Date: Saturday, April 27, 2019
RE: The Appointment of Mariet Westermann as Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi

I am thrilled to announce the appointment of Mariet Westermann -- Executive Vice President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, former provost of NYU Abu Dhabi, former director of NYU's Institute of Fine Arts, and art historian -- as the Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, effective August 1, 2019.

The selection of Mariet, whom many of you will remember from her time at NYU Abu Dhabi nearly a decade ago, follows a 10-month long, international search that considered many outstanding candidates from around the world. The Search Committee -- so ably led by Professor Dick Foley, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science and Vice Chancellor for Strategic Planning; and Professor Una Chaudhuri, Professor of English, drama, and environmental studies -- widely sought input to guide their selection, with numerous listening sessions in New York and Abu Dhabi. The feedback they received was notable both for the pride expressed in what has already been achieved at NYU Abu Dhabi in such a short time, and for the sense of promise about its future. The Committee, drawing on this guidance, sought a candidate who would not only be a leader for NYU Abu Dhabi capable of taking the institution into its next stage, but who would also contribute to NYU's leadership globally and be a vital presence in the cultural and intellectual life of Abu Dhabi.

Against this backdrop, Mariet's proven leadership qualities, her experience and involvement in the founding of NYUAD, her superb academic qualifications, her skill as an institution-builder, her collegiality, and the warm relationships she and her family had already cultivated in the UAE community caused her to stand out even in the extremely strong field of candidates that was assembled. The Search Committee was impressed by the broad insights on higher education that she gained from her work at Mellon, by her thoughtfulness about NYUAD's future, and by her zeal for what we and our Abu Dhabi partners are trying to accomplish.

The creation of NYU Abu Dhabi was a transformative move, not just for Abu Dhabi and NYU, but for higher education. For NYU, it enabled us to recruit exceptional students and scholars who might otherwise never have been part of our community, and it allowed us to become pre-eminent in offering students a genuinely global education. Thanks to our shared vision with our partners, NYU Abu Dhabi has been a tremendous success. With distinguished faculty, top students from around the world from all backgrounds, and excellent leadership, it has developed a remarkable research enterprise, and its graduates have gone on to prestigious international honors, top graduate and professional programs, and leading employers and positions.

Just as importantly, NYU Abu Dhabi has become a global model, one that is recognized by other universities and challenges long-standing assumptions about higher education -- about whether high academic quality could be produced far from the original campus, about new ways a university could fulfill its mission, and about how to build a globally diverse university community. In the years since, several other prominent U.S. universities have chosen to launch major global campuses of their own, and for each of those schools there are probably 10 others contemplating how they might do so as well.

With such a pivotal role in potentially reshaping higher education in the 21st century, NYU Abu Dhabi requires an outstanding leader. That is why we are so pleased with the selection of Mariet.

Mariet Westermann's principal area of scholarly interest is the art of the Netherlands, her native country. She is widely published in the field, including A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic 1585–1718 (1996); The Amusements of Jan Steen: Comic Painting in the 17th Century (1997); Rembrandt – Art and Ideas (2000); and numerous articles. She has edited five books, including Anthropologies of Art (2005). Her extensive work with museums includes her Rijksmuseum Dossier: Johannes Vermeer (2004); the curatorship of Art and Home: Dutch Interiors in the Age of Rembrandt (Denver Art Museum and Newark Museum, 2001); and numerous exhibition catalogue essays. She is currently preparing an exhibition and book on the resonance of the Garden of Eden in the history, theology, and art of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with significant implications for garden practice in these cultures. Her initial research in this area was developed during January terms at NYU Abu Dhabi. Mariet has been the recipient of fellowships, honors, and grants from a wide range of organizations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Philosophical Society, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Clark Art Institute, College Art Association, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to being named to the Vice Chancellorship, she will be appointed a Professor of Arts and Humanities at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Mariet has been at the Mellon Foundation since 2010, and has been the executive vice president for programs and research since 2016. In that role, she has launched initiatives that study and promote the value of the humanities and the liberal arts, strengthen community colleges, encourage graduate education reform, renew preservation of cultural heritage around the world, and support scholars and artists at risk. At Mellon, she has also led pathbreaking work on diversity and inclusion in American museums, and written extensively about the liberal arts, the humanities, and higher education. Prior to the Foundation she was on the faculty at NYU, first as director of the Institute of Fine Arts and then as the first provost of NYU Abu Dhabi, where she hired the startup team and initial faculty, helped shape the curriculum and launch the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, and developed the Downtown Campus, among other important undertakings. Before coming to NYU in 2002, she was associate director of research at the Clark Art Institute. From 1995 to 2001, she was an assistant and associate professor of art history at Rutgers University.

She received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Williams College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She received her Masters and her Ph.D. from NYU's Institute of Fine Arts.

We are very grateful to Una Chaudhuri, Dick Foley, and all the other members of the Search Committee, listed below. Their thoughtfulness, discernment, and perseverance have resulted in a wonderful person to lead NYU Abu Dhabi during the next stage of its development. The Committee members took on this important task in addition to their existing responsibilities; we thank them for their commitment to NYUAD.

I would also like to use this occasion to extend our profound gratitude to Al Bloom. Turning a groundbreaking idea into a reality is one of the most exciting things one can do in one's career, and one of the most difficult, perhaps particularly so in the field of higher education, where reputation matters so greatly and usually requires such a long time to build. Starting from scratch as the inaugural Vice Chancellor, Al made sure that NYU Abu Dhabi succeeded on every measure. Over time, the establishment of NYU Abu Dhabi will, without doubt, turn out to be one of the great success stories of higher education. Al should be very proud of what he's accomplished; we are surely proud of him.

Please join me in congratulating Mariet Westermann on her appointment as Vice Chancellor, in wishing her well, and in welcoming her back to the NYU Abu Dhabi community.

NYU Abu Dhabi Search Committee


  • Una Chaudhuri, Collegiate Professor and Professor of English, Drama, and
    Environmental Studies, NYU FAS and TSOA; Affiliated Faculty, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Dick Foley, Professor of Philosophy, NYU FAS


  • Fatma Abdulla, Senior Vice Provost, Strategy and Planning, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Shamma K. Al Bastaki, Class of 2018, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Justin Blau, Professor of Biology and Neural Science; Chair, Department of
    Biology, NYU FAS
  • Carol Brandt, Associate Vice Chancellor, Global Education and Outreach, and Vice Provost, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Dominic Brewer, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean and Professor of Education, Economics and Policy, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
  • Hannah Brückner, Professor, Social Research and Public Policy, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Sehamuddin Galadari, Senior Vice Provost of Research Outreach, Managing Director of the NYUAD Research Institute, and Research Professor of Biology, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Jeff Lehman, Vice Chancellor, NYU Shanghai
  • Samer Madanat, Dean of Engineering, NYU Abu Dhabi, and Global Network Professor of Engineering, NYU
  • Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology, NYU FAS; Affiliated
    Faculty, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Yaw Nyarko, Professor of Economics, NYU FAS; Affiliated Faculty,
    NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Kirsten Sadler Edepli, Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and Associate Professor of Biology, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Ellen Schall, Senior Presidential Fellow and Dean Emeritus, NYU Wagner
  • Karen Shimakawa, Associate Professor, Academic Associate Dean, NYU TSOA
  • David Stasavage, Silver Professor, Professor of Politics, and Dean of Social Sciences, NYU FAS
  • Justin Stearns, Associate Professor in Arab Crossroads Studies, NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Marion Wrenn, Senior Lecturer, Director of the Writing Program, NYU Abu Dhabi