Q. Tell us briefly about your upbringing.
A. I did not have an easy childhood. It was so difficult, that at times, around age ten, eleven, I had to do odd jobs to supplement income at home. Despite that, I had a wonderful upbringing because of my extended family which is quite close-knit.
Thereafter, the basis of my academic career started at UNAM. I obtained four qualifications in a span of eight to nine years, and that took me across the globe. I went to New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Europe, China, and the United States of America.
I have always been the top performing student irrespective of each institution I studied at. Sometimes we underestimate how well and how rounded we are in terms of our education. It is only when you are exposed internationally that you realise you have the necessary foundation to compete with anyone in the world.
Q. Did you have any social life when you were a student?
A. I had a wonderful social life. One has to find a way to bring the necessary balance between one’s intellectual capability and your personal attributes. Very early in my career, I realised that I needed to work on myself; my emotional intelligence and so forth.
You have to work on your emotional intelligence because that is the basis of your growth.
Q. What are your thoughts on access to education for disadvantaged students?
A. Things have to change, and I am saying that out of personal experience. Despite the fact that I have done extremely well at high school and managed to qualify for university entrance, I did not have the money to go directly into university.
I understand the importance of having the necessary mechanisms and support for disadvantaged students because at the end of the day, education is what we use to leverage the cost of poverty in our communities. The broader the access, the more we can influence change in our communities.
It is not just a university issue, but a stakeholder one too. It depends on the private sector, the government, and the higher education sector to come on board and create the necessary and enabling environment for all those talented young people out there who are aspiring to enroll at a university.
Q. What message would you like to send to the student body?
A. As a student, you should already be thinking about what greater purpose you want to serve with the knowledge and skills that you are going to gain out of the university. This is important, because during your course of learning, you also begin to see how you would play the role as a productive citizen. So, it is influence with a greater purpose to do greater good.
I would also like to encourage students to take personal accountability for their learning and their career. The university is there to support and continue to engage the systems that are in place, and of course the support structures that are in place.