The 2020 University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute (UM-SJTU JI) Commencement Ceremony was held at Long Bin Building on August 7. The ceremony was attended by invited keynote speaker UM Vice-provost Valeria Bertacco, JI leaders including Dean Peisen Huang, Party Secretary and Associate Dean for Research Ming Yang, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Chien-Pin Chen, Associate Dean for Graduate Education David Hung, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Gang Zheng, Deputy Party Secretary and Executive Director Scott Yang, as well as faculty and staff representatives, graduates of 2020 and their parents, either online or in person. Gang Zheng hosted the ceremony.

Peisen Huang congratulated the graduates on behalf of JI faculty and staff. The placement results of the 2020 graduates showed 83% (or 252) of 302 bachelor’s degree graduates will continue graduate studies at famous foreign and domestic universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, the University of Tokyo and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 82% of 192 graduates heading to American universities are enrolled by US top 20 engineering graduate schools. 6 of 25 master’s degree students will further their studies in America, Germany and Switzerland. 3 of 12 PhD graduates have secured post-doctoral positions in Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Most students who chose to enter the job market have found excellent jobs at home and abroad. He said 2020 will no doubt be a year to remember for the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic bringing so many challenges to the world. While feeling proud to see the students adapting to the situation and responding positively to the fight against the virus, he hoped the graduates continue to learn and adapt and eventually contribute their power of innovation to a better future of the mankind.

Valeria Bertacco delivered an online keynote speech to the 2020 graduates. She noted that the 15 years’ partnership between Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the University of Michigan has led to important innovations in engineering education and research. From the beginning, SJTU and U-M recognized their shared interest in educating global leaders. Working together, UM and SJTU have developed new programs that bring together excellent education in engineering, realized important learning opportunities, and promoted research collaborations that strengthen cross-cultural understanding. This long-term partnership has helped advance knowledge that benefits the world in areas of computing, energy and construction. It is this cross-cultural understanding, nurtured by the Joint Institute and all the members of the JI, that propel all to work together, grow together and trust each other through pandemic times, and even through the challenging US-China relations that we have been enduring for the past few years.

Valeria Bertacco offered two advices to the graduates. First is to have that curiosity shaped by a rigorous education and the second is to be a bit adventurous and willing to take some risks and to see what you learn as a result. By sharing the story of Lynn Conway, a retired UM professor, she extended her hope that when thinking about future opportunities, things to do in life and contributions to make for the world, JI graduates can keep in mind those words from Dr.Conway, “If you want to change the future, start living as if you were already there.”

Parent representative Yan Meng gave a speech themed with ties between individual and nation, teachers and students, parents and children. She hoped that JI graduates could sail toward their dreams, gains from practice and evolve into a better self, thus making themselves part of the better future of China and the world. As a Chinese parent, she made a point: “You will be the witness and participator of China’s edging toward the center of world stage. Your choice will dictate your life altitudes. I hope you can always keep in mind our nation wherever you are and live a good life with Chinese confidence.”

Yuanjie Tao, valedictorian of the 2020 bachelor’s degree graduates, made a speech through a video clip. He recalled his growth through longing, revering and wandering journey since the opening ceremony at the Jinjin Auditorium in 2016. It was an honor for him to be a JIer. The open environment of JI allowed students to try different subjects, different fields and different possible futures. He hoped that as graduates of this special year, no matter what place they would go to, JI students should solve problems and create things practically and innovatively just like an engineer. He believed that there must be some of them who would one day create history.

Tingting Xia, valedictorian of the 2020 master and doctoral degree students, expressed her heartfelt thanks and sentiment to JI. Commencement was a farewell to previous studies, but a kick-off of a new journey. A look into future uncertainties filled her with joy as well as stress. She hoped that graduates could remember the SJTU motto of “Gratitude and Responsibility” and keep in minds “to choose SJTU is to choose responsibility”. She encouraged graduates to be life-long learners, shoulder responsibilities and rise to challenges wherever they are.

Peisen Huang and Ming Yang, on behalf of JI, accepted a gift from JI graduates, photos of the 2020 graduates in the shape of “JI-2020”, implying graduates’ gratitude for JI’s four years’ company.

Online hooding and turning the tassel for graduate students

JI leaders take photo with graduates after awarding degrees

Finally came the very moment for the 2020 graduates, the degree awarding ceremony that is held both online and on-site. To immerse the online graduates in the ceremony, Peisen Huang hooded and turned the tassel for them on the screen with the help of specially added animation. 181 onsite graduates wore the personalized academicals embroidered with SJTU and JI badges and name. Witnessed by faculty members, fellow students and parents, the graduates had their tassel turned and received their degree certificates which make them ready to embark on the next stage of their life journeys.

Group photo of the 2020 graduate students and teachers

Graduates taking photo inside Long Bin Building