A final convener’s post: thank you, Bryan

For almost ten years, Bryan Waterman has been an integral—dare we say—core part of the NYUAD community. He has shaped an entire generation of students and community members with his spirit, empathy, and leadership. Although he will continue to impact this campus from afar, we wanted to take a moment and celebrate his time in Abu Dhabi. There’s nothing better than a convener’s post to express just how grateful we are that our paths have crossed with Bryan Waterman.

In the classroom, Professor Waterman goes above and beyond to challenge us beyond what we thought was capable and does so without compromising his empathy and humanity. Contagion is both a safe space and an opportunity to take risks; by breaking down our writing, he has helped us build it back stronger. Professor Waterman teaches us new ways of looking at ourselves and the communities we inhabit. In his classroom, literature transforms from an escapist fantasy into a vital resource for our survival as a species. As our studies of pandemics took on new meanings, Professor Waterman helped us make sense of the chaos outside and never lost empathy for his students. His genuine interest in us, not as objects to be taught, but as human beings to learn from is the defining element of his pedagogy. Professor Waterman is never out to push an agenda but continually demonstrates flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to explore new perspectives. In his classroom, teaching is a dynamic exchange between professor and student. He is eternally patient and supportive as we develop the courage to find our voices and express our opinions. At the same time, Professor Waterman manages the careful balancing act of creating a learning environment that is inclusive and kind without sacrificing the academic rigor for which he is famed. Of course, it wouldn’t be Contagion without infection! Professor Waterman’s enthusiasm for literature has even spread to our new habits of reading passages out loud and annotating books by hand.

Professor Waterman’s dedication and spirit have never been limited to the classroom. From the Core Curriculum to Howler Radio and early morning HUA sessions (virtual or not), he has been a fixture of this community for almost a decade. His commitment to bettering NYU Abu Dhabi sets an example for all of us. Professor Waterman’s work could have ended the moment class was over but instead, he continually chooses to be a member of the community and has created a home here. When he talks about supporting students and investing in people, he follows through with his actions and dedication. His passion is infectious and he has truly inspired legions of students with his commitment to community-building. The time, energy, and effort Professor Waterman has invested in this place outside of the classroom is proof that he truly exemplifies the spirit of this place. Thanks to him, this institution and all the people who have passed and will pass through it are more generative and generous.

Despite his energetic teaching and campus-wide leadership, Professor Waterman’s greatest impact has been at the most elemental level: interacting with students. Professor Waterman is a combination of Sam and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. His heartwarming optimism and faith in us when all seems lost makes us feel like the main character in our lives and in return, we strive to meet his expectations, even if it means waking up at 8:55am. At the same time, his wisdom and guidance are tremendously helpful, particularly in these plague times. Professor Waterman is a constant source of comfort as we weather the beginnings of adulthood. Through scholarship essays, capstone crises, and late homework assignments alike, he is continually understanding that we are human beings above all else. When we have struggled, Professor Waterman has gone above and beyond for us, taking an active role in supporting us as best he can. In an institution with a toxic work culture, his validation that we are more than students is truly grounding. At the same time, his passion for learning and sharing is a reminder of why we are all students in the first place. Our interactions with Professor Waterman are shaped by a unique dynamic that few others can match. In seeing us as humans with value to contribute, he erases much of the power dynamics and distance that mark traditional relationships with professors. This attitude based on mutual respect and empathy is truly reaffirming as we find our voices. Professor Waterman’s empowerment of his students will be remembered long after we all go our separate ways.

Professor Waterman’s joyful and creative spirit will be sorely missed in Abu Dhabi. This is a bittersweet moment; new beginnings are refreshing and we are excited to see how he will leave his mark on the next generation of students. At the same time, we cannot help but mourn his absence on Saadiyat. His constant dedication, care, and empathy are felt by all and we are so grateful that he has chosen to share the past ten years with this community. Thank you, Bryan!

— your students, past and present

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