By RICK DUNHAM
Global Business Journalism co-director
The chief director of Zimbabwe's information ministry congratulated the 2021 Global Business Journalism graduates' "patience and adaptability" during the COVID-19 pandemic and said the skills they learned in the Tsinghua University master's program will help them "make the world a better place for us all."
Jonathan Gandari, Chief Director of Government Programs and Messaging in the Zimbabwean Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, delivered the message via video as part of the commencement celebration for 25 new graduates of the cross-cultural program cosponsored by the International Center for Journalists and Bloomberg News.
"I know you all have had to overcome some obstacles along the way, whether it was the difficulty of learning a new language, adapting to new culture, finding new friends and mentors or it was losing a loved one through the COVID-19 pandemic," he told the graduates from 11 countries on five continents. "You stayed the course. Today is your day to celebrate as you reap the fruits of the journey of 5,000 miles that you started two years ago."
Twelve of Global Business Journalism's 14 international students participated in June 25 commencement ceremonies via live video streaming, while two international students joined 11 Chinese GBJ classmates on Tsinghua's Main Lawn for an in-person event."
"Today, as good global citizens, we fight together as you graduate together apart," Gandari noted in video remarks shared with the Tsinghua journalism school community.
Gandari hailed the GBJ program, which was created in 2007, and said the skills he learned in courses such as intercultural communication, financial reporting and news writing have proven invaluable in his subsequent career, which has included journalism education, healthcare information and government service.
"The GBJ program empowered me for this," he told the students from a studio in Harare. "If you follow very closely the description of my job you will realize how the knowledge and the skills set I acquired from the GBJ program prepared me for this assignment."
Gandari said that a graduation under normal circumstances is "a big achievement" but is "even a more special accomplishment" during a pandemic that has killed millions of people worldwide and limited international travel. Global Business Journalism students have not only learned about international economics and Chinese culture during their studies, he noted, they also have absorbed a new language of global health.
"We have a new lexicon in the dictionary of life," he said. "'Mask up!' Social distancing. Vaccination. 'Stay safe.' Blended learning education. And virtual graduation."
Gandari shared the story of his Global Business Journalism journey, which started on a Saturday afternoon in 2007, when he felt "bored stiff" and started surfing the internet for "scholarships in China." The Google search pointed him to Tsinghua University, where he quickly located a new English language master's degree program in Global Business Journalism.
"I was excited by the wealth of experience and the diversity of the faculty," he said. "I then scrolled to check the curriculum and the program mix of the GBJ degree. After carefully going through it I was convinced that I had never seen any other journalism program like it ... I was convinced this was a great program and didn’t want to miss the chance to get the education."
Gandari applied and was accepted as part of the program's second class of international students in 2008. A generous financial aid package and an inner drive ensured his successful completion of the program.
"The big obstacle is that I had no money. But there was fire in my belly," he said. "I had hunger for the type of education that the GBJ program offered."
Gandari said he was impressed by Beijing's advanced transportation network, delicious food, a beautiful campus, "and the smiles of people." But he faced some cultural adjustments.
"Along with the usual challenges of being away from Africa, where we have abundant sunlight, warmth, the full moon that shines throughout the year, and the stars in the skies that torch us every night, the lions roar in the jungle, I had to deal with the added pressures of extremely cold weather, the slippery snow and learning how to ride my bicycle," he recalled.
Gandari said he had "fond memories" of his own graduation in August 2010, despite uncertainties about future job prospects.
"I know the anxieties of thinking about employment," he said. "Let me assure you that you studied in a good program. With the skills mix and the knowledge offered by the GBJ program and your ability to adapt to different contexts you can serve humanity in a number ways and make the world a better place for us all."