Prior to this appointment of 15 September 2014, she served as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Peace building Support. She was previously the Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees in charge of Operations (2006–09), active in over 118 countries.
Cheng-Hopkins hails from Penang where she attended St. George's Girls' School. She received an American Field Service scholarship to study in the United States. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Beloit College in 1976 and a master's degree in Economic Development from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs in 1978, and diplomas from l'Université d'Haute Bretagne in France and Harvard University, United States.
Khoo Salma Nasution, Alison Hayes & Sehra Yeap Zimbulis: Giving Our Best: The Story of St George's Girls' School, Penang, 1885-2010, Areca Books, 2010