Thai Ambassador to the United States Chaiyong Satjipanon made his third visit to NIU in five months Thursday, June 20.
This time, the ambassador presented a Royal Thai Embassy grant to develop a 40-lesson Thai language program that can be accessed on a hand-held mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet computer.
Speaking at a luncheon at the Holmes Student Center, Satjipanon presented the $10,000 grant to College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean Christopher McCord for the innovative language program designed by Distinguished Teaching Professor John Hartmann and two NIU alumni.
Accepting the gift, Hartmann addressed the ambassador in formal Thai.
Hartmann has taught Thai at NIU for the past 37 years and proposed the e-language program after a national summit of college Thai language teachers, including Hartmann, hosted by the ambassador Feb. 8 at the Thai consulate in Chicago. At that meeting, it was noted that there is a need for more ways to teach basic Thai to college students or to Thai-American students who want to learn their heritage language.
Hartmann submitted a proposal to the embassy for a portable program that could function as a supplement to classroom learning or be a stand-alone program for self-instruction.
Collaborating on the project will be UCLA Thai language instructor Supa Angkurawaranon, who has developed computer-assisted, web-based programs for reading Thai there, and NIU Outreach systems developer Rosarin Adulseranee, who has produced several programs for teaching Thai and online classes for NIU faculty. Both native Thai speakers received their doctorates in instructional technology at NIU and previously worked as graduate assistants for Hartmann.
McCord expressed his appreciation for the gift and for the Kingdom of Thailand’s continuing support of Thai studies at NIU.
“We are honored to welcome you back to campus, and we thank you for the your continued attention and friendship that you have extended to us,” McCord said. “While we receive this as a gift, I know that it is really an investment: an investment in the future of the Kingdom of Thailand and in the relationship between our two countries.”
McCord reflected on the results of the past 50 years of Thai studies at NIU and reaffirmed the university’s future commitment to Thailand.
“We have trained dozens of students from Thailand, many of whom have returned to leadership roles in Thai government and higher education,” McCord said.
“We have exposed hundreds of U.S. students to Thailand through its language courses, area studies fellowships, study abroad programs, and training of NIU graduate students in the field. And, we have raised the visibility of Thai studies in the U.S. with a leadership role in the Council of Thai Studies and outstanding library holdings in the Donn V. Hart Southeast Asia Collection.”
The ambassador, who was accompanied by Thai Embassy First Secretary Khun Nilobol Pimdee and Chicago Consul General of Thailand Songphol Sukchan, previously visited campus Feb. 7 to meet with NIU officials and Thai studies faculty and students, and March 2, when he attended the Center for Southeast Asian Studies’ 50th anniversary gala celebration.