A Great Journey Starts with a Single Step

Aug 12 2013

The highlight of NYU Shanghai’s welcoming convocation was when the two youngest members of the Class of 2017 entered carrying the NYU Shanghai flag and the audience of parents, staff and fellow students clapped and cheered.  The convocation officially welcomed the first matriculating class of NYU Shanghai – a class of 295 students from 37 countries.

The convocation was held on Monday morning, August 12 at the Siqun Hall on the ECNU campus.  The students entered the hall after stepping under a deep violet banner (NYU’s school color).

Chancellor Yu Lizhong, Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman, Provost Wang Xiaojing, Dean of Arts and Sciences Joanna Waley-Cohen, and Dean of Students Tyra Liebmann greeted each family as they entered the hall.

“My name is Yu Lizhong, the Chancellor of NYU Shanghai. Students can call me Lee or Mr. Yu.”  During his speech Chancellor Yu told of his experiences as a young man working as a farmer in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, far from his hometown, and his dream to attend university.  Using his own experiences, he encouraged the students to have and to follow their dreams. He reminded them that while they had achieved their dream of attending NYU Shanghai, they should continue to have dreams to guide them throughout their lives.  His deepest wish was that students will find connections between their dreams for personal success with their dreams for a better society.

Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman told the students that they had shown courage because it is not easy to be a pioneer:  “It is not easy to turn down opportunities to attend institutions that others have dreamed of attending their whole lives, institutions that have well deserved reputations for excellence.  It is not easy to commit yourself to helping to build a new institution from scratch, to bet on a set of possibilities that are not guaranteed. It takes courage, the same kind of courage that is required to be an innovator in society, the same kind of courage that fuels success in almost any human endeavor.”  Like Chancellor Yu, Vice Chancellor Lehman spoke of optimism (his book, The Optimistic Heart, was recently published).

Provost Wang Xiaojing left Shanghai in the late 1970’s for graduate study in Europe. For the past 25 years he has been a professor and research scientist in the United States. He was Professor of Neurobiology at Yale University before coming to NYU Shanghai as its Provost.  He called the freshmen “pioneers of history” and told them that they will create the traditions that will be part of NYU Shanghai.

Dean of Arts and Sciences Joanna Waley-Cohen is herself a parent of NYU students and has been a professor in the history department of NYU for more than 20 years.  She is a historian of China and was chairman of the history department at NYU before coming to Shanghai.  In addition to her administrative duties, she will teach a course called The Concept of China where students will explore the many ways China has been portrayed and studied throughout history.

Photo credit: Ruwen YU