BMIHMS Hotel Management Researcher Spotlight: Meet Dr Cindy Lee

Dr Cindy Lee

“I learned through experience that a career driven by passion is what gives meaning to what we do. It energises us, it gives us purpose and therefore, fulfilment."

Originally from Malaysia, Dr Cindy Lee is currently a Senior Learning Facilitator for the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) at Torrens University Australia. 

With her unique perspective and innovative work, Torrens University and BMIHMS are thrilled to have Dr Lee on the team as both a lecturer and researcher. 

Although she’s lived in Australia now for seven years, Dr Lee credits her home country and her family with instilling in her a passion for hospitality since childhood. 

“I grew up in a close-knit family,” Dr Lee explained, “I have three siblings, and there were always people at home, from family to friends to relatives. So, from a very young age I developed an inclination towards people. 

It always made me happy when visitors felt comfortable, welcomed and at ease in our home, so the passion for tourism and hospitality came very natural to me.

I also grew up in a country that prides itself on its multiculturalism, and through this, I developed a curiosity and appreciation for other countries and cultures. People are friendly, warm, tolerant and welcoming, which makes it a wonderful destination for tourists. 

Malaysia also had rigorous tourism campaigns, and I knew there was plenty of potential for growth in this industry. I later paired my childhood curiosity with the potential of the industry and decided this is the path I would like to pursue in life.”

Dr Lee completed both her Bachelor in Tourism Management and in Engineering, and later her Master in International Hotel Management, in Malaysia, before being offered some teaching work. 

It was during this time she discovered by chance another passion that would change her life direction. 

“I was given the opportunity to teach in a university back in Malaysia, and that was how, by chance, I discovered what I love doing,” she explained. 

“I learned through experience that a career driven by passion is what gives meaning to what we do. It energises us, it gives us purpose and therefore, fulfilment.

I wanted to channel that passion for the industry into educating students who shared the same passion, students who would one day contribute and perhaps become leaders of this very exciting industry.”

After spending over five years in academia in Malaysia she decided it was time for the next big thing, even if it meant leaving her homeland. 

So, in 2015 Dr Cindy Lee packed her bags for Australia and started her PhD at Torrens University. 

“I wanted to experience a different kind of learning from what I was used to in Malaysia, and I wanted to also step out of my comfort zone. So this was really exciting and scary at the same time for me,” she said. 

It proved to be the right decision. It wasn’t long before she secured a job with BMIHMS as a research assistant, and later as a Learning Facilitator. 

Dr Cindy Lee sits in the unusual position of bridging academic, teaching and professional work in the industry.

 As someone who comes from this diverse background, she understands that as well as conducting her research and teaching theory, she also has to help students prepare for life after studies.

Teaching for Dr Lee, however, is about more than ensuring students are work-ready. 

For her, it’s about nurturing passionate leaders and well-rounded young professionals who are ready for anything, including the challenges of the post-pandemic industry. 

“As an academic,” she explained, “I see our role in preparing students for a career they love. Of course, the goal is ensuring their employability, but gearing them up with the right attitude, skills and knowledge is the key ingredient for their success. 

The industry has gone through a tumultuous time, and I felt, in more ways than one, we were in a position to support students and the industry through various phases of the pandemic. 

This underscores the role research playes in informing how we shape our curriculum to remain ahead of the curve. As such, we shifted our curriculum to reflect hotel operations in the ‘new normal’. We portrayed to students a realistic expectation of what their career and road to success would look like. More importantly, we focused our program on developing resilient yet persistent and empathetic graduates. 

It is indeed a unique and rewarding role, especially when we witness graduates pave their way and find success in the industry they love.”

Dr Cindy Lee has been teaching at BMIHMS for several years now. She loves the working environment, the BMIHMS ethos, and her role there for a number of important reasons. 

“The best thing I love about teaching at BMIHMS,” she explained, “is our shared goal of seeing students succeed in their chosen career. Our guiding principles, the Three Pillars approach, keep us focused on not only students’ academic performance but also their practical skills development and personal growth. 

We put an emphasis on developing individuals that embody the spirit of hospitality, not only in the work they do but also through their character and attitude. 

Apart from that, we have a close community of staff, students and alumni that facilitates a conducive environment for learning and relationship building. This is vital as it helps bridge what we teach in our curriculum and what the industry seeks from our graduates. 

It also helps bridge our students’ learning and employment through industry placements and career opportunities.”

More recently, she has taken on the role of HDR Director for the Business and Hospitality vertical at Torrens University, in addition to lecturing students at BMIHMS, and doing research within the Torrens University Centre for Organisational Change and Agility (COCA). 

Dr Lee has spent years working across industry as well as in academia, and she brings both theory and industry experience together in her research and teaching. 

Dr Lee’s innovative research concentrates on the tourist experience, social media consumption, hospitality behaviour, innovation and knowledge transfer in the context of tourism and hospitality. 
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