Central to Indiana University’s nearly 200-year history has been a rich tradition of engagement with the world that dates back more than a century. As illustrated in the previous blog post, IU’s now seven decades of friendship and collaboration with Thailand – which IU delegation members are here in Bangkok to honor and celebrate this week – are a major part of that tradition.
IU has written – and continues to write – an extraordinary story in Thailand, and the university’s connections here truly are among its strongest anywhere in the world.
Over the years, IU’s partnership with Thailand has yielded an entire generation of senior-level Thai business executives, educators, government officials and diplomats who received their advanced education at IU. In fact, at one time in the 1980s, three-fifths of the governors of Thailand’s 72 provinces held degrees from either IU or the Institute of Public Administration at Thammasat University, which IU helped establish in 1955. By 1986, the IPA and its successor, the National Institute for Development Administration, which IU also helped create, had educated 3,300 master’s graduates and trained 1,500 of the Thai government’s top executives, including the prime minister, and more than a thousand of its diplomats.
Between 1955 and 1962, more than 45 IU faculty traveled to Thailand. They included John Ryan, who became IU’s 14th president in 1971, and who was in Bangkok from 1955 to 1957 conducting research for his Ph.D. thesis. Over that same period, 41 Thai students came to the U.S. for advanced training in public administration. Remarkably, 35 of those 41 students pursued their training at IU.
During the 1960s and 1970s, IU helped develop 16 teacher colleges in Thailand, many of which are now four-year, comprehensive universities. And in the 1990s, IU partnered with Thailand’s dental schools to promote the development of graduate dental education in Thailand. Under this agreement, doctoral students trained at IU and then returned to Thailand to train others.
Of course, IU’s close connections with Thailand also include the university’s friendship with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, to whom IU President Michael A. McRobbie awarded an honorary doctorate in 2010 for her strong commitment to improving the lives of the Thai people through the power of education. Today, Her Royal Highness will host a tea and afternoon program here in Bangkok as part of a special gathering of IU alumni from around the region who will help us celebrate seven decades of relationship-building in Thailand. This latest “IU Is Global” event will include an alumni award ceremony recognizing graduates of IU’s School of Dentistry, Kelley School of Business, Maurer School of Law and School of Education.
All of this activity reflects IU’s stature, as the university rapidly approaches its Bicentennial, as one of our nation’s most international universities. These aren’t just marketing slogans. IU truly is global. And the university is indeed everywhere.
More importantly, though, this activity speaks to how all of IU’s international engagement efforts – including our work on this trip to expand our relations with Thailand and the surrounding region – are carefully planned and implemented to maximize its benefits to the university’s core teaching, research and service missions.
This means encouraging IU students to study abroad and creating opportunities for them to do so. It also means continuing to recruit highly qualified international students, who bring unique cultural perspectives to IU and help create campus environments that closely match the increasingly interconnected world in which our graduates will live and work. This also means promoting and supporting global connections for our best scholars and researchers who are addressing some of the most complex challenges facing our local communities, our nation and our world.
Finally, this means engaging in institution-building projects that fulfill the service mission of the university by helping improve the health, prosperity and security of people all over the world. The IU students and faculty who participate in these projects almost always return with greatly enhanced skills, experiences that will enhance their personal and professional growth, and new relationships that will last a lifetime.
The benefits of global partnership
Developing long-term global partnerships with the best teaching and research institutions around the world continues to be a central part of IU’s international engagement. These partnerships provide venues for our students to study abroad, support faculty research and help recruit the best scholars and students from around the world to our Indiana campuses.
IU’s 11th president, Herman B Wells, who was responsible for initiating IU’s engagement in Thailand and who received many of the country’s highest honors during his lifetime, recognized very early on the mutual benefits of these partnerships. In his autobiography, “Being Lucky,” Wells clearly had our Thai friends on his mind when he wrote, “We realized that by taking an active part in these international projects, the benefits would be two-way: while lending whatever help we could to institutions abroad, we would be greatly enriching the store of experience, knowledge and professional competence of our faculty participants, who, upon their return, would bring to the campus a comparative view that would stimulate the atmosphere of learning in the university.”
