Some of you may know that I will be stepping down from the deanship in a very few weeks. I have served as dean of Liberal Studies for 13 years, and during that time, we have seen the program grow in new and important ways.

The Liberal Studies offices moved to Broadway in 2004.

The major milestones are clearly visible: enrollment in the program has nearly doubled; we have added remarkable first-year away programs in London, Paris, and Washington, DC, joining our pioneering first-year program in Florence; and we created our four-year baccalaureate degree, Global Liberal Studies, among whose 2017 graduates are a Rhodes Scholar, a Gilman Fellow, a Princeton in Africa Fellow, and a Humanity in Action Fellow. No fewer than five LS alums have been named to Forbes “30 Under 30” lists in recent years. Our graduates are starting careers in fields as diverse as finance, global NGOs, media, and technology; they are embarking on graduate and professional study at leading U.S. and international universities.

Less immediately visible, but no less important, we have greatly improved our financial aid to students. Over the past decade we have raised more than $25,000,000 in gifts, virtually all to support scholarships. As the University prioritizes affordability, we are providing more scholarship aid for global study and for first-generation students.

Most important of all for me, I’ve been privileged to meet thousands of well-prepared, bright, and dynamic students, students from every part of the U.S. and across the globe. I have been fortunate to help provide our students with great opportunities to achieve their ambitious goals. I look forward now to continuing to work with our students in my new role as a full-time faculty member teaching in the Liberal Studies Core Program.

In serving this great program, I have been fortunate to work with and to get to know well many talented and dedicated staff and faculty colleagues. I take one final opportunity to thank them for all that they do to support our students.

Finally, I’m delighted to introduce the next dean of Liberal Studies, Professor Julie Mostov. Dean Mostov comes to us from Drexel University, where she served as Senior Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, and where she virtually single-handedly created Drexel’s international programs. The leadership of Liberal Studies is now in her capable hands.

What do the following have in common: A literary festival in Trinidad and Tobago, an editorial board of the American Library Association, a foundation that supports emerging artistic talent, and a writer-in-residency program in Berlin?

All are organizations that have recently recognized Liberal Studies faculty for their scholarship and creative work.

And last night, we honored them at NYU. The annual Faculty Honors Reception salutes NYU faculty who have received prestigious awards and special recognition in 2016. Among the honorees were four LS professors who are also distinguished authors:

  • Jacqueline Bishop – Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, One Caribbean Media
  • Miriam Frank – Outstanding Academic Titles, American Library Association
  • Mitchell Jackson – Whiting Award for Fiction, Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation
  • Lina Meruane – Otra Mirada Prize, 15th Annual Premio Calamo; Artist-in-Residency, DAAD Berlin

Their work ranges from fiction to nonfiction, from Spanish to English, and from creative to research-based, but their scholarly and creative contributions stand out as among the best in the world. I was proud to acknowledge their work at the Faculty Honors Reception. I am equally proud of the talents they bring to the classroom and share with LS students every day.

NYU recently issued its annual report, Life Beyond the Square, on students’ post-graduation employment and further education. NYU students always do well in this realm. However, one program stands out for its extraordinary success: 100% of Global Liberal Studies (GLS) students report being employed, enrolled in graduate or professional school, or both, within six months of graduating.

Where do they go after NYU? Young GLS alumni are consulting for the United Nations, serving as Special Assistant to the First Lady of New York City, sourcing talent for Google, managing a travel lifestyle brand in London, implementing global compliance for Goldman Sachs, studying law at Harvard, volunteering with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, shaping economic policy at the Roosevelt Institute – work as diverse as one could imagine.

What connects them all is the global immersion they experienced in GLS.
Students in Liberal Studies read and experience the world’s great works firsthand, from Rumi’s poetry to Duchamp’s sculptures. What’s more, all GLS students study away from New York City for at least a full year – in many cases, for two.

Moving outside one’s comfort zone, outside the classroom and outside familiar surroundings, equips students with skills that make them competitive professionals. And while the skills needed to flourish in finance may differ from the talents useful in law, passion for exploring unfamiliar topics and enthusiasm for making an impact are valuable in all fields. Just ask any GLS graduate.

I have been teaching Charles Dickens to students for over forty years, but I still remember my first encounter with his work in a seminar during my senior year in college. I was fascinated by his uncanny ability to manage huge casts of characters and still tell a compelling story. I went on to write a master’s thesis and a doctoral thesis on Dickens, and even though my research centers on Dickens as a social critic, the extraordinary narrative complexity of his work has never ceased to amaze me.

A Christmas Carol

Image by Thinkstock/prawny via NYU News.

Most people today first experience Dickens through his hugely popular holiday story, A Christmas Carol. I, too, have a fondness for this classic tale of redemption. Recently I sat down with the NYU Stories team to consider what makes A Christmas Carol so timeless; read our interview to learn more.

