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Northeastern’s Vancouver campus celebrates lifelong learning and opportunity to thrive during convocation

Student speaker Runze “Ricky” Zhu and British Columbia Minister of Jobs Brenda Bailey addressed about 220 graduates on Saturday.

Student speaking at the podium in front of a microphone at the 2024 Vancouver Convocation.
Student speaker Runze “Ricky” Zhu addresses graduates at the Northeastern University’s Vancouver convocation. Photos by Jesse Winter for Northeastern University

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

Growing up in Asia, Runze “Ricky” Zhu has always had a deep curiosity about different cultures and languages. However, moving to Canada to pursue a master’s degree in data analytics at Northeastern University’s Vancouver campus, he said, tested his adaptability.

“I found myself in a new city, exploring the brand-new living environment, and learning subjects that were once total mysteries to me,” Zhu said at the convocation Saturday while addressing his fellow 2024 graduates as the student speaker.

“We have all faced moments of doubt and hesitation, but it is precisely those moments [that] have shaped us into the resilient individuals we are today,” Zhu said.

Thanks to Northeastern, Zhu said, he discovered his capacity to thrive in an unfamiliar territory and came to understand the profound value of friendships that he had built with his classmates.

The Vancouver convocation, an international celebration of lifelong learning, was one of several being held across the university’s global network of 13 campuses.

Zhu was one of about 220 graduates who earned master’s degrees from the College of Professional Studies, College of Engineering and Khoury College of Computer Sciences on Saturday.

Zhu expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the faculty and staff at Northeastern, which he said helped him and his classmates achieve success in and out of the classroom.

“As we embark on our new journey, may we continue to write stories worth telling, may we always remember the incredible bond that unites us as the graduates of Northeastern, may we keep our paths guided by the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and others,” Zhu said.

Mary Ludden, senior vice president of global network and strategic initiatives, said the Vancouver campus exemplifies Northeastern’s “diversity, equity and transformative opportunities.”

“That is the mission of the global university system — to embrace a diverse student body, encourage mobility and support learners regardless of location or learning mode,” she said.

Brenda Bailey, British Columbia’s minister of jobs, economic development and innovation, addressed the Class of 2024. 

Bailey, a businessperson, tech entrepreneur and creative change maker who co-founded Canada’s first women-owned and operated video game studio in 2011, reassured the graduates that they made a wise decision by choosing the tech industry. 

“Solutions to the most significant challenges that we face today as a society and we will continue to encounter in the future are rooted in the tech sector. They will be resolved through technological advancements,” she said. “You are entering an exciting and deeply crucial field.”

However, she said, regardless of the future workplace, it is important to maintain integrity and a sense of self.

“I encourage you to stay true to who you are, even as you adapt and grow in different environments,” she said.

The tech sector in British Columbia has a lot to offer, she said, and is incredibly diverse and impactful, from life sciences to mining, robotics and AI to quantum computing and climate tech. Yet, it can create new challenges from social media’s impact on mental health to the potential abuses of AI and gene editing. 

“As you step into this complex world, you carry the responsibility to use your skills wisely,” she said. “Please, do choose wisely, act justly, and aim to use your incredible technological expertise for the benefit of all.”

After the degrees were conferred by Steve Eccles, dean and CEO for the Vancouver campus, Bethany Edmunds, lead marshall and assistant dean of computing programs in Seattle and Vancouver, introduced the alumni speaker, Alice Shen.

Shen founded the Sustainable Tech Student Interest Group, was part of the second-place team at the SAP Hackathon, and was recognized with the Husky Spirit and outstanding research paper campus awards.

Shen’s successful co-op with Amazon turned into a full-time position.

Shen reassured the graduates that their efforts will also pay off, and resilience and adaptability are their greatest allies.

She also welcomed them into a powerful network of more than 300,000 graduates in nearly 200 countries. 

“Nearly anywhere you go in the world, you will find other Huskies who share the unique experience only we can fully appreciate,” she said.

Two graduates — Sashankh Rao Addanki and Ziyun Chen — were selected to join the inaugural Lux. Veritas. Virtus. Society of Distinction, Northeastern’s new initiative to recognize outstanding graduate students throughout its global network.