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Student Commencement speaker shares unique, yet universal, perspective

International student Yanshuo Zhang has been selected to speak on behalf of St. Kates graduating seniors at spring Commencement.
International student Yanshuo Zhang has been selected to speak on behalf of St. Kates graduating seniors at spring Commencement.
Rebecca Zenefski 10

Yanshuo Zhang, an international student and Antonian Scholar chosen to give the 2010 Baccalaureate Commencement speech on May 23, has a resume that speaks volumes about the kind of student she is.

Fluent in three languages — a native Chinese-speaker, English major and French minor — Zhang is already a twice-published author in her homeland China. After graduation, she will pursue her Ph.D. in Chinese literature at Stanford University’s East Asian Languages and Cultures Department — on a full-ride scholarship.

But it wasn’t her resume that impressed the decision-makers. “Yanshuo is clearly a remarkable intellectual, and she has this unbridled energy for learning,” says Bonnie LaDuca, associate dean for academic affairs and chair of the Commencement speaker committee. “She’s a really fascinating person and wanted to share with the audience her energy and passion for bringing cultures together.”

Describing her two-minute speech as a “celebration of female empowerment and recognition of cross-cultural ties,” Zhang says she wanted to give the Commencement speech as a way to express what being at St. Catherine meant to her.

“I’ve been very involved academically and in extracurricular activities,” she says, “and my St. Kate’s experience has shaped me as both an intellectually curious student and a compassionate, responsible person.”

Zhang has won numerous academic and writing awards on campus, and was selected by the U.S. State Department to promote American colleges and universities in China. She spent a year at Trinity College in Ireland and has been an active student leader at St. Kate’s in the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) National Women and Public Policy Seminar, and Phi Beta Kappa, among others.

“Yanshuo is amazing,” says Cecilia Konchar Farr, professor of English and Women’s studies. “She is a leader among her peers, and as her advisor for four years, I’ve come to see that she has a perspective of and relationship to the contemporary world that is unique, but representative of her generation. Her international experience makes the world a smaller place, and she is able to express it in an incredibly sophisticated way.”

Zhang plans to become a multilingual literature scholar and teacher who can help, as she puts it, “bridge Eastern and Western cultures and strengthen the cross-cultural conversation imperative for today’s globalizing imperative.”

Konchar Farr has no doubt Zhang will achieve that goal and more. “I have seriously high expectations of her. She is going to be an outstanding scholar of Chinese literature, and I know we will be working together as colleagues in the not-so-distant future.”

April 26, 2010 by Molly Kelash

See also: , Alumnae/i, Liberal Arts, Students