Last Saturday, I sat in a theatre watching two old pros — James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson — in “The Gin Game.” It’s not what anyone would call a great play, but it is, as is often said, “good theatre” — an opportunity for actors to give compelling performances all the same. And that is exactly what they did, drawing on something like 175 years of life experience between them.

Two things particularly struck me that day.

Broadway street sign

Photo courtesy of

One, this brought back my memories of having seen Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy perform in the same play in the late 1970s. In New York and all cities rich with culture, what’s old is always new again someday. The history of a place is integral to its present.

Two, enjoying the performance by these two legends, I realize I’ve been fortunate to have seen many great actors on stage — Henry Fonda, John Guilgud, Helen Hayes, Lawrence Olivier, Lynn Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Paul Scofield, among others. There’s no thrill like the thrill of sitting twenty feet away from one of the greatest actors of any era.

This, then, is one of the great gifts that we offer students in New York (and in all our world cities) — the same opportunity to experience culture not in the classroom but out in the world!

As the end of the spring semester nears, it’s my pleasure to look back on some of the events that made this semester such an engaging one for LS students:
(1) In February, recent GLS graduates shared a dinner with GLS seniors at the first GLS Alumni-Student Networking Event. Graduates in roles from Fulbright Fellow to product manager at Lyft shared job-search tips with GLS seniors considering their post-graduation plans.
(2) In March, Terrance Hayes, poet and MacArthur Fellow, gave a reading of his work in our Global Lecture Series. Hayes drew a large crowd from across NYU and accolades from NYU Local.
(3) In April the Liberal Studies Student Council hosted “We Are LS” Week, a series of events that celebrated our strong community. From a Global Bazaar featuring food and facts from around LS’s global network to an LS Talent Showcase, everyone had a chance to show their LS pride.
Now that May is upon us, we look forward to the Global Liberal Studies graduation and All-University Commencement, and the opportunities they give us to salute the many accomplishments of the NYU Class of 2015.
Students discuss Berlin during the LS Global Bazaar.

2019sign.jpgAt NYU’s recent Weekend on the Square, in the largest auditorium space on campus filled to capacity, the Liberal Studies team and I met hundreds of outstanding students who will be joining NYU’s Class of 2019. From the Peruvian student who plans to spend her first and junior years studying in Europe, to the student from Connecticut who will pursue a combined B.A./M.A. degree in five years, to the student from New Jersey who embraces the global diversity of her future classmates, each of you beginning Liberal Studies has the distinct opportunity to shape your own NYU experience.
After two years in Liberal Studies, our Core Program students will go on to major in any of the 60+ academic programs at the College of Arts and Science, or to design their own major at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, or to study science through a liberal arts lens at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. Students in our Global Liberal Studies B.A. program will chart their own intellectual and geographic journeys – selecting a location for their junior year studies from among seven global academic centers, and choosing one of five academic concentrations that will define their upper-division coursework.
Yet no matter which of NYU’s global academic centers you will call home during your education, no matter what your major or course of study, no matter where you grew up, Liberal Studies will be your home at NYU. Our small class sizes, our supportive network of staff and faculty, and our great works curriculum “in and of the world,” together give you a strong foundation from which to excel at NYU.
I look forward to welcoming you — the NYU Class of 2019 — to Liberal Studies to begin building your unique NYU experience!

As the fall semester ends, I would like to wish every member of our Liberal Studies community happy holidays and a relaxing winter break. This past year has been an outstanding one for Liberal Studies, with several national awards among our faculty, prestigious honors earned by Core Program and Global Liberal Studies students, and the addition of a Washington, DC freshman year away program. I look forward to welcoming you back to the classroom in January for another successful year.

“Global” is the buzzword of the day in higher education, but what does it really mean? Is a university “global” if it provides a study abroad program or can there be deeper integration of global content and perspectives in the classroom?
Thirty Liberal Studies sophomores and I are investigating this question in the Dean’s Global Research Seminar. These students are the members of our sophomore honor society, the Dean’s Circle.
Guest speakers at recent class sessions have included NYU President John Sexton, who reflected on the strategic vision behind our Global Network University, and Jeffrey Lehman, Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai. The Dean’s Circle students who are studying away from Washington Square this semester connect virtually to the class sessions, demonstrating through their participation that education need not be limited by geographic borders.
In January the Dean’s Circle will travel to London to explore how globalization in higher education is developing in Europe. Stay tuned for photos and a report from that trip.
President Sexton was a Dean’s Global Research Seminar guest speaker.

Through our global great works curriculum and our unique study away opportunities, Liberal Studies fosters a global learning community. Our students become deeply engaged in the issues that define our world. We recently hosted guest speaker Ishmael Beah, whose life and work reflect many of these values.
Ishmael Beah has written powerfully of his experience as a child solder in the Sierra Leone Civil War, and as powerfully of his struggle to escape that life and its legacy. His memoir, A Long Way Gone, was published in 2007, and this year he published his first novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, set during the rebuilding of his home country following the Civil War. In an evening of conversation with LS faculty member, Christian Parenti, that opened this year’s Global Lecture Series, Beah discussed these experiences as well as his awareness, as an African in the United States, about the “othering” of Africa’s issues in the American media. From his own experience, Beah cited the dearth of news coverage about Sierra Leone after the Civil War ended and the current negative stereotypes that are embedded in coverage of the Ebola outbreak.
Liberal Studies students don’t want to be mere citizens of the world — they aspire to become the global leaders who will not only understand the problems our world faces but will help develop their solutions. It was inspiring to hear Ishmael Beah, a leader in this space, share his story.

