On May 6th the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute (APSI) celebrated a cohort of five graduating students from the Master of Arts program in East Asian Studies. This marked the second year in a row the graduation ceremony was held virtually due to the pandemic. Despite not being able to meet in person, spirits remained high for the students, faculty and staff in attendance.
Richard Jaffe, APSI's Director, began the ceremony by welcoming guests and congratulating students on their accomplishments during particularly trying times. With restrictions on travel and limitations with research projects, Jaffe likened the student experience to an ancient Chinese idiom saiweng shima, anzhi feifu or “the old man lost his mare, but it all turned out for the best”. The idiom, Jaffe explained, touched on the unexpected challenges and hardships the students faced pursuing graduate studies during a global pandemic that ultimately led to a number of notable achievements, including earning an MA from Duke.
Following Professor Jaffe’s remarks, the staff broadcast a message from Paula D. McClain, Dean of Graduate Education at Duke, before transitioning to a slideshow production featuring photos and quotes of each graduate. The slideshow was accompanied by music and replete with images from the graduates’ past two years at Duke. Masks were a distinguishing feature.
In lieu of presenting diplomas, which were to be mailed out due to the pandemic, Director of Graduate Studies Simon Partner read out each graduate’s name, advisor and milestone project offering his warm congratulations. The graduates were also given the opportunity to speak. Each gave a very moving statement on their own experiences in the APSI program.
East Asian Studies MA graduates in order of appearance: Yiming Cai, Chuang Zu, Hanye Zhang, Yanping Ni, Kaiyi Bi
The ceremony also featured comments from APSI’s recently retired DGS, Kris Troost. Troost reflected on the enjoyment she derived from working with MA students and watching them grow throughout their time at Duke.
Finishing out the ceremony Richard Jaffe and Yan Li, APSI’s Associate Director, provided closing remarks. Li encouraged students to be active in their new roles as Duke alumni and to stay in touch. The students, staff and faculty then joined in a virtual reception bringing closure to what has been an unforgettable past two years.