News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 12, 2012

ISU profs give insight, create contacts on Thailand trip

TERRE HAUTE — During a recent trip to Thailand, Indiana State University professor Will Barratt visited students who just months earlier had been guests in Terre Haute to learn about research as they prepared to write their doctoral dissertations.

During his stay in Thailand, Barratt not only discussed the students’ research progress, but he also had the opportunity to speak in several doctoral level classes and give presentations at two additional universities. Though he could deliver his presentations only in English, it was not a hindrance.

His work and teaching fit in perfectly with Thailand’s long-term educational goals.

Barratt was one of a half-dozen Indiana State faculty members who visited Thailand this summer to provide insights about sustainable economic development in Southeast Asia while also cultivating further projects and initiatives.

The group visited the 2012 International Conference on Sciences and Social Sciences, which focused on innovations for regional development. Barratt, Leslie Barratt, Chris McGrew, Sherry McFadden, Karen Liu and John Conant traveled to Thailand and participated in the conference, which was organized by Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University.

The conference featured participants from universities around the world to give perspective as the region prepares for developments of ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which will affect Thailand.

“The education will be in English, and everyone is getting ready for that,” said Will Barratt, professor of educational leadership who also worked with graduate students at Roi Et Rajabhat University and Buriram Rajabhat University. “They’re trying to bring language education, particularly English language education, into the K-12 setting, and so they’re doing some interesting things.”

Leslie Barratt also worked with other universities in Thailand before and after the conference.

She led workshops at Roi Et Rajabhat and at Burriram Rajabhat University about dealing with the complexity in learning World Englishes, which is the term coined to explain the different dialects that exist around the globe.

“It’s an expanding language worldwide,” said Leslie Barratt, chair of the literature, languages and linguistics department at ISU. “There are many more varieties, and there’s variation within the varieties. Learning an expanding language is overwhelming, so I gave them strategies for dealing with that.”

Conant, chair of the economics department at ISU, discussed sustainability and economic development strategies.  His presentation focused on the importance of bodies of water such as rivers, and how they can be used to influence the economy, such as the impacts that large dams can have on communities. He also spoke with multiple university leaders and administrators.

“This is a part of one of ISU's strategic partnerships, and it is a part of what we are doing in terms of global engagement. The best part of this experience was getting to know people from all those universities. It really was a global experience.  I've already been collaborating with someone I met there from the Philippines on another project,” Conant said. “Hopefully, similar kinds of opportunities where our students can participate also will come out of these partnerships.”  

Several academic departments at Indiana State are looking to form collaborations with universities in Thailand. McFadden, chair of ISU’s theater department, joined the group with the goal of cultivating contacts with Thai faculty members who could be guest professors at Indiana State. While she was planning to give a small presentation at the economic sustainability conference, once in Thailand she learned that her role had unexpectedly grown. She discussed an after-school fine arts program she developed for low-income students, and some of the instances in which the program helped the young participants develop.

The theater department has teamed with international partners in the past. They have to be developed creatively, as it can cost thousands of dollars for theatrical productions to travel to a different continent, McFadden said.

“I want students to see other cultures and other places.  I learn so much when I go, and I’ve done some traveling,” McFadden said. “I think they would learn a lot, too.”

Faculty members from several Thai universities spoke with the ISU faculty members about deepening current partnerships and creating new opportunities. Yet even when ISU students express an interest in studying in Asia, Thailand is not a country that frequently comes to mind, Leslie Barratt said.

“To me it’s really clear that we need to bring Thailand to ISU before we can take ISU to Thailand in any systematic way,” she added. “The way to do that, I think, is to bring visiting scholars to teach Thai and interact.”

Several universities in Thailand are pushing for more opportunities to learn English, including the possibility of having ISU students and faculty visit to help provide some lessons, said McGrew, director of International Programs and Services at ISU. He spoke with administrators at several Thai universities who were interested in creating new opportunities as Thailand prepares for the changes that will be expected as part of ASEAN.

“By 2015, they’re supposed to be moving towards a common market with a common language of English,” he said.

Thailand, China, Morocco and Russia are countries that have been prioritized for ISU to develop international relationships. Indiana State has developed collaborations in the country for more than half a century, and Thailand is the site of ISU’s first international alumni association.

The different university visits during this latest visit allowed the Indiana State faculty members to better cultivate opportunities through “person to person collaboration” that would not have been possible had those relationships not been established, Will Barratt said.

“We’ve already been e-mailing and in constant contact with old friends,” he added, “and we’ve made many new friends in talking about collaborative programs.”

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