President Guiliano congratulates 132 graduates at NYIT’s first annual undergraduate graduation ceremony in Nanjing, China.
Greetings on this wonderful afternoon!
Congratulations Class of 2011. Congratulations also to the parents, grandparents, faculty, friends, and loved ones who helped bring you to this point.
Graduation ceremonies are particularly important in academia. They involve great rituals and traditions and are highly symbolic. As you probably know, as far back as the 14th century, universities have granted degrees to their students and have sent them off into the world in grand ceremonies wearing robes amid ceremonial music. In America, graduation from college is a big event and celebration marking a rite of passage and entry into a new stage in life for the graduates.
The commencement address is another part of the ritual of graduating: getting sage advice. And I am honored today to provide what I hope are some wise words.
I am also delighted that this year’s inaugural graduation NYIT-NUPT Nanjing--our pioneering joint program with NUPT--coincides with a meaningful moment in China’s educational landscape. Just over a decade ago, when NYIT first began offering graduate programs in China, there were only one million college students in the country. Today there are six-and-a-half million college students here, and China has the biggest university system in the world.
The time for these changes could never be better. The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai recently completed a survey of multinational companies. It revealed over one-third of respondents believed the shortage of skilled employees was their biggest operational problem.
Another study by the management consultants McKinsey & Company showed that nearly one-half of executives in Chinese companies think a lack of talent is the biggest barrier to their global ambitions. These companies want a larger pool of high-quality workers to choose from.
With your expanding international engagement and growing motivation to contribute to the global knowledge economy, you are the talent the world is seeking. The degree you are receiving today is timely and a golden ticket to your future.
As a not-for-profit institution of higher learning, New York Institute of Technology does not measure its rewards in terms of money, but rather in the creation of knowledge and human capital.
Graduates, we hope NYIT will be one of your homes for the rest of your lives. No matter where you will live or work, we are here for you, a 21st-century networked community of students, faculty, programs and especially graduates spanning the globe, physically and virtually. You are graduating from a university that is committed to educating a new generation equipped to succeed in the global marketplace and are prepared to be global citizens. And our commitment to you does not end with this commencement, this new beginning.
You chose the right university at the right time. The bold experiment we started together four years ago is producing extraordinary results that will make your parents proud as well as the faculty and staff at NYIT and at the International College of NUPT. I want to congratulate you on making a terrific investment… an investment in yourself. It’s one that will pay rich dividends – financial and otherwise – throughout your life.
The dividends are already apparent. I remember addressing you back in October 2007. You were young and anxious and wide-eyed, in part because you did not understand my English.
Today I am delighted to report that approximately 65 percent of you are going on to graduate school, and not just any graduate schools, but frequently the very best graduate schools in the world. Your achievements are first-rate. Eight of you are going on to study at Columbia University, three at Cornell University, eight at NYU-Poly, three at Syracuse University, three at Stony Brook University, two at the University of Texas at Austin. And the list goes on. These are extraordinary achievements. You are graduating from an elite program and continuing at elite universities, surely the envy of graduates of any university in China.
I am pleased to note that some of you have decided to continue your education at NUPT, and I am proud that many of you have decided to attend graduate school at NYIT in New York. That speaks volumes about how you feel about the quality education you have received from our faculty and programs and about how well you appreciate the New York experience provided by New York Institute of Technology. Thank you. I am also delighted that we at NYIT were able to reward those of you who performed well academically with both admission to NYIT graduate programs and a scholarship. That is a valuable premium which being part of this program brings.
Eventually you will all enter the workforce, and approximately 35 percent of you are still not sure or have decided to do so immediately, here in China or in America. Again the placement results are exceptional. Already today, almost all of you seeking jobs in your chosen fields have secured one. And the Chinese and multi-national companies you will be serving are excellent—from positions at China Telcom (18 positions) and China Unicom (6) and China Mobile (11) to Ritai Technology (4), to many at various banks throughout China as well as television stations and newspapers, to such multi-nationals as IBM and Fujitsu. Remember you have the NYIT career services offices around the world and online to assist you for the rest of your lives, including a full-time person here in Nanjing.
Commencements are celebrations because they signal a transition to a new journey. Graduates: as new entrants in the workplace, you will find yourselves in the most inclusive economy ever, developing strategies and products that are enriched by human differences.
In this environment, individuals with broad cultural fluency and a global mindset will have a clear competitive advantage. The cross-border nature of business has created a demand for new kinds of jobs with an international reach. That’s why our curriculum is continually refreshed by our gifted faculty.
My hope for your new journey is that you apply the perspective, knowledge, and skills that you have acquired with us—in our classrooms, hallways, laboratories, studios, and online—to a global landscape.
Solve—through technology and compassion—problems that exist on a global scale.
Some of you joined were with us in New York last month to participate in commencement ceremonies there. As NYIT students, you know that technology has made the world smaller. Permit me to present a sample of our NYIT New York experience to all of you.
The NUPT degree that you are earning certainly will serve you well in China, and the NYIT degree that I will confer on you is a degree respected the world over. It is your business passport to the 21st-century global economy. It works in every country in the world. NYIT has graduates the world over and currently educates students from 106 nations—that means you have had classmates in 106 countries and you are now part of an international network of 89,000 NYIT alumni. Use your NYIT passport well.
Years from now, you may recall that you graduated at a time when it seemed like factors beyond your control—from natural disasters to economic recessions—were reshaping your world. Understanding and embracing those challenges will give you an edge as you think about your future.
What I have learned is that life is lived in episodes or stages. There will be many more passages in your personal and professional lives. Indeed, labor economists predict that many of you will change careers – not jobs, but careers – five times on average. Some of those careers won’t even exist until ten or twenty years from now.
So you cannot plan your life based on how things will be in ten years. Some things will remain constant: family, friends, and bills to pay. But if you are too fixed on a distant goal, you’ll miss opportunities today… and in the Near Tomorrow.
It was Bill Gates who noted that we tend to often overestimate changes that will take place in the next few years, but underestimate the changes that will occur in the next ten.
As always, technology is a powerful force behind change. And the speed of change in technology today is breathtaking and often disorienting.
Engineers carried slide rules from the 17th century until the 1970s, when the pocket calculator came along. And yet today the latest and hottest consumer electronic devices can go from being dated in two years to being obsolete in four.
Here as our students you learned to express ideas through communication arts, manage businesses with an eye towards entrepreneurship, transform information with computer science, and design a means to make it all function through engineering.
We want you to be able to invent and reinvent yourselves.
No matter how we define the “hot job” of the year, in an information-rich, digitally-saturated society, there will be a premium for people who have the training and the ability to synthesize information from many sources. And after studying at NYIT, those skills are second nature to you.
We can only imagine what the coming decades will bring. Where there are vast unknowns, there are vast opportunities. You cannot predict all of the opportunities that will come your way. You cannot envision the changes that will shape your lives in the years ahead.
Be flexible. Be nimble. Keep dreaming about the distant future, but prepare for the Near Tomorrow.
And now, let me conclude with a few traditional guidelines. When you leave here today, always remember to:
Think deeply, speak gently, love much, laugh often, work hard, give freely, pay promptly… and be kind.
Congratulations and best wishes to you, the NYIT Class of 2011. Gōngxǐ!