The Yenching Academy of Peking University celebrated the graduation of its second cohort with a ceremony on July 6. Attendees included Vice President of Peking University Wang Bo, and many of the Academy’s leaders and professors: Dean Yuan Ming; Associate Deans Dean Fan Shiming and David Moser; Assistant Dean Chen Changwei; Honorary Professor and former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei; Associate Dean of the School of Philosophy at Renmin University of China, Wen Haiming; Chair Professor of the Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies and the School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Chen Dongmin; Associate Professor of School of International Studies, Liu Haifang; Professor of Department of Sociology, Lu Jiehua; Professor of College of Architecture and Landscape, Wang Fang; Lecturer of School of International Studies, Yang Zhaohui; and Assistant Professor of School of Government, Zhou Qiang. Graduating scholars and their family members joined in celebration.
The ceremony began with a video highlighting the graduates’ two years at the Yenching Academy. Dean Moser then welcomed professors and guests, and congratulated the scholars on successfully completing their studies. He noted that the day was an occasion of both joy and sadness--joy because of all the scholars have learned at the Yenching Academy, but sadness because they will now say goodbye. However, he is confident that they will be back, and promised that the Yenching Academy will continue to follow their development and provide support as they move forward in their careers. He looks forward to hearing their good news, and hopes that they stay in contact and visit often.
President Wang Bo also congratulated the scholars. He reflected upon the original goals Peking University had in establishing the Yenching Academy, and noted that in just a few years, Yenching Scholars have surpassed expectations in many ways. They are helping Peking University to become a more international and vibrant place. During their two years of study, the scholars have witnessed rapid changes taking place in China. President Wang drew upon the theme of the 2017 Yenching Global Symposium, Xinnovation. “To meet the challenges of the present age, ‘Xinnovation’ is needed,” he remarked. “We need leaders who will use their hearts (心)—who recognize the dignity of others and strive for the well-being of all. We need leaders who are willing to leave behind the status quo and forge new（新）paths; who take risks to pursue positive change. These leaders must also be joyful（欣）, inspiring others through their positive attitudes even in the face of difficulties. This is the type of leader we hope for scholars to become—leaders who can help the world experience a peaceful new dawn（昕）.” He emphasized that graduation is a starting point, not an ending—a celebration of how far the Scholars have come, and a chance for them to prepare for the work still ahead.
Professor Chen Dongmin then represented the teaching staff in delivering a speech on the duties of a new China Scholar. He quoted Peking University President Lin Jianhua’s statement upon the University’s 120th Anniversary, saying that a university is a bridge leading to the future. As Yenching Scholars prepare for life after university, and he encouraged them to “fly high and see far.” He asked the Scholars to pause for a moment and ask themselves what the title of Yenching Scholar truly means. “It is hardly an exaggeration to say that what is happening in China today is the largest scale experimentation in human civilization’s development in late 20th century, continuing into the 21st century,” Chen said. As new China Scholars, the graduates are facing unique challenges in their efforts to understand contemporary China. They will only be able to meet these challenges by applying critical analysis skills with an open mindset, facilitating effective global dialogues, and helping the world comprehend China and China comprehend the world.
Luyolo Sijake from South Africa then gave a speech on behalf of the graduates. He explained that in the Xhosa language, “luyolo” means “God bless,” hence his Chinese name “天佑.” Luyolo said that his two years at the Yenching Academy have been a true blessing, and shared a quotation from the Analects of Confucius: “The only true wisdom is in understanding that you know nothing.” He remarked that his studies at the Yenching Academy have deepened his understanding of not only China, but also Africa. Through class discussions and various extracurricular activities, he learned more about the cultures, economic development, and political relations of African countries. Luyolo expressed his wishes that all the graduates will apply what they learned at the Yenching Academy as they move forward in life.
Zhang Yan, mother of Chinese Scholar Xu Yang, then spoke on behalf of the graduates’ parents. Ms. Zhang shared her mixed feelings of excitement and worry when her daughter first chose to study at the Yenching Academy. She was excited that her daughter would experience diverse cultures and high educational standards, but worried whether she would fit in with her international classmates and tell the Chinese story well. She reflected on the growth she observed in her daughter during her studies at the Yenching Academy. Xu Yang often shared her experiences and stories with her family. Ms. Zhang reflected that the Yenching Academy not only trains young people, but also broadens the horizon of their parents. She believes that through two years’ learning and growth at the Yenching Academy, scholars will acquire a spirit of daring that will help them face future challenges.
Finally, Dean Yuan shared her hopes for the graduates. She recalled the 2016 opening ceremony, when these same scholars recited the poem On The Stork Tower by Wang Zhihuan. Dean Yuan shared the stories of two 2015 cohort Yenching Scholars, which she also referred to in her recent keynote speech at the second World Xi’an Entrepreneurs Convention: Cody Abbey, a Princeton alumnus who chose to research rural education in Xi’an after graduating from the Yenching Academy through a program at Shaanxi Normal University, and Feng Xue, a Scholar from Xi’an who chose to go back to her hometown and be a teacher after graduating from the Yenching Academy. Dean Yuan expressed her hope that the second cohort of graduates will go out and make their own great contributions.
The ceremony culminated with Dean Yuan turning the tassels of the graduates’ caps and presenting their graduation certificates.