Global Network University Reflection
December 21, 2010
The joy of discovering new worlds and new peoples is as old as Herodotus; and such encounters always have shaped our world and worldview. Today, globalization in its many forms washes like a flood over cultures and economies. Floods can be destructive; but they also can bring blessings, as the annual floods of the Nile sustained the brilliant civilization of ancient Egypt. In this Reflection, I will argue that great universities – and especially those that reshape themselves as what I call “global network universities” – can influence globalization positively and, thereby, foster the advancement of humankind in special ways.
The traditional university has been defined in important ways by location; most universities are sited in one place and view themselves in relation to that place. Yet, almost a century ago some began to accommodate, encourage, and occasionally even aggressively pursue the possibility that students might study elsewhere for a semester or more. Today, nearly all major universities permit this – even if they do not always facilitate it.
In recent years, a few universities (primarily but not exclusively universities outside the United States) have gone farther and have opened what might be called branch campuses, some at the undergraduate level and some at the graduate level. By and large, these campuses have been mere outposts with relatively loose connections to the core of the university, its faculty, and its student body; moreover, they have been uneven in quality. Still, though quite different in essence and quite modest by comparison, these initiatives are harbingers of a new way of structuring the university – what I will call a "global network university." In the following pages, I offer both the theory behind and the architecture of New York University’s development in this new form. I do not claim that what we are developing at NYU is the only version of this university model; others may embrace the concept, but develop it differently. However, NYU’s approach now is sufficiently mature that it is worth examining its features.
* This Reflection is based upon preparation for and remarks by NYU President John Sexton in conjunction with the following conferences in the Fall of 2010: The Economist Ideas Economy Conference "The Great Brain Race;" the Emirates-Aspen Institute Conference "Establishing a National Balance: An Ethos for Innovation and Leadership" and "Education as a Catalyst for Innovation;" and, the British Council UK-US Higher Education Forum.
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The character of knowledge today, the diversity of its points of generation, and its increasingly fluid nature adumbrate the essence of a university whose very structure accommodates these ways of discovering, disseminating, and utilizing knowledge in an increasingly multipolar and integrated world.
The architecture of this new version of the university is genuinely global, with (in the case of NYU) a planned physical presence (manifest in both facilities and the human capital of faculty, students, and staff) on six continents and the ability to accommodate seamlessly a flow of personnel and programs among those campuses.
Anchored in two ideally located, comprehensive "portal campuses" and complemented in fully connected "study away sites" around the world, the NYU system is designed to allow faculty and students to enrich their research and learning by offering participation locally in a set of the world’s idea capitals without compromising connectivity to the rest of the university.
The architecture of this new version of the university is a genuine network, integrated and interlocking – featuring interlocution among its various nodes, and allowing synchronized activity among them with minimal impediments. Faculty, students, and staff at the various sites are available to each other; and they are able to migrate freely among the constituent parts.
And, the architecture is a university, operating organically in a sense and in ways unusual even in the familiar location-bound version of a university. Often, even when in close proximity on a single campus, schools, departments, and units tend to operate in isolation and with a singular focus that makes meaningful cooperation rare; by contrast, a global network university encourages connection to the other parts of the university in a circulatory system, the activities of each element flowing through and enhancing the capacity of the others.
The initial and fundamental organizational element of the global network university is the portal campus – a point of primary affiliation and activity, with the capacity to accommodate fully its constituent faculty and students. Degrees are granted at the portal campuses and entire programs of study may be completed (if desired) without leaving them. The portal campuses are deeply related to each other, each using and building upon the assets of the other; and, each also is connected to the rest of the system.
As of 2010, NYU has two portal campuses (New York and Abu Dhabi), with the possibility that a third will be created in Asia. Of course, New York will remain home to most of the University’s faculty, students and staff (even if a third portal is added, 80% of the University’s citizens would be located there at any given moment, with perhaps 10% located at each of the other two portals), and New York will house a greater variety and depth of program in most areas than will the two other portal campuses. Even so, the portal campus in Abu Dhabi, for example, will house significant programs at the highest levels of excellence, including some unmatched at the New York campus.
The portal campuses are complemented by a set of study away sites, each fully integrated into the academic mission and program of the portal campuses. Each site is characterized by a rigorous academic vision. The initial instantiation of NYU’s plan soon will present 16 sites on six continents, with each site having a distinct academic identity: for example, NYU Accra’s program emphasizes global public health and economic development; NYU Berlin’s, art and the humanities; NYU Prague's, music as well as global media and transitional government; and NYU Shanghai’s, business and East Asia studies. Each site attracts faculty and students who are interested in its specialty and who see value in being "in context." Each site also attracts faculty and students who simply are interested in a new experience. In either case, the system is designed for mobility; each study away site offers a sufficient number of basic courses to allow students to complete core requirements including, at specified sites, core requirements even in track programs like premed or business. The sites also are venues for conferences, lectures, research activity, graduate programs (including, in some places, graduate programs culminating in a degree), as well as platforms for more general intellectual exchange.
Some of the study away sites have programs for entering college freshmen. Study away traditionally has focused on upper class students, but NYU has observed that many entering students prefer to begin their studies at a site, moving to New York for their second year, then studying at other sites in the network in their third year before returning again to New York for their senior year. One 2010 graduate completed her NYU bachelors degree with five study away semesters.
Schools and units that use the sites optimally can develop new programs to enrich curriculum. Thus, for example, NYU’s undergraduate business school (Stern) allows students who opt for "Stern World" to do five semesters in New York, one in London, one in Shanghai, and one in Abu Dhabi – all with professors chosen by NYU, courses developed by NYU, and quality at the level NYU demands. The result is a highly enriched business curriculum that better prepares its students for today’s business environment.
The system soon will be integrated and supported by a sophisticated technological framework that not only will facilitate administration (registration, recordkeeping, seamless transfer of courses, enrollment, and the like) but also will undergird research, classroom activity and access to the exceptional digital collections in the NYU Library in a way that will allow every member of the NYU community, wherever located, to be in contact with the entire system. Faculty will connect with research teams and materials in other parts of the system. Faculty at any location will guide students no matter where in the system the students are studying. Communities of faculty and students, initially created on a campus or in a class, will evolve kaleidoscopically into an interlocking community of communities as participants stay in contact even as they move through the system.
As these communities form, the structure of the global network university will drive connections between and among them to create new research and academic opportunities. In the process, globally dispersed groups will form. This, of course, mirrors what sometimes happens in the disciplines today; the difference is that the communities developed within the global network university will be characterized by an institutional connection which both links the participants more completely and provides a structural incentive for frequent and sustained personal contact and formal collaboration.
Moreover, the network's technological framework ultimately will support classroom and other academic activities in multiple locations in ways that will enrich the learning experience in unique ways: so, a course on cities, or the environment, or poverty, or crime might be held in up to sixteen sites simultaneously, with the enrichment that both context and field work connected to the course can bring; or, orchestras located on two continents, directed by a single conductor, might perform a symphony together.
The global network university permits the possibility of specialized sites run by schools or departments where there is a strong academic justification for such a site and where the academic advantages of the specialized site otherwise would be unavailable. Archeological digs are one example. Though they will not be tied in every way to the network (for example, they will not enjoy the full panoply of technological capacities available at network sites), they will derive some benefit through loose connections to network portals or sites (for example, they may have occasion to use not only academic but also various human resource capacities at proximate network locations).
Creation of the architecture and reality of the global network university just does not require NYU (or any university inclined to embrace the model) to abandon traditional agreements, consortia or programs that provide study away or research opportunities; to the contrary, NYU has hundreds of such arrangements and it is our experience that creating the architecture of a global network university makes such traditional cooperation easier and more effective. The global network university goes beyond such arrangements in a way that offers academic quality and possibilities unimaginable in a university that relies solely on these approaches.
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I. The Architecture of a Global Network University
NYU has not moved casually to embrace the challenges of creating a new paradigm, even one that holds the promise of enhancing its existing strengths. Yet, observable trends combine with the special history, nature and endowments (locational and attitudinal) of NYU in particular to make such a move both natural and attractive.
A defining element – some would say the defining element – of our time is globalization. Historian John Coatsworth described globalization as "what happens when the movement of people, goods, or ideas among countries and regions accelerates." This acceleration is by now obvious and irreversible. Some of the results of globalization are beneficial to all; others detrimental to all; most somewhere in between, with benefits created but unevenly allocated. Whatever its results, globalization is part of the reality of our time.
As a result of the accelerated global flow of people and knowledge and of the technological changes that are both causes and effects of this flow, the world is miniaturizing. The economy, politics, environment, and cultural life of each nation are shaped by events beyond its boundaries. The great question of our time is how countries, their peoples, and their institutions will respond to this global compression and the infiltration of global elements into every aspect of "local" experience. There are two possible reactions; in broad terms, the weal or woe of our collective future depends upon which we choose.
Some will react out of fear and, responding to the powerful pull of nativism, often will turn fear to hate. Those who react this way will narrow their angles of vision, harden traditional patterns of thought, and seek to stem or contain the inflow of the unfamiliar, whether people or ideas. Such regional, national, and even personal gating strategies – whether economic, political, cultural or intellectual – ultimately will fail. It now is virtually impossible to seal a society. A fortress mentality and the narrowing strategies based on it will escalate international economic, political, and cultural tensions, culminating in a "clash of civilizations."
On the other hand, some will see a tremendous opportunity in the process of global evolution. Those who react this way will have the humility to acknowledge that there is much that is imperfect about their own views of the world, to perceive that there is much to be learned from others, and to embrace a process of engagement even with normative difference. Through a spirit of openness and an appreciation of community, they will develop a sympathetic and symbiotic interconnection of peoples and will create an age of cultural and intellectual ecumenism (to use the term in a secular sense).
