In 2016, Andrew Hamilton became NYU's 16th president and has been a regular visitor to the Shanghai campus. During his fifth visit on the occasion of his inauguration, he talks with NYUSH about his priorities for the Global Network and NYU Shanghai’s bright future.
NYUSH: You were previously Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Provost at Yale. You’ve taken over as President of NYU after a period of expansion under former president John Sexton. What excites you about leading NYU and its Global Network?
AH: One of the reasons I came to NYU was the University’s remarkable trajectory over the past several decades, transforming itself from a largely regional school to one of the world’s foremost research universities, a global university with three degree-granting campuses.
What truly distinguishes NYU is our focus on the future and our willingness to take risks to shape that future. Other universities have larger endowments or longer histories. But no university matches NYU for its boldness of spirit and ambition.
NYUSH: How does NYU Shanghai fit into NYU’s plans for the future?
AH: NYU Shanghai is a prime example of the boldness in action that has marked NYU’s history and has led to extraordinary achievement. The student body comes from 66 countries and 31 Chinese provinces. The students have won international prizes for technology and leadership. The faculty have shaped a unique liberal arts curriculum influenced by China and tailored for the 21st century. The research centers are garnering attention and praise around the world. And the milestone that NYU Shanghai will reach later this year – the graduation of its first class – underscores just how quickly NYU Shanghai has achieved excellence. Just recently two seniors in the founding class were selected for elite postgraduate Schwarzman scholarships to Tsinghua University in Beijing, demonstrating the high regard in which our students are held.
Of course NYU Shanghai makes up part of a larger innovation: NYU’s global network. Along with NYU Shanghai are NYU Abu Dhabi, with its own outstanding faculty and talented students; 11 other sites on six continents at which NYU undergraduates can study abroad and graduate students and faculty can pursue research; the largest number of students studying abroad and the largest group of international students attending any US university.
NYUSH: What are the priorities of your leadership?
AH: There has never been a time when bold action on global education is more urgently needed than now. In the face of destructive public discourse on immigration, suspicion of entire religions and ethnic groups, and a range of problems – from climate change to ideological extremism – that defy borders, it is essential that we choose not to retreat but to engage.
We must make a priority of refining the global network, of ensuring that it aligns throughout with our academic standards and principles. In the near term, that means our focus will be less on increasing the number of our NYU campuses or global sites and more on reaching the full potential of the exceptional global enterprise NYU has already built, guided always by the goals of enhancing our students’ education and serving our faculty’s scholarly interests.
NYU Shanghai has already begun to expand, increasing its annual undergraduate intake for next year from 300 to 350 students. We will continue to grow the student body steadily with a long-term target of 2,000 undergraduates.
We must continue improving the connections until the links feel like second nature. We must carry on the work we have already begun with the Global Research Initiative: expanding the role of the global sites so that in addition to their traditional mission of undergraduate education they become centers of real research excellence involving faculty and graduate students. And we must ensure that these wonderful academic and global opportunities are available to all NYU students, no matter what their financial background.
NYUSH: What are your hopes for the future of NYU Shanghai?
AH: I encourage the NYU Shanghai community to keep doing what you have done so well up to this point: taking risks yourselves with a sense of adventure and openness; asking new questions and creating new answers; and sharing what you observe that works as well as what opportunities you see for improvement.
I have utmost faith in NYU Shanghai, as I do in NYU, and I pledge to work using all of the tools I can on its behalf—in honor of its past, in celebration of the present, and especially in anticipation of its splendid future.