Sitting Down with Prof. Dato Elizabeth Lee: Cuppa Coffee 2024

Cuppa Coffee 2024 Poster

“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, but for this May’s, a cup of coffee helps the discussion flow smoothly. On the 16th of May 2024, Professor Elizabeth Lee hosted a Cuppa Coffee session in the Level 1 Art Gallery for students, staff, and audiences to attend. The event was emceed by Jimmy Kam, while Prof. Lee’s guest speakers included president Ramsdeen Wong of Sunway Sports Council, president Rebecca Koh of Sunway College Student Council, and president Aaron Shua of Sunway University Student Council. Complimentary coffee was served by KEFIKOHI, fitting for the event’s name.


Cuppa Coffee began with a quick sharing session. Prof. Lee reminisces about how the event has grown in size over the years, remarking on how helpful it is for the community to be able to communicate with the student councils. She talks about the different schools under Sunway’s jurisdiction, including the college, university, and Sunway International School Iskandar and Sunway International School USJ. If people were previously unaware, she informed that SIS USJ now offers an IGCSE programme alongside their Canadian Ontario and International Baccalaureate programmes. 

The theme for the session was Inclusivity and Diversity.

Source: Cuppa Coffee Slideshow

Prof. Lee gently reminded everyone of her challenge offered during orientation; The challenge being how students must make 5 new friends from 5 different categories of individuals. It was meant to support ways to assimilate into the new environment. Typically, students will continue being friends with the same people they arrived at Sunway with but Dato Lee advises us all to enlarge our friend circle and include other people.

“Malaysians are friendly,” says Prof Lee. However, many international students do not experience that kindness. To have an enriching global experience, a person should have friends from everywhere. As the number of international students arrives from 97 countries, Prof. Elizabeth Lee says, “Just as the same sun greets every person at the same globe, we welcome every international student and hope to add more countries to the 97, as we have had 100 previously.” #EvenMoreHappeningCampus!

Continuing on the topic of inclusivity, the Sunway Education Inclusive Leadership Series (SEILS) encouraged its importance. Prof. Lee never doubts that “we are all nurturing leaders”. Sunway students are lucky because they have the opportunity to speak to leaders such as Professor Elizabeth Kiss, the CEO of Rhode’s trust, one of the oldest scholarships in the world. In a talk called “Unlike Minded”, she says that our minds may not be similar with different ideologies, countries and religions, yet we are all like-hearted. Students also had the opportunity to speak to Professor Deborah Prentice, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge as a part of the Sir Jeffrey Cheah Distinguished Speaker Series (SJCDSS).

The event continued with important facility updates. “In the name of progress, we have no choice,” Prof. Lee chuckles. Though parts of the canopy walk have been closed, much to the inconvenience of its users, sections of the canopy walk will eventually be air-conditioned . “Papa Cheah says walking is good, so walk more!” Dato Lee adds humour to the situation. The link bridge will connect to the South Quay square, to the new university extension “Sunway Square” expected in 2026. 

Source: Cuppa Coffee Slideshow

Within the new Sunway Square, the plans are set for a recital hall, lecture hall, and performing arts centre. The Business School and School of Art will be housed there. Inspired by a visit to China, there will be a brand new round lecture theatre.

To end her presentation, Professor Lee informs the audience of the advice she gave to Cambridge students previously: “Find your true north”. 

In time, it will help answer questions to come.

Source: Cuppa Coffee Slideshow

The next part of the event was the Sunway Sports Council Sharing Session by the SSC President Ramsden Wong. He introduces the council, their goals, and the team. Past and future initiatives are displayed, such as their Jomplay! series. The event is hosted monthly for students, no matter the skill level, to encourage students to pick up sports, learn sportsmanship, make friends, and encourage participation. 

After the presentation, President Rebecca Koh speaks about the Sunway College Student Council and their functions, departments, and initiatives. She encourages the audience to partake in their potential upcoming initiatives such as Battle of the Legends (a Mobile Legends Bang Bang E-sport tournament), Riverlution (a river clean-up session), He-ARTbeat (an art workshop to create donations for Dignity for Children Foundation), and Glowing Skin, Brighter Grin (skincare event collaboration with De Beauty Zone).

Aaron Shua, president of Sunway University Student Council, introduces his team next. He explains that the council wants to ensure voices are heard and concerns are addressed. SCTH 1.0 & SCTH 2.0 were part of their initiative to have better transparency between the councils and the students. He also explains about  their RESPECT campaign, which stands for “Recognising Equality, Supporting Pluralism, Embracing Cultural Tolerance”. Coordinated by the SUSC, SCSC, and Postgraduate Student Council, it aims to celebrate diversity with the growing number of international students.

Once the presentations were completed, an Q&A session was opened for the floor.

Source: Cuppa Coffee Slideshow

An international student inquired to Prof Lee,

Q: “For international students, it is hard to engage and make friends with local students. There have been a lot of initiatives to guide students, but in your perspective, what can be done for the students of Sunway University?”

She ponders carefully before answering.

A: “There is an existing gap that I am aware of. The gap exists around the world; It’s easy to make friends with other international students as there is a similarity that binds them, but hard to make friends with local students. Thinking of my time overseas, I experienced the same situation. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s for the lack of trying, as locals have their own homes to go back to and meet their own friends. I suppose that’s why I keep appealing to local Malaysian students that it’s very difficult for international students to make friends with us, as we always seem to have something else to do. Rushing home, here and there, but perhaps we can invite our international friends to have a meal with us at home. We must try to encourage that.”

Prof Lee remarks that it sounds bad, but maybe forcing people to work together may be a solution. Prof Elizabeth introduces the idea of projects that force students to work together, and a colleague supports the idea.

Dr Sim: “I’ve experimented with my students for the first semester as they haven’t formed cliques and did exactly what you asked students to do but for one whole semester. They have to complete an assignment, one whole task, just that. I read the reflections at the end of the course, and they said it worked well but maybe we can get more feedback.”

Prof Lee then suggested the system she observed in another place, the “grandfather granddaughter” system where new and old students are paired up together for guidance. She says the student council could consider implementing this idea.

Another question was asked by a Sunway student volunteer.

Q: “Have you heard of the “Shoebox Project”? In terms of Sunway Education Group, may I know if you have any opinions on what kind of support you can provide for the Shoebox Project?”

A: [She remarks that financial support can be asked for, besides emotional support as she believes many people would be willing to donate to the cause.] “The whole idea is to get the whole university; the whole campus involved as well because students would like to get involved. It’s important to not feel alone in what you’re doing because I know it’s a massive project, maybe it needs to be branded more and given more lead time so it doesn’t become so “chop block” in the end. Then there may not be enough time to engage people to support the cause with money or gifts. If you give yourself a longer lead time, I know many people on campus would like to be a part of it. Branding and marketing is important because it is a very good initiative.

A follow-up question was posed: “Do you think there are any improvements we can make based on past events?”

A: “Marketing. You are very efficient, no doubt, but efficiency means maybe not enough time given, maybe start 1 to 2 months earlier as it is an annual project and get more students involved.

A final question was asked by a representative from the Sports Council.

Q: “What is the university’s view on sports achievements?”

A: We certainly celebrate your achievements no doubt, we think so highly and greatly of it that we actually have sports scholarships because we want to encourage students to take up a sport, not only if they’re talented but to hone it to their best and be able to represent the institution or state. It is something we value greatly.”

She provides an example of welcoming returning former students after the SEA Games, as “welcoming the champions”. 

Once the final question was answered, the event came to an end with thanks to ProfLee for her time, the distinguished speakers and the attendees.

Source: Zhi Lin

Written by: Zhi Lin

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