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Graphic by Mariko Kuroda.

NYU Abu Dhabi Announces 2021 Commencement Speakers

NYU Abu Dhabi’s eighth annual Commencement ceremony will have not one, but two speakers.

May 5, 2021

NYU Abu Dhabi announced that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri will speak at the virtual Commencement of the Class of 2021. NYUAD’s eighth annual Commencement ceremony will have not one, but two speakers, both women of color. While Sirleaf will be the keynote speaker, Al Amiri will also be offering remarks to the graduating class.
“We are delighted that President Sirleaf and Her Excellency Al Amiri will offer messages of encouragement and inspiration to our graduates,” commented Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann. “These two distinguished speakers are trailblazing leaders and forces for change whose commitment to public service and advancing societies are powerfully aligned with NYUAD’s mission.”
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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
As Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state and Liberia’s first female president, Sirleaf won international praise for leading Liberia through the Ebola Crisis and for championing the reconciliation and recovery process that followed her nation’s decade-long civil war. She is credited with achieving dramatic economic, social and political change culminating in Liberia’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 73 years.
In 2011, Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for her achievements as a global leader for women’s empowerment. She is also the recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian award. Upon stepping down from the presidency in a peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 2018, President Sirleaf became the first woman honored with the Mo Ibrahim Prize, considered the most prestigious award for African leaders. In 2019, President Sirleaf was appointed as the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador for the Health Workforce.
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Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri.
Al Amiri is the UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency. She works to promote research and development in the advanced science and technology sector, fostering new industries that drive the shift towards a knowledge economy while guiding the ambitious space sector and ensuring its contribution to the UAE’s sustainable development.
Al Amiri also worked on the Emirates Mars Mission, which made history this year with the UAE Hope probe’s successful orbit around Mars. Additionally, Al Amiri is currently the Chairwoman of the Emirates Scientists Council, Chairwoman of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Council and Chairwoman of the Dubai Future Academy Board of Trustees. She served as the Deputy Project Manager and Science Lead of the Emirates Mars Mission at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre before being appointed Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency.
“I look forward to a joyous virtual event where we will honor our Class of 2021 graduates and celebrate the promise and hope they bring to our world,” Westermann added.
Malak Abdel-Ghaffar, Class of 2021 and originally from Egypt, will speak on behalf of the graduating class. Emirati national Maitha Al Suwaidi, Class of 2021 and UAE Rhodes Scholar, will also offer brief welcome remarks. The virtual ceremony will feature a video tribute to the Class of 2021, as well as awards and accolades including the inaugural NYUAD Piano Prize, the Global Leadership Award and the NYUAD Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as the Ceremony of the Torch.
The virtual Commencement ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 22.
Kaashif Hajee is Editor-in-Chief. Email him at
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