DKU celebrates resilience and achievements of Class of 2024

Duke Kunshan University commemorated the perseverance and success of its Class of 2024 at its commencement on May 17, celebrating over 400 graduates who triumphed over the challenges posed by a global pandemic.

A total of 259 undergraduates earned degrees from both Duke Kunshan University and Duke University, while 155 master’s graduates received degrees from Duke.

Chancellor Yaolin Liu commended the class’s unity and dedication to DKU’s ideals of truth and service to humanity with knowledge.

Liu also urged the graduates to be lifelong learners, nurture relationships with others, lead with empathy and humility, and to take time to rest and recharge.

“I am confident that you’ll use what you have learned here to live productive and meaningful lives, and contribute to the world,” he added.

Executive Vice Chancellor John Quelch emphasized the institution’s values of service, professionalism, integration, resilience, innovation, and transformation, encapsulating them in the acronym ‘SPIRIT’.  “Carry the DKU SPIRIT with you, and remember: Once a DKUer, forever a force for good.”

He called upon the graduates to shape a better world informed by the unique experiences and perspectives they learned at DKU.

“Do important things. Make a difference in the lives of others. Make the world better and make it yours.”

The undergraduate students from this year’s cohort have continued to exemplify high achievement with diverse post-graduation plans, including further studies at prestigious universities such as Duke, Harvard and Oxford and professional roles in multinational firms like Morgan Stanley and Adidas. Similarly, master’s graduates are heading into Ph.D. programs or stepping into roles across various industries.

Yiran Zhou represented her fellow master’s graduates, reflecting on navigating uncertain tides marked by the pandemic and cultural exchange. She emphasized embracing an adaptive and positive outlook towards choices beyond academia’s structured environment.

“What we should do is not about making the ‘right’ choices but rather transforming our thinking and mindset, always maintaining a grateful and joyful attitude towards life, whatever choices we face,” she said.

Yueqian Lin, speaking on behalf of the undergraduate class, drew inspiration from ancient philosophy, likening their educational journey to the growth symbolized by the number three in Taoism—denoting maturity and unlimited potential birthed at the intersection of Eastern and Western teachings at Duke Kunshan.

“As we forever cherish our bond as DKU’s third graduating class, let us shatter the confines of our past, unveil our authentic selves, and courageously step into a realm of boundless possibilities.”

The event also featured the appointment of Honorary Fellows to notable contributors Gao Xiqing, former vice chairman and president of China Investment Corporation, and Richard Wagoner, former chairman and CEO of General Motors, recognizing their support and engagement with the university’s continuing growth. Both are Duke alumni with significant ties to DKU, serving on its advisory board, where Wagoner acts as chair.

Scott MacEachern, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, announced the degree conferral proceedings. Degrees were conferred by Liu, Quelch, and Alec D. Gallimore, Duke Provost and Chairman of DKU Board of Trustees. Graduates were recognized by Xin Li, Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies and Research, Marcia B. France, Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Studies & the Language and Culture Center, and Christopher Van Velzer, Dean of Student Experience.   

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Friday’s ceremony began at 9 a.m. with an academic procession of the chancellor’s platform party, teaching and administrative faculty and the Class of 2024. Parents worldwide attended to commemorate the milestone achievement.

Leading the procession was James Miller, professor of humanities, co-director of Humanities Research Center and chair of the Faculty Assembly carrying the Duke Kunshan mace, a symbolic artifact embodying DKU’s identity as a US-China partnership between Duke University, Wuhan University and Kunshan, as well as its global education mission and interdisciplinary spirit.

Class of 2024 students Kennedy McNeilly-Anta, Trailokaya Bajgain, Lining Yang, Jasmine Santos and Jiongli Pan were selected as gonfaloniers to carry gonfalons, or ceremonial banners, representing their class during the procession.

Assistant Professor of Humanities Yitzhak Lewis spoke about the legacy molded by the students past and present at this young and thriving institution, ” Your success is our tradition. Your bright future is already our tradition.”

DKU’s alma mater, “With Voices Raised,” was performed at the beginning of the commencement.

In the final moments, a video brimming with memories and heartfelt wishes from teachers and students stirred deep emotions among all present.

Congratulations, the DKU Class of 2024!

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