Celebrate Women 2019

celebrate women


As an ongoing tradition, NYU Shanghai is celebrating March 8 International Women’s Day with a photo essay on female empowerment. Photos and quotes are sourced from the CELEBRATE WOMEN photo exhibition on show in the Allyship in Action Lounge. Supported by Diversity Initiatives at NYU Shanghai, the international project has been spearheaded by NYU Shanghai alumna and artist Nicole Chan ‘17 since 2016, and was presented at the United Nations 60th Commission on the Status of Women in March 2016.

Each year the women who fill our classrooms, instruct our students, and staff our halls bring objects of personal empowerment to the photo shoot. Before the shutter clicks, the photographer asks each participant the question, “What empowers you?” Here are some of the results:


What she brought: Natural hair

“I am empowered by my hair. When I was young I was told to never wear my hair natural. Today I wear it natural every chance I get." - Chelsea Mclean ‘22

Photographer: Meizhi Ng



What she brought: The written word

"The written word is and has always been of huge importance to me for three reasons: it enables communication with people near and far; it enables me constantly to expand my knowledge and understanding; and it lights fires in my imagination." - Joanna Waley-Cohen, Provost

Photographer: Meizhi Ng


What she brought: Photograph with mom

“My mom is the strongest woman I know. She inspires me everyday as a woman. Not only has she always been there and supported me, but she has done so much in her career as a lawyer. She has helped so many people and she even started her own law practice. My mom embodies strength and she is the most incredible role model!” - Emily Lourim NYU ‘21

Photographer: Amy Ernst


What she brought: Traditional “water sleeves” garment used in Chinese opera

“Chinese opera empowers me. My grandma brought it to my world when I was three. Since then, it has never left. The stories in opera taught  me how to tell what was good and what was wrong when I was still a kid. More importantly, it is going to bond me with this land deeply wherever I go in the future.” -Nora Chen 陈诺 ‘22

Photographer: Rachel Wen


What she brought: Tales of Africa’s warrior queens

"I am empowered by Africa's warrior queens, but also by all the women silenced by the pages of history. I walk with the enslaved and freed women who resisted and said “no” all over the African Diaspora, the ordinary women who fought against losing their voices to men. I walk with witches and mermaids, and all the female Orixás/Orishas (goddesses) of the Yoruba pantheon. On both sides of my family, I come from lineages of women - kind, intelligent, caring, and strong. It is from all of them that I take my strength and persistence, resilience and courage." - Asli Berktay, Global Perspectives on Society Teaching Fellow

Photographer: Rachel Wen


What she brought: Skateboard

“Skateboarding empowers me. I enjoy the time hanging with my skate friends. Sometimes I get extra care from them because I’m a woman. There’s this misconception that girls are more delicate and less talented in skating. Still, I do appreciate their help and caring. But it was only after many falls and social embarrassments that I started to learn and discover the fun of skating. It’s okay to fall. Pros fall too, and sometimes they fall even harder.” - Ningning Zhou ‘22

Photographer: Rachel Wen


What she brought: No. 2 pencil

“My education empowers me. Studying at NYU Shanghai has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge, and it’s a privilege that I do not take lightly. I’ve chosen my classes based on which topics genuinely interest me, and these classes have helped me to develop a clearer understanding of what I’d like to achieve in my lifetime. I feel much more equipped to engage with the world than I did four years ago.” - Krista Bolton ‘19

Photographer: Brian Ho



What she brought: Traditional Ecuadorian blouse and dress

“I am proud to be Ecuadorian. My strong, hardworking and humble people inspire me everyday to keep going. My beaches, volcanoes, diversity, and culture empower me. I was not just lucky to have been born there, I was blessed.” - Alina Cedeno ‘21

Photographer: Rachel Wen


What she brought: Clapboard

“Filmmaking empowers me. It provides me a stage to create something out of raw inner emotions and my endless imaginations of the world. Things that can hardly be expressed by words, or do not need to be conveyed through words can be communicated through film. Whenever my audience empathizes with my film, or when I just simply watch my own work, I feel a rekindled, and even stronger passion once again.” -Silvia Chen '21

Photographer: Keyin Wu



What she brought: Kindness

“Kindness for others and myself empowers me because far too often it is left out of the equation. Recognizing the worth of yourself and others allows you to have the most extreme impact that radiates outwards. A simple smile can turn someone’s day around!” - Cassi Niedziela NYU '21

Photographer: Amy Ernst



What she brought: Style

“It empowers me to assert my own sense of style day to day. I feel most comfortable in classical silhouettes with slight personal touches, such as colorful art printed socks. Wide leg pants especially are a big source of confidence, since their versatility gives me the most freedom in movement and style.” - Jennifer Cheung '22

Photographer: Rachel Wen



What she brought: Amharic language

“My native tongue empowers me. It's the part of home I get to bring with me wherever I go. Through Amharic, I transform into a poetic feminist, a flamboyant romantic, a sage advisor- even a comedian. The language is so rich in culture and history that I feel beautiful using it.” - Mahder Takele Teshome ‘22

Photographer: Katie Pellegrino


What she brought: Laptop

“Laughing at how much a emotional rollercoaster I went through with my Computer Science degree empowers me. It’s a laugh now, but it was truly all tears. Luckily my effort eventually paid off. Now whenever I face a challenge, I will think to myself, ‘nothing can be harder than CS, right?’, and it reminds me how strong I can be and how much I am able to accomplish.”- Jiachen (Amanda) Zhao 赵嘉辰 ‘17

Photographer: Meizhi Ng


What she brought: Diversity Initiatives poster

“My job empowers me. Working on Diversity Initiatives at NYU Shanghai, I've come to find a voice of my own and a critical lens to view and navigate the world around me. As an introverted conflict-averse person, my faith in what I do gives me the strength to advocate for those who are stereotyped, objectified, marginalized or otherwise unfairly treated. I become more ready and equipped to challenge people's beliefs and assumptions, even when it means confronting biased comments made by friends and families and calling out harmful behaviors. Understanding how meaningful and impactful my work can be, I'm ever more motivated to keep learning about myself, others, and the interconnections in our shared universe.” - Joyce Tan 谭人众, New Student Programs - Diversity

Photographer: Meizhi Ng



See more photos from the CELEBRATE WOMEN 2018 series. Follow the series on Instagram @celebratewomenseries.

For more about NYU Shanghai Diversity Initiatives and upcoming events, click here.