New York University Shanghai (NYU Shanghai) held a commencement ceremony for the graduating Class of 2023 on May 22.
The cohort comprises 397 students from 36 countries, including 223 Chinese students from 23 provinces in China.
NYU Shanghai is China's first Sino-US research university and the third degree-granting campus of the NYU Global Network. It was founded in 2012 by New York University and East China Normal University.
This was the university’s seventh commencement ceremony and its first offline commencement ceremony in the last four years as the previous ones were held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The graduates in Shanghai were joined by over 1,000 family members, including some 300 family members of international students who flew in from over 20 countries. Due to COVID-related travel restrictions over the last few years, this was the first NYU Shanghai commencement since 2019 where families living outside China were able to attend in person.
Chinese diplomat Cui Tiankai, China’s longest-serving ambassador to the United States, was this year’s Commencement Speaker. During his speech, Ambassador Cui spoke about his own life experiences and the value of being a global citizen. He later received NYU Shanghai’s Chancellor Medal of Honor from NYU Shanghai Chancellor Tong Shijun.
“We are living in a world with diverse cultures, and like trees, we must first be deeply rooted in understanding our own country, our own nation, our own people, and our own culture. This is where our roots lie,” he said. “Only when we’re deep-rooted in this can our lives flourish. On this basis, of course, we have to learn to understand different cultures and countries with an open mind.”
He also encouraged the graduates to continue being involved in cross-cultural exchange.
International student representative William Dreesen of Saint Louis, Missouri, the United States, who graduated with a degree in social science (international relations track) and advanced global China studies with minors in both Chinese language and philosophy, referenced Tang dynasty poetry and the Analects of Confucius in his speech in Chinese.
Dreeson said that he hopes connections will remain strong even as the graduating students prepare to go their separate ways. “We are about to be a network of magnolia flowers scattered across the world, following the paths of destiny, and although we may have left the tree, we all know where we came from,” Dreesen said. “That is NYU Shanghai.”
Chinese student representative Sun Yunzhe spoke about how attending NYU Shanghai has allowed her to cultivate her interests while pursuing her academic goals.
A neuroscience major with a minor in data science and a focus on artificial intelligence, Sun said that what she gained from NYU Shanghai was more than just a degree.
“It was at NYU Shanghai where I experienced that love can truly eliminate the difference between genders, ages, countries, races, religions, and cultures,” she said. “No matter what I pick as my career, no matter what kind of life I lead in the future, I will always keep the value of love in mind.”
Leaders of NYU Shanghai praised the graduates for their resilience, and expressed their hope that the experience of overcoming adversity will equip them well for the future.
Chancellor Tong Shijun reminded the Class of 2023 that a love of learning should be a life-long pursuit. He reminded the NYU Shanghai community that not only the students, but also the faculty and administrators, are learning together and from one another. He also told the graduates that among all the resources at NYU Shanghai, they are without doubt the most important.
“The unlimited potential for personal development you brought to us when you entered NYU Shanghai… has made the job of your professors…so meaningful and so honorable,” he said.
He encouraged the graduates to continue to promote learning and thus prove the value of their degree from NYU Shanghai. “We can never exaggerate the importance of a school like NYU Shanghai as an international learning center and a group of people like NYU Shanghai graduates as both the beneficiaries and the promoters of human learning at the international level,” he said.
Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman reminded the graduates to look back on their four years at NYU Shanghai and remind themselves of the experiences that have changed them.
Lehman took the opportunity to promote the power of “conditional optimism” as a useful attitude towards life. “It reminds us that we have the agency to innovate, and it reinforces the hope that our innovation can be a force for good,” he said. He then encouraged graduates to maintain resilience in the face of difficulties they may encounter in their lives.
Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen used the story of the hundred-year-old tree that has been relocated to the center of the New Bund Campus to remind the graduating class of the value of building and sustaining connections.
“We can help others in ways seen and unseen, and about the inspirational possibilities that come from what we don’t know, but might if we let ourselves be able to imagine,” she said.
NYU President Andrew Hamilton had flown to Shanghai to address graduates as the university’s president for the penultimate time – he will soon be leaving his post to return to teaching and research.
He congratulated NYU Shanghai for reaching a new milestone by opening the new campus and praised faculty members and the academic achievements of the students.
“At the heart of it all is you, our students,” he said. “I know you will draw on your talent and drive, as well as on the strength of the NYU Shanghai community, to make a difference wherever your path leads you next.”
As the Class of 2023 take their first steps into the real world, many will continue their studies at educational institutions all around the world. Several within the cohort have attained highly-coveted scholarships like the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship. Others will join the workforce as they begin their careers at multinational companies such as JPMorgan, McKinsey, L'Oreal, Amazon, Bloomberg, Intel, and governmental organizations such as the US Department of State.