IU Is Everywhere

From Bloomington to Bangkok, meet members of the IU family who are acting as ambassadors for the university.

Peter Boonjarern, Thailand

As a Thai-American and Hoosier, Peter Boonjarern has spent his whole life straddling two cultures. Now he is bridging two worlds as director of IU's ASEAN Global Gateway Office.

Peter Boonjarern has never fit the mold of a specific group. As a Thai-American born and raised in Indiana, he spent his childhood straddling two cultures, and he continues to bridge the two worlds today as an expatriate living in Bangkok, Thailand.

But to Boonjarern, the fact that he doesn't quite "fit in" has always worked in his favor. In fact, his ability to relate to people from all walks of life is what makes him the perfect person to lead Indiana University's new Association of Southeast Asian Nations Global Gateway Office in Bangkok.

"I just feel that I'm here to be the connector," Boonjarern said. "I can identify two groups and find the best way to connect them."

Connecting IU to resources and learning opportunities in the region is Boonjarern's primary duty in his new role. He will act as a point person for professors looking to do research in the region, classes that can benefit from a learning-based trip, IU graduates looking to relocate to the region and more. Boonjarern will also help connect Thai academics who can benefit from IU's resources.

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IU President Michael A. McRobbie and Peter Boonjarern address a group of Thai IU alumni during McRobbie's visit to Bangkok in April 2016. Photo courtesy of the Office of the President

While Boonjarern's title may be new, his role as an ambassador for the university is not. After graduating from the Kelley School of Business in 2000 and working for a few years in the United States, Boonjarern decided to relocate to Bangkok. He worked at GfK Marketing Services before climbing the ladder at Deutsche Bank and TISCO Securities' joint venture in Bangkok, which is a partnership between German and Thai financial firms. He stayed in touch with IU alumni he had met over the years and eventually became president of the IU Alumni Association's Thailand chapter.

Since moving to Bangkok, Boonjarern has helped steer recruitment efforts for schools such as the Kelley School of Business, the School of Education and the Maurer School of Law. He serves on the law school's Dean's Global Advisory Board and was the 2013 recipient of the university's Distinguished International Service Award.

Boonjarern said his experiences working in a new country have naturally prepared him to give back to the university.

"I am where I am today largely because people have assisted me and given their time to share advice or open doors for me," he said. "Once I had that ability to do that for others, it just seemed natural for me to do it. As I've collected my experiences and know-hows, I feel the need to relay that to the next generation."

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Peter Boonjarern, far right, poses with a delegation from IU that visited Thailand in spring 2016.  Photo courtesy of the Office of the President

The work he is doing is giving back in more than one way. Providing opportunities for students to travel helps them grow as people and gives them a professional edge, Boonjarern said.

"The gateways provide an opportunity to extend our campus and let students learn in a real-world environment," he said. "We're all different, but there are so many commonalities. Seeing through the differences is why traveling is important."

Helping the university engage internationally will also enhance its reputation around the globe, a task that Boonjarern said can be hindered by our "Hoosier humility."

"The difficult thing about Hoosiers is that we are very humble people," he said. "We are all about working hard, learning and getting as much experience as possible, and we don't have that natural tendency to brag. We need to let people know at the far reaches of the world that we are one of the top-rated institutions in the world, and this is reflected in our product."