Alumni rising: Fond memories, warm thoughts from Malaysia
It has been 30 years and he lives 9,000 miles away in his native homeland, Malaysia, but memories of UW-Green Bay come both quickly and fondly for UW-Green Bay alumnus Ahmad Faisal Alias.
So much so, that Faisal is an active contributor to the UWGB alumni facebook page and he has created a page for UWGB Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean alumni, as well.
“I like the UWGB social sites because of all the memories UWGB gave me, and I want to share and keep them,” he said. “This was also the place where I grew up from a school boy to an adult. UWGB itself and its people might have changed and grown since I left, but it has been a part of my life.”
Despite the time past, Faisal has lightening quick recall for the faculty and staff that made both a deep and fond impression on him: “Ron Baba, Ray Hutchison, Per Johnsen, Ismail Shariff, Kumar Kangayappan, Bill Niedzwiedz, David Damkoehler, and Johnson (Patricia).”
His fondest memories, he says, came from his time at the International Student Center, at that time located on the seventh floor of the Cofrin Library.
“The center was headed by Elizabeth K. Hocking, the Assistant Dean of Students, and she was assisted by her secretary, Nancy Long. They were among the sweetest ladies I have ever met during my stay there. The center was our home away from home, away from home (twice). That’s the place we used to hang out between classes, for drinks and food. There were also the International Dinners, when we played host to our American friends. We cooked our traditional dishes, put on our traditional clothes and got to showcase our cultural dances and customs.”
Faisal came to UW-Green Bay in August of 1983, not by chance. After much research into Urban and Regional Planning academic programs, the Malaysian Public Service Department offered him a full scholarship and the organization chose UW-Green Bay as the school he should attend.
Now he follows in the footsteps of the faculty members that left such an impression. He is an Urban and Regional Planning Associate Professor at the MARA University of Technology, one of the public universities in Malaysia.
“My experience at UWGB has helped me in many ways,” he says. “Being a student in a foreign land gave me a different perspective and appreciation about America and its people and cultures, apart from what I saw on TV when I was growing as a child in Malaysia.
“Although I studied about North American geography in high school, being there myself was amazing. I also got to meet and know some American families on Washington Island and Door County during a program arranged during the 1986 Easter Break. We became good friends and they became my foster families to this day. And then, there was the Green Bay weather and the Green Bay Packers. I played rugby at my school, so American football comes naturally for me.”
When he wasn’t in class or “LL730” (Library Learning Center), he spent his time at the Phoenix Sports Center playing indoor soccer and swimming.
“Unfortunately, I have lost contact with virtually all my American classmates. However, I am still in contact with some of the faculty members like Profs. Hutchison and Alesch, and have exchanged occasional greetings with Prof. Damkohler and Bill Niedzwiedz.
After leaving UWGB, Faisal earned a master’s degree at Virginia Tech and returned to Malaysia to teach, among other subjects, Planning Project Studios, Site Planning, Sustainable Development and Environmental Planning, Technical Drafting, and History of Planning. He successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis last month, and hopes to officially graduate in October of 2014.
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Photos provided by Faisal Alias