YCA Holds the 2024 Graduation Ceremony

We bid farewell as we leave the campus in drizzles, our tears dampening our lapels.

On July 2nd, 2024, the Yenching Academy held its Graduation and Degree Awarding Ceremony at the Qiulin Auditorium, Peking University. At the event, our graduating students were joined by guests from within and outside the university, as well as their families.


The graduation ceremony commenced with an opening video that unfolded the journey of the graduating Scholars over their two years at the Academy. They met each other and formed friendships, and they explored new academic horizons both in the classroom and on study trips. The happy times spent at the Academy were captured in video frames and in the memories of our dear graduating Scholars.

Associate Dean Brent Haas emotionally recalled the day two years ago when the graduating Scholars first arrived at Yenching Academy. They had come from various parts of the world, carrying their dreams and aspirations, to explore the history and modern life of the ancient and vibrant land of China. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many were initially unable to come to China and had to start their studies online. Later, as pandemic-related travel restrictions eased, they were finally able to arrive on campus. During their time in China, they witnessed and experienced how the country gradually reopened to the outside world as pandemic control measures were lifted step by step. The Academy was delighted to welcome this new cohort, which brought new vitality after the prolonged pandemic. The Associate Dean reminded the graduating Scholars about the hardships and challenges they might face in the future, which are part of every person's life journey. He emphasized that it is through setbacks that one grows stronger and perseveres. He encouraged them to find role models, draw on their life wisdom and strengths, and strive for excellence. At the same time, he urged them to be compassionate and supportive, shedding light on the lives of others and offering a helping hand to those in need. He expressed his hope that our Scholars would become knowledgeable and compassionate individuals.

Associate Professor Yu Jia from the Center for Social Research, Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, spoke on behalf of the faculty. She congratulated the graduating Scholars on their achievements over the two years at the Academy: "The classes at Yenching Academy, discussions with your classmates and professors, and your own research have fostered independent and critical thinking." Professor Yu found teaching at the Academy to be a fruitful experience: "The knowledge and experiences I have gained from teaching and mentoring students here have been profoundly unique."

Associate Professor Yu Jia shared “a few reflections and hopes” for the graduating Scholars’ future. First, she hoped our Scholars maintain their uniqueness, “In this era dominated by artificial intelligence, the unpredictability and individuality you bring are more valuable than ever… Be willing to be an outlier, and do not fear standing out. By doing so, you will enrich the diverse fabric of human knowledge and advancement.” Second, she called our Scholars to continue exploring themselves and believe in their personal agency, “A favorite movie of mine, The Grandmaster, mentions three stages of life: seeing oneself, seeing the world, and seeing others… I hope you continue to explore inwardly, constantly asking yourself what you truly want in life…It will help you define your path and understand your unique contribution to the world.” Lastly, she asked our Scholars to maintain a broad perspective and a long-term outlook, “When encountering difficulties, you can always step back, do not be overly entangled with current issues... Running and lying flat are not the only options; if you feel tired, you can sit down for a while, or even squat.”

Jae Young Lee delivered a graduation speech on behalf of his fellow graduating Scholars, inviting his peers to reflect on the past years. Coming from different countries and career backgrounds, they joined the Academy in China and earned the title of Yenching Scholar. Lee and his colleagues at the Graduate Students Union (GSU) organized online and onsite student events, including orientations, receptions, and dinner parties at Zhongguanyuan Global Village PKU and Shaoyuan. Together, they established a new homelike base at Peking University. Chinese and international students evolved from online study group members into partners in onsite events. The YCA community grew larger, and stories of youth from around the world unfolded in China.

Lee viewed his fellow Yenching Scholars as his family. As a PKU undergraduate, Lee found that he "had the great privilege to rediscover the 'firsts' of China with many of you and create new 'firsts' for all of us together. Because of your presence, I was always confirmed that I had made the right decision to come to YCA. The great Southern Song poet Su Dongpo wrote, '此心安处是吾乡,' similar in meaning to the English proverb 'Home is where the heart is.' I leave behind these youthful memories on this campus and open a new chapter in my life. Beijing is, and surely will continue to be, my home, as my heart will carry the memories and emotions accumulated over the past years with all of you at YCA, wherever I go."

In closing, Lee expressed his best wishes for his fellow graduates: "Now equipped with experience engaging with China in China, we venture into the world as more open-minded, culturally sensitive, resourceful, and competent individuals in our future endeavors. I hope the program will continue to nurture more China-knowledgeable leaders in the years and generations to come. Whenever we encounter signs of Beijing in the future, we will reconnect with this home, our jia."