Wells’ words rang especially true during the IU delegation’s trip this week to Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s top-rated and oldest institution of higher education. The university’s roots go back to 1899, when King Chulalongkorn opened a school to train royal pages and civil servants at the Grand Palace of Thailand. It was formally established as a public university in 1917 with 380 students and four schools. Today it has 20 faculties, 23 colleges and research institutes, and more than 35,000 students
IU has had a relationship with CU going back to the mid-1950s, when former President Ryan worked at the campus on his doctoral thesis on city government and development. In more recent years, a collaborative agreement between the two universities, first signed in 1974, has generated numerous successful teaching and research exchanges, particularly in the areas of business, dentistry, public health and nursing. What’s more, the CU faculty includes about a dozen alums of IU.
On Wednesday, IU President McRobbie and Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum met with CU President Bundhit Eua arporn and other senior university officials on the main CU campus, where they explored how to potentially deepen and broaden an already active and successful collaboration.
The IU School of Nursing and School of Dentistry on the IUPUI campus have had lengthy histories with Chulalongkorn University and continue to expand upon their relations. To this end, IU and CU officials have planned a major conference for nursing schools across Thailand that will begin in a few days.
While here, members of the IU delegation met up with IU McKinney School of Law professor George Edwards, who has been a visiting scholar at the CU Faculty of Law for several periods this past year. Edwards is the founding director of the McKinney School of Law’s Program in International Human Rights Law. In that role, he has facilitated and supervised more than 185 McKinney student summer intern placements at the United Nations and other human rights organizations all across the world.
Recently, Chulalongkorn University began sending a faculty member from its Intensive Thai Language Program to the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies to serve as a visiting Thai language-teaching instructor in Southeast Asia and ASEAN Studies.
And this spring, the Kelley School of Business and the Chulalongkorn Business School launched their first student exchange program, which has provided three Kelley students with the opportunity to live and study in Bangkok.
IU President McRobbie and Vice President Buxbaum had the pleasure of meeting this week with one of the students, Chris Kusovski, a Columbus, Ohio, native who has been studying at CU for the last two months as he pursues a career in finance. Chris, who will be in Bangkok until May, shared how much he has enjoyed interacting with Thai students and getting to experience the local Thai culture.
In just a few months’ time, he’s also been quick to try new things – like riding to classes and other activities on a motorbike. The most popular mode of transportation here, a motorbike can be a nerve-wracking experience for newcomers, but Chris now does it two or three times each day. He’s also enjoyed exotic new foods, played basketball with his Thai classmates, who somehow “don’t tire in the heat and humidity” like their foreign opponents, and just recently attended a soccer match between CU and rival (and other longtime IU partner) Thammasat University, which he counts as a top highlight of his time here thus far. He’s also made time to explore other areas of Thailand, including the mountainous city of Chiang Rai, which lies near the borders of Laos and Myanmar.
Meeting Chris was absolutely a highlight for us. It was also a welcome reminder of why we do the work we do internationally and, more importantly, the life-changing impact it can often have on the extraordinary students we serve.
IU’s expanding ASEAN engagement
IU has gained much from its international partnerships. It has also given back to communities around the world. As President McRobbie often explains, all of our country’s top public and private research universities are expected – and, in fact, have a responsibility as part of their service missions – to use their knowledge, expertise and other resources to improve the quality of life for citizens of their regions and their countries. And this expertise and knowledge doesn’t stop at our borders. U.S. universities are also expected to use their expertise and the knowledge they generate to contribute solutions to important global challenges.
IU has done this through a wide range of international development projects that span the globe. Many of these projects have involved providing technical assistance to establish new institutions or reforming or strengthening existing ones. Sometimes these institutions have been universities, teacher training organizations or research programs, but they have also included parliaments, government training centers, ministries of education and, more recently, national information technology capabilities. These institution-building projects have often helped bring stability to conflict-ridden areas, improve health outcomes, enhance education and stimulate economic growth through workforce development. Such is the case with many of IU’s institution-building efforts in Thailand and in every corner of the globe.