This week, I have been visiting our students studying at NYU Paris. Last night, I was privileged to share Thanksgiving dinner with them at a lovely restaurant in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Sharng a Thanksgiving dinner in Paris

Bon appetit!

There is much for which to be thankful in Paris this year — that our first-year away students, our sophomores, and our GLS juniors are doing well; that Paris has rebounded after a difficult year; and that one of our Paris GLS students from last year, Melissa Godin (GLS ’17), has been named a Rhodes Scholar.

Most of all, I am thankful for our strong Liberal Studies community, that binds together students, faculty, and staff on Washington Square and across the Global Network.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Students and Dean Schwarzbach

Joining NYU Paris students to celebrate Thanksgiving.

GLS Alumni on Stage

GLS at the screening of Refuge. From left: Madison, Claudia, me, and Max.

Last week, three GLS alumni returned to NYU to raise awareness of the European refugee crisis. Maximilian Guen (GLS ’14) and his Magna Carta production company co-founder Matthew K. Firpo (Tisch ’12) screened their latest project, Refuge, a documentary of human stories from the European refugee crisis. Madison McCormick (GLS ’16) and Claudia Cereceda (GLS ’16) participated in the panel that followed, both having done original research on the issue last spring.

Each took a break from his or her busy careers – Max, newly named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Marketing and Advertising; Madison earning an International Relations M.A. while working for Global Business Coalition for Education; and Claudia on staff with the Mayor of New York as Special Assistant to the First Lady.

These and many other GLS alumni are living the goals that they had set for themselves as students. In GLS, we say that our students do not just learn to be global citizens – each of us automatically is that – but that they learn to be agents of change in a changing world.

Max, Madison, and Claudia – and other graduates volunteering with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, supporting operations at the White House, consulting for the United Nations Population Fund, studying law at Harvard, making international connections with Fulbright Fellowships, and more — are changing the world in many fields and across the globe.

It’s a pleasure for me to partner with GLS graduates whose work brings them back to NYU for a special occasion, especially when the topic is as critical as the refugee crisis. But nothing could be more deeply gratifying than seeing the work they carry out every day outside of NYU, making our world a better place­­.

If it’s Sunday, it must be London — and it is.  I have just concluded NYU Welcome Week by meeting 85 first-year Liberal Studies students at our London academic center in Bedford Square.

In the past week I’ve welcomed some 1250 Core Program and Global Liberal Studies students in five cities — Florence, London, Paris, Washington DC, and, of course, New York — in as many days.

Frankly, I should be exhausted by this whirlwind tour — but I am not.  I’ve met students from every region of the U.S. and from over 70 countries — all of whom now are part of the Liberal Studies community.  They are bright, they are talented, and they bring to NYU a wealth of diverse backgrounds, interests, and aspirations.

I spoke with students from all over the world — from Albania, Australia, China, Cuba, Germany, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Singapore, and Thailand, and many, many more.   I greeted students from great cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Taipei, and from very small towns in California, Iowa, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.  Many of our new students have lived in several countries, and others applied for their first passports and took their first international journeys to join their NYU peers.

As diverse as they are, our students have much in common — their passion to learn and their interest in exploring their new homes.  There is more I could say about them, but soon enough, our students will begin navigating their own journeys through NYU’s global network.  They will soon begin telling their own stories, and I am looking forward to learning more about them.

Core Program Orientation in New York City

Speaking at Core Program Convocation in New York City.

Recently, in looking back on my 30 years as a professor-turned-academic administrator, I identified several key lessons about working outside the classroom that I’ve learned along the way. I shared them in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “They Don’t Train Us for This,” which you can read here.

Photo: Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle

Photo: Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle


Congratulations to the winners of the annual Liberal Studies photo contest, A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Worlds! Their photos will be framed and hung in the Liberal Studies lounge for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Best Photo of an Architectural Structure:

“Beijing” (Beijing, China) by Andrea Meyer
During the academic year 2015-2016, Andrea was a Core Program first-year student.


Best Photo of Local Life:

“La Vida en La Plaza” (Madrid, Spain) by Susan Lee
During the academic year 2015-2016, Susan was a GLS Senior.

La Vida en La Plaza

Best Photo that Captures the Spirit of NYU’s Global Network University:

“Hide Away” (Darjeeling, India) by Lila Murphy
During the academic year 2015-2016, Lila was a Core Program first-year student.

Hide Away

Best Photo of a Social, Political, or Religious Event:

“The Effects of Gentrification in “Old Town”, Puxi” (Shanghai, China) by Janli Gwo
During the academic year 2015-2016, Janli was a GLS Senior.

The Effects of Gentrification in "Old Town", Puxi

The Grand Prize Winner, for Best in Globe Photo:

“GMT + 8:30” (Pyongyang, North Korea) by Tianxiong Hu
During the academic year 2015-2016, Tianxiong was a Core Program sophomore.


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?Washington Square Park photo

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.