Student Spotlight: Abdulla Alhussam (MPA)

By Alex Fiorille (MPA)


Name: Abdulla Alhussam

Hometown: Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

NYU Wagner Degree Program and Specialization: (MPA-PNP)


1. Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Dubai during a time of great infrastructure growth. My father owned several large construction companies, and like him, I wanted to get in on the boom. So I received my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and went on to become a civil engineer. 

As an engineer, I got involved in several charity projects in developing countries around the world. While in Tanzania, I helped build schools and maintenance hospitals. For the first time ever, I experienced a world outside of my own and saw firsthand great suffering and need. Doing this type of charity work motivated me to explore work in public service. I wanted to work with people—not just raw materials. I decided to pivot and to work in the UAE Prime Minister’s Office in Dubai. 


2. How did your engineering background help you in your public service work?

In my work at the Department of Policies and Strategies of Infrastructure in the UAE Prime Minister’s Office, my unique perspective as a civil engineer enhanced the outcomes of the team. All of my colleagues studied politics, policy, and other social sciences, and I saw an opportunity for a civil engineer to bring other dimensions to the discussions, especially when crafting a policy regarding the public infrastructure.

By bringing my unique point of view on what challenges and problems the public service entities are facing on the ground, I could speak to what was and was not feasible in terms of projects and timelines. 


3. Why NYU Wagner?

My professional limitations quickly brought me to a fork in the road in my career. I could either go deeper into engineering or go deeper into public policy. I decided the latter and felt there was no better place to be than in the heart of one of the biggest urban infrastructures in the world. With roughly 8 million people, New York City dwarfs Dubai. I knew that if I was to learn how to continue to build in Dubai,  New York City could provide the tools and perspectives necessary to do it right.

In particular, I was drawn to the Social Impact, Innovation, and Investment specialization at NYU Wagner. The focus on social innovation is what is needed to make bold changes in the communities we live in. I wanted my education to have the spirit of social innovation that I could then give back to Dubai as it sets its sights on bold new projects and initiatives. 


Abdulla Alhussam has represented his country in the United Nations Negotiations on Climate Change in Paris where the first global agreement on climate change was signed by 195 countries.

4. What do you hope to do after graduation?

My ultimate goal is to go back to Dubai and continue to help the UAE Government ensure sustainable development while preserving the environment and achieve a perfect balance between economic and social development. I aim to become the Minister of Infrastructure for the entire United Arab Emirates. Right now in Dubai, AREA 2071, an ambitious and innovative cross-sector project, is deploying a suite of bold initiatives to transform Dubai into a global leader in addressing human problems. To see this vision through, Dubai needs the right infrastructure.


5. How has your background brought a unique perspective to your coursework?

I have been through experiences that have given me unique perspectives that hopefully inspire others, and I try to share these perspectives during class discussions. One of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had has been visiting the South Pole to study the negative effects of climate change. In the same year, I represented my country in the United Nations Negotiations on Climate Change in Paris where the first global agreement on climate change was signed by 195 countries. That opened my eyes to the way politics operates behind the scenes and how to achieve an agreement. I also share my experiences from working on social development projects in four countries and my personal experience in establishing enterprises and managing them through good and difficult times. Each of these experiences has helped me with my NYU Wagner courses such as Conflict Management and Negotiations; Social Entrepreneurship, Financial Management & Accounting; and Management & Leadership. I love how the variety of courses and programs at NYU Wagner matches my interests.


6. What is one notably meaningful experience you have had at NYU Wagner?

The mix of students in the classroom is uniquely critical to the rich conversations and perspectives evident throughout NYU Wagner. Everyone comes to the table with different levels of work experience, backgrounds, skills, and field expertise. The professors, in particular, are at the forefront of their fields professionally and are practitioners in their fields. Sharing this applied knowledge makes a difference in the type of education NYU Wagner provides