by Tom Parisi
NIU students and faculty are benefitting from a new grant award aimed at bolstering education, research and exchange programs focused on Thailand.
The Royal Government of Thailand awarded $110,000 to NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies late last year. It’s believed to be the center’s largest grant ever from a Southeast Asian government.
Most of the award is being used to establish an endowment that will ensure annual funding for Thai-related studies.
Nearly one-third of the funding, however, is supporting activities this coming year, including undergraduate scholarships, library acquisitions, a Thai conference, travel for visiting Thai scholars, development of an alumni network in Thailand and faculty and student travel to the country for research and language study.
Funds for travel to Thailand already have been awarded to three graduate students: Aaron Johnson and Punchada Sirivunnabood, who traveled to Bangkok earlier this month; and Dan Pojar, who will go to Bangkok in December. Professor Catherine Raymond, director of NIU’s Center for Burma Studies, received a travel award as well.
“This grant will provide many wonderful opportunities for our faculty and students, including scholarship opportunities for undergraduates studying the Thai language,” said Professor James Collins, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
“I want to commend NIU Political Scientist Danny Unger, whose hard work resulted in this award from the Royal Government of Thailand,” he added.
Unger, a faculty associate of the center, worked closely with Thai officials for more than a year, paving the way for the grant.
“We want to help folks within our community and beyond understand Thailand and develop opportunities to expand their exposure to the country, whether through cultural, economic or other means,” Unger said. “This grant will also help us continue to attract good students from the United States and around the world.”
Unger said he is particularly grateful for assistance of Thai officials and NIU faculty who helped with the grant and endowment proposal. Faculty members included Professor John Hartman (Foreign Languages), Grant Olson (Foreign Languages), Ete Olson (University Libraries), Andrea Molnar (Anthropology) and Ann Wright-Parsons (Anthropology).
NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies coordinates an undergraduate minor and a graduate concentration in studies of the diverse sub-region of Asia.
At any given time, about 60 NIU undergraduates are working toward a minor in Southeast Asian studies, while another 50 graduate students are specializing in the area of study. In all, more than 2,000 students each year take courses offered in the region’s languages, literatures, anthropology, geography, history, religion, music, art history and government.
The center also is known internationally for developing SEAsite, an interactive Web site that offers language and culture training programs in Thai, Burmese, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
More information on the Thai scholarships and travel grants is available online.