Speeches from XJTLU Opening Ceremony 2015

August 27, 2015

(In order of presentation)

Professor Xi Youmin

Executive President of XJTLU

Greetings colleagues and guests, and a very warm welcome to the XJTLU Class of 2015 and their families!

To the 3,000 plus new students, welcome! On behalf of all staff at XJTLU, I offer you my warm greetings. We are delighted that you join us today to begin exploring the world together!

I understand that the past several months may have been challenging for you. You must have been under great pressure when preparing for the college entrance examination, and deciding which university you will spend the next four years at, and which programmes you will pursue. You have been fortunate to have parents who have provided you their support along the way. But from today, you must embark on your life and learn to be your own man or woman. I am sure you will face fears and doubts about your studies at XJTLU, your programme and your future as a whole. But you must grow and take responsibility for your own life.

At this moment, however, you may ask yourself, how can you live your life and pursue your dreams? On this special occasion, I’d like to tell you a secret, a password, that can help.

It is called ILEAD. “I” refers to an able person who makes the decision to pursue his or her own dreams and has the courage to lead. LEAD, then, stands for “Learning, Entrepreneurship, Adaptation and Development”.

The “learning” I’m referring to is not learning itself, but the “learning of learning”. In school education in China, teachers focus on the teaching of knowledge. Students are taught passively, rather than actively. XJTLU was established to turn this traditional passive method of education upside down. Rather than mechanical memorising, learning should be an interactive process that educates through knowledge and improves individual capacities by encouraging change in attitudes and behaviours. As an educator once said: “At the current speed of social development, all our knowledge and skills will be outdated within 20 years.” It could take an even shorter amount of time. This is why I say now that you should learn how to learn, to master the skill of lifelong learning. XJTLU promotes “research-oriented learning” where the classroom is no longer just a place for the transfer of knowledge. Instead, students take on perplexing phenomena in human society, interesting scientific puzzles and real-life problems as their research subjects in class. With the assistance of modern technologies such as the Internet, they collect materials, carry out investigations and experiments as well as have group discussions, and write reports. They go on to analyse phenomena and seek out solutions to problems, creating new knowledge along the way. During the process, the classroom serves only to lead or guide students to learn, with learning taking place through pre-class reading and other preparatory activities, after-class studies, group discussion, experimentation and analysis in the laboratory or in daily life. In this way, students learn to combine fragmentary, disparate pieces of knowledge into an integrated whole. They develop capacity for independent thinking and become more innovative. Their knowledge and skills are constantly evolving, questioned and updated. You are the person to make this change and XJTLU expects this of every one of you!

The word “entrepreneurship” has become a buzzword around the world. “Mass innovation and entrepreneurship” has become one of the most popular trends in today’s China. I’m not referring to entrepreneurship as simply establishing a start-up, but to rather what to me truly represents innovation - sensitivity to costs, responding to instability, as well as a focus on goals and success. Entrepreneurship is not simply the equivalent of starting a business, nor can it be taught only in the classroom. At XJTLU, we focus more on varied extracurricular activities, including internships, than the teaching in classes. We encourage and create favourable environments in which to increase your involvement in such entrepreneurship. We have built research institutes, international innovation ports and technology transfer centres, as well as a tutorship system. XJTLU has also been working with enterprises, research and financial organisations, and successful people from all walks of life to build a service and consultation platform that uses new ideas, research and technological achievements to assist students in innovation-related activities and capacity building. Soon you may find yourselves learning from a “genius” in a cutting-edge field or maybe you’ll pass by some stranger on campus who happens to be the CEO or senior manager from a Fortune 500 company. With creative ideas you can establish innovation-driven enterprises through XJTLU’s International Innovation Port. All this may mean nothing to people who don’t care, but it is everything to those who know how to make best use of them. We look favourably on “routine-breakers”, encourage creative thinking, and want to meet those with ambitious minds who can think outside the box.

