A Cuppa Coffee with Dr Elizabeth Lee

Written by: Supriya Sivabalan, Syahirah Harun

Edited by: Supriya Sivabalan, Syahirah Harun

At 4.00pm on Thursday 25th of October crowds of people began to fill the infamous Lunch Box, a cafe restaurant situated on the first floor of the Sunway University building. This was the event space of ‘A Cuppa Coffee w/ Dr. Elizabeth Lee’, a casual talk with the senior and executive director of Sunway Education Group where students and adults alike were able to share their thoughts and insights of Sunway’s future. With the help and effort of Sunway Student Council from the College and University, Dr. Lee herself was introduced by Anis Suraya, the coordinator of this engaging event. Anis commenced the talk with a small briefing on how the event will play out – enquiries will be directed towards Dr. Lee, and towards the end of the session the floor will be open to anyone who is interested in asking further questions related to Sunway in its entirety.

Anis Suraya, moderator of A Cuppa Coffee w/ Dr. Elizabeth Lee.

Dr. Lee tackled the first topic of the evening regarding the direction Sunway is aiming to head towards. While the direction of becoming a prestigious education group has remained remarkably the same, the focus that Sunway wants to achieve has changed. Simply, Sunway is aiming to become more international, both in recognition outside of Malaysia as well as the diverse community within the borders of its three main campuses. Dr. Lee spoke of the age of technology in which people are becoming more and more integrated through digital means, therefore she wishes to see less of a digital divide amongst colleagues. She mentioned how Sunway has become successful in taking in a wide selection of international lecturers that have undoubtedly accommodated students’ success across all programs.

Dr. Lee stated that she wanted students to be more internationally exposed – this exposure will allow them to ‘work in a borderless world’ where there are no divisions. Sunway is successful in the fact that its degrees are already validated worldwide – from its partnerships with Lancaster University in England, Victoria Business School in Melbourne, to even its French culinary school Cordon Bleu, right in the heart of Sunway campus. Lee described how Sunway hopes to obtain a partnership with the London School of Economics in the future, a partnership which would definitely place Sunway’s ranking high above the charts. She also hopes to give students more opportunities to travel as a part of the ‘international experience’ to gain a better understanding of the world that awaits these students.


Dr. Elizabeth Lee (Right) addresses the audience alongside Anis Suraya (left).


The next topic that was discussed was what Sunway had planned in terms of expanding its brand overseas, as a follow up to the previous question. Dr. Lee first gave a brief on the history of Sunway Education Group – opening its doors to students in 1987, it only became a single unit college in 2004, making Sunway a relatively young institution. With that being said, Dr. Lee states that Sunway is placing its concentration in Malaysia first, within its main site in Kuala Lumpur as well as its branches in Kuching, Ipoh and Johor. Malaysia is Sunway’s ‘first priority’, there is no race to go overseas.


“It is not a race to go overseas”, Dr. Elizabeth Lee mentioned during her talk. (Right)


Anis led the discussion further by prompting Dr. Lee with the subject of Sunway playing a role in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals one step at a time. Dr. Lee describes Sunway as being the #MostHappeningCampus – many activities, both social and extracurricular, are almost always occurring on Sunway grounds, demonstrating its widespread diversity and liveliness. Every single person is involved on campus one way or another, and as Dr. Lee quotes, there is even “really happening research” going on during college or university hours. Sunway provides a platform and countless opportunities to achieve their passions. “We want to save the world”, Dr. Lee stated ecstatically to the audience.


Dr. Elizabeth Lee (centre) conversing with a fellow Sunway Student Council member and staff.


The journey of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals has been a successful progress. Sunway had recently proposed a rule that all food and beverage facilities in its premises will not sell anymore water bottles, and Dr. Lee clearly states the reasonings behind this fascinating decision. She expressed her theory on water bottles – they are not good for health. Plastic bottles are transported in trucks, often left in these heated compartments before being placed on shelves. When plastic is heated, it emits toxic chemicals, possibly being transferred into the water itself. This, however, is merely a theory, and should not be taken into serious account, however considering the negative effects of bottled water was what initiated Sunway’s halt on its sales. Sunway also opened up a Starbucks cafe on its campus, and both students and staff were appalled at the use of “so much plastic”, following Sunway’s campaign ‘The Last Straw’ to cut out the use of plastic straws completely. These reactions were exactly what Dr. Lee wanted – a community of people who are environmentally aware.


Students enjoying food catered by Lunch Box before the start of the talk.

“Once a Sunway-ian, always a Sunway-ian.” Dr. Lee quoted towards the end of her discussion. She described how Sunway is not a centre for learning, but an entire culture formed from the people who go here. Lee even mentioned how Sunway is slowly coming together with Monash University across the road as well as Taylors’ University. Sunway has the ability of developing students into greater heights to reach far beyond their given potential. All Dr. Lee can do is marvel at the creativeness of the students that walk the campuses. She expressed how Sunway students are the ‘movers and shakers’ of shaping Malaysia in the future through their colourful influence. In order for change to happen, Lee stressed on the importance of being independent. Finding out things for yourself, making mistakes and learning from them, engaging in activities outside of studying, and to continuously develop and be productive.


Students gather around to serve themselves food prepared by Lunch Box


The question and answer portion of the event was kickstarted with 3 questions from Kamil Izzat, a first year Bsc (Hons) Financial Analysis student, regarding Dr. Lee’s aspiration for the Malaysian Education System, Sunway’s effort in uplifting the #MostHappeningCampus spirit and Sunway’s efforts to bridge the gap between students and the working world. Dr. Lee thoughtfully responded with much insight, shedding light on her aspiration in hopes of materialising Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah’s dream of making Sunway the “Harvard of the East.” She also mentioned the many initiatives that Student Life has conducted to help employability amongst Sunway students, where such efforts will inevitably continue on in future. She even reached out to the audience and requested feedback on how communication between the institution and students can be further enhanced, as per Kamil’s second question.


Kamil Izzat kicking off the Q&A session


Following this was another enquiry from a Foundation in Arts student on the permitted time periods of playing the piano that is located in the college building. Dr. Lee certainly surprised many students with news of a new baby grand piano being donated by Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah himself. This piano will be placed in the university building where, if all goes to plan, there will be no time restrictions in terms of playing the piano.


Student undertaking Sunway’s Foundation in Arts addressing Dr. Lee with a question.


Besides this, feedback regarding the tedious process of booking facilities was raised by another student. Our kind senior executive director calmly clarified the reasons as to why such protocols are taken, one of which is to ensure all students are able to access available facilities in good condition.


The Q&A session concluded with a final question from Melissa, an international student from Zimbabwe, voicing her concerns on the issue of integration between local and international students. Dr.Lee took her concern with extreme significance and urged everyone in the room to look out for the international students and promised a continuous effort to help these students from overseas to feel welcomed and comfortable during their course of study. After such a fruitful discussion, the event ended around 5.35 p.m. where guests were left to network with one another over the complimentary food and beverages provided.

A student addresses her concerns about Sunway towards Dr. Elizabeth Lee


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