University | News
Asian University for Women Celebrates Fifth Commencement Ceremony
Chittagong, Bangladesh
20, May, 2017

Chittagong, Bangladesh–May 20, 2017–Asian University for Women (AUW) celebrated its Fifth Commencement Ceremony. The occasion marked the graduation of 85 students from 12 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. AUW Chancellor Mrs. Cherie Blair president over the event.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Nirmala Rao

Trustees Chair Dr. Dipu Moni

AUW Vice-Chancellor Professor Nirmala Rao welcomed the graduates, their families, and sponsors. She reiterated the University’s aim to educate the most talented young women from all backgrounds, including remote, conflict-afflicted, and impoverished areas of Asia and the Middle East. “I take particular pride in AUW’s strengths in ensuring that bright young women – regardless of their backgrounds or whether there is a tradition of higher education in their family – have the opportunity to study with us. Our success in this aim and in our global reach means that for sheer diversity we are unmatched amongst universities locally and abroad,” Professor Rao said.

Dr. Dipu Moni, Chair of the AUW Board of Trustees and former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, extolled the diversity of the graduating class and reaffirmed the University’s mission to educate compassionate and courageous young women for a life of leadership and service.

From left: immediate past Chief Operating Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Leigh Morgan, First Lady of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Rula Ghani, and Former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong Anson Chan.

AUW conferred honorary degrees upon four remarkable individuals in recognition of their steadfast and earnest support of the University. First Lady of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Rula Ghani received a Doctorate of Humanities, honoris causa. Former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong Anson Chan earned a Doctorate of Laws, honoris causa. The James Bryant Conant University Professor of Harvard University Danielle Allen and the immediate past Chief Operating Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Leigh Morgan each received a Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

According to long-time AUW supporter and advocate Lady Judith Moody-Stuart, “These eminent women had beaten a path to success in academics and society. They shared with us their guiding values, wishing the very best to each new graduate setting out on her chosen path into life’s unknowns, to find happiness and satisfaction in the coming years of service and discovery.”

In accepting her honorary degree, First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani told the graduates, “In a world that has lost its balance, where no corner has been spared from violence and upheavals, you have been privileged to experience first-hand the benefits of a multicultural, multiethnic, multinational environment. It is now your turn to go out there and stand up to the currents of factionalism and discord, stand up to those who want to pit one group against another, one religion against another, one ideology against another, or one country against another.”

Famous for her outspoken advocacy of democracy in Hong Kong, Former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong Anson Chan spoke on the various forms of leadership and emphasized the importance of personal courage; “Courage to speak up for yourself and what you believe to be right; courage to not simply bow to authority, or to go with the flow; courage to take the road less travelled and strike out into new initiatives and less conventional career paths,” said Mrs. Chan.

James Bryant Conant University Professor of Harvard University Danielle Allen

Professor Danielle Allen told the graduates via video that they have been called to leadership. “On account of your education, people will look to you for vision and direction. They will ask you to apply your learning to the problems of the day. You will have to find resources of flexibility, resilience, and imagination,” she said. “You will [also] have to work out how to be a member of two communities at once, [because] learning can introduce distance between scholars and loved ones.” Professor Allen went on to explain that the solution to this dilemma is to use one’s education in the service of one’s home community. “What will bring our communities peace, prosperity, health, empowerment, and human fulfillment? To answer these questions, we must always listen and learn from the people in our home villages, towns, and neighborhoods. Only if we hitch up our expertise to what our families and extended networks of kin and neighbors know, can we develop into the leaders we have the potential to be.”

Student speaker Sanjida Afrin

AUW also granted the inaugural Andy Matsui Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement to four graduating students: Sharmin Akter Shitol (Bangladesh), Sumaiya Nehla Saif (Bangladesh), Dipannita Barua (Bangladesh), and Christina Tamang (Nepal). Through academic achievement and devotion to public service, these graduates exemplify Andy Matsui’s life and his myriad achievements. Like Andy, the recipients of this award prove that just one courageous and hardworking individual can take charge of his or her fate and ultimately transform the lives of thousands of people, their families and their communities.

With the graduation of AUW’s fifth cohort of students, the University is pleased to usher in its tenth year of service towards the education of women from across Asia and the Middle East. By August 2017, more than 650 students from 15 countries will be enrolled at AUW, marking the largest student body to ever come through the University’s doors. Matched with an alumnae network totaling nearly 550 graduates, AUW will have served more than 1000 women on the occasion of its ten-year anniversary.

A video of the Commencement Ceremony can be found here.

A copy of the Commencement Program can be found here.