ยินดีต้อนรับ, and welcome to the IU Goes to Thailand blog!
Indiana University’s long and storied history of international engagement dates back more than a century and spans the globe. But few countries hold quite the connection that Thailand does.
For 70 years, IU has enjoyed a rich history of partnership with Thailand, one of the university’s longest official relationships with a global partner. As our university rapidly approaches its Bicentennial celebration, IU’s many educational and institution-building initiatives in Thailand – and indeed, our activities across much of Southeast Asia – continue to translate into numerous student and scholarly exchanges, international service opportunities, faculty research collaborations and genuine friendships that have truly transformed lives both in Thailand and here in the Hoosier state.
Today, nearly 60 students from Thailand are enrolled at IU. As with all of IU’s international students, we value these students for the valuable cultural perspectives they bring to our classrooms, and the way they enrich our campuses and communities we serve. We have also welcomed many Thai faculty scholars and researchers to IU over the years.
Much of our international activity related to Thailand and the surrounding region is centered in our Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, which houses the recently established Department of Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies. The department is home to new degrees and enhanced language offerings in Thai, Indonesian and other regional languages. It also supports teaching, research and outreach activities on the economies, governance, culture, languages and security of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional intergovernmental organization consisting of 10 countries in Southeast Asia and a growing global power. (Today, IU has about 400 students from ASEAN nations, and in recent years, we have had students from every ASEAN nation represented at IU.)
Increasingly, more and more IU students are choosing to study abroad in Thailand and experience first-hand its extraordinary culture and history. Currently, that number is around 50 students annually.
IU also has more than 1,000 Thai alumni, many of whom have become prominent members of Thai society as leaders in business, education, government, health care, higher education and other important fields. They are among IU’s greatest global ambassadors and loyal friends of the university.
A lasting friendship
Fittingly, it was a personal friendship that spawned IU’s seven decades of engagement in Thailand. In 1948, IU’s legendary 11th president, Herman B Wells, met with Mom Luang Pin Malakul, then permanent undersecretary for education in Thailand, who was in Bloomington to visit with Thai graduate students who were studying at IU. This began a personal friendship between President Wells and Secretary Malakul, who later served as Thai minister of education and culture, that would ultimately lead to a close institutional relationship between the Thai government and IU and contribute mightily to the development of the country’s system of higher education.
As one of the founding members of the Midwest Universities Consortium for International Activities, IU helped develop the Institute of Public Administration at Thammasat University in 1955 as well as 16 teacher colleges in Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s, many of which are now four-year, comprehensive universities.
IU also played a central role, in 1966, in establishing the National Institute of Development Administration. Thailand’s leading educational institution in the area of sustainable development, NIDA has trained thousands of the Thai government’s top officials and diplomats for service across the country and around the globe. IU’s close partnership with NIDA continues today through exchanges of faculty and graduate students.
And in 2016, IU President Michael A. McRobbie delivered a keynote address in front of hundreds of Thailand’s most eminent statesmen, educational leaders and other dignitaries at NIDA’s 50th anniversary celebration. McRobbie was the only U.S. college or university president asked to deliver a keynote, further illustrating just how highly influential and highly regarded IU is in Thailand and throughout one of the most culturally, economically and politically important parts of the world.
Writing a new chapter, where we’re going
Beginning early next week, McRobbie and IU Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum will help write the newest chapter of IU’s successful and continually evolving engagement in the region when they lead a university delegation to Bangkok, Thailand’s capital and most populous city.
First, however, they’ll make a quick stop in Taipei, Taiwan, where they will attend the inaugural conference of the IU Alumni Association’s Taiwan Chapter, a reception for IU’s Taiwanese alumni (around 2,300 IU alumni are affiliated with Taiwan) and the conferral of an honorary doctorate on Pang-Yuan Chi, professor emeritus of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Taiwan University. Chi is one of the world’s foremost translators of Taiwanese literature, and in her biography, “The Great Flowing River,” she fondly recalls her time as a Fulbright scholar studying on the IU Bloomington campus.
Once in Thailand, McRobbie and Buxbaum will preside over the formal opening, on Feb. 26, of the new IU ASEAN Gateway office, IU’s fifth such office around the world. Like its counterparts in New Delhi, Beijing, Berlin and Mexico City, IU’s new facility in central Bangkok will enhance and expand IU’s global engagement through support for teaching and research, study abroad opportunities for IU students, conferences and workshops, and engagement with alumni, businesses and non-governmental organizations.
As part of IU’s continued effort to expand its teaching and research capacity in Southeast Asia, McRobbie and Buxbaum will meet with the senior leadership of NIDA as well as with administrators and faculty at Chulalongkorn University. IU’s partnership with Chulalongkorn, now more than two decades old, has expanded in recent years and includes scholarly and research exchanges with a number of academic units, including IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, Kelley School of Business and School of Education, as well as the IU School of Nursing and School of Dentistry on the IUPUI campus. They also will meet with former NIDA President Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, who is the current president of Walailak University in southern Thailand and a past recipient of an IU honorary doctorate. Recently, IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar led a delegation to Walailak to explore possible partnership activities.
On Feb. 28, together with the Asia Foundation and in collaboration with the Australian National University, IU will host a panel discussion on the strategic importance of international engagement with the ASEAN nations. Among the distinguished panel participants will be IU alumnus David Carden, former U.S. ambassador to ASEAN; Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia and chancellor of ANU; and Marty Natalegawa, former ambassador and foreign minister of Indonesia.
The following day, members of the IU delegation will attend a special gathering of regional alumni to celebrate IU’s 70 years of engagement in Thailand. The event will include an alumni award ceremony recognizing alumni of the School of Dentistry, the Kelley School of Business, the Maurer School of Law and the School of Education. Highlighting the event will be a tea and afternoon program hosted by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, to whom IU awarded an honorary degree in 2010 in recognition of her efforts to expand and improve public education all across Thailand, especially in remote and rural areas. The program will include a panel on women in leadership, moderated by IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie. In conjunction with these activities, the Kelley School of Business will host an alumni reception and convene a meeting of the Global Dean’s Council.
And I’ll be there for each of these activities and more – serving as your eyes and ears to our time in Thailand and delivering first-hand, real-time reports of the delegation’s daily travels. I’ll also post information about our many historic, expanding and evolving ties to Thailand and share insights into IU’s ongoing effort, as it rapidly approaches its Bicentennial celebration, to strengthen its engagement efforts in Southeast Asia and around the world.
I hope you will follow along with me, and please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.