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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Higher education graduate students in Thailand to help partner universities

International Service Learning course placing 11 School of Education students in Bangkok

May 31, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- A group of 11 doctoral students from the Indiana University School of Education and Nancy Chism, professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), are in Bangkok, Thailand, until June 17 to partner with Thai higher education institutions on projects and to learn more about postsecondary education in Southeast Asia.

The students are part of a special course called International Service Learning in Thailand, organized by Chism, a scholar of U.S. and international professional and organizational development. Chism has consulted with Thai institutions in the past and hosted a group of Thai higher education leaders last year.

HESA in Thailand

The HESA group now working in Thailand includes: front row, left to right, Cameron Harris, Sydney Rucker, Jim Gieser, Krista Hoffmann-Longtin; middle row, Professor Nancy Chism, Brittany Graham, Eric Raider, GaoLing LeBeau; back row, Tomika Ferguson, Stephen LeBeau, Matt Holley.

Print-Quality Photo

All of the students were to arrive in Bangkok by Monday (May 30) and have begun on-site orientation. Over the last month, the group has met in three 5-hour sessions at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to study Thai language, culture, and the context of the country's higher education system.

The goal of the course is to provide a service-learning opportunity to the HESA students by pairing them with six Thai institutions on a variety of projects. By the end of the experience, the students will have learned about international higher education consulting while also providing guidance to the institutions. Chism said the experience is also designed to help the doctoral students understand the U.S. system better.

"I always think one of the advantages of having a cultural experience is it gives you a better lens on your own culture," Chism said. "It shows by negation what your culture is not and it shows the advantages of your culture. So I think it's going to expand their mind about American higher education."

Before traveling to Thailand, the students communicated with faculty at the six institutions to determine potential projects of interest. After spending a few days preparing on site, they will go to their assigned universities each weekday over the following two weeks to conduct presentations, workshops, and other meetings. The projects include faculty teaching techniques, U.S. business education, comparative study between Thai and U.S. education, and online education.

Chism said the group has worked on having a plan of action, but being flexible once they begin partnering with the Thai institutions. She said the projects have been developed in consultation with the Thai faculty and will continue to develop.

"One of the things that we talked about was avoiding a 'colonialist' approach," Chism said. "That is, thinking that everything about U.S. education is good and if they don't have it there that we should be promoting it." The idea, she said, is for this to be a true reciprocal exchange. "We're set to be tentative -- to be listeners," Chism said. "I think that's a mark of good consultation skills, even when you're working in your own culture."

The concept for the project grew from Chism's own work in international consulting. Chism spent five months in Thailand as a Fulbright Scholar in 2008. During that time, she consulted with the Thai Commission on Higher Education on issues of professional and organizational development for colleges and universities. Chism said many of those contacts have been instrumental in preparing this project. Last year, Chism hosted faculty and staff from Thailand at IUPUI for six weeks as they observed U.S. higher education up close.

When these students -- all preparing for roles as faculty, administrators, or researchers in higher education -- return to Indiana, Chism said, their understanding of the U.S. system will be enhanced by viewing it in a global context. "I hope that there is that sense of civic engagement, that you are a global citizen and that sense of empathy and camaraderie with colleges and universities throughout the world," she said.

You can follow the group's activity through the IU School of Education's social media outlets. The students will use Twitter to talk about their experiences, using the hash tag #IUThailand. Many of those will also be re-tweeted through @IUSchoolofEd. Other posts about the Thailand project will be on the IU School of Education Facebook page.