Universities (the homes of thought, creativity, understanding and progress) traditionally have been instruments, resisting isolation and divisiveness. They have been comfortable with difficult dialogues and incubators of new approaches. In short, they have been ecumenical.
There is no single right way for universities to respond to the changes we are witnessing. For NYU, however, creating a global network university is a natural response. NYU was created to be “in and of” the City of New York, and it has developed ecosystemically with the City. New York itself has developed into a fully "glocal" city, at once global and local in character: its citizens come from every country on earth, and activity generated in New York touches every country in the world daily. As New York has evolved, so also NYU has grown from being “in and of the City” to being "in and of the world." The particular incarnation of NYU as a global network university is a product of that growth process. What follows is a fuller description of the major trends that show that a global network university is plausible, desirable and especially appropriate for NYU.
A) The Axial Moment
There is a way in which our understanding of the word "globalization" has become reductionist (in particular because of its association principally with economic developments). For this reason, it is useful to examine the general forces at work in the world through a different linguistic and even heuristic lens. In this spirit, I offer the view that we – humankind – find ourselves at an inflection point, a critical threshold. This inflection point both fundamentally impacts and potentially shapes universities at their core. Put another way, as humankind approaches this critical threshold, so do its universities.
In The Origin and Goal of History, Karl Jaspers described the period from 800 B.C.E. to 200 B.C.E. as the Axial Period because "it gave birth to everything which, since then, humankind has been able to be." This was the period in which Chinese thought was revolutionized by Lao-tze and Confucius; in which philosophy, religion, and ethics in India were transformed by Buddha, Mahavira, and the Rishis who authored the Upanishads; and, in which the followers of Zoroaster in Persia explored profound questions about the nature of good and evil. In the Levant, Jewish prophets such as Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah sounded calls for higher levels of moral awareness. In Greece, truth seekers like Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle laid the foundations of Western philosophy.
As my Fordham mentor Ewert Cousins put it: "The change wrought by the Axial Age was so radical that it affected all aspects of culture, for it transformed consciousness itself. To this day, whether we have been born and raised in the culture of China, India, Europe, or the Americas, we bear the structure of consciousness that was shaped in this Axial Period." Specifically, before the Axial Age "the dominant form of consciousness was cosmic, collective, tribal, mythic, and ritualistic." In contrast, the consciousness bred in the Axial Age (extended and deepened by successor waves such as Christianity, Islam, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution) is characterized by a strong sense of individual identity. "From this flow other characteristics: consciousness that is self-reflective, analytic, and that can be applied to nature in the form of scientific theories, to society in the form of social critique, to knowledge in the form of philosophy, to religion in the form of mapping an individual spiritual journey."
As we begin a new millennium, a Second Axial Period has begun. Though first described by theologians like the Jesuits' Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, I believe it also has a secular, progressive dimension (quite separable, for those who prefer, from religiosity) which is useful in understanding what we see unfolding in our time.
Teilhard described a process of "planetization," a shift in the forces of humankind's social evolution (which he analogized to biological evolution): a shift after "emergence" and "divergence" to "convergence." The first groupings of human beings were familial and tribal, engendering simultaneously a sense of loyalty to a group and separation from other, comparable clusterings. Humanity spread and diverged, creating different cultures and nations. But spatial finitude and the spherical shape of our planet preclude unlimited dispersal and divergence. Human beings and groups now fill all readily habitable portions of Earth, and modern communications and transportation mean that groups can no longer separate completely themselves. Instead, in our age, they have been pressed into intimate connection in a planetary community. Even as powerful forces of difference and division threaten to turn us against each other, we are being drawn into a global civil society.
The process that presses us together need not compromise the great richness – the gift – of experiential diversity captured in the multiplicity of cultures. Teilhard saw not a homogenization but rather "creative unions" in which diversity actually is enriched. He wrote: "In any domain, whether it be the cells of a body, the members of a society or the elements of a spiritual synthesis – union differentiates." Whether subatomically or globally, particular elements unite in “center to center unions.” Just as in physics, where great centers of mass in the universe are drawn together, the various capitals of the world will be connected even more, they will touch one another at their creative cores, and thereby release new entropy and more nuanced (and deeper) understanding: "Following the confluent orbits of their center, the grains of consciousness do not tend to lose their outlines and blend, but, on the contrary, to accentuate the depth and incommunicability of their egos. The more other they become in conjunction, the more they find themselves as self."
Center-to-center contact between cultures offers the promise that each may discover what is authentic and vital not only about the other but also about itself. Realizing this promise in the Second Axial Age will require a particular style of engagement. The influential ecumenist Raimundo Panikkar, echoing voices as different as Ibn al'Arabī and Martin Buber, has called it "dialogic dialogue," as opposed to dialectic dialogue (in which the participants seek less to learn from each other than to refute each others' claims). Ewert Cousins (who edited a magnificent 60 volume work on spirituality that encompassed 25 great faith traditions) describes the three phases of dialogic dialogue in the context of spirituality, but in words that easily can be infused with a secular reading to inform our understanding of what, in the ideal, could define our emerging global civil society:
First, the partners meet each other in an atmosphere of mutual understanding, ready to alter misconceptions about each other and eager to appreciate the values of the other. Second, the partners are mutually enriched by passing over into the consciousness of the other so that each can experience the other’s values from within the other's perspective. This can be enormously enriching, for often the partners discover in another tradition values which are submerged or only inchoate in their own. It is important at this point to respect the autonomy of the other tradition: in Teilhard’s terms, to achieve union in which differences are valued as a basis of creativity. And, third, if such a creative union is achieved, then the [cultures] will have moved into the complexified form of consciousness that will be characteristic of the twenty-first century. This will be complexified global consciousness, not a mere universal, undifferentiated, abstract consciousness. It will be global through the global convergence of cultures and complexified by the dynamics of dialogic dialogue.
In sum, there is a hope that humankind might create productive societal and institutional responses to the pervasive and irreversible process of globalization – responses that enrich, not destroy, existing cultures and give birth to a new era of creativity and progress.
In a May 2008 lecture at the Kennedy Library, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called upon the leaders of the world to seize this ecumenical moment:
Nothing in President Kennedy's enduring legacy has greater importance now – at the beginning of the 21st century – than his words on Independence Day in 1962 when he proposed a new and global declaration of interdependence. Indeed, if the 1776 Declaration of Independence stated a self evident truth – that we are all created equal – JFK's Declaration of Interdependence in 1962 added another self-evident truth: that we are all of us – all of us throughout the world – in this together. Each of us our brother's keeper. Each of us, to quote Martin Luther King, is part of an inescapable web of mutuality.
To adapt an aphorism coined by President Kennedy, the new frontier is that there is no frontier: no frontier for the internet, for the mobile phone, for e-mails, for the cyber-world; no frontier for the capacity of individuals to influence, inform or even infuriate each other. And, because times are new, we must – in Robert Kennedy's words – think anew. We must, as he said, leave behind yesterday and embrace tomorrow. So, while in President Kennedy’s time foreign relations were founded almost exclusively on the power of governments, today we must recognize the relevance of what we see before our eyes; that everywhere around us people are forming global associations, global connections and global communities; that all over the world from culture to education to social action individuals are harnessing people power to transcend states – for good, and sometimes for ill; and they are compelling institutions and authorities to follow their example.
Powerful forces of atavism and crusading ethnocentrism are arrayed against this new consciousness. In that struggle, universities are well equipped both to foster global association and to create interlocking communities – communities that will, as Teilhard suggests, value and honor difference. The essence of the University – research and learning – depends upon the informed and patient encounter with difference, with what is unknown or other, and the inalterable belief that through this encounter new knowledge and new modes of knowing develop.
In this context, the special architecture of a global network university is designed to accommodate, nurture and incarnate particularly well the interdependent nature of the emerging global society; and it also is calculated to attract and support the increasingly significant cohorts of faculty, students and staff who will feel comfortable in that world and who will seek institutions that will help them thrive within it.
B) The New Cosmopolitan and the Global Network University
When asked where he was from, the Fourth Century B.C.E. Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope is famously said to have replied, "I am a citizen of the world" – a kosmopolitis. He meant that he was not limited by the biases of place. In the original Greek context, cosmopolitans valued treating persons, no matter who they were or where they were born, as if they were siblings, whose claims on care and fair treatment were grounded simply in the fact that they were all human beings.
Over millennia, thinkers from Confucius to Socrates to Ibn al'Arabī to Petrarch to Kant have invoked cosmopolitanism as fundamental to society – even more so in a global society. To be sure, the term came to have in some contexts a secondary meaning (to be cultured or sophisticated); but at its core to be a cosmopolitan – to see oneself as a citizen of the world – is to picture oneself and others through a frame that is wider than one’s own. A cosmopolitan maintains his or her sense of place, country, ethnicity, religion, and culture, even while embracing, respecting, learning from, and adapting to global diversity. Put another way, a cosmopolitan is ecumenical.
Kwame Anthony Appiah has named these new leaders of society "cosmopolitan patriots."
