Abu Dhabi campus has N.Y.U. thinking, acting globally

By Albert Amateau

Alfred H. Bloom, 62, president of Swarthmore College, was appointed at the end of last month as vice chancellor of New York University’s new campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which is scheduled to open for classes in 2010.

Bloom will serve as a consultant, working with an advance team led by Mariet Westermann, N.Y.U. vice chancellor for regional campus development, until he completes his term as president of Swarthmore. He will assume full-time leadership of the Abu Dhabi campus by 2009, according to an N.Y.U. news release.

At the same time, architect Rafael Vinoly was designated as the master planner for the N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi campus, to be completed in 2012 in the Marina District of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Vinoly designed the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and a master plan for Oxford University and was the leader of a team that submitted plans for the World Trade Center rebuilding project.

For the 2009 opening of an N.Y.U. campus in the Persian Gulf city, a temporary 65,000-square-foot initial campus is being designed for a site in downtown Abu Dhabi just off the waterfront, on which construction is to begin in December. The initial building will be prefabricated by Cadolto, a German company, and will be assembled on the site in April 2009, according to an N.Y.U. news release.

John Sexton, N.Y.U. president, cited Bloom’s work as president since 1991 of Swarthmore, a nonsectarian, liberal arts and engineering college founded by Quakers south of Philadelphia, as the main factor in his choice as head of the Abu Dhabi campus. Sexton characterized Swarthmore as “one of the top colleges in the U.S.,” and attributed the school’s recent success to Bloom’s leadership.

“When a leader as accomplished, wise and discerning as Al Bloom takes on an appointment such as this, it is a powerful ratification of what N.Y.U. and its partners are doing in Abu Dhabi,” Sexton said. “With Mariet Westermann in New York and Al Bloom in Abu Dhabi, we have the team to build the special future we and our partners envision.”

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi, the host and partner in the new campus, said, “We have been stringent in our search for the right vice chancellor and are very excited to have Al Bloom officially appointed to the post.”

The Abu Dhabi campus together with N.Y.U. in New York is expected to be the beginning of a “Global Network University” with faculty and students from both campuses spending semesters at one of the university’s eight worldwide, study-abroad centers.

Bloom said he was drawn to the project by “the opportunity to develop a world-class center of learning and intellectual advance from the ground up and to create an active connection with the Washington Square campus, thereby providing the foundation for a new concept of global university.”

Bloom earned his B.A. summa cum laude from Princeton in 1967 and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1974.

The city of Abu Dhabi, capital of the Abu Dhabi Emirate, the largest and most oil-rich of the United Arab Emirates, is on an island 5 miles long and 9 miles wide just off the coast of the Persian Gulf. The city is also capital of the U.A.E. and is the second largest city, after Dubai, in the Emirates.

Abu Dhabi’s government is providing the land, funding and financing for development, construction, equipping, maintenance and operation of the new N.Y.U. campus.

N.Y.U. currently has an enrollment of 19,400 undergraduate and 18,990 graduate and professional students.

N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi is projected to eventually have more than 2,000 students from around the globe, especially from the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia and Europe. They will be chosen by the N.Y.U. Office of Admissions based on academic qualifications without regard to race, religion, sex, nationality or sexual orientation, according to a joint statement by the university’s board of directors, Sexton and Al Mubarak.