Commencement 2020: GBJ Confers Master's Degrees on 29 Students from 15 Nations in Online Ceremony

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Virtual commencement ceremony for 2020 GBJ graduates

The Global Business Journalism program celebrated its 2020 commencement on June 21, undeterred by a global coronavirus pandemic that prevented most international students from returning to campus for the spring semester.

Twenty-nine students from 15 nations received their master’s degrees and certificates in Global Business Journalism at the commencement ceremony, conducted via the Zoom teleconferencing app. The graduates included 10 students from China, four from the United States and two from Canada and Korea. Seventeen graduates hailed from Asia, while seven are from the Americas, three are from Europe and two are from Africa. Angela Hua became the program’s first graduate from Belgium, while Ulice Javier Goitte Lopez became the first Venezuelan graduate.

During the ceremony, three students were honored as class valedictorians: Betsy Joles of the United States, Angela (Anqi) Feng of Canada and Li Dongxiao of China. Four students won special awards for their contributions to the program: Heijin Lee of Korea, Terry (Tianyi) Li of the United States, Sangeet Sangroula of Nepal, and Li Dongxiao. Two Chinese students – Zhou Yuan and Guo Yuqi – were honored with the GBJ Teaching Assistant Award for their exceptional assistance in the classroom. Professor Dai Jia of China won the annual GBJ Supervisor Award for excellence as an academic adviser.

Celebrating the program’s diversity, Qingling Liu, Deputy Director of Tsinghua’s International Students & Scholars Center and Assistant Dean of TSJC, urged the graduates to “strengthen humanity” and “unite the global community.”

GBJ co-director Hang Min described 2020 as “a very unusual year and a very special commencement for all of us.” She praised the students for “connecting with each other” in the months after the worst pandemic of the past century began in Wuhan and spread to worldwide. 

Co-director Rick Dunham said the program – which he called “the world leader in cross-cultural journalism education “ – is especially important during in our current struggles against widespread disinformation and economic displacement. 

“Amid economic growth and economic tumult, China’s role in the global economy is deepening, and our Global Business Journalism graduates are uniquely situated to explain it  – factually – to the world.”

Professor Dunham said the cross-cultural excellence reflected by the graduating class reflects the important role played by Global Business Journalism in the international journalism and educational communities.

“At GBJ, we bridge cultural, economic and journalistic divides,” he said. “We respect others, and their beliefs. We learn from others. We think globally and act locally. We speak truth always. We make the world of journalism and communication a better place.”

Professor Lee Miller, speaking from his home in Bangkok, highlighted the importance of interpersonal experiences and close friendships forged in Global Business Journalism.

“Don’t let COVID-19 define your life or memories,” he advised. “Think about cooking in the dormitory’s kitchen with Heijin Lee. Some of you followed Emma Ho’s travel tips. Perhaps you spent hours talking with Betsy Joles about Texas, gender equality or China’s family planning policies. Perhaps, like me, you can remember some of Li Dongxiao’s skillful photos. And there’s no way you can forget Liu Zeming in every promotional video since he was a freshmen PLA soldier.”

TSJC Administrative Dean Hu Yu presented the GBJ degrees and certificates. Professor Shi Anbin, TSJC’s associate dean for research, revealed the winners of the annual GBJ awards. And Executive Dean Chen Changfeng urged students to “follow your own path” around the world “at this special moment.”

Betsy Joles, chosen as the top journalism portfolio of 2020, implored her fellow graduates to look for mentors among professionals and average citizens alike.

“Mentors are everywhere,” the University of Texas graduate said. “I challenge you: seek mentors in unlikely places and listen to the things they have to say.”

Speaking for GBJ’s international graduates, Angela Feng said the program “pushed me to believe with dedication and perseverance, I can accomplish limitless things.” The Canadian valedictorian said the hard and soft skills she learned in GBJ will help her adjust to a “grim” job market and “a lot of uncertainties during these unprecedented times.”

“By building relationships with my classmates and professors, I’ve grown to see things in the long run and embrace the unknown not for its uncertainties but for its indication of endless possibilities,” Feng said. “So I challenge you, my dear classmates, to be comfortable in not being completely sure of the future but at the same time being steadfast in your faith that it will be amazing. 

Speaking for the program’s Chinese graduates, Li Dongxiao praised the diversity of the faculty and the multicultural backgrounds of the students.

“We have the best professors from both the media industry and academia, and I have benefited greatly from the program’s international perspective. Veteran journalists from the top news agencies in the world teach us the most advanced ideas and tools in financial news editing and broadcasting, as well as skills in data mining,” he said. “Meanwhile, students from different cultural backgrounds participate together in our classes and create a wonderful atmosphere in cross-cultural communication and cooperation.“

The cross-cultural nature of Global Business Journalism helps Chinese students understand the world, Li said, and it also helps international students understand China.

“Chinese and international students became not only partners, but also good friends,” he said. “The GBJ program not only teaches us knowledge, but it brings international students to China and brings the world to Chinese students, making us feel like a family that can share thoughts and feelings even with different cultures.”

Speaking on behalf of GBJ alumni, 2018 graduate Linda Lew of New Zealand, a reporter at the South China Morning Post, warned that “now may be the worst time to go into journalism.”

“COVID-19 has hit the global media industry hard,” said Lew, who covered the early months of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. “Many journalists across the world have been made redundant and it is not certain how long the industry will take to recover. You will be entering the toughest job market in a decade.”

But Lew said the myriad challenges faced by the media are “exactly why journalists are more needed than ever. Despite all the difficulties that come with the job, I have been able to share stories with readers all over the world and bear witness to history. It is the most rewarding thing I’ve done.”

About a dozen GBJ participants also took part in the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication’s outdoor graduation ceremony on June 21. Sangeet Sangroula, speaking on behalf of TSJC’s international students, took time to “thank the university for all the efforts to protect students’ health in a time of global health crisis.”

“I am happy that I got the chance to physically attend this graduation ceremony, but I am also sad that a lot of our friends could not be present here today due to the pandemic,” he told fellow TSJC graduates and faculty members. “But again, this is life. Sometimes, things don’t turn out the way we want them to. All I want to tell my friends is that we are psychologically together even though we are physically apart. Today’s graduation ceremony is about your achievements as much as it is about ours.”

Sangroula called his time in GBJ “a fantastic journey.”

“Wherever we will go, whatever we become, let’s work together for a better world,” he told his fellow graduates.

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