IU in Thailand

Seven decades of relationship-building resulting in IU's longest-standing partnership

There are more than 6,000 IU alumni from the ASEAN region, made up of 10 countries in Southeast Asia.

Dhanakorn "DK" Kasetrsuwan never attended Indiana University. A native of Bangkok and the current CEO of La-Z-Boy Asia, Kasetrsuwan is a graduate of the National Institute for Development Administration's Business School, which IU was part of developing.

So while he's connected to IU from afar, he developed a strong affinity for the Big Ten university in the Midwest. In fact, when it came time for his two daughters to attend college, there was one place Kasetrsuwan had in mind.

"I have a strong appreciation for what IU has done for education in Thailand," he said. "Although both of my daughters were accepted to a number of universities, we knew IU, and the Kelley School of Business, was the best option for our family and our daughters' futures."

There are more than 6,000 IU alumni from the ASEAN region, made up of 10 countries in Southeast Asia. A large number of those are from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, with backgrounds including business, medicine, government and education.

"We have a large number of prominent alums from across the region," said Peter Boonjarern, director of the IU ASEAN Gateway. "It's not surprising, considering the journey they undergo in order to attend IU. It's no easy task to leave your home country as a young student and go to a place you've never heard about. It takes a lot of strength and ability, so they take that raw ability and raw foundation, mixed with the knowledge they gain at IU, and they shine."

Description of the following video:

[Video: Scenery of downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Modern skyscrapers are mixed with traditional Thai buildings and boats.]
 
[Words appear in upper-left corner: Indiana University presents]
 
Peter Boonjarern, the director of the Indiana University ASEAN Gateway, speaks in voiceover: In total, there are over 1,100 alums here in Thailand. A number of countries in ASEAN also have equally high numbers.
 
[Video: Boonjarern appears on camera, sitting in front of a red wall with the words Indiana University ASEAN Gateway in white lettering.]
 
[Words appear: Peter Boonjarern; Director, ASEAN Gateway]
 
Boonjarern speaks: Once you say "Indiana," their faces light up, and the connectivity just sparks.
 
[Video: A series of photographs of Indiana University alums from Thailand appear on camera.]
 
Boonjarern speaks in voiceover: For them to leave their home country as a young student and go to a world that they've never, never heard about, I mean, that takes a lot of strength and ability. So, when they have that raw, raw ability and raw foundation, mixed with the …
 
[Video: Boonjarern appears on camera.]
 
Boonjarern speaks: … knowledge and the abilities that they gain on campus -- when they come back here, they shine. They outperform. They become leaders in industry, whether it be education, …
 
[Video: Short videos of Thai alums working in various fields including dental, optometry and law.]
 
Boonjarern in voiceover: … government, business, medicine. The knowledge and ability that they come back with helps them succeed. That's the key strength that this relationship between Indiana University and ASEAN …
 
[Video: First lady of Indiana University, Laurie Burns McRobbie, leads a panel discussion of Thai women.]
 
Boonjarern speaks in voiceover: … really, really, really shines.
 
[Screen goes to black]
[IU trident appears]
[Words appear: Indiana University]
[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]
[Words appear: iu.edu]
 
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

Following in their father's footsteps

Dhanaporn "Jean" and Ornvara "Jan" Kasetrsuwan have been immersed in the business world since they were small girls. The daughters of a Bangkok entrepreneur whose company has strong ties to the United States, they always knew they would one day join the family company.

Both Jean and Jan also knew they wanted to pursue their undergraduate degrees in the U.S. Over and over, they kept hearing about one school.

"My father is a graduate of NIDA, and all of his NIDA and American friends kept telling us about the Kelley School of Business and how it is one of the best business schools in the world," Jan said.

Jan and Jean pose with Kelley students. View print quality image
Dhanaporn "Jean" and Ornvara "Jan" Kasetrsuwan pose with fellow Kelley School of Business students. Photo provided by Jean Kasetrsuwan

Jean began attending IU in 2014, eventually receiving a degree in marketing and finance at the Kelley School of Business. Jan joined her at Kelley in 2015, eventually receiving a degree in marketing and entrepreneurship and corporate innovation. With a population of a little more than 80,000 people, a far cry from Bangkok's 9 million, Bloomington was somewhat of a culture shock to the young women. So was the winter snow and ice, which they had never experienced in their home country.

