University | News
Asian University for Women Celebrates Third Commencement
Chittagong, Bangladesh
21, May, 2015

The Asian University for Women celebrated its third Commencement on May 21, 2015, graduating 115 young women with degrees of Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. With hundreds of well-wishers gathered to congratulate the Class of 2015 on their achievements, the program included remarks from AUW Chancellor Cherie Blair, and AUW Trustee Young Joon Kim. Visiting Chittagong for the first time, United States Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat spoke as the Keynote Speaker. AUW was delighted to welcome Bangladesh Minister of Information Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu as the Chief Guest.

Cherie Blair has served as Chancellor of AUW since 2011, and her professional track record as a human rights lawyer and women’s rights activist aligns seamlessly with the mission of AUW. As the first in her family to attend university, and the first spouse of a United Kingdom Prime Minister to hold a university degree, Mrs. Blair has a personal connection to AUW’s focus on recruiting talented women who would also be trailblazers in their families. During her remarks at Commencement, Mrs. Blair reflected on both the challenges facing young graduates, and the skills and talents that AUW alumnae have to offer society.

As examples of some of the pressing issues of today’s world, Mrs. Blair noted that gender-based violence, religious extremism, refugee crises, and climate change will demand even higher levels of innovation and cross-cultural collaboration to make meaningful progress in the years to come. Acknowledging that the AUW graduates’ futures may not always be easy, Mrs. Blair declared, “No matter which obstacles you face, be it a disappointment in the job search, discrimination in your community, or hardships like poverty or illness, remember that your ideas, your intelligence, and your passion are incredibly valuable for society.”

Reminding her audience what AUW alumnae are capable of, Mrs. Blair shared anecdotes of women from the classes of 2013 and 2014 and how they are making a difference in their communities. These examples included pursuing a PhD in Nutritional Science at Ewha Woman’s University; working at the World Bank in Bangladesh; and supporting humanitarian response at Oxfam in Sri Lanka. Members of the Class of 2015 will soon begin their own post-graduate pursuits, including a Gandhi Fellowship in India, a Project Manager at mPower, and an Economics Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi. Mrs. Blair also urged the Class of 2015 to stay connected even after they begin their next chapter, telling them, “Throughout it all, you will have each other for support and inspiration, an international network of like-minded women. I have confidence that you will make us proud by fulfilling your responsibilities as tolerant, thoughtful citizens; and your ambitions as educated, open-minded young women.”

Sharing the stage with Mrs. Blair was the student speaker, Zahra Jamila Ikra. From Bangladesh, Zahra completed her major in Biological Sciences and a minor in Psychology. An avid researcher and writer, Zahra spoke confidently to her classmates, professors, and the many distinguished Commencement guests. In a speech that nimbly spanned both the serious and the lighthearted, Zahra recounted common memories of the Class of 2015, such as the community response to the Nepal earthquakes, or the combination of feelings accompanying their last semester as AUW students. Zahra shared her pride at how she and her classmates have “evolved into strong-willed, independent women ready to face the world with all it takes,” adding at the end that “adversity is just another word.”

In her keynote address, Ambassador Bernicat lauded AUW for setting “a new standard for preparing smart, hard-working, ambitious women to assume positions of leadership” in their pursuit of a meaningful life. Drawing on his own life of public service, Minister Hasanul Inu urged the graduates to “put people before profit; people before power; people before politics” in their respective countries. The Class of 2015 represents Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.