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.

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.

Last week, I took time away from the office to visit some of the city’s quietest places​ –​ Central Park, Stuyvesant Square, ​Carl Schurz Park, ​and Fort Tryon Park, all in Manhattan.

New York — especially Manhattan — has an intensity like no other place on earth. I was born here — and after many years of wandering, I can imagine living nowhere else. Still, from time to time, even this native son craves an hour or two of complete stillness and quiet.

​To find true solitude, there’s no place like the Bronx Botanical Garden on a weekday. Here you can see outcrops of Fordham gneiss: the Bronx’s rocky spine that is over a billion years old. You can walk under the only remaining first-growth forest in the city, some of whose trees probably were seedlings when Dutch still was our official language.

This photo is of a restored mill on the Bronx River, the city’s only fresh-water river. It once powered dozens of water mills, ​the power supply for the city’s first industrial age, but now it is largely hidden (though it still asserts itself by flooding every few years). Sitting in the shade, listening to the river, time almost stops.Mill