But they soon found a lively community among the quietness of Indiana. And they eventually learned to tolerate the cold.

"I never thought I would fall in love with IU when I arrived," Jean said. "The environment was very different from where I grew up, and at first, it was very hard for me to adjust. But after a year I began to meet more people, became involved in activities on campus, and I really became fond of the campus. For me, IU is like a second home, and I am very proud to call myself an IU alum."

Both Jan and Jean took part in numerous activities and organizations on campus, including the Thai Student Association; the Kelley Mentor Collective; the IU Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization; Cultural Olympics; and the International Student Engagement Advisory Board.

Jan during her time in the Thai Student Association.
Jan poses with fellow members of the Thai Student Association. Photo provided by Jan Kasetrsuwan.

As she prepares to enter graduate school somewhere outside of Thailand -- her sister Jean is currently studying in the U.K. -- Jan looks back on her time at IU with pride. The education they received has prepared them to one day work within their family business, and being in a new environment far away from home allowed them to stretch themselves mentally and socially.

"IU has taught me a lot," Jan said. "Being in a foreign place, with so many strangers, I really had to push myself to assimilate into the new culture, which allowed me to grow not only as a person but also as a professional. Flying alone, moving in and out of a dorm to an apartment, meeting new friends, volunteering and joining clubs, finding jobs and solving everyday problems have unlocked windows of opportunity in many ways.

"The experiences that I gained from IU have shaped me to be an open-minded person who is willing to work in new environments, with new people, and to solve the unknown, take risks and push myself to become the best version of me."

Indiana was 'in my blood'

The son of two IU alums, Ray Hovijitra also always knew he would follow in his parents' footsteps.

"Some of my earliest memories as a kid were going to basketball games in Bloomington and seeing the beautiful campus," the Indianapolis native said. "My mother was a professor at IUPUI, so I would often tag along to the dental school with her and walk around and see everything going on. So it was kind of in my blood to go to Indiana."

Ray at his mom Suteera's house. View print quality image
Ray Hovijitra poses with other IU School of Dentistry students at his mom Suteera's house. Photo provided by Suteera Hovijitra.

Under the guidance of Dr. Thanpuying Petchara Techakampuch, a 1960 School of Dentistry graduate who served as the dentist to the late King Rama IX, Hovijitra's mother, Dr. Suteera Hovijitra, traveled to Indianapolis in 1972 to attend  IU School of Dentistry. However, instead of going back to Thailand to practice, she stayed in the States, working as a prosthodontist and becoming a professor at School of Dentistry where she served as a mother figure for Thai students studying at the IUPUI.

"There was an article once where they referred to me as the 'mother of all dentists,'" Suteera said. "My husband and I helped any way we could, picking students up from the airport, putting them up at our house. We would help with every aspect of their needs."

Ray, who received his undergraduate degree from IU Bloomington, his dental degree from IUPUI and served in the U.S. Navy, remembers the students from Thailand who would come to his mother for advice.

"There were quite a lot of dinners and lunches and weekend outings with the Thai students who came to study," Ray said. "There were probably hundreds of people who have come through our home in Indianapolis."

Suteera practicing dentistry. View print quality image
Suteera Hovijitra traveled to Indianapolis in 1972 to attend the IU School of Dentistry. Photo provided by Suteera Hovijitra.

While at IUPUI, Ray met another Thai native: Bhalang "Nok" Kanokporn, a fellow IU School of Dentistry graduate who would eventually become his wife. Unlike his mother, Ray followed his graduation with a move to Thailand, a place he felt connected to as a child.

Ray and his wife continue his mother's work not only as practicing dentists and educators -- Ray is a dentist at the Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, and Nok is an associate dean for research at the Faculty of Dentistry at Chulalongkorn University -- but in helping to maintain the long relationship between IU and Thailand.

"The partnership between IU and Thailand is a great thing," he said. "I feel like IU has provided an excellent opportunity for our people to go abroad, experience a different culture, obtain a higher education and more knowledge, and then come back and use that knowledge to help others."

Suteera, who retired from IUPUI in 2009 and is still heavily involved in the relationship between IU and Thailand, agrees.

"I'm happy we have been a part of the interwoven relationship between Thailand and IU," she said. "I'm just really proud to have been a part of it and to support it, and I want to keep it going to pass it on to younger generations."