It is becoming increasingly important to be able to adapt to our constantly changing and complex society. My suggestion to you is to forget the past. Don’t cling to the awards and praise you have received. These are nothing but recognition of your past achievements. Now you are faced with a new world, XJTLU. Every one of you is starting at the same place. Only by letting go of the past can you embrace the future. Next, you should learn to respond to changes and challenges. Fear no uncertainties, rather, try to grasp opportunities from them. Change management is necessary for you to have a bright future, including managing yourself. Remember that as a young adult, you should not rely on your parents or demand others to cater to your needs. From the moment you enter into society, you should learn to adapt to changes and maintain a positive attitude. You will succeed in your professional and personal lives if you are able to integrate quickly into any environment.

Everybody strives for development, but I‘d like to ask, what kind of development do you want? What does university mean to you? Is it just another place where you’ll cram for exams? Or will you make full use of all its resources to help pursue your dreams? What are your dreams? Nowadays, the word “dream” is used so much that it has become almost devoid of all meaning. But dreams are indispensable in life! Without dreams, we would never achieve anything. But don’t panic if you do not have any dreams right now! Your university life has just begun so start by discovering your own interests. Throw away all that you used to stick to and fight for your dreams. Don’t do all these just for your parents’ sake or to please someone else. The development you need will come only when you fully understand yourself and improve on your own skills.

ILEAD. I dare to lead. These are simple words, but combined together their meaning they are profound. It’s our sincere wish to help you break away from the old way of thinking and rise to challenges with wit and confidence. We expect you to become an accomplished leader in the future, filled with wisdom and courage.

Again, welcome to XJTLU! Let’s explore the world together!

Yang Mianlin

New student representative

I am Yang Mianlin, a new member of XJTLU. I am so honoured to be here to give the speech on behalf of all the freshers. I am really glad to share my ideas about this university with you.

At this time last year, I was preparing hard for the college entrance examination. I was full of expectation for my future but also had some uncertainties. Then by pure chance, my teacher told me about XJTLU, a very unique university in China. With admiration and curiosity, my mother and I came here. From then on, being a member of XJTLU was my dream.

XJTLU not only has the grand buildings but also talent from all around the world. The buildings are constructed according to the standards of world-class universities and the labs are equipped up with advanced equipment, which provides an excellent learning environment for us. Those talents from all around the world create a diverse and international educational environment, which lays a firm foundation for us to develop our international perspective and make us competitive in the world.

The core philosophy of this university is to help students have a happy life and successful career. The university takes students’ interests as the orientation, their study at the centre, and their healthy development as the ultimate goal. And all these are very attractive to me. These reveal that this university is absolutely a unique one.

With my further understanding about XJTLU, I fell in love with it. Each student who graduates from here has not only excellent marks, but also the confidence and wisdom to face future challenges.

After constant efforts, I realised my dream and finally become a new member of XJTLU. It is the place where we can start our new dreams. Our university life doesn’t have to be perfect, but it shouldn’t leave us with any regrets. We should have a positive attitude towards our futures and we should also have courage to learn new practices and to face new challenges. We should keep improving ourselves.

“Light and wings” is the motto of XJTLU, which means it will give us the light to see our future and the wings to fly to our dreams. So let us all put in the effort to make our dreams come true. Life here will be the most important and marvellous chapter in our life!

Jin Zhi

Postgraduate student representative

I am Jin Zhi, a PhD student from the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department. It is my great honour to stand here today and welcome you to join our big family.

My dear friends, I believe the magnificent buildings and facilities already caught your eyes as you stepped onto the XJTLU campus. And you will definitely have a more comprehensive understanding of XJTLU after studying and living here for a period of time. Here, you will get acquainted with our patient supervisors and diligent research partners who devote themselves to the frontier of both education and research. You will also be able to enjoy the service provided by warm-hearted administrative staff and you would be touched by the seniors who are endeavouring to realise their dreams. “A good university is not one with only tall buildings and complete facilities, but rather it is one of great masters.” The people I mentioned before, they are not only the foundations of XJTLU, but also a valuable treasure.

