Visiting Global UGRAD Alumni in Malaysia

In late August, a World Learning colleague, Jessica Mead, had the opportunity to meet with several Global UGRAD alumni in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Jessica works on the Alumni TIES program and was in Kuala Lumpur to implement a seminar for 40 alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs on “Strengthening Environments for Civic Participation and Public Engagement.” During the seminar, participants strategized ways to build civic participation and engagement throughout the Asia and Pacific region.

Prior to managing the Alumni TIES program at World Learning, Jessica advised and supported students on the Global UGRAD Program from 2008-2015, and is connected to many Global UGRAD alumni. During the seminar week, she was able to reconnect with 12 Global UGRAD alumni from Malaysia and one Global UGRAD alumna from Laos. During dinners in Kuala Lumpur, a reception at the U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur, at the seminar, and on a cultural adventure in Penang, Jessica listened to the alumni’s stories about their lives after the Global UGRAD Program, current professional work, and life goals. Provided below are brief updates about the Global UGRAD alumni.

From Left to Right: Li Hsien (Sean) Ooi (2009-10), Jessica Mead, Choon Sian Choo (2010-11) Nasha Chia Hwee Lee (2011-12), Wilson Wei Chean Beh (2011-12), and Ben Gauley (World Learning staff member)

Sean is a professor of TESL at Wawsan Open University in Penang and has two children with Global UGRAD alumna, Yeong Ru Wong (2009-10). He received his M.Ed. at the University of Glasgow through a United Kingdom-Malaysia scholarship program. Choon Sian is the Co-Founder and CEO of Life Champ, an organization that teaches youth in Malaysia valuable financial literacy and marketing skills. Nasha is an Environmental Consultant on Climate Change and Energy for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Malaysia. She received her master’s degree from the University of Oxford in environmental change and management. Wilson is the Co-Founder and COO of PolicyStreet, a technology company which provides curated and valued protection for people’s lifestyles. He is also the founding member of FinTech Association of Malaysia and recently named to the Forbes Asia 30 under 30 list. Wilson is the president of the Malaysian Alumni of American Exchange Partnerships, an alumni group of over 6,000 U.S. Department of State scholars. Congratulations to Wilson and Nasha on your upcoming nuptials!

Anong Sisongkham (Laos 2008-09) and Jessica Mead

Anong was nominated by U.S. Embassy Vientiane as an Alumni TIES participant. Alumni TIES participants are nominated by the U.S. Embassies in their home countries and often Global UGRAD alumni are nominated as participants! In 2013, Anong co-founded a project, entitled “The College Major Guidebook and Web,” or “College Major” for short with the financial support of Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF). Experiencing first-hand how hard it was to select a college major with limited information, Anong came up with the idea of building the first platform on the different fields of study in Laos. The website serves as a central platform for information on higher education courses for Lao students. College Major is still active as Anong is working on turning the project into a social enterprise so that it can be self-sustaining. Anong has a master’s degree in marketing from Auckland University of Technology.

From Left to Right: Shi Hao Wong (2014-15), Jessica Mead, and Duwei Chai (2013-14)

After completing his bachelor’s degree, Shi Hao worked at a few companies in Kuala Lumpur including Experian, Mercedes Benz, and MyStay. He is now working as an Associate Manager in Strategy and Performance at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and co-founded a new start-up, Insurtech. He and his co-founder are in the beta-testing stage of the new app for Insurtech, a company that provides hourly travel and health insurance to people in Southeast Asia, targeting people who may not be able to afford yearly insurance. Duwei is a policy and research manager for the Cultural Economy Development Agency of Malaysia. He works closely with members of Parliament on Cultural Development for the country. Prior to joining the Cendana, he worked as a lawyer in corporate litigation. He is thinking about pursing a graduate degree in the United Kingdom and United States.

Kalainilaa works as a lawyer in Ipoh, Malaysia in civil litigation and was recently appointed to the board of Amnesty International Malaysia. Yeong Ru is the Leadership Development Manager for Teach For Malaysia, an organization that recruits outstanding graduates and young professionals to be full time teachers in high-need schools for two years, training the fellows to be part of the solution to the challenges faced by the local communities and drive systemic impact on education. She obtained her master’s degree in Psychology at the University of Glasgow on a full scholarship. Jacqueline works as an aerospace/aviation engineer for Air Asia and is very close to her triplet sisters, “Triplets Choo!” For the past four years, Carolyn has been a service manager at a telecommunications company, TIME dotcom Berhad, and enjoys building client relationships. Prior to working in telecommunications, she was the secretary for the Malaysian-American Alumni Partnership. After gaining experience at Bosch as an engineering intern, Hong Khai joined Grab when it was just beginning in Singapore as an operations engineer. Grab is a ride-sharing and motorbike-sharing service (similar to Uber) for Singapore, Malaysia,  Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Grab will open a development center in Seattle soon.

From Left to Right: Kalainilaa Kalaiyarasu (2012-13), Choon Sian Choo (2010-11), Yeong Ru Wong (2009-10) and daughter Faith, Li Hsien (Sean) Ooi (2009-10), Jessica Mead, Jacqueline Choo (2013-14), Chee Lee (Carolyn) Cheong (2012-13), Wilson Wei Chean Beh (2011-12), and Hong Khai Loh (2013-14).