North Texas Daily

University opens Bangkok office

University opens Bangkok office

University opens Bangkok office
October 04
07:30 2013

Joshua Knopp / Staff Writer

UNT opened a new office in Bangkok, Thailand, last month to recruit more Thai students and better serve the alumni living there.

The center will give UNT a physical presence in Bangkok, which Vice Provost of International Education Richard Nader said will make the university more accessible in the region.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were consistently between 150 and 200 Thai students enrolled at UNT, said Pieter Vermeulen, who will direct the Bangkok office. Because the school was much smaller back then, Thai students made up a large percentage of overall enrollment. UNT currently has more than 1,000 alumni in Bangkok alone.

“Historically, UNT has large groups of Thai students that have come over the decades,” he said. “They provide really attractive inroads for us. We have a lot of well-placed alumni.”

One example is Jaturon Pruekpairojkul, who graduated in 2003 with a master’s degree in hospitality management and currently manages the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok.

For the Bangkok office, each of UNT’s colleges has selected an alumni ambassador, who graduated from that college and now lives in Thailand, to reach out to prospective Thai students. Pruekpairojkul will serve as an alumni ambassador for the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism.

Pruekpairojkul said tourism is a major industry in Thailand, with Time Magazine calling Bangkok the most visited city in the world last June. Thai students looking for a college are interested in the industry, he said.

“With support from their families, they want to do further studies,” he said. “The College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism should be introduced to them while they are in the undergrad school here in Thailand. I believe that I could be a good resource for the students.”

Vermeulen said Thailand used to be liberal with study abroad scholarships, contributing to the large number of UNT students in previous decades. Thai students were also drawn here specifically because of their king’s ongoing relationship with the One O’clock Lab Band.

Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as King Rama IX, is the longest-serving head of state in the world, having served since 1946. He is also an accomplished jazz musician, Lab Band director Steve Wiest said.

In 1967, the One O’Clock Lab Band was invited to the White House to play for him and he never lost touch. Adulyeadej received an honorary music degree from UNT in 2003, and the Lab Band goes to Thailand to play for him regularly, most recently in 2009.

“The people of Thailand revere not only him, but his music,” Wiest said. “One time, the band went over there, and we actually jammed with him.”

A financial crisis shook Southeast Asia in 1997, and since then Thailand has limited the number of students studying abroad. Currently there are about 50 Thai students enrolled at the university. Vermeulen and Nader said they hope the office will increase that number, and also increase the number of American students going to Thailand.

Vermeulen said Bangkok features many of the same problems students will face here, and will give them many opportunities for hands-on learning.

“Bangkok is a very vibrant metropolis,” he said. “Think of DFW on steroids.”

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