Sunway Scoop: School of Hospitality and Service Management

Echo returns with another exciting instalment of Sunway Scoop, this time shining the spotlight on the esteemed School of Hospitality and Service Management at Sunway University. In this article, we delve into the experiences and insights of both lecturers and students from the three dynamic departments of the school: Culinary Arts, Event Management, and Hospitality Management.  

Stepping outside conventional classroom boundaries, the School of Hospitality and Service Management emerges as a hub of innovation and practical learning. Join us, as we uncover the stories and journeys that shape this school as a beacon of excellence in these highly competitive industries.

Dean of Sunway School of Hospitality and Service Management

Before we dive into this article, let’s hear a few words from the dean himself!

Prof. Marcus L Stephenson (Professor of Tourism and Hospitality Management & Dean)

Tell us about yourself

I specialise in tourism and hospitality development, particularly in the areas of culture, race, ethnicity, and religion. Over my six years as the Dean of the School of Hospitality and Service Management at Sunway University, I’ve taught subjects ranging from tourism development to hospitality operations. My passion for this field was sparked during a research trip to the Caribbean, where I studied tourism’s impact and its political aspects. Meeting a diverse range of individuals, from community leaders to everyday people, inspired my interest in the sociology of tourism. I’m driven to encourage the younger generation to explore this field, which fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Sunway University’s commitment to academic development and its connections with related business units makes it an ideal place for research, education, and collaboration in the field.

What sets SHSM apart from other hospitality schools in the region?

SHSM prioritises student development and offers specialised training in areas like hotel, foodservice, event, and culinary management. We have research and innovation centres and collaborate with local and international universities as well as industry partners for a well-rounded education.

What are your plans to promote the growth of SHSM?

My colleagues and I want to advocate that the hospitality and service management subject area possesses significant academic depth that could further contribute to the professional advancement of the service industries. Accordingly, it is the School’s aim to reach out to and engage with potential students (and their parents), alumni networks, industry partners, and research collaborators. This pathway is necessary to spread awareness of the vast opportunities available in this field. 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as the Dean of SHSM? How did you overcome it?

The School is constantly growing and expanding. As the Dean of the School of Hospitality and Service Management, I am expected to navigate the School to build relationships with relevant partners. There are always challenges in terms of continually strengthening those relationships because of time management issues. However, I am thankful to have a great team of support from the School which enables us to have productive and constructive outcomes with our internal and external stakeholders.

What are your hopes for SHSM in the future?

I hope that SHSM will continue to produce graduates who not only pursue academic excellence but also become individuals who will make significant contributions to societal development, anchored by strong ethical values. 

Is there any message you would like to relay to the students of SHSM?

I genuinely hope that SHSM students can continue to enjoy and seek personal benefit from consistently engaging in academic and in-depth discussions concerning the hospitality industries. Such discourse could steer critical thinking, analytical and problem-solving skills that are pertinent for the advancement of the industry. 

 Department of Events Management 

Welcome to the Event Management Department, where the School  empowers students with essential knowledge and practical skills for successful event planning. Throughout this industry-inspired journey, students will delve into every facet of event management, from concept to evaluation. Here is an opportunity to get firsthand viewpoints about the world of event management, where every detail counts and creativity knows no bounds!

Belinda Fong Chong Lynn (Programme Leader for Diploma in Events Management & BSc (Hons) in Conventions & Events Management)

Tell us about yourself

I’m an educator with over ten years of experience, specialising in Public Relations and Communication. My academic journey began with a degree in Mass Communication, and I’m currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the field. Additionally, a career in education provided the stability I needed to be present for my children. I have had the privilege of being part of the Sunway University community for the past six years, contributing to the vibrant academic environment.

What makes the department unique?

Our department’s distinctiveness stems from the diverse expertise and personalities of our staff. What truly makes us stand out is our commitment to integrating work-based opportunities seamlessly into the curriculum, providing students with practical experiences that directly prepare them for the industry.

What is the biggest challenge the department has faced? How did you overcome it?

A notable challenge our department faces is dispelling the misconception that event management is an easy field. In reality, it requires a deep understanding of fundamental principles, a high level of passion and discipline, and the ability to adapt quickly due to its fast-paced nature. Some students may perceive it as a demanding program initially. To address this, we prioritise building a strong foundation of knowledge, igniting students’ passion, and instilling discipline and time management skills, ultimately enabling them to thrive in this industry.

What was your proudest moment as Programme Leader? How did you achieve such a feat?

My proudest moment as HOD was undoubtedly witnessing our students during their graduation ceremony, seeing them receive their scrolls, and recognizing the immense growth they had achieved throughout their academic journey. This accomplishment was the result of dedicated teamwork and unwavering commitment from both the faculty and the students, culminating into a truly rewarding and fulfilling experience.