At the start of each academic year I welcome the new LS students to Washington Square, and then I travel to greet our freshmen in Florence, London, and Paris. I write now from NYU London, having met with students in Florence, followed by Paris, over the past week.
This year’s welcome reception at NYU Florence.
Each of these world cities provides extraordinary co-curricular opportunities for LS students. NYU Florence students live and study in the vibrant academic community of Villa La Pietra, a renaissance estate surrounded by olive groves and formal gardens.
The NYU London academic center is located in a historic building on Bedford Square, a few steps from the British Museum.
NYU Paris students enjoy a state-of-the-art facility in the intellectual heart of the city, the Latin Quarter.
As much as I enjoy revisiting these cities every year, I enjoy most meeting the nearly 300 diverse and accomplished students who have arrived at our freshman year abroad programs. This past week, I have met new students from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan and all over the United States, to name but a few of their home countries. And they all have chosen to begin their NYU careers in Liberal Studies.
To all our first-year students in Europe — Bienvenue, Benvenuto, Welcome!

Today, more than 1,200 new Liberal Studies students begin their academic careers. This is a moment that you have been anticipating since you received your admission to NYU. Now that this moment — and you! — have arrived, I encourage you to take advantage of every step on this four-year journey.
Get to know your new neighborhood, but also explore a neighborhood or visit a landmark in the rest of the amazing city in which you now live. After your first classes, talk to your professor about something that has piqued your curiosity. Join a club, attend an event, make a friend — in short, forge a new connection to our community.
Take advantage of all of the opportunities that Liberal Studies, NYU, New York, and the Global Network offer — the same exciting opportunities that drew you to apply to the university. The next four years will pass quickly; make the most of them.
Welcome to Liberal Studies, and welcome to your future.

Christopher Packard is a Master Teacher in Liberal Studies. Here he guest blogs about teaching in Paris last year.
Chilly November Friday, around noon, in Paris. About eight Core and GLS students met two NYU professors outside the Metro station next to a large exhibition hall.
We’d been warned about the crowds, and it was true: mobs of chocolate-identified folks pressed the ticket-takers at the doors. Inside: huge warehouse, packed with exhibition booths offering samples. Welcome to the Salon de chocolat, the largest trade show of chocolate and its products in Europe.
LS students gathered at the Salon de chocolat in Paris in November 2013,
along with Professor Trabacca, who teaches European History and Politics at NYU in Paris.

The taste sensations were dizzying. Morsels of sweet, shavings of bitter, dollops of soufflés dusted with chocolate powder, spiced chocolate, liquid chocolate spouting in fountains, wafts of chocolate perfume floated on the air.
Celebrity chef Pierre Hermes enthralled hushed crowds of hundreds as he
whisked, chopped, poured, and baked.

Upstairs, the sculptures kept audiences amazed. An airplane the size of
a schoolbus made entirely from chocolate.

Lest we over-indulge the senses, we had arrived armed with ideas. Prior to coming to this chocolate trade show, we professors had asked group members to read “Crafting Grand Cru Chocolates in Contemporary France,” by Susan Terrio in American Anthropologist (Vol. 98, No. 1, 1996, pp. 67-79), so we had an inkling of the understory of this massive marketing event. Our discussion before the event, at a café nearby, had circulated around global trade and intra-European cultural preservation strategies. Fascinating discussion, followed by a sensual indulgence, with plenty of food for thought.
Events like these are the greatest pleasure of teaching abroad. I’ve had the opportunity to teach at NYU campuses in London, Florence, and Paris, and thanks to the staff at each site, great emphasis is placed on co-curricular activities like these. In London we went to the Cheltenham Literary Festival to hear Ian McEwan speak, after reading excerpts from Atonement. We toured the Royal Palace at Brighton after reading excerpts from The Opium Wars. In Florence we visited the Uffizi and other museums, of course, but we also took gastronomic tours of the central market after studying local and Italian-American foodways. Each of these excursions had an intellectual component that enhances the experience and ties it into the LS curriculum.
I suppose I enjoy these events so much because they embody my teaching philosophy: learning happens best when new knowledge is associated with experience that is enhanced through social interaction. Now that I am back in New York to teach for the upcoming year, I look forward to taking advantage of my hometown as an extension of the LS classroom. And perhaps, if it’s relevant, I will include a local food festival or two in the syllabus.
Haute couture? Both the dress and the mannequin in this picture are made of chocolate.

I’m in Paris attending a workshop of Liberal Studies faculty from all over NYU’s global network. Our focus: pedagogy and technology that maximize cross-site collaboration and connect geographically dispersed communities of students and faculty.
Why are we here? Some 500 LS students study away every year. LS freshmen are the only NYU freshmen given the opportunity to spend their first year abroad – indeed, this is a unique opportunity among the 3000+ colleges and universities in the U.S.
Our faculty here this week, all of whom will soon teach or recently have taught at one of NYU’s twelve global study centers around the world, will re-examine and refine our academic and co-curricular programs, always with student learning our highest priority.
LS faculty on the Square and at all our study away programs have made Liberal Studies the exemplar of how NYU successfully has integrated global experience into each student’s education.
View of Notre Dame from NYU Paris: