Al Bloom, the founding vice chancellor of NYU-Abu Dhabi and former president of Swarthmore College, will become the next executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan University (DKU), Duke Provost and DKU board chair Sally A. Kornbluth has announced.
Bloom will be the principal academic, administrative and external affairs officer for DKU, an independent, joint venture between Duke, Wuhan University and the city of Kunshan. He will work closely with Kornbluth, Duke President Vincent E. Price, and DKU Chancellor Youmei Feng. Bloom will succeed Denis Simon, who has served in the role since 2015, on July 1.
“We are remarkably fortunate to have secured Al’s leadership for DKU,” said Kornbluth. “He has unparalleled experience in higher education and an unbridled enthusiasm for leading DKU in the next phase of its development. His longstanding interests in China, in global education, and in the transformative role of liberal arts make him the ideal leader for DKU.”
As founding vice chancellor of NYU-Abu Dhabi from 2008 to 2019, Bloom directed the planning, development and operations of one of the most successful international higher education ventures in recent years. Under his leadership, NYU-Abu Dhabi grew to enroll nearly 1,500 students from 115 countries, recruited more than 300 research and teaching faculty from around the world and, since its first graduating class in 2014, saw 14 students selected as Rhodes Scholars.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to help lead the remarkable institution Duke Kunshan University has become,” Bloom said. “DKU’s rigor and innovation, capacity to bridge nations and cultures with sensitivity, insight and respect, and commitment to a community of inclusion and care give me great confidence that we will demonstrate the role higher education can, and must, play in shaping an at once more knowledgeable, prosperous, humane and peaceful globe.”
Chancellor Feng added, “I, along with the entire DKU community, am eager to welcome Al Bloom. His deep commitment to students, faculty, staff and our educational mission is evident in his distinguished record as the leader of two world-class institutions. I look forward to working with him in the continued pursuit of excellence at DKU.”
Before assuming his position at NYU-Abu Dhabi, Bloom previously served for 18 years as president of Swarthmore College, consistently ranked as one of the top three liberal arts colleges in the United States. During his tenure, Swarthmore was widely recognized for expanding financial aid, student diversity and the depth and breadth of its programs. He also led the largest fundraising campaign in the college’s 150-year history.
A scholar of psychology and language with a special focus on Chinese language and culture, Bloom graduated from Princeton University and received a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He began his academic career as a member of the Swarthmore faculty and served as associate provost, director of the linguistics program and coordinator of Asian Studies. He then held a series of executive positions at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, including dean of faculty, vice president for academic affairs, and executive vice president, before returning to Swarthmore as president in 1991.
Bloom’s appointment concludes an international search that was chaired by Edmund Malesky, professor of political science at Duke, and included faculty, administrators and students from Duke and DKU.
Duke Kunshan University opened in 2014 as a partnership between Duke University, Wuhan University and the city of Kunshan, which is located between Shanghai and Suzhou in Jiangsu province. DKU currently has about 700 undergraduates from more than 40 countries in a four-year bachelor’s degree program that follows the liberal arts and sciences tradition, with emphasis on critical thinking, global understanding, creativity, collaboration and self-exploration.
DKU also offers master’s degrees in management, environmental policy, medical physics, electrical and computer engineering, and global health, as well as research programs in applied sciences, mathematics, and arts and humanities. The university’s 200-acre campus in Kunshan’s Yangcheng Lake Science and Technology Park includes classrooms, laboratories, student and faculty residences and recreational facilities, and is more than doubling in size to accommodate the expected enrollment of 2,000 students by 2023.