Some of you come to XJTLU to further your postgraduate study. Based on my eight years’ experience at XJTLU, I’d like to share something with you. Different from undergraduate study, postgraduate study requires more professionalism and autonomy. Research is a continuous process of excavating unknown fields and making innovation in a specific realm. Therefore, reading a wide range and plenty of related literature to the field is essential to get a comprehensive understanding of the discipline background, so that a more professional and sophisticated research direction can be determined. As we know, we might encounter countless challenges and difficulties in our future research lives. For example, the research topic might be too difficult and the supervisors might be too busy, the proposed solution is too complex to implement or the English scientific writing is too demanding. Even the submitted paper might be rejected many times. For me, programming used to be a tough problem. In order to test the proposed methods, I had to try my best to improve my programming skills. I found that this was an independent process in which you had no one to rely on except yourself. It is only you who can help you face and solve the challenges and difficulties. Hence, I consider it a tough test of whether I am of firm determination and a strong heart. Additionally, research life is also monotonous and sometimes it will even make you feel lonely, because you have to repetitively read plenty of literature, do experiments and write articles. You have to be independent to fulfil most of these tasks. It is very important for you to make sure that doing research suits you before you start it.

In the last four years of my PhD life, I had expectations. I enjoyed happiness and satisfaction, though I also suffered from sadness, disappointment, and frustration. I even once thought about giving up my PhD. But every time, I thought about my initial ambition, the tiny contributions my research has made to technology and the life of the entire human race, the service that XJTLU has provided to us, as well as the support and guidance from my supervisor, and I decided to continue fighting and struggling to fulfil my PhD degree. Although research is tough I still firmly believe that it is a valuable life experience and it is worth trying. Don’t dwell on what you’ve lost, instead focus on what you can do from now on. Life here is like a bungee jump - we fall but let’s bounce back powerfully! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

In the end, I hope each one of you can achieve your expectations and enjoy a wonderful life at XJTLU.

Dr Stuart Perrin

Dean of Learning and Teaching

I am honoured to have been selected to represent staff and faculty at XJTLU for this truly significant event today. I am standing before you all welcoming the latest cohort of students who have chosen to study at this wonderful and unique university. Each new intake is larger and better than before, adding to our growing reputation in China and beyond, increasing the strength and vitality of the university. You, the students, are the heartbeat of our university and as you start the journey from high school students to global citizens, so the university continues its own journey.

My name is Stuart Perrin, and I came to China three years ago in August 2012, initially as Director of the Language Centre, one of the largest such centres in global higher education, but more recently also as Dean of Learning and Teaching. My background is in education, and I have spent a number of years in the United Kingdom working as both a lecturer in applied linguistics, but also as an English language professional. My position before coming to China was as Director of the Language Centre at one of the University of London’s colleges, and XJTLU compares very favourably with the best of the UK institutions I have been associated with.

XJTLU is a very unique institution in many ways and I am sure that you will be hearing a lot today about just how unique we are, especially in China. XJTLU has a very international teaching body of staff, picking lecturers and professors from around the world to teach you in our global classroom. Staff are selected because of their twin commitments to research and to teaching, but whilst we may all come from all over the very world that we are preparing you to enter as global citizens, we are all committed to supporting you through your educational journey.

But, your success as a student, and our own success in supporting you to develop, depends very much on how much you develop as independent thinkers and in particular how much you interact in class, with both your peers and with your teachers.

As an English language professional I have worked with Chinese students for many years, and have always been impressed by how hard they study and how supportive they are of each other both within and beyond the classroom. But this was with students who had been used to studying outside China, even for just a short while. However, I really noticed the difference when I first arrived in China and first went into the language classroom. It was a small classroom, only 20 students, but it was a silent classroom. I asked a question, silence, I asked again and no-one answered. Eventually after what seemed like hours but was only minutes, a quiet voice stood up and answered. That was my first brave student, and from this one brave girl confidence in the others slowly grew.

