Alumni engagement and philanthropy

ALTRUISTIC MALAYSIAN LAW STUDENT – YI KANG CHOO – NAMED 2021 ALLSTATE NI QUEEN’S STUDENT OF THE YEARProfessor David Jones, Student of the Year 2021 Yi Kang Choo and Ian Moore in cloisters at Queen's

23 July 2021

The 2020-21 President of the University’s Malaysian Students' Society NI (MSSNI), who established a task force for international students impacted by Covid-19, has been named the 2021 Allstate NI Queen’s Student of the Year.

The annual Graduate and Student of the Year Awards, now in their 23rd year, are presented in the name of the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) and, from this year, are enjoying generous support from Allstate NI. The Student Award announcement is always one of the highlights of Summer Graduation and recognises exceptional individuals for excellence, achievement or service either to the University or to the wider community.

Announcing this year's winner, Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor David Jones (above left), said:

“As Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students it is my privilege to be part of the celebrations to announce the winner of the 2021 Allstate NI Queen’s Student of the Year Award.

"It is my great pleasure to announce that the Student of the Year for 2021 is Yi Kang Choo, a final year in the School of Law."

It was a double celebration for Yi Kang Choo (pictured centre above) as the announcement was made at the School of Law graduation ceremony on Thursday 22 July, when he graduated ‘virtually’ with an LLB. Choo becomes the first person from Malaysia to win the coveted Student of the Year Award.

The Welfare Taskforce for Malaysian Students Abroad set up by Choo supported over 1,200 students and recent graduates during the pandemic, offering help and advice on the legal requirements and restrictions in place for those seeking to return home to Malaysia (and elsewhere) during the various stages of lockdown.

Speaking about the selection process, Ian Moore (above right), Head of Alumni and Supporter Engagement at Queen’s, said:

“The Judging Panel had an extraordinary field of Student of the Year nominations to select from, so our eventual winner was certainly up against very stiff competition.

“Yi Kang Choo represents all that is wonderful about Queen’s; the dedication of so many individuals to their fellow students, University life and the wider community is both exemplary and humbling.

“We wish him all the best in his future career.”

Adding her congratulations, QGA President Victoria Denoon said:

“The Student of the Year Award has always been a great way to recognise the contributions of those students who have impacted University life and the lives of others. 

“This year’s winner – Yi Kang Choo – is certainly no exception, and on behalf of the Queen’s Graduates’ Association – and all members of the alumni community – I would like to extend to him our warmest congratulations.

“Choo is a true inspiration and should be enormously proud of the impact he has had, not just here at Queen’s but wider afield.”

Leader, advocate, mentor

In addition to setting up the Taskforce Choo was commended for his leadership attributes, his role as an advocate for mental health (among both the student and local communities), and for volunteering as a mentor in the School of Law.

Among many other achievements while at Queen’s Choo:

  • Won a Diana Award, which recognises some of the most inspirational young people from across the UK and around the world
  • Contributed to the draft Northern Ireland Modern Slavery Strategy with the University’s Human Rights Centre
  • Won the 2021 International Student of the Year, awarded by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI)
  • Served as Student Mentor for the School of Law in the AHSS faculty
  • Represented Queen’s and the Northern Ireland region globally as a One Young World Ambassador
  • Won Best Speaker at the Queen's Open Moot, in addition to winning the prestigious All Ireland Philpot Curran Intervarsity Moot Court competition (2019/20) with colleague Shazana Binti Husaini 
  • Joined the Global Coalition of Youth, Peace and Security on the invitation of the UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth  
  • Trained as a NSPCC Childline Counsellor, supporting young people across the UK
  • Received the Best Brand Ambassador award from the National Undergraduate Employability Awards (NUE)

While studying for his degree, Choo worked part-time as a Student Assistant in the Student Guidance Centre (SGC), and in the University's International Office where he shared his experiences of Belfast with new and prospective students. His role as President of the MSSNI and leader of the Welfare Taskforce involved him:

  • Liaising with organisations including Education Malaysia (EM) and the Malaysian High Commission in London, to source the latest updates
  • Distributing health packs provided by Education Malaysia
  • Setting up a COVID-19 crisis response care line
  • Organising social events and campaigns such as Initiate COVID Care Fund, a Buddy Scheme, a mental health campaign, grocery support, and drop-in sessions to support the Malaysian student community

Accepting the Award, Choo paid tribute to those who had helped him on his journey through Queen's, saying: 

“I am extremely honoured and grateful to be receiving this Student of the Year Award.

"My journey has not always been the smoothest one, with challenges such as failing exams, being doubted by people – even myself sometimes – and of course having to cope with the pandemic, which I think is super relatable for all of us in the Class of 2021.

“Winning this Award would not have been possible without the unwearying support I have received from all the amazing people at Queen’s including my fellow classmates, colleagues at SGC, staff members in the Law School and the AHSS faculty.

“This Award belongs to each and every one of you.”

Reflecting on Choo’s selflessness and wide range of achievements, Feargus McCauley – Director of Enterprise Shared Services at Allstate NI – said:

“As sponsors of the Student of the Year Award it is a privilege to be part of a programme which celebrates the very best of the student community at Queen’s. 

“This year’s winner is certainly no exception to that and we are honoured and proud to recognise Choo for his outstanding achievements and contributions. 

“Your selflessness and commitment to supporting your fellow students and contributing to the enhancement of University life is an absolute credit to you.

“Thank you and the very best of luck from everyone at Allstate.”

Graduate of the Year

The Graduate of the Year will be announced later in the year and presented at the Charter Day Dinner on Friday 19th November.

Click on the link below to watch a video of the Student of the Year 2021 announcement, featuring Professor David Jones, Victoria Denoon, Feargus McCauley and Yi Kang Choo.  

Video still featuring Queen's University Belfast crest and the wording Allstate NI Queen's Student of the Year 2021 in red

Award and QGA enquiries can be directed to Andy Nisbet Friel, Alumni Officer (Engagement), Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast; tel: +44 (0)28 9097 1945.

To submit graduate news items, or for general enquiries about this story, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast.

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