PSYC Senior to Serve as University-wide Commencement Speaker

Senior Shuping Yang says she’s not your typical Terp: For one thing, her unusual course of study—dual degrees in psychology and theatre studies with a German minor—will certainly set her apart among the Class of 2017. Additionally, her upbringing in Kunming, China (a southwestern city near the borders of Vietnam and Laos) has given her a unique personal worldview that she plans to share with her fellow graduates when she serves as speaker for the university’s main commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21st. 

“I want to remind other graduating seniors that as we graduate from the University of Maryland, a college that embraces liberal arts education, we have the responsibility to push the world to be more just, open and free,” Yang said.

Though she was initially attracted to UMD for its prestigious psychology and criminal justice program (she watched a lot of American crime shows in high school), Yang quickly realized the endless possibilities of her personal potential.

“In China, there is very limited resources for mental health and the stigma is extremely high, so since I was young I was always hoping to become a psychiatrist,” Yang said. “However, since I came to the University of Maryland in America, where I was encouraged to think for myself, I found the courage to pursue my repressed dream of becoming a playwright.”

Yang dreams of becoming an internationally-known playwright that inspires positive social change.

For the time being, Yang has most notably been involved in the UMD Classics Club, German Club, Maryland Shakespeare Club and Psi Chi Society—an internationally known psychology honors society.

Yang has “too many” favorite Maryland memories to choose from, but three conversations with varying professors stand out: one in which her BIO105 professor said “don’t forget to have fun;” another in which Dr. Tracy of PSYC200 admitted that “science could be wrong;” and when Jennifer, her playwright professor, told her she could do anything she set her mind to because “you can only live once.”

“Those moments were life-changing because in my home country, people only care about your grades and academic achievement, not whether or not you are happy,” Yang said. “The relationship between teachers and students is so hierarchical that I could never argue or question them, whereas here teachers are like friends and mentors instead of authorities.”

In fact, it was her Psychology advisor, Lori Kader, who nominated Yang to speak at the university-wide commencement ceremony. Yang says that Kader “has been a mentor, friend and mother [figure]” from the first day she joined the psychology program.

“For the first time, I was encouraged to express my point of view and embrace my own thinking,” Yang went on. “I can’t describe how transforming that feels--I’ve learned to think critically, I’ve learned to question and I finally live and breathe on my own.”

Yang is looking forward to her parents (who know limited English and have never been to the United States) seeing her speak at graduation.

Yang hopes to land an internship at a D.C. theatre this summer before heading to Northwestern University to participate in their MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage program in the fall.

Shuping Yang