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Shanghai University of Finance and Economics Commencement


Sunday, November 19, 2017
SUFE Commencement Ceremony

 It is my honor to join you for your commencement ceremonies, on this significant occasion for you as you complete your academic program and we together celebrate the centennial of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

I extend my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to attend the centennial ceremonies for Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.  This partnership grows stronger every year.  On behalf of Webster University’s Board of Trustees, our faculty and staff, I am grateful to the SUFE leadership and all who provide such a gracious welcome as partners and colleagues.  We congratulate you and thank you.

Every graduate from every academic program at every institution around the world feels pride and joy in accomplishing a goal.  At the same time, they as graduates, bring pride and joy to the members of their family, to the faculty and staff who have supported them, and to the institution from which they graduate.

That is true today for all of us, and at the same time, this specific ceremony and this specific graduating class marks a moment like no other.  Graduates, you are to be congratulated for completing the  Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Webster University joint IMBA program.

The partnership between our two institutions is longstanding, more than twenty years of jointly providing the International Masters of Business Administration here in Shanghai.  In those years, 2100 students have graduated with their degrees.   Today, we will confer 37 IMBA degrees.

While you know Webster University by our colleagues here who lead this program and the faculty who teach you, I would like to tell you more about Webster, this worldwide institution that shares in your successes and accomplishments now and in your future.

What is Webster University, this name that will forever be etched on your degree?

Webster is a network of vibrant, local communities with strong connections among campuses in eight countries on four continents.  Webster students live near or on campuses in China, Thailand, Ghana, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United States. Webster was founded in 1915 in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States.  We have operated continuously there for more than one hundred years, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees. Webster students also complete their degrees in classrooms on U. S. military bases and installations as well as in their homes and workplaces through online courses.  Webster is a globally diverse network of action-oriented students, faculty, staff and alumni who forge powerful bonds with each other and within their communities.

Reflecting those communities around the world and the ties that bind us, Webster is an increasingly diverse and inclusive university preparing students to lead and be agents of change. To be transformed, as Webster’s mission says, for global citizenship and individual excellence.

And what about the Class of 2017? Who are you?

  • This year you were among almost 16,000 students advancing your studies under the guidance of our great faculty at campuses across the United States, internationally, and online.
  • Overall out of 6,058 total graduates in the Class of 2017, we have 125 countries represented, and 48 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 
  • Worldwide, the number of individuals receiving an MBA in AY 2016-2017 totals 1,304.

What an outstanding, accomplished and global class! And, because of Webster’s size and history (we celebrated our centennial in 2015), you join a large number of living alumni from Webster University: more than 192,000 worldwide.

SUFE and Webster have collaborated to enable the exchange of faculty and students, to conduct study tours, and to strengthen the quality of education they provide by tapping each others’ strengths.  We have been pioneers in providing a uniquely strong educational experience that serves as the platform for our graduates’ successful leadership in their lives and their careers.  We know that the flow of information, people, and ideas across countries and continents is needed to build a stronger future for education and for the human condition. Only through shared knowledge and commitment will the leaders we are educating be successful in seeking global solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges in economics, health, transportation, environment, and security.

Vital and modern institutions in their second centuries—SUFE and Webster—must foster greater convergence with the other sectors of the economy on a global scale. Such universities become a vortex of effective communication via information sharing, social and cultural interchange, and ultimately knowledge creation, dissemination and preservation on a global scale.

As I reflect on these statements in a personal way, I think about the very first trip I made to China as Webster’s president, I believe in 2010.  (This was not my first trip to China, however.)  On this trip, I visited Beijing and Shanghai.  While here, we had the opportunity to visit the Expo, with its theme “Better City, Better World.”  This expo with its many booths enabled visitors to gain a perspective of the culture of many different countries and companies around the world.  It reminded me of the first World’s Fair I visited, at the invitation of  my aunt, uncle, and cousin as they took at car trip from their homes in the American South to the Fair location in Seattle, Washington.  I had grown up in a suburb of a very large city—Chicago—and knew many whose family members were only the second or third generation in the U. S. and as a result maintained language and culture from their European origins.  But I had not experienced any Asian cultures.  I knew little of the East.

The Fair exhibition that I remember most clearly was that of Thailand—then called Siam—and I still have the small silver ring I purchased as a souvenir.  That fair was part of my growing awareness of a world larger than my own home and a desire to know that world and to be part of it.

While I can point to many other experiences that have stimulated my curiosity for the world and prompted my own travels, what most inspires me now about serving as Webster’s president is the opportunity to provide that world-opening experience for others.  On that first visit I made here to interact with our IMBA alumni, I recall saying that “One cannot know the world without knowing China.”  The truth of that sentiment persists and grows.  And to know the world means to be impacted by it and to wish to impact the world—to make it better, as the words of the Shanghai Expo announced.  That is indeed our wish for all Webster students, and it is our wish today for you, the 2017 IMBA graduating class.

I share these observations with you today, graduates, to celebrate all that you have contributed to this vibrant partnership between two historic universities—SUFE and Webster.  Just as the 2100 alumni who have preceded you, we know that you will lead in your communities and in your workplaces.  And you will build bridges from the global foundation our two institutions have provided for you.

We believe you are equipped to make a difference in the world and for the world.  And we will watch you with our own sense of pride and anticipation.

To you, graduates, I say congratulations. To the families, friends and supporters of our graduates here today, I say thank you for your encouragement and support you gave in helping these students along the way.

Please join me in congratulating our graduates and wishing them future success and lifelong prosperity.