SERDANG: As Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, conferred degrees on 814 graduates at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) at its 41st convocation today, there appeared a familiar face among them.
Fresh from her gold-medal winning exploits at the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games and the Fina Diving Grand Prix, national athlete Leong Mun Yee picked up her scroll from the ruler, beaming from ear to ear and proud of achievement.
The 32-year-old had enrolled in a Bachelor in Communication course at the Modern Language and Communication faculty, 10 years ago, and attended classes as best she could in between training and competitions.
“I am very happy as, finally, I have completed my Bachelor’s degree after a decade. I am also very honoured to have been chosen to deliver the graduate representative speech,” she told reporters after the ceremony.
There to witness her proud moment were her parents and two brothers.
On her motivation to complete the degree, the Ipoh-born athlete said education had always been her priority despite her big commitments in sports.
“Education is important to me and it has always been my target to finish my degree, regardless of how long it would take. This achievement is very meaningful to me because I believe that as an athlete, I also need to be educated.
“Students are required to be hard-working and disciplined, which is the same for professional athletes. Being a university student has driven me to achieve more in sports,” she said.
Leong said the communication field had always fascinated her, so it became her first choice in pursuing her tertiary education.
“I hope to explore more in this field in the future. I have plans to continue with a Master’s degree but next year we will have the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games which are very important.
“So, I will focus on these games for now, and will think about (furthering) my studies the following year. I am not sure how long I will take to finish the Master’s, but maybe not as long as my Bachelor’s,” she quipped.
Throughout the four-day convocation, a total of 6,500 graduates received their scrolls. Of these, 627 were for doctorates, 1,628 were for Master’s degrees, 3,720 for Bachelor’s degree recipients and the remainder were for diplomas.
Also present today was UPM vice-chancellor Professor Datin Dr Aini Ideris.
In his speech, Sultan Sharafuddin said he was proud that UPM was home to Asian and global champions, and expressed hope that such excellence could continue in the future.
He also congratulated UPM athletes who made a name for the varsity and the country internationally, especially during the recent 29th Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur.
A total of 75 UPM athletes represented Malaysia during the recent Sea Games and had contributed 37 medals.
“They bagged 15 gold medals, 11 silver and 11 bronze. Apart from that, UPM student Cheong Jun Hoong won gold in the aquatics world championships in Budapest in the women’s 10-metre platform event,” he said.
Sultan Sharafuddin also urged the graduates to be determined in fighting drug abuse.
“Drugs are dangerous and detrimental to the mental, physical and emotional well-being, which could lead to more damage among the community and the nation.
“They are a threat to social and national progress as well as to civilisation. It gives me great sorrow to know that drugs could influence not only the youth but also school-going teenagers.
“Graduates have an active role in society to curb this social ill from spreading further,” he added.