Indiana State University Newsroom

Thai doctoral students learn during Wabash Valley visit

May 17, 2012

Doctoral students from two universities in Thailand spent several weeks learning at Indiana State University this spring.

ISU hosted students from Roi Et Rajabhat University and Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University as they visited the Wabash Valley to learn more about American culture, along with different aspects of the American education system. The group from Rajabhat Maha Sarakham toured area high schools to learn more about math education, while students from Roi Et Rajabhat learned more about research methods for their dissertations.

"I think they learned a lot from the professors here, even [aspects of] how to write their dissertation, how to do research," said Chaloey Pumipuntu, president of Roi Et Rajabhat.

The groups spent nearly three and a half weeks visiting the Wabash Valley. The students learning about how mathematics is taught in the U.S. visited Vigo County high schools to witness math teachers in the classroom.

They also met local families. Volunteers in the community hosted the math students during their stay.

"Besides learning and teaching mathematics, I would like my students to learn American culture, and to know new things, to make new friends," said Somsong Suwapanich, chairperson of the doctoral degree program in mathematics education at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham. She worked with ISU professor Elizabeth Brown to organize the visit.

The teaching style in both countries is different, since they are rooted in different cultures, Suwapanich said. The group learning more about research methods also visited classrooms and was surprised by the interaction taking place between students and the teacher, said Garoon Pongsart, associate dean of the graduate school at Roi Et Rajabhat.

The doctoral students at Roi Et Rajabhat, many of whom are school principals in Thailand, noticed the educational environment. American students more actively participated, including saying that they disagreed with points of view presented, while in Thailand, students are more likely to remain quiet during the class session, Pongsart said."They can see the technique, how teachers facilitate or try to get participation from students," he added. "I think they can bring that back home to teach their students."

While in Terre Haute, Roi Et Rajabhat President Pumipuntu signed a new memorandum of understanding with ISU. Though the two universities have collaborated for several years, they want to develop new partnerships, such as a student and faculty exchange.

Roi Et Rajabhat leaders want students to "learn how to become international scholars," said Thanaporn Pantawee, dean of the university's graduate school.

The students learned from ISU faculty members as well. The students presented their dissertation topics to Indiana State professors, who critiqued them and provided additional advice. William Barratt, professor in the Bayh College of Education, coordinated the Roi Et students' visit. Several other faculty members also helped with the group.

"We hope this program grows even more, and more students and staff from ISU and Thailand get involved in this program," said Zachariah Mathew, associate director of the ISU Office of International Programs and Services. He helped organize the visits and the groups' itinerary while they were in Indiana.

While ISU has hosted undergraduate and graduate students from around the world, this was the first time that the university hosted doctoral students from Thailand, Mathew said.

"I think it went very well," he added. "The delegation that visited had very well defined goals and objectives that they really wanted to share with us and see how we could mutually help each other.

Every few days the students from Roi Et Rajabhat met to discuss what they were learning, and Pongsart heard that the students were pleased with the experience.

"They know what is good for them, what is suitable for their school or for their learning context," he added. "Then they should be able to plan and continue from that."

Faculty members from both Thai universities support expanding partnerships with ISU, such as by having Indiana State faculty members teach at their respective institutions. ISU also is helping Roi Et Rajabhat develop its curriculum for a new MBA program.

In the meantime, Roi Et is already planning for doctoral students to visit ISU again next year to build on the relationship that has been created, and which has involved multiple levels of staff and professors at both institutions.

"We are willing to help them in all the ways we can," Mathew said, "and the faculty definitely has a big role to play in this particular project."

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)Chaloey Pumipuntu, president of Roi Et Rajabhat University, poses with C. Jack Maynard, provost of Indiana State University. Pumpuntu and Maynard signed a memorandum of understanding that updates the agreement between Roi Et Rajabhat and Indiana State.

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)People mingle during a welcoming reception at Indiana State University for doctoral students from Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University and Roi Et Rajabhat University in Thailand. Students from Rajabhat Maha Sarakham learned more about how math is taught in American schools, while the students from Roi Et Rajabhat learned about research methodologies to help with their dissertations.

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)Several people pose for a photo during the gathering for the signing of the memorandum of understanding between Roi Et Rajabhat and Indiana State.

Contact: Zachariah Mathew, associate director, International Programs and Services, 812-237-2439 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or 

Story Highlights

ISU hosted doctoral students from Roi Et Rajabhat University and Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University as they visited the Wabash Valley to learn more about American culture, along with different aspects of the American education system.

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