How did the department handle the challenges posed by the pandemic? How is the department handling the transition to a post-pandemic era?

During the pandemic, our department swiftly adapted to the challenges by shifting to online teaching and learning. We learned how to plan and manage events virtually, and we revamped our syllabus to include digital event management techniques. As we transition to a post-pandemic era, we are building on these digital capabilities while reintroducing in-person components, ensuring our students are prepared for any event management scenario. This approach reflects our commitment to staying resilient and relevant in a changing world.

Is there a message you would like to relay to the students of the department?

I would like to share these profound words of wisdom by: 

Winston Churchill – success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts

Walter Cronkite – success is more permanent when you achieve it without destroying your principles

Department of Culinary Arts

Discover the exciting world of culinary and service management education! This department combines theoretical classroom education with the hands-on learning of the kitchen to produce quality graduates who conquer the kitchen.

Diploma in Culinary Arts

Next, let’s dive in and learn a little bit about Ms Lum Merry, the Programme Leader for the Diploma in Culinary Arts. 

Lum Merry (Programme Leader for the Diploma in Culinary Arts)

Tell Us About Yourself.

My passion for nurturing and growing the next generation of hospitality professionals, has led me to becoming an educator at Sunway University which boasts an amazing reputation. I believe that the field of Hospitality and Service Management is able to open up doors of opportunities for growth and advancement for professionals. Students can expect to see me in subjects focusing in hotel management, more specifically in classes for Food and Beverages and Personal Development.

What makes the department unique? 

Personally, I think our internationally focused approach has been able to set us apart from other departments. Not only that, our hands-on educating methods are sure to give students beyond classroom experiences and help them to settle into real-world practices. We also offer a diverse range of career opportunities that would be appealing to many.

What are your hopes for the department in the future? 

I hope that our department is able to conduct more research and partake in culinary innovations that can benefit the industry. Hopefully we can have more collaborations with industry partners to broaden the understanding of our students in professional settings. I also anticipate our department to delve into culinary exploration on a global scale to further improve the student experience.  

What is your favourite part about being the Programme Leader and an educator? 

Personally, I love my work as a programme leader and an educator as I get to share my knowledge and passion to my students. My work not only impacts me but the lives of others and I am able to build relationships with individuals with similar passions as me. 

Do you have any interesting stories/anecdotes about the department? 

I think a unique part of our course is the Chef For A Day experience which students can partake in. Students become chefs for a day and participate in different events to gain experience on industry practice and the high pressure environment of the culinary world. This experience helps students embrace their love for culinary through different activities like food preparation and sophisticated plating in a fast-paced scenario.

What is your impression of the students under the department? 

The students from our department are known for their creativity in the kitchen and they often display keen taste, presentation, flavours and visual appeal of a dish which proves their competence of the art.

Is there a message you would like to relay to the students of the department? 

To embark on this journey, we need to remember that we belong to a vibrant and ever-evolving industry. Never forget to embrace your love for food and culinary arts. Remember that success in the field requires perseverance and hard work. Push boundaries, take risks and step out of your comfort zone.

 Department of Hospitality Management

This department introduces students to the hustle and bustle of hotel operations and management through courses like Diploma in Hotel Management and BSc (Hons) International Hospitality Management. Without a doubt, the department creates seasoned graduates who are ready to face the world of hospitality head-on. 

Diploma in Hotel Management

We are joined by Ms Sara Abhari, the Programme Leader for the Diploma in Hotel Management to learn more about the programme and herself.

Sara Abhari (Programme Leader for the Diploma in Culinary Arts).

Tell Us About Yourself.

I have 20 years of experience in the hospitality, event planning and catering industry. In 2002, I opened my own business as a food entrepreneur and catering and later moved to Malaysia to explore Asian cuisine. Subsequently, I got my Masters of Business Administration and hold a PhD in Hospitality and Tour Management. Currently, I focus on food and beverage management education. My goal is to transfer my passion and knowledge to the future professionals of the industry with Sunway University.

Describe the Diploma in Hotel Management in three words.

It’s really hard to narrow it down to just three words but I would say the course is fun, engaging, thanks to the collaborative and evaluative nature between peers, it also is  rewarding as we have integrated learning techniques such as competitions which reward achievers.

What makes the department unique? 

I would say our strong industry connections sets us apart from others. Our course, which lasts for 2 years coupled with a 20 weeks internship, provides a practical and  hands-on approach that can prepare students for the working environment in their future.

What are your plans to promote the growth of the department? 

I hope to hold field trips which can introduce our students to a real working environment and help them to connect to the industry. I hope that these experiences can help to update our students with the fast-paced evolution of technology.

