Wenzhou-Kean University (WKU) in Wenzhou, China held its second commencement on Saturday, June 3, conferring bachelor’s degrees on 213 graduates at the Wenzhou Grand Theater. Faculty, administrators, family and friends joined the graduates in the majestic theater for a ceremony filled with pomp, circumstance, music and dance. A partnership between Kean University and Wenzhou University in Wenzhou, China, WKU is the only public American university in China.
Kean President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D., told the graduates that their commencement is special for the United States and China.
“It shows what can be accomplished when we work together toward the same goal of developing world-class, global citizens,” Farahi said. “Today, you are living proof that there are no borders in higher education—in fact, your accomplishment proves that higher education is a great international equalizer.”
With its second graduating class, WKU continues to assert itself as a leader in global education, with nearly 70 percent of the Class of 2017 pursuing graduate degrees in the fall, and nearly half of them heading overseas for their studies – at Kean University in Union, New Jersey and other prestigious institutions such as Brown University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, London School of Economics and Political Science and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Nearly a third of the graduates have been hired at some of the top companies in China, including the Bank of China, Bank of Ningbo, Agricultural Bank of China, Faurecia Group, and GrantThornton LLP.
Economist Lin Jianhai, Ph.D., secretary general of the International Monetary Fund, peppered his Keynote Address with personal stories to highlight the four principles he has followed in his career and his life – be positive; work hard and work smart; keep learning; and grow with the world.
“You are born and are growing in a dynamic inter-connected new century,” Lin said. “You are destined to face different challenges than your parents, but you are also equipped with better and sharper tools. A fulfilling, distinctive life is an achievement, not something that will fall into your life because you are a nice person. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Go out and find it yourself and grab it with both hands. It is called commencement because you will continue on your adventure from this point.”
The commencement ceremony featured stirring renditions of the United States and China national anthems, a traditional Chinese music performance, as well as performances from student choral and dance groups.
Consul General of the United States Consulate General in Shanghai Hanscom Smith told the graduates that they have thrived in an environment that “encourages dialogue, exploration, and cooperation.”
"I can’t help but wonder what the world will look like when it is time for Wenzhou-Kean’s commencement many years in the future," said Smith. "I like to imagine an even more open, more cooperative and more peaceful world. One that institutions like Wenzhou-Kean are actively working to promote and one that many of you seated here today will start building as soon as you leave this room."
Wenzhou-Kean University, located on a 500-acre campus in the foothills of Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province, welcomed its first cohort of students in 2012 and graduated its inaugural class in 2016. WKU offers an American university education to Chinese, international and visiting Kean USA students. All classes are taught exclusively in English.
Professor Lu Shanzhen, chancellor of Wenzhou-Kean University, told the graduates that ceaseless study, a focus on innovation and a grateful heart will guide them in shaping their futures and changing the world.
“From the moment you chose Wenzhou-Kean University, your life began to change,” Lu said. “The university brings the Chinese and Western cultures together, and offers an education featuring critical thinking and innovation. All these have enabled you to better understand each other, to better see the true world, and to be a better you.”
In addressing her classmates, valedictorian Pan Lijun noted that WKU taught her to focus on building skills for professional and personal success.
“This school gave me problem solving skills. I believe this is the advantage of the WKU-style education,” Pan said. “Being thrown out of my comfort zone was an excellent and valuable experience, not only because I was forced to learn new things and get great teamwork experience, but because those constant challenges make you feel invincible. The diversity and challenges in this university were truly gifts to me.”
Wenzhou-Kean University was borne out of a 2006 “sister city” meeting between Dr. Farahi and the People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping, who was governor of Zhejiang Province at the time. Together, they developed a plan to create an American-style university in Wenzhou for Chinese and international students seeking a western education, while offering Kean USA students an opportunity to gain a global perspective through study abroad in China at no additional cost.
Kean University Trustee Lamont Repollet, Ph.D., praised the graduates for embracing the “idea” of WKU, calling them “trailblazers and pioneers.”
“You took a risk when you chose Wenzhou-Kean. I first visited Wenzhou in October 2012, and when I arrived, there were no academic buildings, no residence halls, no canteens and no libraries. You took a chance on Wenzhou-Kean University, and your investment paid off,” Repollet said.
Nearly 1,600 undergraduate students attend Wenzhou-Kean University, and enrollment is projected to be 3,500 by 2020. WKU offers academic programs in the natural and physical sciences, computer science, business, English and graphic design on a campus that continues to expand. A new Global Business School academic building is expected to open in fall 2017, and new buildings for Michael Graves College and a student learning and activity center are scheduled to open in early 2019. In addition, gardens and landscaping are being added in an ongoing beautification project that is part of the University’s master plan.