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A tradition of leadership and engagement in Thailand

In just over a week, an Indiana University delegation, led by IU President Michael A. McRobbie, will seek to write the next chapter in IU’s storied history of engagement and institution-building in Thailand.

Beginning March 30, McRobbie, Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret and other delegation members will work to renew and expand upon IU’s numerous connections to a country and region of the world important to IU’s global mission. That mission, as outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, calls for IU to cement its position as one of the world’s leading global universities focused on increasing study abroad opportunities for its students, recruiting the best and brightest foreign scholars to its campuses and strengthening its connections with its many international alumni.

Former IU President Herman B Wells, left, meets with Pin Malakul and his wife, of Thailand, in 1948. That year IU began its relationship with Thailand, which continues to this day.

Former IU President Herman B Wells, left, meets with acclaimed Thai scholar Pin Malakul and his wife in 1948, the year IU began its relationship with Thailand.

During a week’s time in Thailand, McRobbie and Zaret will help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Institute of Development Administration, which IU helped establish, and renew a partnership agreement with the country’s top public research university.

IU began its strong ties to Thailand almost seven decades ago, when another IU president, Herman B Wells, met, in 1948, with Thailand’s Permanent Undersecretary for Education, Pin Malakul, a scholar and educator who would oversee the drafting of the country’s first national education plan. In the early 1950s, Thailand began turning its attention to the quality of its teacher training institutions and, around that same time, the U.S. government increased its involvement in meeting the development needs of Southeast Asia.

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 NIDA, Thailand’s leading educational institution that concentrates exclusively on graduate studies in fields related to national development. NIDA has also become an academic home for Thai scholars who would otherwise have studied abroad.

On March 31, as part of NIDA’s 50th anniversary celebration in Bangkok, McRobbie will deliver a keynote address at an academic conference on “NIDA’s Legacy: A 5-Decade Focus on Sustainable Development.”

The following day, he and Zaret will renew an agreement of friendship and cooperation that is more than two decades old with Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, which has resulted in a number of successful scholarly and research exchanges involving such esteemed IU academic units as the Kelley School of Business and School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

While in Bangkok, Thailand’s political, commercial and cultural hub, they will also meet with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, whom IU awarded an honorary degree in 2010, at Srapathum Palace; host an award reception for IU alumnus Disnadda Diskul, secretary general of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation; explore the establishment of an IU global gateway office in Southeast Asia; and meet with prominent IU Thai alumni, among other activities.

IU has more than 1,000 alumni affiliated with Thailand, many of whom are members of the Thailand Chapter of the IU Alumni Association.

Members of the IU delegation will meet with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand. In 2010, IU presented an honorary degree to Princess Sirindhorn for her efforts to expand and improve public education all across Thailand.

Members of the IU delegation will meet with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand. In 2010, IU presented an honorary degree to Princess Sirindhorn for her efforts to expand and improve public education all across Thailand.

In the northernmost large city in Thailand, Chiang Rai, they’ll visit the Doi Tung Development Project, which is located in what is known as the “Golden Triangle” area. The project began in the mid-1980s with the goal of developing alternative sources of income for villagers of Doi Tung, a high mountain in Chiang Rai, who had been involved in the production and sale of opium. Since then, the project has raised the overall standard of living in the area through a holistic approach to development that addresses income security, health and education.

I’ll serve as your eyes and ears to IU’s time in Thailand, delivering first-hand, real-time reports of many of the delegation’s daily activities, sharing information about our historic and growing ties to this dynamic nation and offering insights into IU’s ongoing effort to strengthen its engagement efforts in Southeast Asia and around the world.

I hope you will follow along and check in frequently as I share news, photos and updates, and please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions at

More soon from Bangkok!

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