Everyone’s a Hero: No Valedictorian at POSTECH’s Commencement Ceremony

2023-02-14 266

[POSTECH’s first in-person commencement ceremony since COVID-19 held on February 10, 2023 with 754 graduates in attendance.]

[The first non-Korean students in POSTECH’s history to win the Kun Soo Chang Thesis Award and the POSTECH Alumni Association Chairman Award are a married couple.]

The sight of a valedictorian stepping up to the stage to receive a diploma on behalf of the graduating class is a common sight at graduation ceremony held every February. At the commencement ceremony held for the class of 2022 at the POSTECH Gymnasium on Tuesday, February 10, POSTECH awarded blockchain diplomas through the metaverse to all graduates without a valedictorian. This was to celebrate all graduates who have completed their studies, regardless of their grades. Due to the declining school age population, elementary schools already hold such ceremonies, but it is an unusual decision for a university with a large graduating class.

Since its inception, POSTECH has had a tradition of having all PhD degree recipients retrieve their diplomas on stage, while bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients were represented by a valedictorian. This year, 520 bachelor’s and master’s students received their diplomas simultaneously via the blockchain platform. POSTECH decided to keep the tradition of the Ph.D. degree recipients receive their diplomas on stage.

The ceremony, which was held in-person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, had a total of 754 graduates attending, including 256 bachelors, 264 masters, and 234 PhD degree recipients.

The Founding Chairman’s Award, which is given to the undergraduate student with the highest overall GPA, was awarded to Byeongjee Kang (GPA 4.26/4.3) from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, while the Chairman’s Award was awarded to Ji Woong Jeong of the Department of Life Sciences, who is the top graduate among science majors, as the Founding Chairman’s Award recipient was an engineering student.

The Sung Kee Chung Thesis Award (science), which recognizes outstanding thesis paper, was awarded to Taejung Kim of the Department of Chemistry (academic advisor Won Jong Kim), and the Kun Soo Chang Thesis Award (engineering) was won by Ao Liu of the Department of Chemical Engineering (academic advisor Yong-Young Noh). Kim was recognized for his contributions to the development of a nitric oxide control system, while Liu, the first international student to receive the award since POSTECH was founded, contributed to the development of next-generation p-type semiconductor transistors. The two students had published their research in authoritative journals in their field. The awards were established with funds contributed by former President Sung Kee Chung and Professor Emeritus Kun Soo Chang, respectively.

An award honoring the vision of POSTECH’s first president Mueunjae Hogil Kim, the Hogil Kim Award is given to the graduate who works toward the advancement or honor of the university. The award was given to Jun-Gill Kang of the Department of IT Convergence Engineering, who has been actively conducting research on robotics. Ms. Huihui Zhu of the Department of Chemical Engineering (academic advisor Yong-Young Noh) received The POSTECH Alumni Association Chairman Award, given to students who have demonstrated growth and advancement represented in the POSTECH’s founding tenet (a globally outstanding talent with knowledge and intellect). The first international student to receive the award, Ms. Zhu has published 17 papers in international journals and applied for five patents, while studying Korean and earning a level 2 on the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) at the same time. Mr. Liu and Ms. Zhu are also a married couple.

The School of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Convergence (EECS) Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements among graduates of the School of EECS and Graduate School of Artificial Intelligence (GSAI), was given to Junyong Lee of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (academic advisor Seung Yong Lee). His deep learning-based restoration technology that improves network performance with auxiliary data for image and video resolution restoration was highly praised in the academic circles.

At the ceremony, POSTECH President Moo Hwan Kim shared his own story of how he was a liberal arts student who decided to major in nuclear engineering at his university, commenting, “Diplomas and grades prove achievement, but they do not determine the future.” He remarked, “all students who have completed the academic process should be congratulated, not just those with the best grades,” explaining why he had made changes to the ceremony.

“Don’t limit your potential or capacity within confines of the POSTECH name or your major,” he explained, urging students to experience new things and be proactive and flexible in accepting them.