[T]he cosmopolitan patriot can entertain the possibility of a world in which everyone is a rooted cosmopolitan, attached to a home of one’s own, with its own cultural particularities, but taking pleasure from the presence of other, different, places that are home to other, different people. The cosmopolitan also imagines that in such a world not everyone will find it best to stay in their natal patria, so that the circulation of people among different localities will involve not only cultural tourism (which the cosmopolitan admits to enjoying) but migration, nomadism, diaspora. In the past, these processes have too often been the result of forces we should deplore; the old migrants were often refugees, and older diasporas often began in an involuntary exile. But what can be hateful, if coerced, can be celebrated when it flows from the free decisions of individuals or of groups. In a world of cosmopolitan patriots, people would accept the citizen’s responsibility to nurture the culture and the politics of their homes. Many would, no doubt, spend their lives in the places that shaped them, and that is one of the reasons local cultural practices would be sustained and transmitted. But many would move, and that would mean that cultural practices would travel also (as they have always travelled). The result would be a world in which each local form of human life was the result of long-term and persistent processes of cultural hybridization: a world, in that respect, much like the world we live in now.
The cosmopolitans are not all cast from the same mold. Some will choose to live in only one place but will wish to meet others from other places. Some will identify with a particular home but will want to travel with greater or lesser frequency. Some will want to make the world their home, living serially in many different places. Increasingly, these cosmopolitans – men and women whose interests, vision, and allegiances are not bounded by place or sovereignty and who are "citizens of the world" as well as of their particular cultures – will be attracted to institutions that accommodate the global lives they wish to lead.
The essential quality of any university is set by the talent of its faculty, students and staff. In the decades ahead, a significant share of the most talented and creative faculty, students and staff will want for themselves and their families more borderless lives. I repeat this crucial point: in the decades ahead, a significant share of the most talented and creative faculty, students and staff will be Appiah's cosmopolitans. The great universities increasingly will both draw their faculties from (and, simultaneously, shape their students to be) these citizens of global civil society.
The global network university is derived from this insight. The circulatory quality of the system will allow cosmopolitans to savor a ragout of places, experiences, and research and learning opportunities. And, even as it increasingly magnetizes talented cosmopolitans to it, the global network university will be a place where, in a reinforcing cycle, cosmopolitans can find each other, meet and re-meet, engage and re-engage in a kaleidoscopic set of contexts and relationships.
The highly interconnected architecture of the global network university thus becomes key to its success. The business of research and learning at each node in the network is designed to be connected to and enhanced by the whole. Ideas, activity, conversation, and people flow freely. The essence of the structure is this circulatory quality; flow and movement is preferred to fixity. The location of the nodes of the network in the idea capitals and the circulatory nature of the system both contain and produce broad gauge possibilities that will magnetize high talent cosmopolitans to the university.
This magnetic power will operate in a variety of ways. Some faculty and students will be drawn to a particular location because it is connected by history, personality, topic or capacity to a research interest; this may be especially the case where direct access to colleagues or data might be facilitated by personal contact or where presence on the scene makes longitudinal study more feasible. So, for example, if NYU's Economics Department could say to an economist interested in sovereign wealth funds and Middle Eastern markets that he or she could spend semesters on NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, it would increase the likelihood of attracting that professor. Others will be drawn by more personal or idiosyncratic factors. For example, if NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, already attractive to the world’s leading mathematicians, could say to a great Chinese mathematician that as an NYU professor he or she could spend one out of every four years at NYU’s campus in Shanghai, it might well stand a greater chance of attracting that professor. Or, for another example, if any unit of NYU could say to a professor that if his or her spouse or partner were to be transferred to London, Berlin, Paris, Buenos Aires, or Sydney, the University could accommodate his or her desire to spend teaching and research time in the same city, it inevitably would become more attractive to that professor.
NYU, which does not enjoy the monetary endowment common at its peer schools (especially if measured on a per capita basis), long has used the locational endowment provided by Greenwich Village and New York to attract talent it might not otherwise attract. In the years ahead, the capacity to accommodate the new cosmopolitans offered by the global network university provides a structural endowment which, again, will produce success in recruiting talented faculty, students and staff who otherwise would be unattainable.
C) NYU Abu Dhabi as Evidence of Concept
NYU's early experience at its portal campus in Abu Dhabi provides support for the claim that the global network structure will be attractive to talented cosmopolitans. Abu Dhabi is a crossroad city, containing in microcosm (but in different proportions from New York) a blend of all the world; it is blessed with a visionary government, economic dynamism, and an increasingly tolerant and welcoming society; and, it is both a repository of a great culture and a symbol of that culture’s adaptation to modernity. We expected our initiative there to be attractive to academic leaders, senior staff (necessarily, the first NYU personnel to arrive on the scene) and faculty (both faculty from NYU in New York and faculty recruited from other universities); however, even our very high expectations proved modest compared to what happened.
To cite a few examples: the initial team leader was one of New York's leading deans who moved there with her husband and young children; the successful president of one of America's leading liberal arts colleges left to be the inaugural vice-chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi; one of the leaders of a major initiative in genomics in New York moved with his family from New York to Abu Dhabi (co-locating his lab), to be the campus provost, even as a new genomics building and faculty hiring initiative started in New York; and on and on, from admissions to public safety to student life to technology, some of the very best persons available sought to be included in the effort.
Some leading faculty were attracted in part by the mission and in part by the opportunity to build an ideal curriculum unencumbered by the obstacles associated with reforming an existing structure. Others were drawn by research interests, as in the case of a Middle Eastern Studies professor who is organizing definitive translations of major Arabic language works or in the case of a linguistic neuroscientist who is interested in the languages of the region. Moreover, once in Abu Dhabi, these faculty have found that (for various political, cultural, economic and temporal reasons) it is sometimes easier to draw experts to classes, conferences, workshops and projects in Abu Dhabi than it is to attract them to NYU’s New York home; the Gulf is a more attractive venue for some who simply would not attend a similar meeting in an American or European location. And faculty in Abu Dhabi also can easily visit Istanbul, Angkor Wat, the Pyramids, or India.
These factors also appeal to a high talent group of students. Just 2% of the applicants for the inaugural class of undergraduates at NYU Abu Dhabi were offered admission – fewer than 200 out of over 9000 applicants. The students selected come from 39 countries and speak 43 different languages; nearly 90% are at least bilingual. Their SAT verbal scores stand at 770 at the class’s 75th percentile and their math scores are at 780 at the 75th percentile – scores matching the most highly selective universities in the world. 79% of the students offered admission accepted the offer – possibly a higher percentage than any other major university. The accepted students declined offers from 8 of the 10 top liberal arts universities in the United States and 18 of the top 25 research universities. In short, in its very first year, NYU Abu Dhabi established itself as one of the world’s most selective undergraduate colleges and, arguably, as the first truly international university.
Of course, quite apart from the attraction of Abu Dhabi itself and the connection of Abu Dhabi to the global network structure, NYU Abu Dhabi offers these students a unique education that in itself would be attractive to the best and brightest applicants: the initial student-faculty ratio is three to one, and the ratio never will exceed eight to one; the curriculum is strong, involving a tutorial form of education that completely integrates opportunities to participate in advanced research with a strong liberal arts core; the faculty is stellar, including Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, top professors from NYU New York, and leading educators who have been deans, department chairs, and chaired professors from other outstanding universities; and, finally, every researcher who goes to NYU Abu Dhabi commits to teach undergraduates as well as graduate students.
Still, as attractive as Abu Dhabi and the opportunities for learning there may be, the faculty and students themselves testify that the key factor in their choice of the college was the opportunity to work with faculty, students, and administrators who shared a cosmopolitan (in Appiah's sense) view of the world and to do so not just in Abu Dhabi but on the other campuses of the global network university. For all of its advantages, were NYU Abu Dhabi a traditional single campus institution rather than a portal campus in a global network university, it would not have attracted them. In other words, a key attraction of NYU Abu Dhabi is the circulatory system of the global network university.
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II. The University in the Age of the Cosmopolitan
As globalization unfolds, producing in the process what I have called a momentous "axial" opportunity, it is almost trite to say that we have entered the "knowledge century." Whether one believes our time is axial or not, it is undeniable that the great economies of the future will be driven less by production and more by ideas and creativity; and it is becoming increasingly clear that the attendant world network of thought and innovation will be defined by a set of global "idea capitals" among which the talented and creative leaders of society will circulate. Thus, even if the more idealistic observations I have made are unappealing, there is a utilitarian case to be made in support of a global network university.
Through the ages there have been idea capitals, but their influence was local or regional. In contrast, the influence of, and the interchanges among, the idea capitals of this century will be global. Just as thought leaders and their ideas flowed among Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome during the Italian Renaissance, so too in the decades to come thought leaders and their ideas will flow among Abu Dhabi, London, New York, Shanghai, and other key cities. As the University of Toronto's Richard Florida has argued, the world taking shape is a world that is "spiky" rather than flat, with collections of talent, resources, and opportunities clustered in specific locations. In this view, globalization is not leveling the playing field, it is redrawing it. The future will reside in the idea capitals, those places that attract a disproportionate percentage of the world's intellectual capacity.
The set of leading idea capitals (perhaps eight to twelve at the highest level of sophistication) that will dominate the world’s landscape no doubt will be centers of finance, insurance and real estate (the "FIRE" elements that defined world cities in the Twentieth Century); however, they also (and critically) will be centers of intellectual, cultural, and educational activity ("ICE," as I have called it elsewhere). They simultaneously will be both engines of creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic activity and (in a virtuous circle) magnets attracting those who will drive even higher levels of achievement. They will be the foci in the center-to-center contacts of the Second Axial Age.
Idea capitals will be defined by very human elements. At NYU, we have observed this for years as we used our location in New York to attract and retain talented faculty. Even in an increasingly specialized academic world, the most intellectually energetic potential colleagues to whom we talk want to live in an environment that is as alive as they are: a leading genomicist wants to talk not only to other great genomicists but also to great philosophers, political scientists, and scholars of literature and the arts. They also want to listen to a great orchestra and attend a great ballet or play. And, they want the same for his or her family.
