in both academic and extracurricular pursuits. It has participated in student clubs, athletic groups, and built ties with the Abu Dhabi community. Eighty-four per cent of graduates held at least one internship during their academic career at leading regional organisations including Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Institute for Palestine Studies, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, as well as some of the world’s most respected organisations including Amazon, Columbia University, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and UNICEF.

Students have received offers of employment from key local and global organisations including Accenture, American Express, Bain & Company, BP, Citibank, CPP Investment Board, Goldman Sachs, and proSapient. Graduate school offers came from a range of institutions, including ETH Zurich, George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stanford University, University of California San Francisco, University College London, University of Ottawa, University of Oxford, and Yenching University.

NYUAD opened in 2011 with an ambitious vision to be one of the world’s great research universities addressing complex challenges of local and global significance. Since then, the University has established more than 80 faculty labs and projects, and 20 distinctive research centers led by accomplished thought leaders. Researchers, scholars, writers, and artists at NYUAD have produced over 5,000 internationally recognised academic papers, articles, books, and created and directed more than 450 creative works.

NYU ranks 26th globally in the Times Higher Education World University rankings for 2022, and 42nd in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings for 2022. All rankings are based on enrollment and programmes throughout all campuses of New York University, including NYUAD.