Michelle Lu-Ferguson, a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (FACOG), Director of the Women’s Health Center, and Director of the OB/GYN Center of Operational Excellence, delivered a speech as the parents’ representative. A PKU undergraduate herself in the 1980s, Dr. Lu-Ferguson expressed great joy in delivering the speech both as an alumna and a parent. She was "thrilled" to see her daughter Emma Ferguson study at Yenching Academy, where she received top-tier education in her field, connected with fascinating individuals from around the world, and forged lasting friendships. Dr. Lu-Ferguson appreciated the Academy’s role in fostering cross-cultural exchanges and expressed confidence in the future of the Scholars: "The world is ever-changing, offering both opportunities and challenges. Yet, you are prepared. The Yenching Academy has equipped you with the knowledge and perspective needed to make a meaningful impact. Your experience of learning from each other has given you a global understanding that will be invaluable as you navigate and address complex issues ahead." She also shared her own experience studying at Peking University, highlighting three lessons: embrace challenges, stay curious, and value connections.

Dean Dong extended warm congratulations to the graduating Scholars and expressed gratitude towards the students’ families, the faculty, and staff of the Academy for their immense support and efforts. The graduating Scholars were the first cohort Dean Dong "had grown up with together" during his tenure as the dean of the Academy. Together, the dean and this cohort enjoyed the tranquility of campus life and embarked on study trips across the country. Dean Dong cherished the two years spent with the Scholars as one of his most precious memories.

Dean Dong picked up the topic “Relevant to”, elaborating on Yenching Academy’s mission to cultivate talents who build bridges between China and the rest of the world. He highlighted the Academy's 10th anniversary celebrations, including the photo exhibition and publication of Scholarly Symphony: Young Voices from the Yenching Classroom, emphasizing their commitment to connecting young scholars globally with China. The Academy aims to deepen understanding of Chinese culture and cultivate leaders who foster international bridges.

Dean Dong underscored the importance of everyday experiences in understanding a country and its culture. Through his calligraphic works and poems created during his tenure, he painted a vivid portrait of Jingyuan across the four seasons, expressing his sentiments alongside the Scholars.

Reflecting on the legacy of late academic figures, Dean Dong encouraged Scholars to uphold the spirit of humanities at Peking University, emphasizing honesty and practicality in life. He expressed regret for not having more face-to-face interactions with some Scholars due to various reasons but noted a profound connection forged during their shared two years at the Academy. Drawing from Albert Camus's insights that understanding fosters acceptance rather than denial, Dean Dong highlighted the importance of embracing diversity for ultimate harmony.

Dean Dong, along with Honorary Dean Yuan Ming, extended their best wishes to the graduating Scholars, hoping they would become future leaders who deeply understand China and contribute positively to the world.

At the moment of parting, do graduating students still remember the wishes they made on their first day at the Academy? Associate Dean Brent Haas prepared a small surprise for the ceremony by inviting some graduates to read aloud their own messages from the past:

“I will follow my goals and dreams.” “I will make every minute at the Academy fulfilling.” “I expect to form friendships and become a knowledgeable person who understands the world and has my own ideas.” “I look forward to having the best time at PKU and enjoying every moment.” “I will work hard for my master’s degree and become a wonderful scholar.”

These words from the past acted as time capsules, stirring up emotions during the graduation.

Professor Lu Yang, Director of Graduate Studies, announced the list of graduates. Dean Dong Qiang and Associate Dean Fan Shiming conferred diplomas to the graduates attending the ceremony and turned their tassels. Warm applause carried all the best wishes.

Our graduating Scholars expressed their reluctance to part through song:

“In my mind, I’ll hold your smiling faces. In my heart, I’ll cherish your memories. And in my thoughts, I'll preserve these days. Resonating in my heart is my promise That I'll come back for you Once again Back to you on campus. I won't leave you behind. Here is my promise.”

The graduation ceremony concluded with melodious tunes, and the graduating Scholars set off on their next journeys.

Reluctantly we departed; Forever our hearts remain. On the drizzling campus, we waved goodbye.

May our dear graduating Scholars embrace the world, aim high, and sail far. The Academy will continue to grow from a sapling into a towering tree, caring for its Scholars and alumni, always there for them whenever they wish to return.

Happy graduation!

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