Photo courtesy of Phil Cotugno

Considering GAF opportunities post-graduation

Photo courtesy of Phil Cotugno This year, approximately 260 people applied to be Writing Global Academic Fellows and 12 candidates were selected, ...

Apr 13, 2013

Photo courtesy of Phil Cotugno
This year, approximately 260 people applied to be Writing Global Academic Fellows and 12 candidates were selected, yielding an acceptance rate of 4.62 percent. The number of total applicants for the Sciences is smaller, with Biology having the largest pool of applicants. As evidenced by the numbers, the fellowship is extremely selective.
With students showing interest in working for the institution post-graduation, the question arises of how NYUAD will approach the increased interest in GAF positions.
According to Brady Smith, the Director of Academic Enrichment, the recruitment process is incredibly meticulous. First, a Human Resources group in New York screens all the applicants for the prestigious fellowship based on GPA. There is no minimum cut-off however; the GPAs surface the top tier. The committee evaluates not only cumulative GPA, but also the grades in relevant courses and whether or not the student took the required and necessary classes. Smith and his colleagues then conduct a second screening process, wherein they select the candidates in the top pool based on prompts, cover letters, references and transcripts. Ultimately, the deans and directors of their respective departments select the candidates.
Smith, although thrilled at the prospect of NYUAD students becoming GAFs after graduation, acknowledges that there are some potential obstacles. Writing GAF Sara Weschler, who worked in Uganda for two years after graduating from Brown University, agreed.
“It may be a bit complicated to have NYUAD students working as GAFs right after they graduate. They'd suddenly be put in a position of instructing people, who the previous year had been their classmates, hallmates, friends, etc. I think that might be a difficult transition to navigate,” she said.
For GAFs that would be transitioning from students to faculty, Smith plans to create a training plan and culture that identifies them as young professionals with clearly defined expectations.
Another potential problem with NYUAD student applications is that many current applicants and hired GAFs have worked as writing tutors in The Writing Center, whereas NYUAD students have not had many opportunities to engage in peer tutoring and academic support programs. Students will effectively be competing against other applicants from top-tier universities with dynamic writing centers and experiences as writing tutors.
Writing GAF and NYU alumnus Albert Cotugno said, “I really think they need some significant teaching or tutoring experience, which may be difficult to get here as an undergrad. Most of the GAFs have such experience.”
“GAFs from other schools bring a variety of teaching methods that I think are valuable to the nascent NYUAD,” added Biology GAF Sam Raasch.
Raasch worked as a stream ecologist for Virginia Tech after graduating from Penn State University, restoring endangered mussel communities. He also worked at an animal shelter in the animal care department. These experiences made him equipped for professional life at NYUAD.
There are, however, advantages to applying for a GAF position as an NYUAD student. Smith and his colleagues are looking to hire outstanding college graduates from top-tier universities and being an NYUAD student demonstrates academic achievement, indicating that the first threshold has been met.
Interested students can distinguish themselves as a competitive candidate for a GAF position by establishing rapports with professors and staff members who they come in contact with at NYUAD. According to Smith, generally, the majority of individuals in this institution want to give back to the world but also to their alma Mater. Students who want to stay involved with the community and Abu Dhabi as a GAF are making another commitment to their peers — the desire to give back to the institution is a real advantage.
Smith states that since NYUAD is still growing as an institution, the transition to Saadiyaat will provide more job opportunities for NYUAD students post-graduation. For example, with the steady expansion of the student body, new positions have been opened for GAFs for the social sciences.
Smith said they have expanded the areas of specialization for GAFs somewhat organically. Originally, writing fellows would have a secondary degree in the social sciences or a writing intensive course as a primary or secondary support, they would thus act as a secondary GAF for the social sciences, economics and statistics in particular. However, next year they have rigidly divided the GAFs for the social sciences, specifically for economics, politics and statistics. Some GAFs will even specifically be for Capstone support.
This is great news for political science major Tamás Csillag, a rising senior interested in applying for a GAF position post-graduation. Csillag said that the first time he considered becoming a GAF was in sophomore year when he took Advanced Game Theory and could not get any support from a GAF. Csillag believes that the school “could use someone who actually graduated from here, took those classes, often with the exact same professor and knows how things work.”
Cotugno added, “Because they are familiar with this crazy place and because they share a common experience with the younger students, I think current students would make great candidates.”
Julia Saubier is deputy features editor. Email her at
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