What is true for faculty is also true for other core personnel in any "talent enterprise." The economic drivers of this century – from biotech to investment management – will depend upon talent and creativity; and, to attract the best of the creative class, policies tailored to specific industries will be necessary – but not sufficient. Developing a workforce with relevant skills and providing government inducements for locating in an area may be elements in building tomorrow’s economic centers, but these measures are only tactical, because workforces are mobile and inducements can be trumped by greater inducements elsewhere. Ultimately, the determinative element in building an "idea capital" will be the quality of its ICE sector.
This process is already well begun. By 2050, the world's capitals of creativity will have emerged. Some of the candidates are obvious based on their existing pools of talent; but complacency or lack of vision may cause even the well positioned to squander opportunity. No city will become one of tomorrow's idea capitals by heritage or by accident; only vision and effort will suffice. To the extent leaders around the world wish to shape the future, not simply react to it or be observers of it, they will nurture the creative sector, an ICE element that will be sufficient both to produce and attract talent for this world of innovation and knowledge.
Universities fit comfortably into this version of the emerging world. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said nearly 50 years ago: "If you want to build a world class city, build a great university and wait 200 years." His insight is true today – except yesterday's 200 years has become twenty. More than ever, universities will generate and sustain the world’s idea capitals and, as vital creators, incubators, connectors, and channels of thought and understanding, they will provide a framework for global civil society. Great universities will be principal incubators and drivers of the ICE sector. They attract and retain faculty, students, and others who not only produce but also consume (that is, provide the audience and support for) the array of intellectual, cultural and educational activities that will magnetize additional talent. In a reinforcing circle, ICE is both the product of and the attraction to the talented citizens who comprise the university itself and the place that is its home.
The greatest dividends will flow to those idea capitals (and universities) that connect to the multipolarity of a networked world – that is, to those that embrace the interdependence of idea capitals and develop synergies among them. Universities that adapt to this reality will be well positioned; those that choose to do business as usual will be less likely to enjoy a leading role. And, connecting to observations made earlier, the most successful universities will be those that incubate and attract cosmopolitan citizens of global civil society – that is, those who shape and populate the world community, functioning within and among the idea capitals of the world, simultaneously making them and shaping them.
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III. The University in the Knowledge Century
Of the 85 institutions that exist today as they existed 500 years ago, 70 are universities. Universities always have been catalysts for measured and deliberate advancement, preserving the wisdom and knowledge of the past, even as they challenge the existing orthodoxy. They are participants in the world, even as they are observers and analysts of it. Thus, over centuries the structure and form of our great universities has evolved, but for most of the period has evolved slowly. In recent years, as the world has become more intimate and the effects of globalization have become more pronounced, a subtle but fundamental reformulation of the constituent elements of the great universities has occurred – one that promises to become even more dramatic in the decades ahead.
Today, universities more and more operate "beyond sovereignty." Nigel Thrift, Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick, noted these changes when he wrote:
Universities across the world are facing the challenge of globalizing trends in student demand and research funding by internationalizing their operations – both at home and abroad. The challenges are easier to meet “at home” where well-established modes of mobility and diversity can quickly be accelerated. This important work – opening our institutional cultures to worlds beyond the local and national cultures in which universities as institutional presences are suspended – is both a challenging and long-term endeavor. But domestic policies on internationalization, safely judged within local confines, is the relatively easy bit; "internationalisation light," in other words, or diversity very much on our own terms.
Abroad, the challenges are altogether of a different magnitude and are much more compelling. Research-intensive universities have a crucial role to play in the knowledge economies of the global era – driving innovation, creating sustainable change, educating global citizens, and tackling in collaborative endeavors the problems that bedevil our planet. Yet today very few universities can claim either a global presence or possess the sets of relationships internationally that allow them – their staff and students – to be as effective as we will need universities to be in coming decades.
Yale's President Rick Levin and Provost Peter Salovey went even further in a recent letter to the Yale community:
[I]t is inevitable that the world's leading universities by the middle of this century will have international campuses. Without question, universities in the United States and the United Kingdom currently dominate higher education and attract the lion’s share of outstanding students who leave their countries to study elsewhere. But this condition will not persist indefinitely. A number of countries, notably China, India and Singapore, see that education and research are the twin engines of economic growth and social advancement, and they are investing very heavily in strengthening their universities. If [universities] are to serve the world as successfully in the 21st century as we have served our nation in the 20th, a greater global presence will be required.
In short, universities and globalization interact. On the one hand, as Simon Marginson of Melbourne notes, "higher education, ranging beyond the nation-state, is a central driver of globalization." On the other hand, universities must respond to and are shaped by globalization. Of course, each university will do so in its own way and consistent with its own values, potentialities, and exigencies. In the end, however, as Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation observed: "The internationalization of higher education is inevitable. In this, some bold universities will lead. Others will be popularizers. And others will hold onto the past and will be destined to fail."
For the moment, the American university in its traditional form is the standard for the world. Rankings always are problematic and at best imprecise; still, it is noteworthy that, for many years and across various measures, American universities have predominated in rankings of international universities. Rankings compiled in 2009 by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University emphasized research and natural science achievements: American universities occupied 8 of the top 10 spots and 30 of the top 40. Rankings by Rating of Educational Resources, a Russian company, considered expert evaluation of academic performance, research performance, faculty expertise, resources available, web presence, and international activities: American universities were 7 of the top 10 and 27 of the top 40. Rankings compiled by Cybermetrics Lab, a part of an organization attached to the Ministry of Education of Spain, looked only at web presence: American universities occupied all of the top 10 rungs and 35 of the top 40.
Rankings aside, the preeminence of American universities can be measured by their capacity to attract attention and imitation. First, schools and universities outside the United States continue to compete for greater connections with American universities, at the institutional or faculty level; in academic year 2007, for instance, there were nearly 100,000 international scholars teaching or researching at American universities. Second, students from other countries flock to study at American universities: the numbers of international students attending the nation’s colleges and universities decreased in the four years following 9/11 as a result of visa restrictions and global uncertainties; however, that drop was not severe, and, since then, international enrollment has risen steadily, so that in 2009 such enrollment was 20% higher than in 2000-2001; and, international applications to American graduate programs for 2010 are up by about 7%. Thus, at the April 2010 meeting of the Asia Pacific Association of International Education, the Association's founder and president, Professor Doo-Hee Lee observed that: "Western universities still set the standard, and Asian universities are always falling behind."
Nonetheless, the continued preeminence of American universities is not inevitable. Given that the talent pool and flow now are global, it no longer can be taken for granted that the United States (or even "the West" as a whole) will remain the magnet for talent it traditionally has been.
For decades, scholars and students from around the world viewed time in the States as a critical milestone in their educational and professional trajectories; a degree from an American university was nearly an unmatched credential. But things are starting to change. Decades' of international students now have come of age. At the same time, nations like China, India, and the Gulf States have become economic powerhouses. Nations that traditionally have sent their intellectual talent and students to the United States now strive to keep them at home by creating their own universities – and these universities seek to attract talent from other places as well. Worldwide, Anglophone higher education modeled explicitly on the systems of the US and the UK is being developed. India, for example, recently announced that over the coming five years it plans to build fourteen new innovation universities. China has undertaken a similar initiative. Soon, large numbers of scholars who once routinely would have come to the United States will have attractive options elsewhere – for many, in their own countries.
Huge reservoirs of talent are developing outside the United States, and there is little guarantee that American universities will attract most of the faculty and students in those pools. 97% of the secondary school graduates each year are in schools outside the United States; and, in academic year 2006, of the nearly three million university students studying outside their native countries (the standard projection is that this number will surpass seven million by 2025), less than a quarter (23%) were studying in the United States. The European Union has surpassed the United States in the number of foreign students attracted (if European students studying in another European nation are counted), and the European Union has announced plans to draw more students from outside its borders than the United States imports for its universities. Australia and New Zealand are actively recruiting foreign students.
The fact is that around the world political, business and now academic leaders can be found who are quite adept at engaging at the most advanced levels of policy and thought with their American counterparts. Frequently these leaders are the products of the same American colleges and universities attended by their American counterparts; indeed, frequently they are the classmates of their American counterparts. Thus, it is not only financial markets that have globalized but also the marketplace of ideas.
At the same time, American students tend to be insular. It is well known that fewer than 30% of America’s citizens have passports (and half of those who do are over 60 or under 5 years of age); only 10% of America's college students enjoy a study abroad experience. Moreover, in significant ways, even the American professorate is trailing colleagues around the world in various measures relevant to the emerging globalized environment. The result: American academics (especially students, but also faculty) are "under-globalized" by comparison to colleagues in other developed countries. And, the most talented and creative academics from other countries have become increasingly interconnected and globalized over the course of the past decade, even as the United States has fallen farther behind in almost every possible measure.
The great universities of our day will approach these challenges of the new age in ways that will depend on their histories, assets, personalities, and willingness to change and grow. There will be no "right" or "wrong" way for universities to "be" in the years ahead: "the university" as a concept is one of humankind’s great creations, and it will endure in many forms.
It is possible, of course, for great universities essentially to continue the practices that have produced their existing greatness – to take only minimal measures to respond to the forces of globalization. No doubt, a few universities that choose this approach will continue to attract faculty and students, and it can be argued that it is easier to maintain traditions of excellence by using proven methods. The universities that make this choice will accept, as a cost of the enterprise, whatever talent or access to ideas is lost by virtue of such traditionalism.
