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Three cheers for husband, wife — and their 5-year-old daughter — at Northeastern’s Seattle commencement

Graduates Qingzhao Li and Wen Min were joined on stage by Camila. “(They) are true testaments to Northeastern’s ideals of lifelong learning,” said Dave Thurman, dean and chief executive officer of the Seattle campus.

Qingzhao Li and Wen Min holding their daughter Camila in their arms on stage at the Seattle Commencement.
Dave Thurman, dean of the Seattle campus, Qingzhao Li, Camila, Wen Min and Beth Mynatt, dean of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Photo by Diwas Photography for Northeastern University

This is part of our coverage of Northeastern University’s 2024 commencement.

Applause and cheers grew louder inside Seattle’s Benaroya Hall on Tuesday when Qingzhao Li and Wen Min, a wife and a husband, walked across the stage in their black caps and gowns to receive their master’s degrees in computer science from Northeastern University.

However, it wasn’t just Li and Min who provoked the joyful reaction of the audience. To everyone’s delight, the couple was accompanied by their 5-year-old daughter, Camila.

“I did not know that the school would allow our daughter [to walk with us on stage],” Li said. “This came as a surprise.”

Camila was nervous at first, Min said, but became very excited after they’d crossed the stage and had their photos taken.

Dave Thurman, dean and chief executive officer of the Seattle campus, said it was a heartwarming moment.  

“Li and Min are true testaments to Northeastern’s ideals of lifelong learning,” Thurman said. “I was delighted that we could honor them and celebrate their accomplishments in this way.”

Commencement was a significant moment for the family — a journey that began in their native China, included three years of classroom and experiential learning, and culminated with full-time jobs at Meta and Amazon.

“The single most important thing is the understanding and the support [I received] from my wife,” said Min, who will join the production infrastructure team at Meta next month. “And she got the same thing from me. And we have our daughter growing with us.”

Qingzhao Li and Wen Min posing at Seattle commencement with their daughter Camila.
Qingzhao Li, left, Camila Min and Wen Min pose for a photo with Ian Gorton, lead marshal of the 2024 Northeastern’s Seattle commencement and director of computer science master’s programs for Seattle campus at the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Photos by Diwas Photography for Northeastern University

Min also thanked his Northeastern family. On Tuesday, that included more than 450 students who earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the College of Engineering, Khoury College of Computer Sciences, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, College of Professional Studies and D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

“We were very grateful for this opportunity,” he said. “It was very hard to live through this transition, but we got all this support from Khoury College [of Computer Sciences].”

When Li and Min decided to take the leap and return to school three years ago, their main priority was doing it together, including Camila. 

At the time, they lived in Xining, a city of 2.5 million residents in western China. Both worked for a commercial bank and wanted to transition from finance into the tech industry. 

“I really was not that into finance,” Li said. “I found I was really good at coding and I really liked computer science.”

When they started looking at graduate schools, a friend recommended Northeastern’s Align Master of Science in Computer Science program, which doesn’t require any prior computer science experience.

It was a perfect fit.

“It’s very collaborative, because it serves students from different backgrounds,” Li said.

Northeastern also offered co-op and internship opportunities, so they applied a week before the deadline and both were accepted.

“We never thought that we would be this lucky,” said Li, who will soon begin work for Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing company and subsidiary of Amazon.

Last summer Li worked as a software engineer co-op at Audible, an online audiobook and podcast service also owned by Amazon.

Northeastern has 13 global campuses, but Li and Min decided to study in Seattle, she said, because of the city’s thriving tech industry and abundance of job opportunities.

“We needed to consider the cost of settling down the whole family,” Li said.

Degrees in hand, Li and Min reflected on a few obstacles they encountered en route to commencement. 

“The first year was the most challenging year because everything was new to us,” Li said.

New to higher education in the U.S., they didn’t know they could reach out directly to professors for guidance.

“I remember I missed some deadline [because] I did not know that I could email the professor to help me,” Li said. “I didn’t realize that I could get that kind of help.”

The couple was always helping each other.

“Sometimes we’d do a project together and we’d study together and discuss some topics,” Li said. 

Adjusting to life in the U.S. was also a transition. Luckily, Min’s mother stayed with them for the first six months, helping take care of Camila, while Li and Min were acclimating to their studies.

When Camila went to preschool, Li and Min tried to finish all their homework and classes between 8.30 a.m. and 5 p.m., so they could spend time with their daughter.

“Surprisingly, Camila got used to the new environment very quickly,” Li said. “And she learned English very fast. Faster than I thought.”

It was more of a challenge for Li and Min. In China students are required to study English, Min said, but they mostly focus on passing a fluency test. 

That is why they found Northeastern’s Global Learner Support program and weekly tutoring sessions with volunteers very helpful. 

“Daily conversations are kind of different because we do not have that much of an opportunity to speak English with native speakers,” he said.