Li Yutong '24 at Commencement 2024

Li Yutong Commencement 2024
May 19 2024

Chancellor Tong, Vice Chancellor Lehman, Provost Waley-Cohen, President Mills, distinguished guests, faculty, family, friends, and my fellow Class of 2024 graduates, 

Welcome, and good afternoon! 

I still remember singing alma mater at the commencement for the Class of 2021 at the end of my freshman year, picturing how I, in that purple gown, would pose for the photo on the stage of the Oriental Art Center. This year, however, for the first time, we are hosting our commencement in Qiantan. The neighborhood we may be new to, but definitely have grown to love. And this further made me wonder about the changes. The changes we witnessed and the changes in us. 

The year 2020 was unprecedented in many ways. Amidst a time of instability, many of us were graduating from high school and considering entering this young and promising educational institution. We exercised courage and determination even from this initial decision, stepping into our adulthood with larger goals and ambitions for ourselves and our communities.

And there we were, on campus or online, seeing, talking, studying with each other. We found ourselves to be strangely alike even when coming from very different backgrounds, and collided thoughts to spark diverse conversations. In our classes, we learned to form global perspectives and to think critically. We pushed boundaries in the arts and sciences, and took on leadership roles to serve communities and people. We received endless help from peers and professors and support from family and friends. With all these opportunities, we were empowered to dream. 

Yet before we realized it, we parted our ways. Maybe it was the lockdown, maybe it was restrictions on flights. We weren’t always together. All of us have studied in three or more campuses: Century Avenue 1555, New York, Abu Dhabi, Study Away sites, Go Local Programs, Zoom University, and here we are, in Qiantan. We took city walks in London and Paris and called West Village and Saadiyat Island home. With all the different studying environments leading to very different experiences, together, they shape our views and solidify our identities as global citizens. We understand more about diversity, equity, and inclusion and are eager to help our society achieve the next level of social justice, sustainability, and resilience. 

For me, at NYU Shanghai, my two majors propelled me to understand the fundamentals of the business world and our connections with cities. Through the critical lens of diversity and inclusion, I studied and researched gentrification’s impact on marginalized communities and spatial inequality of school districts, issues that I encountered my neighborhood and present many around the world. With strong implications on society and the world around us, we furthered in our individualized paths. We researched the impact of lockdowns on food supplies in Shanghai communities and volunteered to help migrant children adapt to new surroundings or studied gene expressions of creatures co-living in the same environment as us. Starting with Shanghai and extending to communities around the globe, we committed to being part of the change for a better society for all of us.

Looking back at our journey here, with all the changes and challenges, it is impossible to sugarcoat it as an easy trip. We all stumbled on our way here, facing isolation, cultural barriers, tears of frustrations and many regrets. The challenges may be left as bruises, yet it is with all the growing pains, we are now the NYU Shanghai graduates moving forth into our various paths with a sense of hope and optimism. 

Class of 2024: as we journey on, may we bring a sense of courage and determination that has characterized our time in NYU Shanghai to our individual fields. May we bring change and light to various spaces we find ourselves in. As a Chinese sentence that rings true for us, 无穷的远方,无数的人们,都与我有关, reminding us that we are each interconnected with global communities and must move forward with empathy for all.

I am honored and grateful to be a member of this extraordinary class and to stand with all of you today, and I’m excited for what the future will hold. Class of 2024: I’m certain that our future will be bright.

May we never stop dreaming, class of 2024, 祝我们毕业快乐,梦想成真!