Jubilation was written all over the faces of the pioneer batch of 38 Commonwealth Executive MBA graduates who received their scrolls from Wawasan Open Unviersity (WOU) Council chairman Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik during the inaugural convocation ceremony at the main campus.
The ceremony also saw Tun Dr Lim bestowing the Honorary Doctor of Laws on Penang businessman Dato’ Seri Goh Eng Toon and the Honorary Doctor of Letters on Dr Abdul Waheed Khan, the former Assistant Director General for Communication and Information at UNESCO, Paris.
Dato’ Seri Goh was honoured for his outstanding contributions in the banking and financial sectors and for his spirit of philanthropy reflected through his donations to numerous charitable organisations. During his 27 years with Bank Hin Lee Bank (BHLB), he steered the growth of the institution from a 2-branch Bank in 1973 to one with a network of 49 branches distributed throughout the country by the year 2000.
Dr Khan was awarded the honorary degree in recognition for his outstanding contributions in the field of communications, information and education over the past 35 years.
The CeMBA graduates, who completed their studies in five semesters after enrolling in January 2008, range in age from 26 to 60 years. Among them are brothers Phoon Chee Nouk and Phoon Chee Wai, sisters Ang Chen Ling and Ang May Fong, Indian national Deepti Manuja, and the oldest, Harry Ho Chee Wan. WOU graduand Yeoh Swee Hoon received the Chancellor’s Medal for obtaining top results.
Ho, in recollecting his learning experience when delivering his address as the graduates’ representative, remarked, “We swam with difficulty at first but once we got the hang of it, it was not too bad, considering many if not all of us, were fulltime working adults, housewives included.”
Graduate Deepti Manuja, a dental surgeon from India, said, "Initially I found the CeMBA programme very hard as I have a science background. Learning about business was something completely new to me. WOU academics and staff were very cooperative and always there for me, which helped me to improve."
Ang May Fong, a customer service manager from Penang, quipped, "My parents actually influenced me to choose WOU due to its flexible approach to learning and affordable fees. Looking back, I'm so glad they did! The CeMBA programme has taught me good communication and leadership skills which have been a real stepping stone for my career - I was promoted half way through.”
Meanwhile graduate Lum Siew Cheong, an open entry student from Kuala Lumpur, stated, "I have been working in the banking field since 1993 but because I didn't have a degree I always felt there was a 'void' in my life. Without a first degree it was impossible to do an MBA, until I found out about WOU and its open entry system. WOU gave me the opportunity to fulfil my dreams."
S. Soundra Rajan, a validation manager from Johor Bahru, said: "I wanted to set a good example for my four daughters by completing the CeMBA programme in 2 1/2 years. Now that I've done it and am among the first batch of WOU graduates there's no excuse for my kids not to excel in their studies!"
WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Wong, in his official address, noted that “the appearance of the first batch of ‘Made in WOU’ graduates” signals the arrival of the university as a serious provider of quality postgraduates. He added that “their presence will offer industry the opportunity to measure the performance of our graduates against those from other sources”.
Among the 400 people who attended the convocation ceremony were Wawasan Education Foundation (WEF) chairman Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap and wife Datin Seri Irene, Penang Gerakan chairman Dato’ Dr Teng Hock Nan, WOU Council members, Consul-Generals from Indonesia and Japan, Vice Chancellors and representatives from universities and colleges, WOU staff, and not forgetting the family members of the CeMBA graduates and honorary degree recipients.