Another set of universities will continue doing what they have been doing (more or less) but will create "study away" possibilities for students (likely through exchanges), occasional visits from scholars, and collaboration across national boundaries in various disciplines. Universities that choose this second model will emphasize the centrality of the university's main campus, viewing activities abroad as a welcome but not essential enhancement of curriculum and research.
Still other universities will choose a third model, essentially a more aggressive version of the second, in which the universities will enter a formal network of alliances with partner universities to permit movement of students and perhaps faculty, much like a code share system used by airline alliances. This approach will enable those interested in participating more fully in the global flow of ideas to enjoy significant study and research opportunities away from the home campus, relying on the partner institutions to maintain quality and curricular philosophy and to provide the means of movement.
Finally, there is a fourth model, differing in important respects from the great universities of today while holding true to the essence that makes those universities great (such as intellectual vigor, open inquiry, merit review, academic freedom, and a broad range of disciplinary interests). This new type of great university is the global network university approach – the model that most aggressively embraces the global flow of ideas and talent.
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IV. The Globalization of Higher Education
NYU's embrace of the global network university model flows naturally from its history and character. As an American university located in one of the great cosmopolitan cities of the world, NYU affirms the significance of place to its mission and to the lives and work of its faculty and students. In its nearly 200 years, NYU has been defined by the city in which it lives and by its relationship to that city. And that city, from its Dutch origins, has embraced a cosmopolitan view of the world.
New York City arguably is the global city – immigrant-rich, multilingual, and characterized by industries that are international in essence. Like no other city in the world, New York City has gained its unrivaled strength from the embrace of new groups of people and a deliberate exploitation of diversity. New York City is unique among global cities, and has set an example for cities that want to draw on the world’s talent. Indeed, New York is fully a miniaturization of the world: it is the first city in the world that can say that in its public schools every country in the world is represented by children born in those countries; and, in the boroughs and neighborhoods of New York one can hear the languages, songs and prayers of the world – and, happily, taste the food of every nation. New York truly is "glocal" – and each day, even as its people struggle with issues that divide them, they work at creating a Second Axial Age "community of communities."
Albert Gallatin, Jefferson’s and Madison’s Secretary of the Treasury, founded NYU to be "in and of the city." In the generations since its founding, NYU has become ecosystematic with New York. Its buildings are spread throughout the City and neither its Greenwich Village location nor any of its other locations has gates; no physical barriers separate it from the City; the City is its campus; faculty and students interact with their urban environment completely. From the business students who intern at the New York offices of leading global companies, to the education majors who teach in New York City's vast school system, to the acting students who shape their talents in some of the world’s best studios, NYU has integrated itself with its surroundings, embracing its locational endowment.
The evolution of NYU into a global network university is a natural extension of its ecosystematic relation to New York. As New York is a magnet for people from throughout the world, NYU draws leading faculty and students from all sectors of the globe. This international presence enhances research, teaching and learning in NYU’s laboratories, classrooms, lecture halls, and conference centers by keeping the global dimensions of today’s most urgent questions always in the foreground.
Internally, NYU (like New York) is a cacophonous, complex organism. It does not define itself by overarching unified activities such as sports. So, in a strange reversal, the unifying element of the university is the challenge and opportunity it offers to those (the cosmopolitans) who seek special preparation for the complex world they will lead and shape. Like the city in which it lives (and, indeed, like the emerging global society), NYU’s nature requires that, if community is to exist at all, it must develop as a community of communities, built on a spirit of secular ecumenism.
The University consciously embraces this reality. Thus, its residence halls feature aggregations of students on "exploration floors" (organizing together students with passions for chess, dance, jazz, crosswords, food and so on in nearly 50 different possibilities, all led by faculty mentors) created to teach students the skills not only of building community but also of connecting to other communities in a community of communities. Student visits to New York City’s neighborhoods emphasize the variety of the world’s peoples and prepare NYU’s students to work in other cultures. Then, armed with this experience, students are urged to spend semesters at NYU’s study away sites (NYU sends more students to study away than any other university, and many students spend two or even three semesters away from the campus they call home). NYU, never a gated community, and always characterized by active participation as part of an education in a complex and challenging environment, uses its sites around the world to prepare its students for lives in a complex world. NYU, always "in and of the city" now is "in and of the world."
The formal articulation of this global strategy came when, in September 2007, the Board of Trustees of NYU asked the University’s leadership to develop a document describing likely opportunities for and challenges to the University’s academic mission over the decades leading to the University’s bicentennial in 2031. The Trustees asked that the leadership offer a template (this came to be called "Framework 2031") for making necessary choices, and one that expressly addressed the opportunities and challenges presented.
The Framework process occupied the entire NYU community throughout Academic Year 2008, engaging not only elected faculty, student and administrative leaders but also an unprecedented number of faculty, students, administrators, staff and alumni from all sectors of the NYU community. Two dozen Town Hall meetings were held specifically to discuss the Framework. A web system was established for collecting comments (which could be submitted anonymously if desired). Hundreds of written comments were received by the committee driving the process. All of this material was shared with the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees along with a final draft, crafted in response to the comments received.
In April 2008, the Executive Committee of the Board formally adopted the final version of Framework 2031 (which can be found in full at www.nyu.edu/about/framework.2031). The Framework embraced a strategy for NYU built in significant part on its evolution from being "in and of the city" to being "in and of the world;" that strategy embraced the notion of NYU as a global network university. Indeed, it concluded:
In the process, NYU can create a new model for a worldwide research university – a Global Network University, anchored in New York City and Abu Dhabi, with sites and campuses located throughout the world, each with its own defining characteristics, and all with programs of education and research of the highest academic excellence. In this new model, the faculty and students of NYU, regardless of where they pursue learning and research, will be members of the entire system, which will be structured to facilitate mobility throughout the network. The opportunity to live, study, teach, and conduct research throughout the system will support the University's capacity to attract the very best faculty and students, particularly those faculty and students whose perspective and lifestyle are cosmopolitan in nature.
The Framework was an important step in conceptualizing an important element of NYU's future. Like a Polaroid picture, the specific components of the picture had developed over time (indeed, over decades). As we chart the future, it is useful to describe in more detail the evolution of those components.
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V. The Globalization of NYU
A) A Global University
NYU's presence outside the United States began with study away sites in Madrid in 1959 and Paris in 1969, originally exclusively for Spanish and French majors but later broadened to include others. At the end of the last century, NYU launched additional study away sites in Florence and London.
Early in this century, two truths came into focus. First, the study away program was wholly Eurocentric. Second, only about 7% of NYU students were going abroad for even a semester, and the largest groups that did so still were French and Spanish majors. For a major university rooted in New York neither of these conditions was acceptable.
Soon, new study away sites were added – Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Prague, Shanghai and Tel Aviv. Plans now are underway for sites in Sydney and Washington, D.C. In addition, to increase the attractiveness of the sites to students, the University developed at each location a distinct academic personality. Moreover, to make participation as easy as possible, curricula were broadened so that students, in addition to taking the specialized courses, could fulfill their general education requirements at the study away sites.
This was the picture as of 2005. At this point, the University's increasing understanding of its relationship to globalization and emerging civil society prompted the realization that the Arab and Muslim world (one quarter of the world’s population and a repository of a distinctive and distinguished intellectual and cultural history) was missing from the NYU picture; this omission was all the more glaring in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent effort by persons of good will to understand the apparent schism between the western world and Islamic world. The question thus became: Could NYU be the ecumenical university it wanted to be without a presence in the Arab and Islamic world? The answer, clearly, was no.
The question then became: Was there an appropriate partner in the Middle East? Several possible sites were considered. From quarter after quarter, however, came the same advice: that both the leadership and the culture of Abu Dhabi made it the right choice. And the more NYU came to know Abu Dhabi, the more it came to appreciate Abu Dhabi as an emerging idea capital that shared many of New York’s core characteristics. Though, of course, the cities are not identical, both possess a cosmopolitan ethos. The peoples of three quarters of the world’s countries call Abu Dhabi home; and, although the mixes are very different, roughly the same number of languages are spoken there as in New York. Moreover, both Abu Dhabi and New York are welcoming societies – Abu Dhabi reflecting the Bedouin culture of hospitality and New York the Dutch culture of pragmatic openness. This spiritual kinship, coupled with Abu Dhabi’s extraordinary leadership and ambition, made Abu Dhabi the partner of choice.
When conversations with Abu Dhabi began, they focused on using the city's crossroad location to build a comprehensive campus (what became known as a portal campus), like NYU New York (although smaller), where students could enter the University and then move around the global network. And, of course, those conversations led to the opening of the Abu Dhabi portal campus as we know it, thus bringing NYU's global network university to its current incarnation. The future may see the development of at least one additional portal campus, probably in Asia. But, for the immediate future, NYU New York and NYU Abu Dhabi are the gateways to the global network university.
Today, not counting Abu Dhabi and New York (which, of course, serve as study away sites for each other) there are eleven study away sites (Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Shanghai, Singapore, Tel Aviv) operating with full campuses. Additional sites are already in development in Washington, DC, and Sydney, Australia. It is expected that at least another two study away sites (in South America and South Asia) will be added soon. In all, by 2014, it is expected that NYU’s global network university will feature at least 16 sites, with at least one on each of the six inhabited continents.
Taken as a whole, the system created is global in the sense that NYU is operating beyond the boundaries of any one sovereign or even several sovereigns in a confined region. Even more, the system is global because it is animated by an open, embracing spirit – not mere passive openness but an active seeking of connectivity and of mutual understanding of differences.
