school spirit

Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel

Where is our school spirit?

We still need time, passion and dedication to find out where NYUAD’s heart is.

School spirit is defined as the bond that brings together the on-campus community in a sense of engagement, fostering unity and pride. At NYU Abu Dhabi, one of the challenges to school spirit is consistency in commitments. Students sign up for free events hosted on campus, but don't show up or end their engagements with Student Interest Groups once they leave to study abroad. Somewhere between Marhaba and the end of Commencement, pride in the torch fades away.
“Almost the entire community comes out when there’s a huge event like Defend the Nest, InterCLASSico and ADISL finals. Other than that, the regular games don't seem to get as much attention,” said sophomore Kirk Mariano.
While many of the Falcons’ supporters get pumped up with energy at the matches, chanting and cheering all over the stadium, their pride dissipates soon afterwards.
“Most people here only get the news of a game or event happening when they're told by those participating,” said Mariano, pointing out that the lack of school spirit in sports is because of inconsistent advertising.
However, the short-time commitment shouldn’t be minimized.
“I see how students dedicate so much time and energy to their studies, SIGs, humanitarian and service efforts and still make time to support their peers in other endeavors. While this may look much different than the wear your school colors and attend every sporting event version of school spirit that I saw in the U.S., I think it is a genuine show of how connected students feel to one another and to the experiences they have had here at NYUAD, which they will surely cherish,” said Director of Spiritual Life and Intercultural Education Alta Mauro.
Between personal needs, SIG meetings and catching the shuttle to Yas Mall, students are definitely proud to be members of the NYUAD community, as basketball coach Jim McGrath describes:
“I like to walk around campus to see how many people wear the NYUAD shirts, especially I like to see my [Department of] Athletics’ T-shirts, but I’d say at any given day, I stop counting at 50. Whether it’s our Athletics T-shirt, a hat, a backpack, whatever it is, we, definitely, are proud to be NYUAD members,” said McGrath.
NYUAD students know how to defend their university, yet this is driven by a sense of school pride rather than by school spirit. School pride is fueled by a sense of belonging and contentment, but not necessarily by genuine involvement.
Differences in the makeup of a student body with such varying talents and nationalities can often lead to division in student interests and makes bringing students together difficult.
“We don’t have ... visibly, a collective embracing of school spirit, across everything we do,” said McGrath
Art exhibitions, soccer matches for kids or other institutional events are examples of activities enumerated by McGrath that bolster a sense of school spirit. Yet he admitted that their impact is limited.
“It’s tough for students who are in such an excellent challenging academic environment to continuously provide an effort to something that it may interrupt. They leave campus to go on to study, so it may an unrealistic expectation from my part to say that I would like to see 100 people at a basketball game,” McGrath explained.
Students leaving NYUAD does not necessarily dampen school spirit.
“I don't really believe that we need a school spirit, as our identity isn't formed around the school [during] Candidate Weekend. It's literally formed around the people. And I think the social relations that develop put more of an emphasis on the people here rather than the school,” said junior Patrick Reid.
Given the short existence of NYUAD, it may be premature to talk about school spirit. We still need time, passion and dedication to find out where NYUAD’s heart is.
Daria Zahaleanu is a staff writer. Email her at
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