Hafsah Mohd Ghazaly is a woman with a mission. She wants to make Lehigh a household word in her native Malaysia and in pretty much every other country in the world, too.
And the class of 2000 alumna, who earned a Ph.D. in polymer science and engineering from the university, has a pretty clear idea of how to do it.
“Lehigh’s presence in every part of the world is important,” she says. “The marketing and selling of Lehigh can be achieved with local Lehigh alumni who can assist Lehigh. I believe this is the opportunity that has been given to me and I love doing it because I feel that I can give back something to my alma mater.”
Clearly, Hafsah, who prefers to be addressed by her first name, and who is currently serving as International Director-at-Large on the Lehigh University Alumni Association Board of Directors, believes in leading by example. In the short time since she left Lehigh, she has organized numerous meetings involving countless government and private organizations in Malaysia for both Lehigh President Alice P. Gast and Lehigh Vice President for International Affairs and Professor of Chemical Engineering Mohamed El-Aasser.
“We need more international alumni to pick up the Lehigh torch as Hafsah has done and help build bridges between the university and their native countries,” says El-Aasser, who served as Hafsah's academic adviser during her Lehigh tenure.
Balancing work, family and being an ambassador for Lehigh
Hafsah is quick to express her gratitude to the hundreds of Lehigh alumni living in Malaysia, both for their companionship and camaraderie at periodic alumni social gatherings and for their willingness to assist her in her work as an international ambassador for the university.
“I certainly have a dedicated team of ‘Lehigh-ians’ who readily group up with me—like Mission Impossible or Mr. T's A-Team—whenever there is a big Lehigh event in Malaysia,” Hafsah says. “I am proud of these youngsters and their dedication, too.”
A mother of four who balanced her rigorous Lehigh graduate studies with her child-rearing duties, Hafsah is now balancing her Lehigh ambassadorial assignment with her professional responsibilities as module director of science and technology in the area of occupational products technologies for the global healthcare firm Ansell Shah Alam Sdn. Bhd.
“I head the team on R&D in Supported Occupational gloves and our team is also responsible for the transfer of the laboratory design into the manufacturing plant,” Hafsah says. “Our project teams are comprised of global cross-functional teams from Australia and New Zealand, the Far East, the EU and the Americas, so I get to travel to various Ansell locations.
“I love my job at Ansell for the globalized interactions and the global projects—the ‘wholeness’ of the process. I get to see the small and big picture and that makes me feel that I am a member of the world/planet we call Earth. I make tons of global friends,” she says.
Hafsah-the-mother is probably as grateful for the many benefits Lehigh afforded her young family during her degree program as she is for the countless other ways the university touched her life. She has fond memories of their time living in Saucon Village, their participation in the Malaysian Student Association, and Lehigh’s excellent daycare program.
“The multi-national community in Saucon Village,” she recalls, “with so many families of different backgrounds, provided a diplomatic training ground, for the kids especially. It really turned them into little diplomats.”
Hafsah says Lehigh’s superb research programs and the quality of its faculty will go a long way in terms of enhancing the university’s international reputation and name recognition.
“Many people that I have met in Malaysia can relate to Lehigh as soon as it is mentioned, but many more are not aware (of Lehigh) and perhaps this is also true in other countries,” she says, adding that the Lehigh Web site, and in particular the new Office of International Affairs Web site, is an excellent tool for communicating the Lehigh message around the world.
In the meantime, Hafsah will do her best to single-handedly or with other fellow Lehigh alumni spread the Lehigh message around the world one country at a time, as she and her family are about to relocate to Hertford, Brickendonbury, United Kingdom.
“I carry Lehigh’s pride and glory everywhere I go in this world,” she says. “I am so blessed and thankful that I went to Lehigh! I wish Lehigh continued success. I thank Lehigh for the transformation I went through and also the development and growth of my family.”