B) A Network University
The creation of NYU Abu Dhabi as the second "portal campus" brought into sharp relief the transformational potential of a global network uniting the portal campuses and the study away sites in an organic circulatory system that mirrored the flow of talent and creativity that increasingly defines the world – especially the world of ideas. The resulting system is highly matrixed, all of its parts interconnected in a deep way. The "network" provides the movement of talent, assets, ideas, and creativity – and multiplies and enhances the capacity of each element. The product is more than an internationalized university with loose connections between a central location and branches around the globe; the talent and assets, intellectual and otherwise, physically located primarily in one part of the system become fully available to enhance research and learning in every other part.
The portal campuses provide the hydraulic power of the network, of course, for they provide the influx of talent and act as the primary loci of activity for all who come. And New York, as the primary home of by far the greatest number of faculty, students, and staff (even after NYU Abu Dhabi and a putative NYU Asia are fully developed, NYU New York still will be the primary home for approximately 80% of NYU’s faculty and students), is the source of most of the talent supporting the system. However, organic integration of the portal campuses with each other (and with the study away sites, of course) magnifies the impact of talent and assets in each part of the network and makes that impact pervasive. Thus, for example, research labs can be connected, increasing their potency. Or, faculty in one location can be available to students in another (thus, for example, gifted math students in Abu Dhabi benefit not only from the faculty and courses offered there but also from tutorials offered by faculty in New York). Or, using technology, courses may be taught jointly at portal and study away sites (enabling exploration in a concrete way of what is universal and what is a product of culture and place).
Beyond its capacity to magnify the talent and assets available to each citizen of the network, the reality of the network can support research and curriculum in ways that open new possibilities, providing researchers access to otherwise difficult to obtain material and offering students contextualized learning opportunities. We have found, for example, that a local presence can provide access to interesting new data for researchers working in fields as disparate as linguistics, plant genomics, health, education, and law. For example, my NYUNY colleague Troy Duster, who teaches a course in Abu Dhabi called BioScience and Society which introduces students to the complex interplay of new developments in human molecular genetics and the social and cultural contexts in which these developments are deployed, writes:
Certain kinds of blood disorders (hemoglobinopathies) are a significant health problem in UAE, and the region exhibits one of the highest carrier frequencies of a genetic disease, β-thalassemia, in the world, with nearly nine percent of the population affected. This disorder can be a devastating blow to families, requiring continual blood transfusions followed by other complex ways to "cleanse the blood" (chelation therapy). We know from studies around the world (Cyprus, South China, Bay Area in the US) that there are enormous cultural differences in how communities and families in those communities respond to the complex technological problems with diagnosis and treatment of the thalassemias, a full range from mesmerizing absorption to avoidance and denial. Medical professionals who work in this arena are quick to acknowledge that what they call compliance problems are first of all social and cultural. I now can imagine a series of joint-projects between NYUAD students and those in local universities, deploying a combination of investigative tools at local hospitals and clinics, documenting concerns and coping strategies and the like.
Research synergies of this sort often are made even more valuable by integrating efforts at various sites; and, course offerings built on fieldwork done by faculty and students in network classrooms located around the world can provide unique learning experiences. Thus, the network will support a set of Network Seminars, offered in locations worldwide at times to accommodate various time zones in the network. In these seminars, a student in Florence could ask a question of a student in Buenos Aires in a course led by a professor in Abu Dhabi; and, group projects done by students doing field research in specific locations could enhance the student experience by allowing for comparative analysis of data in the course.
At the NYU locations in the network, researchers, collaborators, and scientists can gather to take advantage of local expertise or research opportunities. The sites serve as platforms for intellectual, cultural and academic exchange among NYU faculty and local academic, business and governmental leaders (in its first two years in Abu Dhabi, even before its first students arrived, NYU Abu Dhabi mounted 65 conferences and lectures and offered several college level courses to local students).
And, because each of the NYU centers is part of the local intellectual and academic community, their actual presence provides access in their region to local institutions such as schools, workplaces, governments, research centers, museums, businesses, and community agencies. As this occurs, the characteristics of an NYU experience (in and of the city), wherever it occurs, remain at core the same. The global network university does not replicate old “study away” models but replaces them with a structure designed to integrate students not only with the network but also with the location where they are studying. Students at sites are able to (and sometimes required to) do community service, internships, and homestays. Thus, students in NYU Accra serve as teaching assistants in local middle schools or participate in delivering health care to Ghanaians as part of a course taught simultaneously in Accra and New York. Students in NYU London and NYU Prague study acting and filmmaking with some of the great theater companies of those cities. And, students enrolled for a semester of study in NYU Shanghai intern at global companies headquartered in Shanghai. And concurrent language institutes (done in the summer or semester before the student goes to the site) enable the student to enjoy more intense and meaningful immersion in the community that hosts the site.
Finally, deep connectivity to the idea capitals in which the network's campuses exist also permits interaction with leaders from outside the boundaries of traditional faculty, thereby capturing and mediating not just the knowledge that emerges in laboratories and libraries, but also the application of that knowledge in the worlds of practice (whether in law, the arts, finance, government, or health care). Faculty and students thereby profit from time in the country in special ways unavailable to those who are not genuinely and continuously present in the location.
NYU's global network university is characterized above all by allowing faculty and students to move seamlessly through the network. Without leaving the University's intellectual community and resources (such as, for example, its extensive social network, its library, its administrative support systems, its IT network, linked databases and even certain of its course offerings), faculty and students are "in and of the world." Their research and study literally touches (and can occur in) the most dynamic idea capitals of the world.
The effect of this can be kaleidoscopic interaction with deep connectivity. Consider just one example. A professor located in New York or Abu Dhabi could offer a course which features participation by students at several sites. The professor, as part of the course, could assign team exercises, with students from many different sites working together. That interaction would be powerful in itself. But it need be only the start. Some or all of the teamed students might decide to get together again next semester or next year, meeting at and attending another site in the network. Student groupings might form, dissipate, then reconstitute in various combinations in various places. And their power as vehicles for learning would be leveraged by the contacts with others – faculty, other students, and staff – that the participants in these kaleidoscopic arrangements would bring with them. For example, faculty and their former students often would remain in touch as the students move through the network. Students would encounter other faculty and other students whose interests dovetail with those of their former professors, and professors would encounter new students whose interests correspond to those of former students with whom they are still in contact. Students would raise questions and issues that they encountered first in another location and context, thereby bringing valuable perspectives to the course. New introductions would ensue; synergies would be discovered; and new links – potentially profitable and enduring – would be formed. All of these interactions would be enhanced by the contexts in which they occur. The distinctive characters of the idea capitals in which talented people meet and interact would impart their own flavors to the mix. In short, the multinodal, freely circulatory global network university would exert a strong influence on the talent class. By affording its faculty and students greater opportunities to conduct research and collaborate with colleagues in a set of key locations around the world, the network would enhance their capacity to lead thought and to learn.
Of course, researchers already collaborate with specialists around the world via technology, international conferences, publications, and by other means. As the network affords faculty and students research and study opportunities in its own facilities in several of today's idea capitals, it builds naturally on the way academic disciplines have operated for quite some time. The most advanced research often has depended on international collaboration, and leading researchers routinely participate somehow in international interchange among colleagues, with collaborators and coauthors around the world. The network now incarnated in the global network university extends this practice by incorporating it into the architecture of the university, by facilitating its development, and by making it especially and comfortably available to its faculty and students, and to the departments and schools that house these faculty and students. Thus, just to cite an example, the History Department can develop specialized curricula in Shanghai for students interested in Chinese History, in Buenos Aires for Latin American History, and London for British History. Then by recruiting leading Chinese, Latin American, and British historians from nearby universities to teach courses at the sites and having these faculty make regular visits to the home department, the department can enhance its academic strengths and diversify its academic community.
A key element creating the organic connectivity and full integration in a network of the portal campuses and study away sites is state of the art technology. Thus, the global network university is connected skeletally by highly sophisticated technology. Such technology enables faculty and students to participate in global seminars and to interact as part of their research projects, coursework, assignments, or, importantly, unscripted and even occasionally unplanned contact. With a robust and reliable technological grid supporting the network of campuses and centers, faculty and students have the necessary flexibility and mobility of connection. Social networking technology helps to "introduce" those who should be connected and maintains those relationships over time and it supports interactions among them. And, students anywhere in the system communicate with mentors, professors, teaching assistants, and each other both inside and outside the context of formal courses.
As important as the network's technological backbone may be, it does not substitute for the personal interaction that forms the basis of trusting partnerships. Ultimately, an advantage of the global network university is that, even as technology magnifies connections and communication among those in the network, the network enhances the impact of technology by providing varied and multiple opportunities from those connected to interact in person. Within the university, the circulation of creative human beings from context to context – with technology playing a supportive, not a controlling, role – both mimics the circulation of ideas and incarnates it within the structure of the university.
It is easy to overlook the significance of the local community and the interpersonal contact it supports as globalization occurs and we integrate technology more and more in our lives. The simple truth is that some of the most important advances spring from serendipitous exchanges that occur over a cup of coffee. Sophisticated technology is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of the network. Such technologies do not substitute for the interpersonal interactions that always have been the heart of higher education. The robust dialogue and debate that has characterized American higher education for over a century and that has engaged students as active participants in learning depends in large part on the alchemy of personal contact.