What is the biggest challenge the department has faced? How did you overcome it?

Personally, I think the biggest blow to our department is the negative perspective about future job opportunities in hospitality. Many have the assumption that work in hospitality provides low pay despite the long working hours. To shift these negative thoughts, we provide not only hospitality subjects but also subjects which encompass a broader field, like entrepreneurship, accounting  and marketing. 

We also faced a threat to the department when the pandemic struck. We were required to quickly transition to online learning, despite the nature of our course. To overcome this, we organised a boot camp which successfully helped our situation.

What is your favourite part about being a programme leader and an educator?

The moments I cherish the most would be when I see my students succeed and when they graduate. These miniscule occurrences are the best feeling, knowing that I have done my part and contributed to nurturing their future.

Is there a message you would like to relay to the students of the department?

Stay healthy and keep working hard. Strive for success. Always keep in mind that passion and dedication can take you far in the hospitality industry. 

BSc (Hons) International Hospitality Management

Lastly, say hello to Ms Karen Lui, the Programme Leader for BSc (Hons) International Hospitality Management as we delve into an insightful conversation about both her personal journey and the program itself.

Karen Lui (Programme Leader for BSc (Hons) International Hospitality Management).

Tell Us About Yourself.

With passion in providing exceptional service, I have been in the industry for 12 years and am currently in my 14th year at Sunway. I initially chose to join Sunway when it was still a college as it has a strong reputation as a leading institution in private education. Some of my credentials encompass a Certified Hospitality Trainer awarded by the Educational Institute of American Hotel and Lodging Association, a HRDF Certified and Accredited Trainer recognised by Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resources and many more. I’m currently pursuing my PhD, researching areas of hospitality education and work.  

Describe the BSc of International Hospitality Management in three words.

I would say that the department is dynamic and energetic. Another word I would describe the programme as is having quality education, thanks to the personalised teaching offered for practical subjects. 

What are your hopes for the department in the future? 

I wish that the department evolves to be more diversified in addition to considering and integrating the latest trends, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and technology, into the curriculum. I also hope that the department continually provides not only better, but more relevant education to ensure that our graduates experience a seamless transition into the world of hospitality. 

What is your favourite part about being the HOD and an educator? 

My favourite part about being the programme leader and an educator is seeing students grow both academically and as a person. Each student comes in as a blank piece of paper, but over time, they develop themselves in the sense of discipline and survival skills, thus becoming a picture. 

What is your impression of the students under the department?

My impression of the students under the department has definitely changed from 14 years ago. Back then, the students were more passionate, with excellent objectives and goals. However, the students now have a different mindset. Their objectives have changed because of the influence of social media. Last time, students would take notes in class, but now the students take photos of notes, they don’t really read their emails, and even come in late for exams.

Is there a message you would like to relay to the students of the department?

Hospitality is a lifelong learning programme. You will need and learn a multitude of skills such as leadership, managing skills, personal skills, and to work under pressure. And while it is a very rewarding industry, it takes commitment and effort to cope with long working hours.

Recent Accomplishments

A pioneering institution in the field, the School of Hospitality and Service Management has established itself as a beacon of excellence in the industries of hospitality, culinary, and events. The school’s commitment to academic excellence and being at the forefront of hospitality education is reflected in the various accolades and recognitions it has received over the years through students’ outstanding performances in local and international competitions. Let’s take a look at some of their recent accomplishments!

International Conference on Cultural Tourism and Education 2023

Joining forces with the Malaysia-China Cultural Tourism Association, the School of Hospitality and Service Management recently participated at the International Conference on Cultural Tourism and Education (ICCTE) 2023

School of Hospitality and Service Management at ICCTE 2023.

At the event, not only did Professor Marcus L. Stephenson delivered a keynote speech on “Tourism, Creativity and Destination Dubai”, Sunway University was also presented with the Tourism Contributor Award, which was received on behalf of Assoc Prof Dr Daniel Chong and Ms Hairani Nur. 

This event was truly an opportunity for the University to extend their global partnerships and create an impact in cultural tourism and education. 

