NYU Shanghai Celebrates the Class of 2024’s Graduation

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May 19 2024

On Sunday, May 19, the Grand Theater at Shanghai’s BOCOM New Bund 31 Performing Arts Center was filled with an audience of supportive families and friends cheering on the Class of 2024 as they claimed their place in NYU Shanghai history. At the University's eighth commencement ceremony, over 400 graduates from 29 countries, including six study away students from NYU in New York and 243 Chinese students from 28 provinces across China, accepted NYU bachelor's degrees and NYU Shanghai diplomas—symbols of their perseverance, growth, and global connection.

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The Class of 2024 graduates celebrate with their families. 

The graduates in Shanghai were joined by over 1400 family members, including some 654 family members of international students who flew in from over 25 countries.

Members of the Class of 2024 proceed out of NYU Shanghai’s New Bund campus in their violet grad gowns on their way to the commencement ceremony venue, Shanghai’s BOCOM New Bund 31 Performing Arts Center

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Yao Ming speaking to the graduates

World-famous basketball legend Yao Ming, president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and founder of the Yao Foundation, was in attendance as this year’s commencement speaker. After being presented with NYU Shanghai’s Chancellor Medal of Honor by Chancellor Tong Shijun, Yao addressed the Class of 2024, urging them  to bravely forge ahead and follow their dreams rather than be hindered by fears of failure.

Yao offered a sports analogy to encourage the graduates. “On the basketball court, the simplest way to avoid making mistakes is to hold onto the ball, do nothing, or pass it to a teammate,” said Yao. “This way, you'll avoid errors, but you'll never score. The same principle applies to life. No matter how foolish your decisions may be or how reckless your actions are, the biggest mistake is to stand still and do nothing.”

“Graduates, from today onwards, you are about to embark on a new journey,” he added. “It is a journey filled with unknowns, constant changes, and a mix of disappointments and surprises. On this journey, there are no surefire shortcuts. What matters most is to take each step bravely. When we look back, behind every shining moment, there are countless footprints of trial and error. At this moment, I challenge you. Make a mistake and let it cheer you on.”

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(Left) Banner bearer Anna Ferraris di Celle ’24 leads the procession into the Grand Theater (Right) Jennifer Yao Wushuang ’24 passes the torch to Korrina Poindexter-Benbow ’25

At the ceremony, the torch bearer and banner bearer were selected from members of the Student Commencement Committee, as per NYU Shanghai tradition. This year’s torch bearer was Jennifer Yao Wushuang ’24, who served as chair of the Student Commencement Committee Chair and Senior Class Representative. She passed the torch to Korrina Poindexter-Benbow ’25, the incoming president of Student Government. The banner bearer was Anna Ferraris di Celle ’24, who was this year’s Student Commencement Committee’s director of alumni and fundraising.

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Christine Yosephin Wijaya ’24 speaking at NYU Shanghai graduation 

International student representative Christine Yosephin Wijaya ’24, of Jakarta, Indonesia, who graduated with a double major in Business and Finance and Social Science (Political Science track), spoke about the resilience and adaptability of NYU Shanghai students who navigated uncertainty with a spirit of adventure and found ways to build community and a sanctuary of joy during hard times over the past four years.

“Our time at NYU Shanghai has offered more than just a reprieve from the challenges of the outside world. It has equipped us with diverse skills and perspectives that will serve us well in the years to come,” she said. “We have learned to be adaptable, reframing the challenges we faced over the previous years into feasible solutions and learning how to lean in and support one another in our different journeys. From navigating cultural nuances to collaborating across borders, we have honed our abilities to thrive in an interconnected global landscape.”

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Li Yutong ’24 speaking to the Class of 2024

Chinese student representative Li Yutong ’24 of Suzhou, China, described how the Class of 2024 faced changes and challenges along their journey with a sense of hope and optimism. A double major in Business and Finance and Social Science (Urban Studies track), Li said NYU Shanghai’s classrooms were a place to develop global perspectives, push boundaries, take on leadership and service roles, and empower dreams. 

“As we move forward with these paths, may we bring a sense of courage and determination that has characterized our time in NYU Shanghai to our individualized fields,” she said to her fellow classmates. “May we bring change and light to various communities we find ourselves in.”

