The Week Before Classes at NYU Abu Dhabi: An Inside Look From Dean Kumar

Today is the start of classes at New York University Abu Dhabi and the debut of a series of articles about the new campus by [USER:109|profilelink], dean of engineering of NYU Abu Dhabi and associate provost of Polytechnic Institute of NYU.

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and science campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU-Poly is an integral part of its engineering programs and research activities.

Abu Dhabi, Saturday, September 11, 2010
By Sunil Kumar

Typically the week before classes start is spent paying homage to the summer, celebrated in academic circles by the last trips to the beach, the countryside, or other favorite summertime destinations, in a final attempt to capture the idyllic peace about to abruptly evaporate. But not so in Abu Dhabi where New York University Abu Dhabi was a well-oiled machine running in overdrive, with the inaugural faculty welcoming the inaugural class of 150 freshmen as they arrived from 39 countries on six continents to claim their place in the World's Honors College.


Although freshmen do not have to declare a major, 21 of these chose to register for Engineering Foundations in their first semester, and so it can be safely said that the data indicates that presently 21 are majoring in engineering. With 17 majors to choose from, engineering attracted a bigger share than anticipated.

The "Marhaba Week" (welcome week in Arabic) coincided with the last week of the holy month of Ramadan. In keeping with the tradition of the land, nothing could be more appropriate than welcoming the students in a Ramadan tent. Not exactly the customary tent in the desert, one that would have been carried by the tribesmen on their camels, but a very large rectangular white tent in the NYUAD parking lot, with modern accoutrements, one that could hold the 150 freshmen, 40 faculty, and staff, in air-conditioned comfort.

The arrival of students was choreographed to peak on Monday, and by the Tuesday Iftar dinner all but four had arrived. The Tuesday and Wednesday Iftar dinners (traditionally breaking the Ramadan fast at the day's end, a festive occasion for fasters and non-fasters alike) were held at the tent. Vice Chancellor Al Bloom gave a welcoming speech on Tuesday, and other speakers celebrated the intellectual promise of NYUAD made possible by the confluence of the strengths of the curriculum, the innate talents of the students, and the dedication and expertise of the faculty. During the day the tent was also used for student orientation activities; as they sat through the densely packed program of seminars and lectures, hopefully they assimilated some of the material!

This morning (Saturday) the students visited the Center of Science and Engineering in the Mussafa area where the science and engineering instructional and research labs are housed (they could be accommodated in the Downtown Campus). The CSE is a bit of a construction zone at present as the contractors and staff feverishly work round the clock to finish the final touches to the labs in time for next week's lab schedule.

The arrival of the students at NYUAD was covered by The National, the leading newspaper in UAE, which also featured an editorial opinion that work of NYUAD has just begun in transforming the Emirates. Both of these were published in the Wednesday, September 8, edition of the newspaper.