Illustration by Diya Gupta

The Headless Major

The Psychology Department of NYUAD has remained without a head for 2 years.

Apr 21, 2018

Many Psychology students feel apprehensive about the fact that since the former Head of Psychology resigned two years ago, the NYU Abu Dhabi Department of Psychology has remained without a head.
Since then, the Dean of Science David Scicchitano has served as the interim Head of Psychology. The university, however, is currently in the process of finding a replacement.
According to Dean Scicchitano, a potential candidate is scheduled to have an interview in New York in two weeks. Scicchitano talked about the difficulties of finding an immediate replacement for the position, which the university has been working on since the former head of Psychology stepped down.
“The Head of Department position requires the candidate to be an Associate Professor, and the current Psychology department [at NYUAD] only has one at the moment,” he said.
Multiple students expressed their concerns about the Psychology program offered at NYUAD.
"Coming to NYUAD as someone who knows of the quality of the psychology program available in the main campus in New York, I was disappointed to find the psychology department here being so dysfunctional," said Nada Hatem, Class of 2021.
For instance, some students feel that there is a disconnect between the types of courses offered to students and the courses they want. They are also concerned about the lack of diversity in the electives, which tend to center around cognition and perception.
“I think [there should be] more conversations with students regarding what classes they want to be offered versus the department choosing what classes are offered,” said Nela Noll, Class of 2019.
Many wonder if there is a connection between such concerns and the lack of a major head.
Furthermore, the number of electives offered in the upcoming Fall semester is fairly low, with only two electives and one advanced laboratory elective. Scicchitano addressed this concern.
“[NYUAD] will never be able to offer the same amount of electives that the New York campus does. We also don’t want to offer the same electives available at New York; we don’t want these electives to overlap, but rather to complement each other,” he said.
Scicchitano explained that the advanced electives at NYUAD are meant to be intensive and relatively small, with a maximum classroom size of 15 students. The Psychology Department is still in the process of deciding the best time for Psychology students to study abroad so that a better system can be made to coordinate the classes offered at NYUAD and NYUNY.
In terms of research, on the other hand, the Psychology Department is very interested in bringing the latest technologies to campus to support the research conducted by professors and students. An MRI Machine has recently been purchased to be used by investigators such as Liina Pylkkönen and Alec Marantz from the Neuroscience of Language Lab, Kartik Sreenivasan for his research focusing on working memory and Olivia Cheung for her research on perception, learning and memory.
On the topic of bringing the latest technologies on campus, some students feel that priority is given to faculty research instead of classes, which some speculate is the cause for the lack of electives offered.
“NYUAD is a research university so all professors have prestigious research going on, as well as classes, so it’s hard to balance both sometimes,” said Noll.
But as more planning is made by the Department and transparency between students and faculty increase, the balance between classes and research will surely improve. NYUAD is still a relatively young university and many changes may still occur. In the meantime, Dean Scicchitano expresses his willingness to talk to students about any of their concerns.
Nathan Quimpo is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at feedback@thegazelle.org.
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