In their speeches, NYU Shanghai leadership used the opportunity to give one last “lesson” to the graduating class and express their wishes for the lives they will pursue beyond NYU Shanghai.

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Chancellor Tong Shijun speaking at NYU Shanghai's commencement ceremony

Chancellor Tong Shijun spoke from the heart about learning together with the graduates and the role the Class of 2024 has played in his own development as chancellor over the past four years. He reminded them that they will be seen as role models for the graduating classes behind them.

“From today on you will be seen by all undergraduate college students and those younger as someone to be imitated or followed; from today on, that is to say, you will often need to explain to anybody who has not yet attended a commencement ceremony like this why you do this but not that. Whether you will be able to give your explanations all the way along your life from now on is, in my view, the most important game you will play in the future.”

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Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman speaking 

Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman issued a call to action to the graduating class, exhorting them to recognize the power each of them has to change the world for the better. Then he shared his wishes for the graduates as they step out into the world. “May you be the Mirrors that can help others to see the world in healthy and constructive new ways,” he said. “May you know enough bad weather that you never take sunshine for granted, and enough good weather that your faith in the coming of spring is never shaken.”

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Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen speaking 

Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen offered the graduates a meditation on what lies at the heart of humanity, and the human characteristics that ultimately distinguish us from machines. She sent them off with a wish to look for the humanity in themselves and others. 

"I hope you will always remember what it means to be human, that you will constantly put into practice and cultivate those four tightly interwoven human qualities of empathy, creativity, humor and ethical judgment,” she said. “I sincerely hope that in the realization of your humanity and of everything you have learned, you will stay tightly connected to one another, to NYU Shanghai, and in new ways yet to be imagined. That is how you are going to make a wonderful, positive difference in the world around you, wherever you may find yourselves.”

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NYU President Linda Mills speaking to the graduates

NYU President Linda Mills shared with the graduates the moving story of her Austrian family members who, when faced with the dangers of Nazi expansion throughout Europe in the lead up to to World War II, grasped an opportunity to escape and found a safe haven in Shanghai, thanks to the humanitarian efforts of a Chinese diplomat, Ho Feng Shan. 

"It is deeply heartening that at NYU Shanghai you too embody this spirit of bridging divides, taking risks, and developing a deep and abiding sense of our shared humanity,” she said. “You learn these skills in the classroom; through roommate assignments; when you study at other global sites; or even when you have a chance meeting with a student, walking along the waterfront."

She continued, framing for the graduating class the significance of their role as students at an international Sino-American institution during this day and age. 

"Today, the relationship between East and West has rarely been as important as it is now,” she said. “Where others doubted that Western universities in China could thrive, NYU saw possibilities. You are a living testament to our success."

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Chair of the NYU Board of Trustees Evan Chesler, speaking to the graduates

Chair of the NYU Board of Trustees Evan Chesler, a two-time NYU alum, shared the good wishes of the Board of Trustees and reflected on the lessons learned from attending a global research university. "As you take pride in your tremendous achievements, and enjoy today's most well-deserved and magnificent celebration, I urge you to reflect on your own profound moments of discovery and connection, that will stay with you wherever you go," he said. 

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From Shanghai to New York City. Left: Student representatives  Fu Jingyao ’24 and Yao Wushuang ’24 at Yankee Stadium with Vice Chancellor Lehman and Chancellor Tong at NYU’s All-University Commencement ceremony on May 15.

As the Class of 2024 take their first steps into the “real world,” many will continue their studies at educational institutions including Harvard University, MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, NYU, Columbia, Yale, UPenn, Oxford, and as a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University. Others will join the workforce as they begin their careers at corporations like L’Oreal, Unilever, UBS, Bytedance, PwC, or volunteering through the Peace Corps and Teach for America.


Watch: Class of 2024 Tribute Video

NYU Shanghai Senior Awards 

Senior Spotlights:
Mia Trinh ’24
Wang Yuhan ’24
Celia Forster ’24
Gustave Li Hongzhou ’24
Shreesh Tripathi '24
You Yiting ’24