Alum returns to recruit for Thailand trip


By Brooks Whitehurst

For students looking for the next step after graduation, a year in Southeast Asia is one option.

A Baylor alumnus, Dr. Nirund Jivasantikarn, will hold an information session for seniors interested in a year-long teaching program in Thailand at 3 p.m. today in Cashion Academic Center.

The session will inform students about a program by Teach Thailand Corps, in which American college graduates work with Thai K-12 students in local Thai school.

“We’ll be telling them about the opportunity of gaining international experience and serving,” Jivasantikarn said. “It’s a year of giving, and incubation for graduates’ future careers.”

Jivasantikarn said Teach Thailand Corps does not limit itself to education or English majors. The program directors look to recruit students from all majors.

“There are tremendous visible impacts that American teaching has on Thai students,” Jivasantikarn said. “Americans are authorities on English, and learning it improves the quality of life for Thai students.”

Jivasantikarn graduated from Baylor with a bachelor of science in biology in 1970, his doctorate in education in 1981, and went on to found Yonok University in Lampang, Thailand, in 1988, where he was president for 18 years.

The same year he started the university, Jivasantikarn began recruiting Baylor graduates to teach freshman English at Yonok University.

“I had a vision of starting a university with the help of Baylor,” Jivasantikarn said, who added that former Baylor president Herbert Reynolds supported him through the process and was present at the school’s inauguration.

Jivasantikarn said the students who graduated from Yonok who had been taught by Baylor graduates had a great command of English, which made it much easier for them to get jobs after graduation.

Jivasantikarn is the chair of the American Thai foundation, which established the Teach Thailand Corps to help strengthen primary and secondary education in Thailand in high-need areas.

Dr. Gayle Avant, secretary of the American Thai Foundation, said the impact that college grads have on the Thai students’ ability to learn English is immense.

“Imagine if you were trying to learn French,” he said. “How beneficial would it be to actually have someone there who you could actually speak French with you?”

Avant taught political science at Baylor for 39 years, and said he has known Jivasantikarn since he was a graduate student.

He said the program not only gives students the opportunity to serve others, but it also helps students develop themselves as well.

“For a new American college graduate, teaching and being directly involved with the people of that country is an immensely broadening experience,” he said. “The student becomes familiar with the culture, but they very quickly understand that we share so much in common with the Thai people.”