Moving On: The Future at NYUAD

As a senior on the precipice of graduation, it is very tempting to just look back at the achievements of our community over the past four years. ...

May 10, 2014

As a senior on the precipice of graduation, it is very tempting to just look back at the achievements of our community over the past four years. However, I think it is important that this article — the last I write for The Gazelle — focus on the future of NYU Abu Dhabi. I want to take this opportunity to look at what has led to our community’s successes and the traditions that I hope will be continued at NYUAD.
First and foremost, our community has thrived because of exactly the right kind of healthy disrespect for authority, for challenges and for obstacles. It takes guts from all involved to begin a daring project like NYUAD, particularly in the face of uncertainty, the doubts of others and our own fears. When those around us — figures of authority, the international community at large, experts or even our own family, friends and peers — questioned whether what we were attempting to build was even possible, we responded positively. We did not ignore concerns and nor were we ruled by them. We did not underestimate the problems we foresaw, and we left room for unforeseeable problems too. It is this attitude of pushing limits and questioning the status quo that has made the adventure of NYUAD as enriching as it has been over the past four years. In a way, the first tradition we started was that of questioning tradition, and I hope that future NYUAD students experience some measure of that spirit during their time here.
Crucially, our community’s successes have also depended on choosing the right concerns, obstacles and authorities to challenge. Certain aspects of the NYUAD student experience ought to remain constant. There are policies, programs and precedents, however young, that are not broken and do not need fixing. As an example, the number of votes cast in the most recent student elections is heartening as a symbol of strong interest and participation in student governance. The structure of Student Government may be debatable, but in my opinion its existence and strong presence is worth preserving. There is a balance between questioning tradition and accepting the practices passed down to us, and I hope future NYUAD students can find a way to manage that balance productively.
Personally, I am most proud of the behind-the-scenes work of our community. Even among all of the challenges inherent in building NYUAD, our community has found a way to maintain a degree of stability that goes beyond the regular meals of the dining hall and the familiarity of Sama’s furnishings. We have built structures, in personal conversations, Sama Circle meetings, town halls, Student Interest Groups and otherwise, that serve as community safety nets of understanding and acceptance. With so much focus on the many engaging academic and personal challenges on offer here, it is easy to lose sight of our physical, mental and social health, particularly as we engage with others similarly pushing themselves. Creating the support networks to address these needs was perhaps only possible because of the limited size of our community. As our community continues to grow, I urge future students to find a way to extend and maintain this stability in our community, no matter how diverse we become.
Ultimately, it is up to the current and future classes of NYUAD to shape this university experience as they wish. As long as that remains true, the most important tradition of NYUAD will live on.
Joshua Shirley is a columnist. Email him at
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