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APSI celebrates seven graduating students in May 2024

Two years can seem like an eternity at the beginning, but they pass by in a moment when looking back. So it was for the members of the class of 2024 as they gathered on May 9 with faculty, family members, and friends to celebrate the milestone of earning their Master of Arts in East Asian Studies. As Professor Eileen Chow, director of graduate studies for APSI noted, “There is nothing easy about being a graduate student, nothing easy about being far from home.” Nevertheless, all of the new graduates persevered in their courses and can now proudly reflect on their achievement.

Some of our newest alumni are headed to professional careers, some will continue pursuing further education. All are remarkably talented and dynamic individuals who formed a unique and lifelong bond during their time at Duke. We look forward to seeing where their talents take them next.

At the ceremony, each of our graduating MA students took a few moments to share their thanks and their thoughts, even if they were unable to attend in person. Here are some highlights:

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A person in a black dress holding a diploma cover standing next to a person in academic regalia
Lingyi Chen, EAS-MA '24
Lingyi Chen

Thesis: “Happy Farmwives and Bright Life: Reshaping Women’s Lives in the Countryside in Postwar Japan from 1945 to 1950”
Committee: Simon Partner, Jan Bardsley, Anne Allison, Wesley Hogan

“I still remember walking to West Campus for the first time for the orientation. Eileen told us to look around—these are the persons who are going to support you on this very long journey. I was working on Japanese history, so my schedule did not overlap my cohort much in classes, but I always felt that they are there for me. I will always remember the very beautiful conversations we shared with each other, intellectual or personal. I hope that our journey does not end here.”

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A person in a black shirt and green skirt holding a diploma cover standing behind a blue table with a vase of flowers next to a person in a gray suit
Wenjin Fang, EAS-MA '24
Wenjin Fang

Thesis: “Temple Destruction in Early 20th Century China: A Case Study of Ba County, 1900-1936”
Committee: Prasenjit Duara, Nicole Barnes, Anna Sun

“Today is a special day for me. On this special day, I would like to express my thanks to my thesis advisors, Professor Duara and Professor Barnes, for their invaluable guidance and unwavering support throughout the entire process of researching and writing this thesis. Their expertise, patience, and encouragement have been essential in shaping my ideas and putting them into writing. I am also very grateful to Professor Sun, as I developed my thesis out of the final project I wrote for her class, ‘Ritual Theory.’ Furthermore, I would like to extend my appreciation to APSI and the EAS program for providing all these precious resources and a conductive environment for academic growth. Without you, this would be a very different place. It’s your presence that makes this program special for me.”

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A person in a white shirt and black skirt holding a diploma cover standing next to blue table with blue and silver mylar balloons
Seulbin Han, EAS-MA '24
Seulbin Han

Thesis: “A Visit to the First Chapter of Korean Popular Music History: A Critical Introduction of Brother Is a Street Musician—Viewing the Landscape of Modernity through Popular Songs and Translation Excerpts”
Committee: Eileen Chow, Jung-Min Mina Lee, Hae-Young Kim

“I feel really lucky to have had the chance to come to this program and learn from everyone. I sincerely respect all the faculty that I had a chance to work with: Hae-Young Kim, Jung-Min Lee, Aimee Kwon, Yunchuan Chen, and, of course, Eileen Chow, who is a role model to me in so many ways. I also learned a lot from everyone in my cohort. You are good people, good friends, and I wish you the best of luck.”

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A person in a red qipao under a black tunic with a red embroidered flower stands waving in a bamboo grove
Mingkang Hao, EAS-MA '24
Mingkang Hao

Thesis: “Will the Dyke Hold? Interactive Relationships between Humans, Cave-burrowing Animals, and Plants around Yellow River Dykes, 18th Century to 20th Century”
Committee: Nicole Barnes, Prasenjit Duara, Eileen Chow
“I just want to say first that I feel so lucky to spend the past few years in this great program, amazing department, and school. Second, I want to express my gratitude to all the great professors, helpful staff, supportive cohorts, my family, my parents, and myself. I cannot make it without all of you. Finally, I am looking forward to spending a few more years staying here [at Duke] and continuing my ongoing research and trying to find a much more colorful life.”

Mingkang will return to Duke in Fall 2024 as a PhD student in the history department.

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Jackson Herndon, EAS-MA '24
Jackson Herndon

Thesis: “Utopian Frontiers: Legacies of the Commune in Twentieth Century China”
Committee: Prasenjit Duara, Carlos Rojas, Nicole Barnes, Eileen Chow
“I was sort of stressing last night and this morning, trying to think about what to say. As I was finishing up writing my thesis, I was thinking that there was no way the me of two years ago, which feels like a really short period of time, could have imagined writing anything like what I wrote. [APSI] has been a place where something that I denied myself or critiqued myself and thought I couldn’t do became possible. It’s not just the academic support or summer funding, it’s also watching all my classmates have this similar process. While I’ve been here, I’ve seen people refine themselves and really come to be more. It’s really important, beyond the academics, that this is a space where this is possible.”

Jackson will begin PhD studies in history at New York University in Fall 2024.

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A person in a green shirt holding a diploma cover stands next to a person in academic regalia
Ruowei Wu, EAS-MA '24
Ruowei Wu

Thesis: “Commemorating "Comfort Women" in China— Narrating Chinese "Comfort Women" in Media and Museums”
Committee: Leo Ching, Eileen Chow, Aimee Kwon
“I am nervous but also excited. It feels unreal to be here, today. First, thanks to my mom for traveling to be here. Thanks to my dear committee members and advisers. I have a very strong support community here from my classmates. I also want to thank the APSI staff and postdocs for accompanying us to so many big events. I am going to close with a quote I saw this morning from Professor Guo-Juin Hong: ‘I look forward to our next reunion.’ Thank you all so much.”

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A person in glasses wearing a white shirt holds a diploma cover
Chunxiao Yang, EAS-MA '24
Chunxiao Yang

Paper I: “Resilience and Complexity: Unraveling the Facets of Modern Chinese Nationalism”
Paper II: “Tracing Official Confucianism (1948-1988) and Contemporary Intellectual Discourses: A Study of Taiwan Confucianism”
Committee: Eileen Chow, Anna Sun, Aimee Kwon
“My story with Duke and North Carolina started in 2021. After my undergrad studies, my flight to China was cancelled, so I had to stay with a family friend in Cary for two months. That was the beginning of my connection with Duke. I was excited about graduate school; I wanted to try many things. I have to say, graduate school at Duke gave me a lot of challenges and made me rethink my passion for academia. But, because it was challenging, it was a place where I got to learn many different perspectives and got to meet lots of people from many different backgrounds. I took classes from different disciplines. I even tried to take a machine learning class! Also, thanks to my cohort, our classmates who graduated last year, our postdocs. Thanks also to APSI and Duke for all the wonderful events on campus that we can explore, and especially [to] Professor Chow.”