You have the qualities and vision to deal with any challenge | Duke Kunshan University

You have the qualities and vision to deal with any challenge

By Siqi Liang
iMEP ’20

Editor’s note: Siqi Liang was the class speaker for commencement 2020. She gave the following address during Duke Kunshan’s online graduation ceremony on May 8.


Siqi Liang was class speaker at Duke Kunshan’s virtual commencement ceremony

Hello, everyone. My name is Siqi, and I am one of the students who is graduating today. I am so happy to be here.

For many of us who have just finished master’s projects and all our finals, this is not just a ceremony of graduation – it is a ceremony of survival. Surviving a master’s program at Duke Kunshan University isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. Ten core courses, nine electives, two academic writing courses in the first year and a master’s project in the second year, sometimes independent study – none of us knew how many due dates we would have to deal with.

However, we survived. We not only finished all our coursework but also became new people, professionals in our fields: environmental policy, global health, medical physics. None of these are easy fields in which to become professional.

One year ago, when we were choosing courses for the third semester, I suggested to all my classmates that they select Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing with me. I wanted those two courses because one of the professors had told us they contain valuable skills that would make us attractive in the job market. I wanted my classmates to join me because they might benefit from those courses, too. And it’s so much easier to finish coursework with people you know who are smart and are willing to help each other.

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“Studying at DKU is not just studying in a classroom; it is living among a marvelous community with talented and devoted professors.”

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One of my classmates, Yumin Wang, asked me, “What kind of things can we do with GIS and Remote Sensing?” Yumin was a student of environmental sciences, and I was a student of public health management. We had heard of GIS and Remote Sensing, but neither of us really knew what they were. “Some gorgeous maps that can show many locations,” I told him. Yumin was not convinced at all, but he selected those two courses anyway. One year later, Yumin produced a set of remote sensing maps with the locations of artificial plantations in China. His project not only shows his amazing skill in geospatial analysis but also is very valuable to the field of forest conservation. When I was watching his project presentation, I couldn’t be prouder. I am proud of him, and I am proud of myself. Look what DKU have done for us – all these wonderful things.

Ten core courses, nine electives, two academic writing courses in the first year and a master’s project in the second year, sometimes independent study – none of us may realize just how many faculty members, staff members and other workers at DKU have contributed to our education and growth. Definitely talented and devoted professors. For instance, to help me become the bird conservation scientist I dreamed to be, my mentor professor Binbin Li helped me develop two field projects as soon as I arrived at DKU so that I could have concrete results to show when I applied for Ph.D. positions. Her advice and suggestions really meant a lot to me, and I am amazed at how far I have come.


Liang with fellow researchers at the Dafengding Nature Reserve, Sichuan province

Speaking of professors, they are so good at getting to know us and support us. Professor Patrick Ward invited many of us to dinner at his apartment in Kunshan, professor Junjie Zhang brought us giant pizzas when we were studying at Durham. Professor David Huang even took me out for Chinese food when I was attending a conference in New York City. Either it’s the case that they just are very good at sharing delicious food, or they are willing to take care of us wherever we go.

It’s not just been professors; many staff members and others at DKU have taken care of us and supported us. The writing practice at the Language and Culture Center, the CV consultation sessions at the Office of Career Services, the Endnote lectures given by the librarians, the software and hardware maintained by the IT department, the aerobic training in the gym, and the meals provided at our canteens. I am pretty sure this list is not complete; however, I sincerely hope I have expressed gratitude to this marvelous community on behalf of my cohort.

In addition, I’d like to send special thanks to the designers of this beautiful campus. After receiving students’ suggestions about decreasing bird-window collisions, they have made a series of changes to make the buildings much more bird-friendly. As far as I know, it is not popular anymore for students to declare that they are going to change the world; however, it’s been really nice to have the experience of making the world a better place even before we graduate.

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“It’s been really nice to have the experience of making the world a better place even before we graduate.”

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As a member of the class graduating today, I know that some of us will continue on the roads we picked two years ago, while some will switch to other roads at certain points of our lives. Whatever your choice is, I hope life will be gentle to you. When life doesn’t act in a gentle way, I hope you can recall your experiences at DKU. Recall the courage and determination you showed, recall the moments you thought you were going to die but you didn’t. Recall this achievement. You have the qualities and vision to deal with any challenge, and you will lead a good life.

Two and a half years ago, I was living in Chengdu and was looking for a master’s program; a program in the intersection of policy analysis and conservation ecology, a program with world-class professors and a supportive community, a program with generous scholarships so that I could afford it. It was an impossible program to find. However, I found it, and I’m standing here right now. I feel super lucky and very grateful.

Thank you, professors. Thank you, DKU staff and other workers. Thank you, my wonderful peers. Good luck and good-bye, you surely will be missed.

That’s all, thank you!