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21st Congregation - Faculty of Humanities, Valedictory Speech

Good morning, distinguished guests, faculty members, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen:

It gives me great honor today to address you as the representative of MA graduates of 2015. To my fellow graduates, allow me to express my warmest congratulations.

As students in M.A. programs, we spent hours upon hours in the library acquiring skills treasured by the academic community – asking questions, doing research and presenting results to people with similar scholarly interests. However most of us won’t go on to become professors and researchers. Does it means that the research methods and specialist knowledge we worked so hard on mastering will all go to waste as soon as we receive our parchments? If not, how are we to put into use the things we learned at PolyU in our future careers?

The more I think about these questions, the more I realize that MA studies at PolyU has transformed me from an amateur reader of newspapers, magazines, blogs and so on into a critical reader in a highly sophisticated field of study. The ability to evaluate, reflect on, and engage in dialogue with what we read is definitely a skill that will serve us well whatever it is that we decide to do after leaving this campus.

So I’d like to express my gratitude to my teachers for not only imparting knowledge on me but also nurturing in me values and ways of thinking that contributed to a unique learning experience. I remember vividly an exercise one of my teachers had us do. She asked us to summarize a research question and our reflections in one single sentence. At first, we always failed to complete the task. But gradually, we came to experience the joy of expressing ourselves in a concise and precise fashion and leaving classmates and teachers deep in rumination. I also recall how ashamed we felt when we failed to adhere to PolyU’s strict research norms and protocols.

In the past year, we learned to appreciate top-notch academic work and conduct small-scale independent research on topics that interested us. Whichever field we are from, we honed such skills as collecting reliable information and analyzing it critically. In other words, we mastered reading. Our MA training in the past year taught us that the first thing we should do when confronted with difficult questions is to read up. As long as we persist, we will eventually come up with solutions as we are no longer amateur readers but critical ones adept in research methods in our chosen fields of study.

Reading helps advance our understanding of historical events, literary classics, tourist attractions and achieve more in our careers and social lives. This is obvious to anyone. While it might be difficult to read patiently and critically everyday, it would be a great shame if we were to let this powerful tool we worked so hard on sharpening get rusty. We should instead wield it whenever we are confused about something. I have a classmate who used her final paper to address issues that concerned her own self, such as women writers’ romantic relationships and the early careers of young scholars. Conclusions drawn from serious research are no doubt more convincing than random suggestions from friends or what one sees in movies.

Applying critical reading skills to solving personal issues is to expose us to comparable experiences through the ages in our human story. It brings to bear the significance of history, classics and other culture traditions on our own lives.

Thank you.