Be someone who changes lives, says DKU graduate student speaker

Master’s student Yingchen Xu will urge her peers to strive beyond traditional measures of success and take action to improve at least one other person’s life when she delivers her commencement speech to Duke Kunshan University’s graduate cohort.

Yingchen Xu
Yingchen Xu

Xu has been given the honor of addressing the afternoon session of the May 20 ceremony for the Class of 2022 postgraduates in recognition of her “academic aptitude, inquisitiveness and hard work”.

Describing her two-year Duke Kunshan experience as “life changing”, the master of environmental policy (iMEP) student is heading to the University of Florida to pursue a Ph.D. in food and resource economics. Her research at DKU examines potential policy solutions to the global scourge of plastic waste.

Some 150 students will graduate this year from the five master’s programs at Duke Kunshan — management studies, electrical and computer engineering, environmental policy, medical physics and global health.

Xu plans to share at the postgraduate commencement her guiding philosophy of “trying to change the life of at least one person around you”.

She said she would not be where she is now without the support of the “greatest teacher I have ever had” Dr. Patrick Ward, who is associate professor of environmental economics and policy in the iMEP program, and Dr. Ren Liu, her extracurricular English teacher when she was at school.

“Having had two important life-changing figures in my life, I encourage everyone to be grateful for those who have changed their lives and go on to change the life of at least one person around them,” Xu added.

“We can’t change the world, but we have the power to make a positive impact on someone that we encounter in this lifetime.

“Support a friend, inspire a young person, lend a helping hand to a stranger. You may just happen to change someone’s life trajectory for good.”

Xu holds a bachelor of arts degree in Japanese and English from Beijing Language and Culture University.

She spent a year at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies in Japan as an exchange student, where she developed a passion for environmental conservation and sustainable development.

Her research interests at DKU include consumer behavior, sustainable food marketing and single-use plastic food packaging.

“From the time she arrived on DKU’s campus Yingchen Xu has distinguished herself for her academic aptitudes, her inquisitiveness, and her hard work and diligence,” Dr. Ward said.

“As a consequence of these qualities, she currently ranks at the top of her class and was recently accepted to several doctoral programs in the United States to continue her studies in applied economics, ultimately deciding to attend the University of Florida.”

Xu, who is from Beijing, said the coronavirus crisis had forced many of the graduate cohort including herself to abandon plans to study abroad — and could “only watch as our dreams crashed”. But she said DKU offered them a second chance to pursue those dreams. 

As she prepares to congratulate her fellow students for attaining their master’s degrees, she said: “It has been a difficult two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but we pulled through with great strength and permeance.”

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