Two cultures, one university

Updated 2017-11-08 10:33:06 China Daily
The campus of New York University Shanghai.

The campus of New York University Shanghai.

The Class of 2017 has graduated from New York University Shanghai.

Students from all corners of the world dressed in caps and violet gowns formed a violet-colored wave as they walked from the New York University Shanghai to the Shanghai Oriental Art Center to attend the inaugural commencement on May 28 this year.

The first class of 264 graduates from China, the United States and 31 other countries were awarded their NYU bachelor's degrees and NYU Shanghai diplomas. For two consecutive nights, one of the city's landmark buildings, the Oriental Pearl Tower, was lit up in violet in honor of their graduation.

Jointly established by New York University and East China Normal University in 2012, NYU Shanghai was the first Sino-US joint-venture university in China. It was literally built from scratch.

"Back then NYU Shanghai didn't even have a campus. Students spent their first year studying at East China Normal University," recalls Yu Lizhong, the chancellor of NYU Shanghai. "In terms of faculty, we had a list of over 100 NYU professors, but we weren't so sure who would come to teach."

The Class of 2017 turned out to be a success. By June, 32.3 percent of students had already been admitted to graduate schools including Harvard, MIT, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, and 37.3 percent entered the professional world with desirable offers.

"I have special regard for our first group of graduates," says Yu. "They had the guts to be the first to try out a brand-new education model."

"They could have entered first-tier Chinese universities such as Tsinghua University and Peking University and opt for a predictable, yet still promising, future," Yu says. "Instead, they embarked on an unknown academic journey to alter their life path by enrolling with NYU Shanghai," he adds.

Over the past five years, NYU Shanghai has become one of the leading examples of China's efforts to internationalize its education system.

At the commencement, Vice-Premier Liu Yandong applauded the university as having "achieved remarkable success in creating an innovative school system, cultivating outstanding talent and boosting cultural exchanges".

Liberal arts education

Three years ago, while in senior middle school, Dong Jiaqi received a high score in the college entrance examination, which would enable her to enroll in one of China's top institutions, Fudan University. But instead she opted to study at NYU Shanghai.

"I thought the liberal arts education that NYU Shanghai offers would give me more opportunities to explore," says the 21-year-old senior student. "So, I opted to spend the first year of college discovering my academic interests before choosing my major."

The university gives students the freedom to spend their first two years on taking core liberal arts courses so that they can spend their third and fourth years to deepen their fields of study.

While studying at NYU Shanghai, Dong attended writing workshops and took a variety of courses, including global perspectives on society and interactive media arts, to broaden her horizons. She also spent her summers doing research on digital marketing and social issues to explore her research interests.

Dong later followed her interests and majored in business and finance and interactive media arts. She participated in projects related to her specialty such as creating interactive maps on Shanghai street food and marketing food products online.

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