• The Dean’s Circle is a year-long honors seminar in NYU Liberal Studies.
  • The seminar comprises readings and discussion, a study away experience, and an independent research project.
  • Students are encouraged to “push their adventuresome spirit, commitment to social justice and engagement, and passion for global experiences.”

At NYU, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Students are intellectual trailblazers and curious explorers, eager to follow their various interests and forge their own paths. Liberal Studies (LS) students and Global Liberal Studies (GLS) majors do just that, studying across disciplines and borders. For those who want to fully immerse themselves in a rigorous, in-depth, and interdisciplinary class, there’s the Dean’s Circle, a year-long honors seminar currently taught by Julie Mostov, dean and professor of Liberal Studies.

“Dean’s Circle is a great class that gives you the liberty of time to dive into a specific topic with a small group of students and, of course, Dean Mostov,” shares Elise Atkinson, a former Dean’s Circle student. She’s a GLS major who’s concentrating in politics, rights, and development and minoring in German. “In addition to learning about the topic from a diverse set of readings, we had the space to apply our own personal experiences and academic interests. All in all, it was a unique and special experience that I highly recommend.”

A student speaking during a classroom session.

Scholarship in the Classroom

The Dean’s Circle offers a singular experience, and because of that, it’s competitive to get in. To apply, GLS and LS students that meet a GPA requirement submit a faculty member recommendation, and then write an original essay. Once admitted, students spend their first semester reading assigned texts and engaging in weekly discussions. During January Term, they go abroad, applying their classroom learnings to real-life experiences. Finally, the spring semester is devoted to independent research. Students choose a topic, workshop it with their classmates, and submit a final paper. What’s more, each year the Dean chooses a different theme to shape the seminar. During the 2021–2022 seminar, students focused on mobility and immobility in global politics.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Students walking into an exhibit at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.

Immersive Learning in Abu Dhabi

Every year Dean Mostov takes Dean’s Circle students abroad to spend January Term at NYU Abu Dhabi. “I want to get them out of their comfort zone,” she explains. “Our mission is to decolonize the liberal arts and remove it from a Eurocentric perspective.” At NYU Abu Dhabi, students live on campus, visit local sites, and engage with professors across fields. “On that trip, I came to fully understand what a global classroom is,” stresses Dustin Chen, who took the course alongside Elise. Having completed the Liberal Studies Core, he’s now majoring in Art History, Classics, and Philosophy at the NYU College of Arts and Science.

Dustin recalls how the group participated in a seminar on universal museums one morning, then spent the afternoon exploring the Louvre Abu Dhabi. “The highlight was our visit to Expo 2020 Dubai,” he adds. “There, we explored expressions of national identities, sampled cultural goods, and envisioned a sustainable world for all regions and cultures.”

Students listening during a lecture.

Research for the Future

Armed with textual knowledge and real-world experience, Dean’s Circle students spend their final semester conducting independent research. Having taken a gap year in Denmark during high school, Elise explored “the disparity in political responses to refugees from the 2015 migration crisis and the Ukrainian War, focusing on Denmark and Norway as case studies,” she explains. At the same time, Dustin brought his expertise in art history to his research. He examined the historical and political impact of the architectural styles represented on the euro banknote. “My project would have been absolutely inconceivable to me back in my first year. Then, I was used to simply remembering the names of artworks,” Dustin reflects. “In this truly diverse scholarly community, I found the courage to carry out my research project.” Ultimately, his findings were published in Northwestern Art Review.

Dean Mostov shares that many Dean’s Circle graduates pursue publication or present their findings to broader groups. In fact, students have presented their works at the New York Historical Society and Archaeological Institute of America, among others. “The Dean’s Circle is a special opportunity,” she affirms. “But there are many opportunities for Liberal Studies students to thrive. Across the school they push their adventuresome spirit, commitment to social justice and engagement, and passion for global experiences.”