Illustration by Taman Temirgaliyeva.

Everything You Need to Know About WorkSmart

NYUAD has recently launched WorkSmart, an initiative aiming to improve the effectiveness of communication with the administrative departments. Here is everything you need to know about it.

May 9, 2022

NYU Abu Dhabi has recently launched WorkSmart, an initiative aiming to improve the effectiveness of communication with the administrative departments. The Gazelle conducted an exclusive interview with Jessica Sederquist, Chief of Staff and Theodore Lee, Senior Director of the Integrated Solutions Group, to learn more about it.
Q: What made the university decide to launch the WorkSmart initiative?
A: WorkSmart has been under consideration for a number of years and was initially launched in New York as an opportunity to review the operational effectiveness of existing administrative services. It was a chance to “look under the hood” across a number of areas to identify areas for improvement based on student, faculty and staff feedback.
NYUAD has taken the opportunity as it moves beyond its first 10 years in operation, to perform a similar exercise across all its administrative areas, especially in light of the new academic strategy and the launch of its new graduate programs.
The leadership at NYUAD understood that in order to continue to grow as a university, its administrative services need to be able to scale to support this growth while continuing to offer personalized services where appropriate. Our community has grown considerably since we moved to Saadiyat Island and WorkSmart will help ensure our administrative processes reflect the needs of our current community.
One key way WorkSmart is reimagining administrative services is to think about delivering services based on who you are; a student, a faculty member, a staff member, etc., so that services efficiently match the needs of the role you perform.
The WorkSmart initiative is designed with five key projects to help us meet the vision of the university by becoming more customer-focused and performance led. They are:
User Journeys: A listening exercise to get feedback from students, faculty and staff on their experiences with consuming administrative services: what works, what doesn’t and how can we serve the institution better. Service Catalog & Quick Wins: The development of a more consistent, standardized online experience where administrative services are served up centrally through a single online platform enabled for self-service (where appropriate) and improved service transparency. Supplementing this, we hope to be able to implement a number of technology quick wins to help improve the user experience.
StudentLink: The implementation of a physical space to support students directly with any administrative queries. As a one-stop shop, the intent is to be able to address and resolve queries immediately where possible.
Employee Service Center: Similar to the Studentlink Center, the Employee Service Center will handle queries from faculty and staff.
Culture Change: Recognizing the need to become more customer-focused and performance-led, the Culture Change project will work with a specialist consultancy to help the institution adjust its culture to align with this vision.
Q: Do we have a timeline for the initiative? When can we expect the change approximately?
The program is designed to be realistic and practical given the broad scope of work involved, aiming to achieve both quicker-to-implement improvements as well as sustained change across the institution. Overall the program is intended to take around three and a half years to complete, having launched in January. We hope to bear fruit through the Service Catalog and Quick Wins projects over time. The Culture Change project is also expected to introduce a more customer centric approach to services which the community should start to experience early on next academic year. Finally, work on the StudentLink center should also start in the next academic year and we hope to have that up and running in 2023. Those are just some planned highlights (all assuming everything continues according to current plans of course!) that you can expect to see soon. As we engage with the community, we are encouraging them to be thinking with a WorkSmart mindset right now.
Q: Does the WorkSmart initiative indicate that students will no longer use email to interact with different offices and departments?
On the contrary, we want to actively encourage and improve our use of email channels to address student queries.
We understand from formal and informal feedback channels that there is a feeling that email sometimes goes into a “black hole”, so we want to address this issue through improved communication and greater process transparency.
We also want to empower our local administration to be able to resolve inquiries in real time as best possible or have expectations set upfront on when a response can be expected.
Furthermore, we recognize the need of students (as well as staff and faculty) to speak to someone and in that sense, we have taken advantage of the opportunity to leverage the StudentLink Center in New York. We would also like to introduce something similar here.
Q: What can we expect from the WorkSmart initiative?
This is a very ambitious program of work, spanning over three years, working closely with New York and based on a number of dependencies as well as assumptions. Our hope is that the student community should expect a more proactive and customer-focused administration that is designed with an improved user experience at its core.
We also recognize that in order to shift to this new model and for it to be successful, we need a level of introspection to appreciate where we are today and where we need to be as administrators to best serve the institution. For that reason, we are also launching a culture change program to help us become more end-user-centric and performance led.
Q: Do you have anything you want to share with NYUAD students?
We launched WorkSmart in response to the feedback we’ve heard from students and other community members. We want students to feel free to talk to any of the WorkSmart teams with ideas and suggestions in support of improving the student administration experience, especially ideas that they may have seen working well, or could be improved, at the StudentLink Center at NYU. Feel free to email the project team directly at or leave feedback using our anonymous WorkSmart feedback form.
Barry Lin is Deputy News Editor. Email him at
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