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In Malaysia, education helped lift Hussin out of poverty.

Dr. Awang Hussin C’77 reflects on his country’s progress and his years at Drew.

February 2016—Dr. Awang Hussin’s reunion with Drew University was both educational and nostalgic.

Hussin, the Malaysian Ambassador to the United States, attended Drew as an undergraduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics in 1977. In 2014, he became Malaysian Ambassador, charged with promoting relations between Malaysia and the U.S.

During his Feb. 6 return to campus, he provided an overview of his native country and answered questions from political science students, giving them an opportunity to gain real-world knowledge from a global leader. He also felt relatable, as someone who’s also shaped by Drew.

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Fondly remembers Thanksgivings at Drew.

The ambassador noted the economic growth of Malaysia in the past few decades and how the government is committed to be considered a developed country by 2020. There are some positive signs: a decline in poverty and unemployment during the last 40 years and a significant focus on lifting people out of poverty through education, which Hussin benefited from as he grew up in a rural village as the son of a fisherman.

As Hussin explained, his home country gave him the chance to move out of rural life by placing him and other high-achieving students in boarding school, and then sponsoring him as he crossed the globe to study at two American universities: Drew and, later, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his PhD in economics.

Hussin also spoke fondly of his days at Drew, recalling spending Thanksgiving holidays with his “very, very nice” professors and working odd jobs on campus during breaks, such as washing dishes and painting buildings.

“I will see what I can do when I go home to try and promote more Malaysian students to come [to Drew] because I think this is the best place for us to come and study,” he said.

Junior Engy Gadelmawla, a political science major who’s interested in international affairs, said it was “really interesting to hear directly from someone who does it every day.” She added that it’s great that Hussin is an alum “because he got to talk about his memories, and it also makes me think about what it’s going to be like when I grow up.”