Before we move forward into the first day of our visit, let’s step back into history. Indiana University’s connection to Thailand dates back to 1948, and over the years, IUPUI extended this relationship with a number of administrative visits to the country by Chancellor Bepko and others, a few details of which we will explore in the coming days.
For now, what excites me most was a detail found in IUPUI’s 1970 commencement program marking the occasion of our first graduation ceremony. There, listed among graduates, was Oravonna Utaisen, who earned her Master of Science in Nursing and is the first IUPUI graduate from Thailand following the campus’s official founding. Ms. Utaisen, who went on to play an important role as director of the Thai Red Cross Society College of Nursing, was also the recipient of the 1987 Florence Nightingale Medal. If you followed the trip blog for IUPUI’s delegation to Mexico, you may recall that the School of Nursing at IUPUI had the first graduate from Mexico.
Path 1: Science, technology, and KMUTT
Now back to the visit to Thailand.
The IUPUI delegation’s first day in Thailand followed three different though intersecting paths.
For most members of the delegation, the day started at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT). Located in Thonburi, the former capital of Thailand, KMUTT ranks in the Top 5 for Research and Top 10 for Teaching by the Thai Ministry of Education.
With research strengths in architecture, bioresources, energy, engineering, environment, linguistics, science, and technology, KMUTT was designated as one of nine National Research Universities of Thailand by the Office of the Higher Education Commission in 2010.
It was a pleasure to start the visit meeting with several IU alumni who are members of the KMUTT faculty. Wittaya Kaonongbua earned his doctorate in biology from IU and is now in the Department of Microbiology at KMUTT; Kejkaew Thanasuanin, in the Department of Media Technology, earned a master’s degree in computer science in 2010; and Punnaruk Suntraruk, who earned an LLM from the Maurer School of Law also in 2010, is currently international program coordinator for the faculty of engineering at KMUTT.
Meeting alumni on these visits is one of the most gratifying experiences because it strongly reinforces the importance of all that we are doing to build international partnerships that hold doors open for students around the world. The work of a university delegation becomes even more understandable when you see what those graduates who traveled so far and so bravely to study at Indiana University and at IUPUI make of their education, their careers, and their lives. It becomes real when you see teaching and research partnerships grow from conversation over tea and coffee into global innovation, nurtured by the faculty who can keep those connections alive and thriving.
Conversations with KMUTT focused on potential research and teaching collaborations but zeroed in on areas like student recruitment for the School of Informatics and Computing 2+2 or accelerated BS+MS programs in the areas like media arts, health data science, and applied computer science, among others.
After initial conversations concluded at KMUTT, Chancellor Paydar joined Sue Babich and colleagues in public health for afternoon meetings at the Ministry of Public Health. Meanwhile, Deans Palakal, Rhodes, and Russomanno travelled to the Institute for Promotion Science and Technology, which reaches 9 million K-12 students in Thailand where they learned of several possible opportunities for partnership related to STEM education teacher training programs focused.
Path 2: Public health
Colleagues in public health started their day at Chulalongkorn University, one of Thailand’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Founded in 1917 with 380 students and four schools, today Chulalongkorn University has 20 faculties, 23 colleges and research institutes, and more than 35,000 students. The university counts nearly a dozen IU alumni in fields including philosophy, English, second language studies, education, and dentistry among its more than 8,000 faculty members.
IUPUI and IU have enjoyed a long and productive partnership with Chulalongkorn University, which includes collaborations in nursing, dentistry, and public health.
During our visit today, we learned that Chulalongkorn’s three top public health priorities are addressing an aging population, misuse of illicit drugs, and their community program called “Health Street”—a community commons modeled on a University of Florida program by the same name that targets non-communicable diseases with prevention messages and health education. This presents a very interesting alignment with our own Grand Challenges project addressing the opioid crisis, an alignment that might result in further collaborations that could help both of our countries solve some of the most pernicious problems we face.
After lunch, Chancellor Paydar joined Sue Babich and other colleagues at the Ministry of Public Health for what Sue describes as a “great meeting.” One of the most exciting outcomes is the discussion of identifying and placing a doctoral fellow from the ministry at Fairbanks School of Public Health.
What do you get when you put a chemist in a coffee shop? Nitro Labs coffee in Bangkok, Thailand. Founder of Nitro Labs Eliot Delunas graduated with his chemistry degree and went on to specialize in cold brew coffee, turning his coffee shop into a laboratory.
In addition to Eliot, guests at tonight’s reception included Kelley grads, School of Science grads, Engineering and Technology grads, and even a graduate of the School of Liberal Arts who had specialized in teaching English as a second language and is now on the faculty of Thammasat University in Bangkok. Yet another set of success stories from IUPUI and Indiana University.
We were deeply honored this evening to be joined by President of Walailak University Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, who will be hosting us on his campus tomorrow. He brought several colleagues who enjoyed lively conversation at Chancellor Paydar’s table.
Path 3: Becky’s bonus adventure
We won’t get into the nitty gritty of this, but the final path was mine. My trip to Thailand officially started in Indianapolis on Friday evening at around 6:15 and ended in Bangkok at 12:45 pm on Monday. No flights were missed, but at one point the plane I had boarded sat on the runway for 2 hours before returning to the concourse. My colleagues have kindly filled me in on all that I missed Monday morning. I’m immensely grateful that I arrived in time for the alumni reception.
If you recognize the vague Robert Frost reference in the title, I applaud you. I definitely took the one less traveled by and that did make all the difference.
Join us tomorrow for the next installment of what promises to be an exciting and productive adventure as we travel to Nakhon Si Thammarat for a visit to Walailak University in southern Thailand. In the meantime, if you have questions, I would welcome your email at firstname.lastname@example.org.