Collage of the issue's front cover and three photos of NYUers in their favorite masks

An Extraordinary Issue for Extraordinary Times

By NYU President Andrew D. Hamilton

This spring, as COVID-19 swept across the globe, NYU’s physical spaces—its classrooms and dining halls, stages and dorms—went quiet. In New York, the only sound that enlivened an eerily subdued Washington Square Park was the nightly 7 p.m. applause for the city’s healthcare workers. For a university normally buzzing with activity, the quiet, like so much else about the pandemic, was unprecedented.

The impacts of the virus are still emerging, but we know that they will be long-lasting. Millions are mourning loved ones lost, or simply mourning a loss of normalcy. National economies and family finances alike have been upended. Too often, the most vulnerable populations have been the hardest hit.

For me, there has been one consistent source of pride and hope through it all: the response of the NYU community.

From every corner of the university, those in our ranks at all levels have stepped up with the ingenuity, compassion, boldness, and grit that define the NYU spirit. Our faculty and alumni and even students have treated patients on the front lines, advised policymakers, researched vaccines and treatments, sent personal protective equipment where it’s most urgently needed, helped to improve testing techniques and understand the spread of the virus (many through Rapid Response Research grants from the National Science Foundation), creatively reconfigured teaching and training, and advocated for the most vulnerable among us.

This special edition of the Alumni Magazine chronicles that response. For the first time ever, an entire issue is devoted to profiles of members of the NYU community who are making a difference in a pivotal time. In the pages that follow, you’ll find courage, intellect, and service—and, if you’re like me, deep Violet pride.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented not only challenges but also incontrovertible lessons: Science matters. How we treat the environment matters. Understanding racial and societal disparities matters. Public policy matters. Evidence-based research matters. Too often these topics are dismissed as merely “academic.” But in the past nine months we have seen over and over that they can mean the difference between suffering and flourishing, and between death and life.

In this profound and historic time, ideas matter. And ideas—their creation, their debate, their dissemination—are what universities are all about.

Indeed, an NYU education prepares graduates who are particularly suited to tackle the set of challenges presented by the pandemic. NYU fosters inquiry and action through a global, urban, interdisciplinary lens—all the better to address a virus that has caused multifaceted impacts across the world, especially in cities.

The stories that follow highlight individual effort, but they are also your story—the story of the NYU community. All across the world, NYU alumni, faculty, students, and administrators are working to forge a better future for all of us, perhaps one that will endure long after this pandemic fades.

(Promo image on contents page by NYU Langone staff)