“When I was asked to consider the possibility of moving to Abu Dhabi, I asked my wife what she thought about it neither one of us knew where it was on the map,” said new Dean of Students David Tinagero jokingly, describing his family’s reaction to NYU’s offer to move to Abu Dhabi two years ago.
But from a professional point of view the decision to come to NYUAD seemed quite natural to Tinagero.
“NYU’s mission in Abu Dhabi is very well aligned to the work I was doing before — to find the way through commonalities and people with different perspectives,” he said.
Originally from Queens, New York, Tinagero received a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Education Supervision and Administration from Mercy College in New York. Upon obtaining his degree, he started teaching full-time and became involved in education management. After several years of being a high school soccer coach he became an administrator of a large Manhattan district overseeing the teacher’s training program.
In 2005 Tinagero founded and served as a principal for Mott Hall Charter School in the Bronx, New York. The idea of providing education to the underserved neighborhood especially appealed to him.
“What was exciting about it is this opportunity to bring in inspired teachers and to really test the idea that if you would bring the great curriculum, regardless of socio-economic status you could in fact succeed in the increasing of the level of education delivery and distribution in the high poverty districts,” Tinagero said.
The Mott Hall School’s student body population was split between Latino and African-American students, which according to Tinagero was representative of diverse backgrounds but not as diverse as NYUAD.
Over the past 18 months, David Tinagero served as the Deputy Assistant for the former Dean of Students Julie Avina. He was appointed the new Dean of Students last June.
Courtesy of David Tinagero.
“Julie was great and she had such a good energy, I will have to continue this,” he said.
An open-minded family man with a beaming smile, Tinagero believes that although the moving process has not been particularly easy for his family, it was worth the transition.
“My family — we are New Yorkers in many ways, but we care a lot about international perspectives,” he said. “It is so compelling to be part of the team that is building the future in an emerging country.”
His wife, who is also his high school sweetheart, was especially supportive of the idea to move to the Middle East.
“It is just wonderful to fall in love with a woman from my past and be together with her through all of the changes,” Tinagero said. “Now she is really happy here and she is doing an opportunities program in NYUAD where she teaches The Ways of Learning class.”
His two sons have also adjusted to the new lifestyle and currently attend The British International School in Abu Dhabi.
“They are American boys who now have British accents, they reference the Queen often and call their sweaters, ‘jumpers,’” said Tinagero with a laugh.
Now, when his duty is to overlook NYUAD Student Life and Athletics departments, Tinagero seems ready for a challenge. The confidence comes from not just experience and obtained familiarity with the university and its rules, but also from the fact that in the past 18 months Tinagero succeeded at integrating into the NYUAD community.
“I've worked with Dave as an adviser to student government, and appreciate his practicality and composure,” said Student Government president Leah Reynolds. “He's always been an advocate for students and has great talent and experience when it comes to team building, which I think Student Life will benefit from a lot as the student body grows in the next couple of years.”
Next year will be a big one for the development and expansion of NYUAD. According to Tinagero, the provision of a smooth and effective transition to Saadiyat is one of the important goals for the Student Life Department.
He emphasized the balance of NYUAD community that has to be maintained in order to give students an opportunity to study and focus on the opportunities they are offered, but at the same time to find the ways to connect to the local community.
“It is really important to remember how far we’ve come,” Tinagero said. “Our Emirati students are getting engaged in many ways, and we have to continue to focus on inclusivity.”
On the challenging sides of his job, Tinagero noted jokingly the specificity of NYUAD student work ethics.
“The students like to have meetings from 9pm to midnight, which is entirely appropriate for students, but a little late for an old man like me,” he said.
In his spare time Tinagero enjoys playing community soccer, reading and playing video games.
“At times I try to sit down and play FIFA with students in the lounge,” he said. “And being a father is certainly the most important to me outside of my job.”
Tinagero said the most important part of his job at NYUAD is interacting with students. His eyes lit up excitedly when mentioning his involvement with student-led initiatives and activities at NYUAD. Tinagero sees his new position as Dean of Students as a great chance to build strong relationships with the students and continue to support them throughout these fundamental college years.
“Dave was engaged, adapted well to each situation, and demonstrated an impressive even headedness and dedication to the Student Body,” said senior Brett Bolton. Bolton worked extensively with Tinagero during his presidential term 2011-2012 in Student Government. “To say the least, I have learned a lot from Dave already and I am truly grateful that we have the opportunity to have him as our Dean of Students.”
Tinagero is not just looking forward to serving as a new Dean of Students, but he is also excited about the fact that it will be a first year when NYUAD will have a group of freshmen through seniors. In his opinion, it is an important task for Student Life and NYUAD community to welcome the largest incoming class this August.
Dean Tinagero gives the incoming freshman class encouraging foreword.
“Participate, engage in the options that are here for you, become an active part of this community, seek out counsel if you need it, have fun while you are here, and work hard, of course!”
Dedication to education administration and creating new opportunities for students led Tinagero to the heart of Persian Gulf. The newly appointed Dean of Students seems ready to face this challenging and yet exciting adventure.
“It is just the most exciting place to be, I love it here. I mean it,” concluded Tinagero.
Correction: August 21, 2013
An earlier version of this article incorrectly indicated David Tinegaro was a high school basketball coach. He coached soccer, not basketball.