As Lord Sainsbury wrote in "The Race to the Top," his comprehensive report to the British Government on the worldwide economy: "Tacit knowledge, so important in the new economy, is not easily diffused over wide areas, so innovation is frequently fostered by proximity. [I]nnovation [is] a contact sport that is best pursued through personal interactions at every stage in the game. The rise of multidisciplinary projects reinforces the importance of direct interaction between players." By incarnating in the network both global and local presence in the sinew and structure of university life (by creating, in other words, an architecture that is "glocal" and fully accessible from all of its constituent parts), the global network university is both "in and of the city" and "in and of the world."
C) A Genuinely United Uni-versity
Creating a "uni-versity" long has been the aspiration for all great centers of research and learning, but the reality on campuses around the world (even those located in a single, carefully circumscribed space) is institutional fragmentation and the operation of schools, units, and departments as silos (often jealously guarded silos). Too often, connections are occasional, not sustained; accidental, not purposive. Too often, faculty doing similar work in different departments are unaware of each others' research and opportunities for synergy are wasted. Sometimes the causes of this phenomenon run deep – to issues of trust, respect, and commitment to the whole. Other times the causes are more benign, like inertia or lack of initiative.
The structure of the global network university is designed to overcome these tendencies. It operates as an organism. And, just as the feedback loops of any organism perform their functions with marvelous specialization, even as each depends upon the others, so also the global network university enhances collective activity. All functions benefit all others, and each is benefited by the others. Interdependence is the vital principle of any complex organism.
The key elements are, of course, the portal campuses, each of which offers a comprehensive program (though built in a complementary way with the other portal campuses); the study away sites each enhance the offerings of the portal campuses, however, by developing a personality built on a comparative advantage. Critically, as faculty and students circulate throughout the system, they gain not only the advantages of their campus of location but also the experience of the circulatory system itself. Ironically, habits and modes of cooperation develop which do not develop in the confined setting of a university possessing only a single campus location. And, delightfully, these cooperative instincts refract through the whole system.
It has been fascinating to observe how, for example, the birthing of NYU Abu Dhabi as a research university and liberal arts college within an organically connected global network has provided a wonderful opportunity to build a genuinely integrated university. The talent of faculty and staff was mobilized specifically with the goal of creating such a university and, working tabula rasa as they were, they devised curricula without the restrictions imposed by preexisting structures and interests. This produced dramatic results, which have begun to refract back to New York.
Examples are legion. For one, the science curriculum in Abu Dhabi is completely novel and interdisciplinary; several leading faculty from New York have chosen to teach courses in Abu Dhabi simply to work with it, and discussions have begun about bringing it to the New York campus as well. Or, for another example, the Abu Dhabi campus has become a venue for developing relationships which, once created, continue in New York and the study away sites; thus, Paul Boghossian (a renowned scholar of the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, and epistemology) and Gerard ben Arous (one of the world’s leading mathematicians and Director of NYU's extraordinary Courant Institute of Applied Mathematics) are jointly teaching a course on "Knowledge, Inference, Uncertainty, and Probability" which already has led also to joint projects in New York. This kind of relationship springs naturally from the dynamic of a global network university.
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VI. The Actual Evolution of NYU as a Global Network University
The potential benefits of the global network university are immense; it is nevertheless inevitable that, especially given the justifiably intense feelings about economic globalization, serious persons will raise questions about any effort that uses the word "global." Four common questions in particular deserve consideration here: Is the global network university a form of intellectual imperialism? Is the global network university an inherently elitist concept? Can the highest academic standards be maintained in a global network university? And, can a global network university be developed and maintained consistent with the core principles of a great university?
A) Intellectual imperialism
The Global Network University is enabled by globalization and is a response to it. Yet globalization itself is controversial, generating not only hopes and benefits but also deep anxieties and resentments. The benefits of globalization are not evenly shared, and many fear that it is a new form by which some areas of the world will dominate and exploit others.
The world, it has been argued, has been "flattened" by the effects of globalization. This leveling is a concomitant of global interdependence initially achieved by colonial expansion, political alliances, and trade relations. It is no surprise, therefore, that the efforts to understand globalization – and to evaluate its tremendous impact on the lived reality of people around the world – have drawn heavily on politics and economics. Once it became clear that politics and trade had sewn for the world a web of interconnected or competing interests, commentators tended to analyze every response to or prospect of globalization through political or economic lenses and this approach often produces analogies to colonization or franchising.
These analogies are not, in my view, fairly applied to the global network university – at least in the form NYU is creating. Education is not a commodity and the university’s mission remains, even in an age when universities behave on some levels like corporations, the advancement of knowledge and the propagation of the great rewards of learning. When universities "go global," therefore, their actions are shaped (at least ideally) by this mission, not by economic or political goals. Therefore, at least where a university remains true to this mission (which, I concede, is not always the case), it would be wrong to reduce efforts to respond to globalization and the concomitant flow of talent and ideas to political and economic categories. Such reductionism would miss the vital dimension of what universities – and perhaps uniquely universities – can and should accomplish in the newly “globalized” world.
Thus, at its best (and it is the task of those responsible to keep it at its best), the global network university described here, far from perpetuating or compounding old patterns of dominance and subordination, offers great opportunities for building through understanding a more just and elevated global civil society. Moreover, as it broadens the opportunity for learning, the global network will bring greater equality of power. As Jonathan Sacks put it in The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations, "education – the ability not merely to read and write but to master and apply information and have open access to knowledge – is essential to human dignity. Because knowledge is power, equal access to knowledge is a precondition of equal access to power."
The global network university is premised on the idea that the most creative faculty, students, and administrators will be attracted to the opportunities for intellectual and cultural interchange that such a university can afford. However, gathering together the very talented based upon merit is not elitist in any negative sense of that word so long as the meritocracy norms are fair and the necessary steps are taken to find the talented in all sectors of all societies and to provide to them the wherewithal that makes attendance possible. In this regard, the enormous effort expended (and the success of that effort) in finding and bringing to NYU Abu Dhabi’s remarkably diverse inaugural class students from every sector is encouraging. Thus, for example, NYU Abu Dhabi provides both a search engine to find talent where previously few had sought to find it and a financial aid system that allows any worthy student (whether the product of a home school education in a tribal village in Ethiopia or a Pell grant eligible child of a single parent in Virginia) to graduate debt free. And, the leaders so trained will not be the sole beneficiaries; the contributions they make will benefit their local communities and the global community for decades.
Whether in the context of creating a university with multiple locations or in the context of maintaining a university on one campus, excellence is key. Thus, as the global network university is developed, prime attention must be given to this factor. Thus far, NYU's experience in creating its campus in Abu Dhabi and the global sites is encouraging. Indeed, it is apparent that by sustaining the global network university, NYU is becoming a far stronger academic institution. Top flight faculty, students, and administrators are voting with their feet by joining the effort, and several innovative programs and curricula already exist.
As part of its emphasis on excellence, NYU's global network is committed to the core role of a liberal arts education as a major part of the curriculum. Today, NYU New York has ten undergraduate colleges. Many of them use the passions of students to motivate them, as in our schools and concentrations in the arts, business, education, nursing, and social work. Even in such areas, however, the core of students’ education is the liberal arts. This emphasis applies as well at NYU Abu Dhabi. Even as part of a major research university, NYU Abu Dhabi begins with a liberal arts college; indeed, it aspires to create full realization of the liberal arts integrated into the research university.
This emphasis underscores the commitment to excellence that permeates the project. Appreciation of the liberal arts is a good in itself; it broadens and balances the mind, propelling young scholars past mere materialism; the sweep and plasticity of the liberal arts give extra flight to the wings of intellect; moreover, the accelerating pace of international economic change adds a new requirement to the skills set of those who would mold the future: nimbleness. On average, today’s students will have four or five careers each during their lifetimes; a strong liberal arts foundation will provide students the angle of vision and the intellectual agility to make such transitions springboards rather than disruptions.
Yet, higher education policymaking education in the United States and increasingly around the globe recently has been driven by narrow, utilitarian arguments, such as: "Exactly what jobs and how many jobs will be created by this program or precisely what will be the pay-off from the research in which we are investing money?" There are times when such questions are appropriate, but overemphasis upon them forces higher education onto a procrustean bed. Tunnel-vision "practicality" and misplaced notions of "accountability" miss the lesson of history. The big ideas – the ones that pave the road of progress – typically spring from pure research and thought for its own sake, when thinkers enter the trackless realm of intellect not knowing where they will be led.
Universities are crucial in this capacity. As they do their work, it cannot be only, or even predominantly, defined by utilitarian demands. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) is important – but it cannot be ALL that is important. We also must study what we should do with what we learn, how we use discovery to enhance human life. The measure of a college graduate’s life will not be only the total amount of his or her life-time earnings, based on the type of degree she earned in college, but also the satisfaction and happiness living that life beyond its material and financial rewards.
Universities must work to produce "T-shaped" people (people who simultaneously possess deep and broad knowledge), even as society demands that we produce what I would call “I” shaped people (people who may be deep but who are, even at their best, narrow). We need depth, but we also need breadth. It is the liberal arts that develop such breadth. They foster an essential trait of a reflective person seeking to live a life of meaning. These are the citizens we need, and these are the ones who will be attracted to the global network university. NYU, already home to some of the world’s leading humanists and several leading Humanities departments, is particularly well suited to welcome them. The commitment to this approach to building the global network university – against enormous pressures to operate in more utilitarian ways – is perhaps the best evidence of a deep commitment to excellence.