Let this student be an inspiration to you all. Like her, you must be brave, you must have courage, and you must not be concerned about ‘losing face’, about giving the wrong answer, about what others think. You are here to learn, you are here to experiment, and you are here to activate your minds. You are in a safe environment and we learn not by doing things right all the time, but also from our mistakes. Every day on the streets of Suzhou I make mistakes with my Chinese language, but slowly it becomes better and better as understanding takes place. This will be the same for you as you go through your journey at XJTLU.

Please remember that at our university we do not expect to stand at the front of the class and lecture to passive students. We do not expect that you will agree with everything we present to you in class. We do not expect our classrooms to be quiet. Learning is not so easy.

We do expect you to actively participate in academic discussions and debates. We do expect you to be creative and share your ideas. We do expect you to challenge us, to critically engage with us, to share our own journey of pushing back the boundaries of knowledge.

We invite you to share our vision with us and be part of the future. We invite you to commit to learning, and to commit not just by doing but by attending too. Go to ALL lectures, classes and tutorials. Each will bring something new, something different. It will not always be easy, but those who attend pass, those who have poor or non-attendance often struggle to pass, or result in failure.

Here at XJTLU we encourage our students to be active learners, but that should not stop when you leave the classroom. There are so many ways that as a student you can continue your education beyond the classroom. Using English is important as it is the language of the university, not just the classroom. Take every opportunity to practice English as much as you can. Join clubs, societies, speak to lecturers around the campus. It is easy to use your first language, but more rewarding to be successful in a second or third language. The university VLE also provides many opportunities to study beyond the classroom, utilising a unique blended learning approach.

Our location here in Suzhou Industrial Park means that we are surrounded by a variety of companies and enterprises – this therefore also means that your horizons are not limited to the classroom. We have active engagement with “the real world” that will help you to apply theory to practice.

As a research-led institution you also have the opportunity to experience research-informed teaching – your professors will present you with leading-edge theories that they have developed and that will enable you to gain deep insight into the subjects you are studying. As students you may also have the opportunity to work with one of your professors on one of their research projects, supporting a further contribution to knowledge.

Apart from our academic staff there are many wonderful professional staff in the university who will give you support and help as you progress through your studies. Examples include:

  • The library that stretches over seven floors in the Central Building.
  • The Career Development Office will support you to find internships and organises careers fairs.
  • For international students, the International Student Support Office will help you to get settled into what may be a very new and strange place.
  • The one-stop student service centre is the place for all students to go for information.
  • Student clubs, the focal point of extra-curricular activities.

I have just given you a sample, a flavour of the many ways that the University provides you with the opportunity to develop yourselves both academically and personally, to successfully undertake the transition from high school student to a young and active global citizen. I hope that as students you find passion and fulfilment in your studies at XJTLU, and that as parents you can watch your children blossom into truly global citizens, and on behalf of all staff at XJTLU wish you good luck and a helping hand on your journey.

Chang Liu

Graduate representative

It's my great honour to be the graduate representative to welcome the new students and parents to Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Congratulations! Now you become new members of this prestigious university.

I still remember the opening ceremony that I attended four years ago. Just like you, I was sitting here with a curious and excited face, and worrying about the new life ahead a little bit. But today, I would like to say that choosing XJTLU is definitely the smartest choice I have ever made. Actually, this university has brought me many challenges and opportunities and it even inspired me to get many offers from the best universities in the world, including Cambridge, the London School of Economics and University College London. I still remember the time when I was a freshman. At the beginning, when I had an EAP class, I feared speaking English to the whole class. However today I can share a short speech with an audience of thousands! I can say all of my achievements are owed to the university's English-speaking environment. At first, when I had a maths class, I knew nothing about integration, linear algebra and analysis. But today, I can apply this academic knowledge in real life and bring different subjects together. I can say all of my improvements are due to the help and support from professional and warm-hearted professors and the advanced library system. In addition, when I just took part in student activities, I was afraid to make friends with unfamiliar people and always put myself in a passive position. But nowadays, I will try to communicate with others and build up our friendship actively. I can say all of my growth is owed to XJTLU's unique administrative system and educational concepts. This university always encourages us to develop critical-thinking and to conquer difficulties as young adults.

