This time of year, the daffodils bloom, the days grow longer, and NYU offers of admission reach several thousand high school students. I imagine many of those students will be asking themselves, why should I attend NYU, and not one of the other great colleges that have said they want me to be in their Class of 2020?
I think of my decision to come to NYU as the dean of Liberal Studies around this time exactly twelve years ago. I am a native New Yorker (born in the Bronx, since you ask), but in Spring 2004 I had lived away from New York for some thirty years, and, frankly, I had never planned on returning. So what drew me to this university and to the city where I grew up?
Part of what lay behind the decision was very personal — after 9/11, I felt that I wanted to make a statement of solidarity with all New Yorkers, and that the best way to do that was to live here myself.
Part of what drew me back was also the realization that there is no place on earth more exciting, more dynamic, and more welcoming than the Big Apple. Every day, I have the extraordinary experience of discovering some thing or some one new to me, and even just walking the streets I feel the city’s energy pulsing through me. I’ve lived in many places around the world, and none comes close to this level of excitement.
And then there is NYU. Before I came to NYU, I taught at eight universities in the U.S. and the U.K. They are all wonderful intellectual communities, and they all provide students with a first-class education. But none matches NYU’s breadth of interesting and innovative programs; none provides an environment that so values diversity and that so encourages creativity.
I am grateful that NYU has provided me with my own opportunities to learn. I enjoy the challenge immensely. And I look forward soon to meeting NYU’s Class of 2020, who too will have chosen the rigorous, sometimes challenging, always exciting, NYU education.