Scholastic Awards Recipients 2023 

Undoubtedly, several students from the School of Hospitality and Service Management have demonstrated exceptional academic prowess and have achieved outstanding results in their academic programme. Among the recipients for the School’s Scholastic Awards are:

Justin Thong Joon Yau – Diploma in Culinary Arts

Loh Yen Yao Daryl – Diploma in Events Management

Christine Hii Yan Ting – Diploma in Hotel Management 

Louis Choo Jun Wen – BSc (Hons) Culinary Management

Ding May Kit – BSc (Hons) International Hospitality Management

Tan Jen Yng – BSc (Hons) Conventions and Events Management 

Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations (AFECA) Asia MICE Youth Challenge (AAMYC) 2022 

School of Hospitality and Service Management’s competing team for AAMYC 2022

On 24 November 2022, BSc (Hons) Conventions and Events Management students – Moh Jing Yi, Jackson Lim, Boo Su Ting and Lee Lit Thung – from Sunway’s SHSM made Sunway University and Malaysia proud by winning the second-runner up position at the AAMYC. The 2022 AAMYC was an online competition, where each team was required to submit a business plan and pitch their proposals, which were then evaluated based on idea novelty, idea concept, and commercial viability. Sunway’s competing team presented their proposal on “International Smart Service Technology Expo 2023”. Of course, their success would not have been possible without the support of the school’s event management lecturers. 

School of Hospitality to Host APacCHRIE Conference in 2022

In 2020, the School of Hospitality won the bid to host the APacCHRIE Conference in 2022, organised by the Asia Pacific Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education. This event brought together educators, students, and professionals in the hospitality and tourism industry to discuss the theme “Creating Tourism Sustainably in Challenging Times.” It is through this event that the SHSM  showcased its forte in hospitality and tourism research. 

APacCHRIE conference 2020.

“It is an absolute delight that the School of Hospitality at Sunway University will be hosting such a prominent conference. The School will work together with internal and external stakeholders to make this conference a real success. Hosting this programme in a dual mode is something we will develop, especially to cater for a wider audience. All of us at the School of Hospitality is looking forward to ensuring a fruitful time of sharing, learning and networking.”

Students’ Takes

Next, we interviewed a handful of students from the School of Hospitality and Service Management to learn about their experiences and input about the school.

Chow Tse Hui

Tse Hui, a student who is currently pursuing the BSc (Hons) in Culinary Management from the August 2022 intake.

Why were you interested in joining SUSHM and how has your experience been?

My passion for cooking intrigued me to join SHSM. Nothing makes me happier than learning in such a beautiful kitchen while getting to know others who share the same passion as me. It is a delight to witness the reactions of those who taste my dishes and pastries. It is satisfying to know that one day I could be able to create dishes that make everyone happy!

My experience has been nothing but excellent! The educators here are extremely professional and experienced. I have been able to learn so much about the industry in and out of the classroom. Besides, the lecturers are always willing to help me with my inquiries and provide me with constructive feedback. This enlightens me on my mistakes and allows me to improve. Their advice also makes me more prepared for the upcoming subjects!

Cheang Sweetie

Sweetie, a student who is currently pursuing a BSc (Hons) in Culinary Management but took a direct entry from Diploma in Culinary Arts and is enrolled into the August 2021 intake.

What do you hope to achieve in SHSM and how has SHSM  helped your self-development?

In my SHSM adventure, I’m looking to build genuine connections with the people that I meet. I hope to bring these connections forward even after graduation to continuously get inspired and to also inspire others to be a better version of themselves.

As for personal growth, thanks to the chefs and their trust in me, I’ve been part of various functions– lending a hand in competitions, assisting with small scale event planning, and even running bake sales. It’s not just about the skills though; my critical thinking has gotten sharper too. SHSM has been like a puzzle that’s taught me how to piece things together. 

Hee Kai Shuang

Kai Shuang, a student who is currently pursuing the BSc (Hons) in International Hospitality Management from the August 2020 intake.

From your experience, how do you think future students should prepare themselves to join SUSHM?

Many assume that hospitality management is one of the easiest courses in university. This is not true, as students need to have a high sense of volunteerism within themselves and be willing to serve any customer in the industry, regardless of the attitudes and mannerisms of the customers towards the servers. Hence, aspiring students should be positive and optimistic. They should also have excellent interpersonal skills, as they have to think and handle the customers’ problems in a creative manner.

Fong Sue Ann

Sue Ann, a student who is currently pursuing a Diploma in Events Management from the August 2022 intake.

The toughest challenge you have encountered during your time in SUSHM and how did you overcome it?

I have found myself doubting my ability to further into the events industry many times while pursuing my course. However, my interest in the industry has triumphed against these uncertain thoughts and helped motivate me to accept the challenges that are thrown my way and to continue my pursuit in the events management industry. I have also done some self-learning by researching about past events to try to apply the knowledge that I have gained from my studies and deepen my understanding about the industry. This has really helped me to stop hesitating and strive forward with my passion for the industry.

“Take the first step towards a future filled with endless possibilities.” The School of Hospitality and Service Management at Sunway University provides excellent education and training skills to help students thrive in the vibrant industries of culinary, events, and hospitality. Beyond the classroom, students shine in local and international competitions, gaining invaluable exposure to the industry. Head over to their website to learn more about the programme!

Written By: Ruby, Chloe & Trezshur
Edited By: Poorani

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