Larry Asu, a native of Sarawak, Malaysia, has lived in the United States for nine years. He holds a bachelor's degree in human resource development from University Malaysia Sarawak and a 2014 master of education in training and development from Penn State.
Currently the supply chain learning manager at The Hershey Company, Asu is responsible for end-to-end ownership of supply chain learning programs, including manufacturing and other supply chain functions. As a performance consultant, he works closely with leaders, subject matter experts and business partners by strategizing, conceptualizing and developing interactive and sustainable learning solutions, including eLearning, instructor-led training and blended solutions that support the successful implementation of supply chain projects and initiatives.
If Larry Asu were to ever have a story written about him, it would be about “resilience.”
“Ask any of my friends,” Asu said. “They’ll tell you.”
Asu first came to Penn State from Malaysia at the request of his manager who had asked him to do a masters’ program. He was working in training and development and wanted to attend a university with a strong program. So, he searched online.
“Three universities popped up in my search,” Asu recalled. He emailed each of them, asking for more information about their programs. The other two universities replied with generic form responses, but from Penn State, he received a personal response from a professor in the program.
“I felt that was a very personal touch,” Asu said. While it took him a while — almost a year — to decide to attend a master's program, he knew it would be Penn State from that point, he said. He applied and was accepted to the Penn State Harrisburg campus.
Asu said he did whatever it took to get his education, from getting on-campus work, to bicycling to campus no matter the weather — sun, rain or snow.
“My time at Penn State taught me to adapt to different surroundings,” he said. “I had to learn a lot when I first got to America — it was very, very different from Malaysia. Things like measurements and the coin system were completely foreign to me.”
He learned as much from his challenges as his successes during his time at Penn State, Asu said.
“I learned to take failure not as simply failure, but as a learning opportunity,” he said. “Penn State teaches you to never stop learning.”
Asu said he particularly loved learning about the diversity on Penn State’s campuses and how much diversity was celebrated at Penn State Harrisburg. He credits many of his diverse classmates for sharing their experiences, which helped him in his studies and later in his career, he said.
After his time at Penn State, Asu was hired for a position with The Hershey Company in supply chain, focusing on training, education and development of the workforce at the company — something he is incredibly passionate about.
“What wakes me up in the morning is that my career and passion directly impacts others,” he said. “In learning and development, the goal is always to help people grow and become skilled workers.”
Community service and engagement is also important to Asu, he said. When not working, Asu enjoys spending time with Peter, his little brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; going on Project Fellowship field trips with his friends from the Milton Hershey School; organizing 5K races benefiting the Children Miracle Network; and helping his local church with running a festival or food fair.
When he is not working at The Hershey Company or engaging in community service, Asu’s passions manifest themselves in other ways, such as traveling. He has been to 29 U.S. states and hopes to hit all 50 one day, he said.
What wakes me up in the morning is that my career and passion directly impacts others. In learning and development, the goal is always to help people grow and become skilled workers.
—Larry Asu , Penn State alumnus
“My passion for learning and development transfers over to my love of travel because I love to meet people and learn from them,” he said. “Interacting with new people is what drives me to travel.”
Asu recalled a story at a diner where a man sitting at the other side of the breakfast bar was giving him a strange look. Asu, never one to shy away from meeting people, asked the man if he could help him.
“The man asked me, ‘What are your kind of people doing here?’” Asu recalled. “So I had a choice. I could either dismiss it and walk away, or I could perhaps invite him to a civil conversation.”
Asu said he chose to engage and explained his position at Hershey and how he trains employees while prioritizing that people's safety and the products made are at the highest standards. He explained that he came to the United States with a purpose. The man then said, “The work you do is important. Keep it up.”
“I made a friend that day,” Asu said. “I took the opportunity to educate him and it worked out well in that situation.”
Asu is still passionate about Penn State and shows this passion by serving on the board of advisers at Penn State Harrisburg on the Student Life committee under Student Affairs.
“The more we understand the needs of our international students and present them to the boards, the better off we will be,” he said. “As a recent graduate and international student, I feel that my perspective is valuable.”
This is just one part of Asu’s desire to continue the Penn State legacy as an alumnus, he said. He wants to help empower current students, just as he helps empower employees at The Hershey Company.
“My message to students, especially international students, is always: 'You always have a seat at the table,'” he said. “Sometimes we feel that our voices are not important or valuable, but that’s not true — all of your voices, experiences and values are important.”