Greetings, on this wonderful morning! It is my privilege to be here to celebrate with you and to congratulate the 311 baccalaureate graduates at NYIT-Nanjing.
We salute you all.
We also salute the many people who helped you get here today: from your parents to your professors, loved ones and others who supported, nurtured, and encouraged you to help you arrive at this point. It is a fact: none of us got here alone.
During this high season for commencement addresses around the globe, I got to thinking, what is the shortest commencement address?
So, in this age of microblogging, I crafted one myself... Ready: "Go forth! Prosper! Make us proud!"
I know ... it's not very profound. But it does get to the heart of the matter in less than 40 characters.
And while I could indeed stop my remarks right there, it would not do justice to your accomplishments or reflect the significance of what today represents.
So let me touch upon something that will. When I spoke here in April, at the fourth and highly successful student film festival, I talked about history and patterns of challenge that re-emerge with new accomplishments. And accomplishment is pervasive here today. In fact, recent studies show that innovation is booming in China. Management consultants McKinsey & Company report that the global percentage of patents awarded to Chinese inventors has doubled since 2005. According to that same report, China’s innovation prowess will surge within its borders and in the global arena, with strides most notable today in the communications equipment and alternative energy sectors.
Demand for innovation and technology is skyrocketing, as well. By next year, China is expected to be the Asia-Pacific region’s biggest consumer of information technology products and services, surpassing Japan.
The seeds of -- and thirst for -- innovation are all around us. This extraordinary appetite makes one wonder. Where do the ideas and creativity come from?
We are reminded that nothing happens in a vacuum. Nobody, but nobody, does it alone.
Today it's fashionable to study innovation and the habitats that sustain and encourage it -- whether it be the differentiation and diversity that emerges on a coral reef ... or the rapidly changing ecosystem of the Internet.
Many writers, joining a growing consensus, find that intellectual breakthroughs do not spring from the mind of a thinker who sits in solitary contemplation, until a light bulb goes off in her head, and the thinker cries, "Eureka!"
The image of some artistic genius holed up in his or her study, creating a brand new paradigm from scratch, is a romantic fantasy.
The opposite is true: Good ideas are far more likely to emerge gradually, over time, as part of a slow accumulative process. And that process most often takes place in environments that promote collaboration.
As it turns out, the most effective structure for generating good ideas may be a group of human beings, talking; in what science writer Steven Johnson calls "spaces of innovation."
Spaces of innovation.
That would be anywhere that people come together to connect, share ideas, agree on some things, argue about others, hash it out, and ultimately -- innovate. It could be the cafeteria. A study group. Anywhere at a university, where we celebrate the life of the mind.
When you work alone, in an office or laboratory, staring at a computer screen or some other apparatus, you can get stuck in yourself.
As Johnson says: "Chance favors the connected mind."
And, as you prepare for the next stage of your lives, the lesson is clear.
Regardless of your academic discipline and professional aspirations, to succeed in a complex, rapidly changing economy, you must cultivate an interconnected mentality. The faculty and I hope we have helped you do just that.
Surely, you are graduating at an exciting time. NYIT is proud of our pioneering partnership with NUPT, and we have watched as the number of college students in China has grown exponentially during the last 12 years, when we began our program.
Today I am delighted to report that nearly half of you are going on to graduate school, and not just any graduate schools, but some of the best in the world. Your achievements are first-rate; 73 percent are going abroad, to attend graduate schools like Boston University, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, NYU-Poly, University of Michigan, University of California … 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 the quality education you believe you have received from our faculty and programs and 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.
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. And that is NYIT’s greatest reward.
You all eventually will enter the workforce, and slightly more than half of you are planning to do so immediately, here in China or in America. Again the placement results are exceptional; the Chinese companies you will be serving are excellent—from positions at the Bank of China to China Telecom to Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation. Already today, almost all of you seeking jobs in your chosen fields have secured one. 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. We also have an alumni relations office in New York led by Jennifer Kelly, who is here today to celebrate your accomplishments.
Graduates, you know that all around us there is much important work to be done. We need business models that can keep pace with economic and social change ... digital systems that are more connected and more secure ... cures for diseases. The list is challenging and formidable.
In the near future, we may even reach a point known as singularity, when we have created intelligence that is smarter than human beings. Then the Siri's of tomorrow can help us take on these challenges ... plus, I trust, continue to tell us places nearby where we can grab a bite to eat and connect.
Siri is only a year old. The iPad? Just two years old. And Angry Birds, the consistently most downloaded app on the web, it's just 3.
The fast-forward speed of transformations is extraordinary and often disorienting.
And you, Class of 2012, are prepared.
Indeed, our global university has grown a great deal in the past 51 years, adapting itself to a world that is constantly evolving.
The NYIT degree that I will confer on you is respected the world over. It is your business passport to the 21st-century global economy. It works in every country of the world. NYIT currently educates students from 106 nations – that means you have classmates in 106 countries and are part of an international network of more than 92,000 alumni. Use your NYIT passport well.
At NYIT, you are the beneficiaries of American-style higher education, prized the world over, that promotes experimentation, accepts failure, rewards creativity, and breeds innovation.
Today I congratulate you on making a terrific investment in yourself. A college degree and an advanced degree are the single greatest financial investments you can make. And let’s not forget those non-financial returns on your investment, those about being happier, healthier, more in synch with society’s responsibilities – and you’ll live longer.
In every field, demand is increasing for a new class of designers, engineers, technicians -- for people who can perform specialized tasks, yes. But also -- and more importantly -- for people who can synthesize ideas and create solutions to address real-world challenges.
And that, graduates, is your opportunity.
In addition to what you know, you will be rewarded for your ability to think, to leverage technology, and to apply your ideas.
And so I urge you today to follow my earlier directive -- "Go forth! Prosper! Make us proud!"
Critique, clash, conflict, collaborate, connect, and create spaces of innovation where you can openly share your ideas for the betterment of all.