Indiana University delegation concludes successful visit to Thailand

BANGKOK – Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie and members of an IU delegation concluded a highly successful weeklong trip to Thailand that resulted in expanded and deeper ties between IU and leading institutions in the Southeast Asian country.

Highlights of the trip included IU's prominent role at a 50th-anniversary celebration of the National Institute of Development Administration, which IU helped establish. Last Friday, McRobbie renewed a partnership agreement with Chulalongkorn University, Thailand's top public research university.

On Monday, McRobbie and IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret had an audience with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Afterward, the IU president honored Disnadda Diskul, an IU alumnus who for 44 years has led the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, which addresses poverty and living conditions facing minority groups in northern Thailand.

"One central part of Indiana University's history is a rich tradition of international engagement that goes back more than 100 years," McRobbie said during his address Thursday to 1,200 higher education, government and business leaders at NIDA's celebration. "The many decades of cooperation and friendship that Indiana University and Thailand have enjoyed have been a major part of that tradition."

McRobbie was the only president of a U.S. university asked to deliver a keynote address at the National Institute of Development Administration's Silver Anniversary conference. NIDA has trained thousands of the Thai government's top administrators and diplomats for service across the country and around the world.

Others in the IU delegation included IU Kelley School of Business Dean Idalene Kesner. This was McRobbie's second official trip to Thailand as IU's president; he last visited in 2012.

IU and Thailand have a long, rich history of partnership dating back to 1948. IU helped establish the Institute of Public Administration at Thammasat University in 1955. A decade later, IU helped create the National Institute of Development Administration, Thailand's leading educational institution, which concentrates exclusively on graduate studies in fields related to national development.

IU students and faculty will benefit from the renewal of an agreement of friendship and cooperation with Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. IU expects to build upon a number of successful faculty and student exchanges that have taken place between the two institutions since 1994.

One of those exchanges will result in CU providing a Thai language instructor to IU's School of Global and International Studies, which houses IU's recently established Southeast Asian Studies Program.

IU has recently been engaged in building its research and teaching capacity in Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies. This initiative includes, among other activities, the establishment of an endowed Bicentennial Chair of Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies, the development of a Center of Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies, new degrees, and enhanced language offerings.

The chair and new center will support teaching, research and outreach activities on a wide variety of topics related to the Southeast Asian region, including economies, environmental and sustainable challenges, regional security, governance, and cultural dialogues.

The IU delegation also traveled to the "Golden Triangle" region of northern Thailand to visit the Doi Tung Development Project, which provides alternative sources of income for villagers who had been involved in the production and sale of opium. It is supported through the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, which is directed by Disnadda Diskul, an IU Kelley School of Business alumnus and former captain of the IU men's soccer team.

At a special reception for IU alumni, government officials and members of Bangkok's diplomatic corps, Diskul – better known as Khun Chai – received IU's Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion, which recognizes those who have achieved great distinction in their careers and who share the university's values and goals.

IU has more than 1,000 alumni affiliated with Thailand, many of whom are members of the Thailand Chapter of the IU Alumni Association. Many have served in key roles as leaders in government, business and higher education, including as provincial governors.

Additional details about the trip are available at a blog site – IU Goes to Thailand – and through official IU social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.