10 Thai Scholars Arrive at WIU, Result of Int'l Recruiting Efforts and New Royal Thai Program
February 21, 2013
MACOMB, IL – For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, last weekend was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University. The students—all from rural districts in Thailand—are the beneficiaries of a new "One District, One Scholar" program, which is sponsored by their government, the Kingdom of Thailand. And for the University, their arrival in the U.S. and start of their time here marks the beginning of a new program and relationship between the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C. and WIU.
According to Richard Carter, executive director of Western's School of Distance Learning, International Studies, and Outreach, the program provides the opportunity for each of the 10 Thai Scholars to earn their undergraduate degrees at WIU over the next few years. He said the program is a result of a recruiting trip he made last November.
"The 'One District, One Scholar' program only began in September 2012, and my fortuitous visit to the Royal Thai Embassy was sandwiched in between the program's beginning and the Embassy's need, in December, to place 10 remaining Thai Scholars at a higher education institution in the U.S. so they could start their studies in Spring 2013," Carter said. "These students are the best in their districts, their academics are exceptional."
Korn Thepnorarat, guidance officer at the Royal Thai Embassy, noted that prior to December last year, he was able to place more than 50 students at institutions in the U.S. for the newly developed program, which is designed to provide an undergraduate education for high-achieving Thai students.
"We had placed other students at Texas Wesleyan University, Michigan State, the University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Columbia and Missouri University of Science and Technology, but we needed a sixth institution in which to place 10 remaining students. So I called Dr. Carter to ask him for advice about what to do. He called me back and said, 'We can make it happen within your timeline.' I had just learned about these remaining student scholars in December, and with the help of Dr. Carter and Western's staff, we were able to help the students prepare and arrange for them to come to WIU in mid-February," Thepnorarat explained.
Before the students begin their studies, they will take part in a specially developed program through the Western English as a Second Language (WESL) Institute, which is situated in WIU's Center for International Studies. David Bell, WESL director, said staff at WESL and the Center developed a Royal Thai Newcomers program to prepare the students to start their English-language studies through the WESL Institute.
"It is intended to get them ready culturally, academically and socially to study at the University. These students will be studying to get up to a level where they can join the WESL program this summer," Bell said. "To help them acclimate, John Curtis and Hannah Murphy [who both work at the WESL Institute] have done a remarkable job in helping us set up this program for these young Thai Scholars," he added.
Once the students are competent in their English-language skills via the WESL Institute, they will begin their studies in their chosen majors, Carter noted. They are currently residing on the international floor of Olson Hall so they will have housing accommodations during semester breaks.
"The plan is to provide them with the skills they will need to succeed so they can start in their major programs in Fall 2013," Carter added.
Over the weekend, delegates from the Royal Thai Embassy—including Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi, Guidance Officer Thepnorarat and Accounting Officer Suprenee O'Dell—accompanied the students to Western and were honored at a Feb. 17 dinner in the University Union.
According to Thepnorarat, the overall experience with Western, so far, has been seamless.
"Compared to other colleges, I think you have the best team here. Everything was very well organized and things have gone very smoothly in our new relationship with Western," he said. "Next year, the 'One District, One Scholar' will expand—the government is doubling the number of students to place at institutions in the U.S. This month, students are applying for the program, and next month the qualified students are scheduled to take part in the exam competition. The students in the 2013 program will depart for their chosen countries to study in next September, so we hope to continue the relationship with Western for this year's program, as well."
Carter also acknowledged Western and the University staff members' work to start the relationship on successful footing.
"This new program gave us an opportunity for teamwork. University Housing and Dining Services enabled us to provide the students with housing even though they started a little late in the semester. The staff in billing and receivables is helping with the financial part; everyone at the Center for International Studies worked together to process to their paperwork quickly; and Beu Health Center helped with the paperwork required for their health insurance. It really was a University-wide effort to make things work," Carter noted. "Their very first day here, the students were introduced at the [Feb. 16] women's basketball game, so they received a warm welcome from many people here in a public venue. Honestly, it has been a showcase about how we at Western have come together and worked as a team to make this happen."
For more information, contact Carter at (309) 298-1929 or via email at R-Carter@wiu.edu.