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Olivia Pei Lin Lim and Gabriel Kah Kay Cheong

A family of four, Gabriel and Olivia and their two children, bundled up but in an arid landscape

Olivia Pei Lin Lim and Gabriel Kah Kay Cheong,
MA '23 Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies

Bringing the family to Stanford GSE

Olivia Pei Lin Lim and Gabriel Kah Kay Cheong had been married for about a decade when they both decided to apply to the same master’s program at the GSE – unwittingly positioning themselves as competitors for a spot in a program known for its small, diverse cohort. 

“The small class size was a draw,” Lim said of the GSE’s program in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies (POLS). “But somehow it didn’t occur to us that both of us applying would reduce our chances of getting in.”

Happily, both were admitted – keeping their relationship under wraps until they were invited to enroll. After getting their acceptance letters, Cheong scheduled a Zoom meeting with POLS director Ann Jaquith to talk more about the program, surprising her when Lim suddenly joined him on screen. 

The pair had met and started dating as undergrads at Imperial College London before returning home to Singapore, where they both worked as middle school teachers and took on policy and leadership roles with the Ministry of Education. They plan to return to Singapore and their work in education after they finish the POLS program.

In the meantime, they live on campus with their two kids – Elicia, 8, and Eliel, 5 – who attend school nearby while Cheong and Lim are in class themselves. With so many kid-loving classmates at the GSE, the family has acquired lots of surrogate aunts and uncles. And Elicia and Eliel bring their own valuable perspective to this community of educational innovators, says Cheong: “Their ages fit nicely for some of the interventions or tech tools that our classmates are developing and want to try out.”

February 10, 2023
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Cheong and Olivia Lim

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