Siti Balkish Roslan
“Sometimes I change professions from being a personal psychiatrist to a dictator within the hour,” says Siti Roslan (ISPP 1995-1998). She is describing her role as a Lecturer at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Teaching Design, Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Architectural History and Culture for first year students, Siti relishes her responsibility of nurturing young minds, even if it means sometimes being stern with them. “They are fresh out of the water, and I get to watch them grow, seeing them go from knowing very little to knowing a lot more, and that is a big responsibility” she explains.
When Siti was ‘fresh out of the water’ herself from high school, she was unsure how to translate her interests and strengths in drawing and design into a university degree. With advice from her dad, she settled on studying architecture at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. She shares:
I have always been an arts person, drawing, composition, color, details were a big part of my character, but science was something that I couldn’t put aside either, therefore architecture seemed like the perfect solution. It was a beautiful marriage of both, not too constricting in terms of formulas or structure, and enough freedom for expression. It’s discovery and creation at the same time.
In 2010, Siti graduated with a Bachelor’s in Architecture and immediately entered the industry. After two years of practicing architecture, Siti felt that a lot of the “magic” she experienced in school was missing from her life. In addition, the hours were very demanding: “often you have to sleep in the office working nonstop on a presentation only for it to be rejected in a ten minute meeting!” In order to restore her passion in architecture, Siti began searching for a different path.
In 2012, Siti took a major decision to return to what she loved, and go back to school – only this time to teach! She admits that this job has its ups and downs as well, but she has not been happier. There are several reasons for Siti’s new sense of job satisfaction. Lecturing provides her the time to do more reading and research of her own choice. In addition, it gives her the flexibility to do things differently and creatively, especially for the sake of her students. She often assigns her favourite fantasy and science fiction novels as the starting point for her students in order to encourage them to think outside the box and bring imagined settings and scenes to life. For example, she has asked students to read Dragon Lance and Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, specifically the part where the companions are at Otiks bar:
The section describes the activities ranging from the discussion between the companions, to the ogre attacks, to the escape through the kitchen. I encourage the students to actually visualize and illustrate the space. The bar is on top of a tree, which they have to figure out how to [design] themselves.
Finally, the regular sense of pride that comes with seeing her students succeed is invaluable. “People might underestimate it, but it’s one of the best jobs,” Siti happily concludes.
In addition to going back to school as a lecturer, Siti is also pursuing an MBA part-time from the National University of Malaysia. In the future, she plans to slowly move into the business world, establish her own café one day, and branch out from there. “Off campus”, Siti searches for inventive ways to get the most out of life. When she is not drawing or designing in her free time, you may find her surfing on the coast during monsoon season.
Surfs up! Siti fixes her surfboard, driving a couple hours from Kuala Lumpur to the beach on the weekends when she can.
Siti’s fun loving attitude towards life is one of her most identifiable personality traits, one that she has had since her days at ISPP. She was at ISPP for only three years, and says the experience “played a big part of defining myself as the person I am today… One of the most monumental thing that I learned from ISPP is humility no matter how different the person is, no matter how strange their culture is, no matter the religion, the way they talk, the accent they have. … I never realized how little yet diverse ISPP was until I went to another.”
Her parting words of wisdom to ISPP students thinking about university and alumni thinking about what next: “Be proud of where you came from. And I don’t mean your country.”
Siti with her former classmates at ISPP during primary school.