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US liberal arts college chief to lead NYU branch

New York University announces the president of Swarthmore College in the US, will lead its campus in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // New York University announced yesterday that Alfred Bloom, president of Swarthmore College in the US, has been hired to lead its campus in Abu Dhabi. Dr Bloom, who has been president of Swarthmore, a small liberal arts college in the suburbs of Philadelphia, since 1991, announced his retirement from the college last May.

His tenure there was marked by a substantial expansion in funding - the college endowment tripled in market value from US$400 million (Dh1.47bn) in 1991 to US$1.4bn in June 2007. "If one were listing the ideal liberal arts college, one would think immediately of Swarthmore, rightly regarded as one of the top colleges in the US," said the president of NYU, John Sexton, in a statement announcing the appointment of Dr Bloom as vice chancellor of the university's Abu Dhabi branch.

"Much of Swarthmore's recent success flows from the leadership of its president, Al Bloom." Dr Sexton cited Dr Bloom's track record at Swarthmore in his statement: "He has increased the quality of its academic programmes, expanded financial aid, enhanced diversity and undertaken spectacular building projects, among other achievements," he said. NYU plans to open its Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island in 2010, and to offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. It aims to be "the first comprehensive liberal arts campus established abroad by a major US research university".

Dr Bloom earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton University and his PhD at Harvard University. He joined Swarthmore in 1974 as an assistant professor of psychology and linguistics and was named associate provost in 1985. While NYU Abu Dhabi will not open its doors to its first class of students for another two years, the university is currently operating a research institute in the capital, headed by Dr Philip Kennedy, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

The institute plans to run seminars and conferences throughout the year, beginning with a reading by Elias Khoury, the distinguished Lebanese novelist, and NYU professor, next Tuesday. The university recently announced that Rafael Viñoly, the Uruguayan architect, who has designed numerous buildings for universities, as well as the Brooklyn Children's Museum in New York, would be the master planner for the Saadiyat Island campus.

Dr Bloom will work with a team that has been led by Dr Mariet Westerman, NYU's vice chancellor for regional campus development. Dr Westermann will return to New York to manage the university's overseas expansion plans. Dr Bloom will complete his term as president of Swarthmore at the end of this academic year and assume full-time leadership at NYU Abu Dhabi before next August. "This is a critical next step for higher education, and NYU is the university that is positioned to take it," he said in a statement.

Khaldoon al Mubarak, the chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi, said the success of NYU Abu Dhabi would depend on its ability to attract talented individuals. "We have been stringent in our search for the right vice chancellor and are very excited to have Al Bloom," he said. klewis@thenational.ae

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