When I look back to the things I have learned in the four years, I think there are five things that are most important. First, always remember why you are here. To learn about knowledge and to catch up with your dream. No matter what your aim is, to be a successful businessman or an inventor, only continuous hard work can help you achieve that. Second, take notes! Then you can focus on lectures and leave a good impression on your professors. Nobody can remember a large amount of knowledge without repetition and the notes are especially helpful for your exams. Third, never underestimate the importance of self-study. The time in class always flies really fast. I only have limited talents and almost all my inspiration comes from self-study. Furthermore, take part in student clubs, teams or activities. If you have more spare time, go travelling or do an internship. This can cultivate your hobbies, make you full of energy and help you accumulate experience. The last point, be confident. Remember you are the best in this university or, at least, unique. So, I would suggest you try new things in both academic study and leisure-time. This will bring you a fulfilling and memorable undergraduate life.

At XJTLU, I have seen many professors doing research even on holidays. I have seen many students working into the night without stop for a deadline or an exam. I have seen many club members gathering together, endeavouring to prepare for a special activity.

As Isaac Newton said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants". Accordingly, standing on the shoulder of XJTLU, I hope you can focus on your dream. I hope you can find your own position. I am looking forward to seeing how strong you will be after four years. I am willing to see a better university because of you!

Professor Wenquan Tao

President of XJTLU

First of all, I would like to congratulate all of you on your success in entering Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Congratulations and welcome! This July, with great expectations for their future, more than 2,000 students graduated from this university and started to pursue their dreams. Today, we welcome you and know that you will contribute to the University’s brilliant future.

Over nine years since the launch of the University, we have achieved great developments in teaching, research and our contribution to society. Undoubtedly, the constant effort of our staff and students, the substantial support from local government and society, as well as the care and concern of our students and their parents has been indispensable to our progress. This year, we recruited new students from 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China, with the number of students we finally received near 3,000. Meanwhile, we have achieved a record high number of international students and postgraduates. After nearly 10 years’ development, XJTLU is contributing to society through the establishment of an international open research and innovation platform that will support local economic and social development and make a positive impact on the higher education revolution in China.

More than 2,000 of our students who graduated in 2015 performed well academically, and most of them are going to continue their postgraduate study at world-renowned universities. Among them, about 58 percent have been offered a place for postgraduate studies by the world’s top 100 universities. More than 150 students received offers from Oxford University, Cambridge University, Imperial College London and LSE in Britain. In addition, our students are receiving more and more offers from American Ivy League Universities, such as the Universities of California Berkeley, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Southern California, as well as other famous universities in Europe and Asia like Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. We also have equally good news with regard graduate employment. Some of the multinational corporations and international enterprises that have employed our students include Unilever, the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms, and Bosch.

As the President of the University, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the parents of our students for your trust in this university. I also would like to assure you all that you have definitely made a good choice. This is the place of high efficiency, where programmes are closely related to world economic development. Our curriculums are designed to absorb the best of our two parent universities, as well as the best of the higher education systems in both China and Britain. With our global atmosphere on campus, we emphasise all-around development. XJTLU’s mission is to educate technical and managerial professionals with international perspectives and competitive capabilities. Our vision is to become a research-led international university and a Chinese university recognised internationally for its unique features.

I would like to give you new students a suggestion at the very beginning of your brand new life. Please be aware of the differences between the learning at high school and at this university. When you were at high school everything was set up either by your teachers or by your parents. In contrast, at this university you will have a lot of free time. Therefore, you are going to learn how to master your free time, and how to set and achieve goals.

And so, dear freshmen, work hard, meet challenges head-on and spend your undergraduate study effectively here in Suzhou. I wish all students a year full of progress, discovery and creativity. I also wish all of us a new academic year of health and success.

August 27, 2015