D) Core Principles
A great university is built on core values, including intellectual integrity, tolerance (at least) of difference, willingness to permit and encourage unorthodox ideas, and unflagging commitment to the pursuit of truth. To excel, it must cherish and nurture these values. A global network university necessarily will operate in many cultural milieus, contexts in which values will not always be defined and prioritized in familiar ways. It is not the case that recognition of interdependence and accommodation of differences leads inexorably to compromising core values. Indeed, core values will be defended most effectively if the effort incorporates a strong sense of the destructiveness of cultural hubris. Being engaged dialogically with other cultures compels serious reflection on which principles and practices of ours are core and which are not. Moreover, examining even core principles from another angle advances understanding of the dimensions and implications of what we profess. Core values will not be sacrificed, but smug insularity must be. And, as it turns out, such cultural humility is perfectly consistent with – indeed, perhaps is demanded by – the traditional and central values of the university.
NYU's experience is encouraging. Al Bloom, the Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, has noted that students are learning what it means to be culturally sensitive in a global environment and to find ways to develop relationships with people despite differences on some issues, even important ones. "If one pulls back from engagement, there never will be mutual understanding."
There is an additional point here, an essential one. Ethnocentrism is an intellectual mortal sin (or, perhaps, it is more our collective "original sin," since we almost always are unaware of it until our consciousness is elevated). Americans, unfortunately, are specialists at living ethnocentrically; it is one of our primary vices. Americans tend to think that we have the right view of the world and that others should just get in line. We frequently do not see our own imperfections, and we rarely consider different perspectives may have equal or even greater validity. In addressing matters of cultural difference, we especially must avoid defining "progress" in terms of the degree to which others accept our position.
My NYU colleague Cyrus Patell has suggested that cosmopolitanism is best understood as a structure of thought, an attitude that embraces difference and promotes the crossing of cultural and intellectual boundaries. But this structure or attitude can have many different kinds of content. A cosmopolitanism that arises – that is rooted – in New York might have significant structural affinities with a cosmopolitanism that arises in Abu Dhabi or Shanghai, but have a different look and feel and promote different kinds of practices. In other words, every cosmopolitanism is locally inflected, and, to truly understand and acquire the ideas that are at its heart, one must be local, to experience the particular place in which it is rooted.
One of the inherent features of the global network university is that it values experiencing a vantage point not seen before – that it is good to see the world not through a single window but through the many facets of the diamond. Such viewing need not entail giving up or even compromising the original perspective; but it does require adding more perspectives.
NYU's experience in Abu Dhabi has been a vindication of that approach. An editorial in Abu Dhabi’s independent newspaper, The National, on the day NYU's College there opened, provides testimony:
A community was born yesterday as the students and faculty of New York University Abu Dhabi came together for the first time. What had once been only an idea, to bring students of the highest calibre from all over the world to study in Abu Dhabi, has now become a reality.
The UAE does not lack for ambitious proposals; few come to fruition as quickly as NYU Abu Dhabi. And yet, the institution’s most important work is only beginning.
Obtaining a university degree can be difficult enough. For NYUAD, and for its students who start classes this week, there is an extra burden. The lessons that these students must learn are not simply academic; the importance of the tests they must pass is not confined to an ivory tower.
These students will live and learn in a place that is a nexus between East and West, Islam and modernity, and the past and what is possible for the future. There are naysayers who claim that the intermingling of cultures and ideas that has increased with globalisation will only foster radicalism and hatred; they say that civilisations are destined to clash. The students of NYUAD cannot ignore that their work and their institution’s success can do much to prove the naysayers wrong.
Perhaps Al Bloom, the university's vice chancellor, described the challenge best, as he delivered an address to the school’s inaugural class of 150 students: "We will demonstrate, here, together how a truly global institution of higher learning can lift consciousness beyond parochial, national and ideological concerns." And perhaps it is within a small community of learners where the borders between academic disciplines and those that divide peoples can be most readily broken down.
But that is too important an effort to leave to this school and its students. The fledging institution will require the commitment and unstinting support of the larger community of which it is a part. Just as NYU’s home campus in Manhattan has long been known for being "in and of the city", NYUAD must also feel at home here on this island, even as it positions itself to be an institution that is in and of the world.
The class of students that now begins their studies will graduate in 2014. In that short period of time, the UAE will be a far different place. The world too will change quickly. But it is through the success of communities like NYUAD, that the world has the best chance of changing for the better.
An American who goes to Abu Dhabi and possesses even a modest capacity to observe finds many surprises. It is a place where stereotypes are shattered. Even as it works to improve the quality of education and life for its people, it is a place of many virtues, including tolerance, hospitality, openness, and tremendous generosity.
There will be challenges in the coming years, in Abu Dhabi as in Greenwich Village and every other NYU site. They will be a test of us as much as of Abu Dhabi and our other hosts, a test of our capacity to avoid ethnocentricity and cultural chauvinism, a test of our ability to act in ways that recognize that we are in a different cultural context. There are reasons why the second portal of the global network university was established in Abu Dhabi rather than in Toronto or Philadelphia. A key reason is that for any good to be done, the experience must take faculty, students, and administrators out of their comfort zones and provoke the development of the cultural competence that is an essential dialogic skill in the Second Axial Age.
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VII. The Common Criticisms of the Global Network University
As we have seen, the global network university fits comfortably with an emerging global consciousness in which cultures meet at their creative centers to learn from each other. A relatively small number of idea capitals will be the main incubators of this nascent way of looking at and being in the world; and the global network university will be a principal connection among these idea capitals. Within this organic university, highly creative and talented faculty, students and staff – the new cosmopolitans – will move through the idea capitals, developing themselves through the experience and creating and diffusing the ideas that will be the coin of the Knowledge Century.
NYU does not possess the monetary endowment of its peers. Nonetheless, over the years it has attracted extraordinary faculty, students and staff at least in part because it is blessed with a special locational endowment, New York City, and NYU’s ecosystematic connection to it. These talented people have enhanced NYU’s attitudinal endowment – its distinct lack of self-satisfaction and its perennial search for improvement through innovation. Now, by structuring itself as a global network university, NYU is creating an architectural endowment designed to make it even more attractive to talented cosmopolitans.
Through this new architecture, NYU will offer faculty, students and staff the opportunity to move to where their research and interests lie; and it will permit the leveraging of experiences by engaging with colleagues who themselves have accessed other experiences and opportunities elsewhere within a worldwide network. As a consequence of this synergy and interdependence, each professor, each student, each administrator profits from the growth, development, success, and excellence of every other member of the system.
Higher education faces challenges; but the moment also offers opportunities. The global network university will not be the only version of the next generation of great universities; there will be other successful responses to the tectonic changes we are witnessing and to the forces of globalization outside and inside higher education. Such alternatives will make sense for some other great universities; but they do not make sense for NYU. To fail to embrace the structure and spirit of a global network university would be to break faith with NYU’s founding purpose and spirit. Simply put, this new version of the university builds on the strengths and mission of NYU and projects them onto the global stage for the benefit of our faculty, students, and staff and ultimately the global community.
My NYU colleague, David Levering Lewis, expressed this hope beautifully in the closing paragraphs of the talk he delivered on the formal opening of the University’s Abu Dhabi campus:
By virtue of the location of its history, New York University was exceedingly well prepared for the 21st century. A private university in the public service, the institution had come down to Washington Square from its imitation Ivy League heights in the Bronx to resume Albert Gallatin and Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian mandate to utilize any and all educational methods to deliver the greatest feasible benefit to the greatest feasible number of citizens, irrespective of race, creed, gender, and other persuasians. Its welcome of Jewish students in the 1920s after the shameful anti-Semitic period in American higher education, was of a piece with the university’s signature cosmopolitanism. The surprisingly modest endowment sustaining a gritty Washington Square elegance has been consistently compensated by NYU’s endowment of resiliency, and innovation under the reforming presidential trinity of John Brademas, Jay Oliva, and John Sexton.
We will surely look back upon this second 21st-century decade and upon this inaugural Abu Dhabi month as the moment when multiculturalism went global. Study abroad is not unique to NYU, certainly, but fair to say, NYU’s version of it has long been unique, for in no other elite research university is 50 percent of the student body expected to broaden its minds and methods outside the United States at any give time. As of this moment, however, we are entered upon our greatest educational experience. From this time onward, it is not only the students who travel abroad to learn. It is the university itself that travels to learn---establishing itself on the shores of a grand gulf that has been the great water causeway of much of civilization. Our new neighborhood is the old one of the Fertile Crescent where Islam preserved and amplified the learning that Bologna and Paris built on two millennia ago. To pursue the image further, our presence should be conducive to those interfaith synergies that sustained the convivencia of Muslim Spain. Why not envision Saadiyat Island as the new Toledo, with NYU, groundbreaking art museums, kinetic performing arts centers, solar villages functioning as a permanent festival of culture and art?
In Washington Square, we comprise a great center of ecumenical learning that channels a marvelous supply of human capital. At Abu Dhabi we are at the planet’s geographical center, partners and guests of a proud nation whose warp speed development mirrors, in the long timeframe of history, the rapid rise to wealth and power of the United States at the end of the 19th century. Abu Dhabi in the UAE and the United States confront together the exigent challenges of finite energy resources, problematic mitigation of global warming, global markets beyond any real control by nation-states, and a menacing geopolitics on tripwire. The mother ship’s mission has no term, but John Sexton’s electronic salute to NYUAD last Friday frames our new mission as "the building blocks," he writes, "of NYU's global network university, and paradigm shift in what a university could be that propelled NYU into a leading position among universities worldwide." We began this address with the ancient Greeks. I close with the words of Archimedes, as they are a perfect expression of the complementary visions of President John Sexton and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan: "Give me a place to stand and I’ll move the Earth."
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