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Devakumaran Narayanasamy first heard about open universities while working in London in the late 1990s to early 2000s. He felt that if there were such a university in Malaysia, he would definitely jump at the opportunity to further his education. Turned out there was.
OUM gave him the platform to realise his dream of obtaining a Bachelor of Psychology, not just out of passion but also to delve deeper into the field of community development.
He had founded PeaceWorks Malaysia some 15 years ago, due to his passion for helping the people he met at church. It was there that he learnt of the need to help refugees, migrants and the Orang Asli community.
“OUM makes it convenient to go back to school. They deliver your materials virtually and you get to study at your own pace. It’s a good approach.
“For people like me who do not work 9-to-5 jobs, going for classes in the evenings could be difficult. Because OUM offers flexibility, there are opportunities to go for lectures and join in discussions when these suit your schedule.”
Devakumaran considers the Director of the Alor Star, Kedah and Perlis Learning Centre, Assoc Prof Teh Lai Ling, and Prof Rajaletchumi Thaliah as his mentors.
“Teh would drop everything to sit with you and help you out. All the students had a good rapport with her, including me. She was the one who introduced me to Prof Rajaletchumi, who helped me a lot in my final research project.
“When I started my paper, I didn’t know how to start. I had a specific topic in mind, which was on refugee students, and Prof Rajaletchumi helped me through the process.”
Devakumaran’s time at OUM also helped him to break out of his comfort zone.
“One of the papers we did was on community service. It forced me to go out, meet people, and work with others. Many of the papers that OUM offers make you work with others, which builds social, academic and research skills. The University also has a vibrant student body that allows students to be mentors and mentees for one another.”
Devakumaran exceeded his own expectations when he was asked to give the valedictorian speech at the 26th Convocation last October.
“My most profound experience at OUM was the convocation. There were approximately 5,000 graduates and I was the one chosen to deliver the valedictorian speech at the final session. I did well but I really did not expect it,” he said.
“As you grow older, start progressing in your career and raising a family, going back to school is not at the top of your mind but OUM makes it possible.”
Adapted from The Star, 16 November 2022