Photo by Daria Karaulova/The Gazelle

Sheikh Mohamed Scholars Program celebrates fifth graduation

Photo by Daria Karaulova/The Gazelle On Sunday, April 21, the fifth graduation of the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Scholars Program took place in the ...

Apr 27, 2013

Photo by Daria Karaulova/The Gazelle
On Sunday, April 21, the fifth graduation of the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Scholars Program took place in the rotunda in the heart of the Emirates Palace. Twenty-two scholars successfully completed the program and received a diploma at the ceremony, resulting in a total of 97 SMSP alumni.
Each year, SMSP recruits a selective group of students who were previously nominated from three national UAE universities: Zayed University, the United Arab Emirates University and Higher Colleges of Technology.
“The SMSP was the idea of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed himself who, in the early conversations about NYUAD, introduced the possibility of such a program,” said NYU President John Sexton. “Indeed, his daughter, Sheikha Mariam, has been involved since just after those initial talks. I jumped at the chance to teach the Scholars.”
SMSP offers two courses taught simultaneously to each half of the group: The American Supreme Court's Treatment of the Relationship Between Church and State taught by Sexton or US Foreign Policy and Political Power in Modern America taught by journalist and author James Traub and political strategist Robert Shrum. The program also provides critical thinking, public speaking and leadership courses as part of the enrichment program for the scholars.
During these past five years, the program has had a tremendous success according to the organizers, professors and scholars.
“SMSP is that special thing, magic, that happened in my life which totally converted me to a whole new person — the real me,” said SMSP scholar Sarah Al Awadhi. “It was marvelous to meet spectacular leaders and listen to them and note down all their quotes. Each taught us something.”
Another SMSP scholar highlighted the benefits of building social ties during the program.
“The program had so many highlights, but the best part is the friends you make,” said SMSP scholar Aziza Gaouda. “And by that I don't just mean my classmates, but also the alumni, the instructors, the Assistant Instructors and everyone who helped organize this program.”
“Having these 20 students coming to this program and learning something is fascinating, and we also learn from them,” said SMSP and Summer Academy administrator Aisha Al Hamisi. “To me, it is one of the best programs. I’ve seen how the scholars are transformed by the end: the appreciation that they get for the faculty and their country.”
Traub, who also teaches NYUNY and NYUAD students, reflected on his experience teaching the scholars.
“The SMSP students are very bright and very eager, but also a little bit too obedient and respectful,” Traub said. “They have been taught to listen to everything the teacher says, memorize it and then spit it back on tests. I discovered early on that my job was to show them that education means thinking for yourself, challenging assumptions, very much including your own, reading critically rather than reverentially, writing in a way that captures your own thoughts.”
According to the SMSP and Summer Academy Program Coordinator Sara Lizzul, one way in which the program can progress is in the improvement of interactions between the SMSP and NYUAD students.
The scholars take a 10 day trip to New York in January as part of SMSP program. The agenda of the trip includes meetings with the speakers, sightseeing and interacting with NYUNY and NYU-Washington, D.C. students.
“SMSP interacts with NYUNY and NYUDC students during their winter trip,” Lizzul said. “They attended an American Dream panel with NYUNY students, they met with NYUNY Muslim students during their trip to New York.”
But Lizzul said that this SMSP and NYUAD relationship is strengthening with each joint event for the students. Some of the SMSP students attended Asian Night, participated in NYUAD Linajma workshop, an Emirati Women’s Workshop, the Global Issues Network 2013 Conference and have even been involved with NYUAD Student Government.
“I was invited to attend SMSP graduation as a representative of Student Government by Sarah Al Awadhi,” said NYUAD Vice President Corey Meyer. “She has been extremely helpful in coordinating between student government and the scholars.”
According to Lizzul, some of the main challenges for the improvement of interactions between the scholars and NYUAD students are the distance and time constraints. The scholars are fully enrolled in their home universities in different parts of the UAE and have to travel to attend NYUAD events.
“I believe we should be doing more events that are sponsored by [NYUAD],” Lizzul said. “Also students from NYUAD should be going out to other universities.”
“Student Government hopes to host an event for NYUAD students and scholars to get to know each other,” Meyer said. “Since scholars still have commitments at their home universities, which are not all in Abu Dhabi, it has been a challenge to coordinate an event. Hopefully, next semester we will be able to successfully hold an event.”
NYU President encourages the SMSP and NYUAD collaboration because he believes that it will benefit both of the student communities and will lead to better intercultural understanding.
“There is a great opportunity in interaction between the SMSP Scholars and the NYUAD students,” Sexton said. “It’s a way for NYUAD students to know the Emirates and a way for the Scholars to know the world.”
Daria Karaulova is news editor. Email her at
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