True to form, today saw President McRobbie lead members of the delegation – who were joined by IU School of Education Dean Lemuel Watson, an internationally known expert in higher education and policy – in a meeting with Thai Minister of Education Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, who was especially interested in IU’s efforts to attract Thai students and scholars to its campuses and help students who want to study in Thailand. At the meeting, we had the pleasure of meeting with Nantanoot “Apple” Suwannawut, a 2013 graduate of the IU School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. Apple, who is blind, works as a researcher for the Ministry’s Bureau of Special Education Administration, where she is overseeing projects that aim to introduce new technology into special education and engaging with networks of disabled individuals, including those with visual impairments. (Learn more about Apple in this 2015 interview.)
As part of its national and international responsibility, IU is also committed to educating students to be active and engaged global citizens, helping them to better understand and appreciate cultural differences and to work productively with people from different cultures and traditions.
To this end, among IU’s more recent global initiatives is an effort to strengthen our research and teaching capacity in the study of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, which encompasses 10 countries: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The countries that make up ASEAN, which was established here in Bangkok in 1967, have a total population of nearly 640 million people. It’s been said that if ASEAN were a single country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy. In 2014, the U.S. and the 10 ASEAN nations traded more than $250 billion in goods and services, representing about 8 percent of all U.S. trade and making ASEAN our nation’s fourth-largest trading partner.
Given ASEAN’s expanding economic and geopolitical importance, our nation’s leaders in government, business, education and the nonprofit sector continue to expend major effort into building positive relationships between the U.S. and ASEAN member nations. And IU has been dedicated to doing so as well.
This academic year alone, IU has more than 400 students from countries that are members of ASEAN, and in recent years the university has had students from every ASEAN nation represented at IU. Earlier this week, we opened IU’s newest international office in central Bangkok, the IU ASEAN Gateway office, which is expected to facilitate more of these student exchanges, while also providing support for research and teaching, conferences and workshops, study abroad opportunities for our students and engagement with IU alumni, businesses and nongovernmental organizations.
Furthermore, IU has increased its research and teaching capacity in Southeast Asia with the recent establishment of the Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies Program, located at the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, which is dedicated to fostering, through a wide variety of academic opportunities, a greater and more comprehensive understanding of Southeast Asia, its people, languages and cultures.
All of this made IU a very suitable co-host for a panel discussion, held Thursday afternoon in conjunction with the not-for-profit Asia Foundation, on the strategic importance of international engagement with ASEAN. The panel also discussed how international partners, like IU and other top universities, could help support ASEAN to be a steadying force in this dynamic region of the world, one with a long history of discord and volatility given the widely diverse cultural, political and religious composition of its membership.
A distinguished guest panel included IU Maurer School of Law alumnus David Carden, who recently served as the first resident ambassador of the U.S. to ASEAN; Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia and chancellor of the Australian National University, who was named one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2011 by Foreign Policy magazine; and Marty Natalegawa, former ambassador and foreign minister of Indonesia, who is the author of an acclaimed new book on ASEAN titled “Does ASEAN Matter? A View From Within.” President McRobbie offered welcoming remarks to the group of conference attendees, which included at least seven former international ambassadors and representatives from over 20 embassies around the world, further highlighting IU’s position as a leader in the region.
Unfortunately, I pledged to abide by the “off-the-record” protocol of this event. But suffice it to say, it was a timely, honest and often provocative discussion about the future of ASEAN and its relationship with the global community. It also provided enormous insight into a part of the world where IU promises to be vigorously and increasingly engaged, together with its many partners here in Thailand and all across Southeast Asia, for many years to come.
A quick note: For more from our trip to Thailand, visit #IUinThailand on Twitter. Feel free to tag the university in events and activities, and please look forward to an upcoming “IU in Thailand” special project coming later this spring.