Norwich’s top brass visit Thailand, announce scholarship © Feb. 5, 2007 Norwich University Office of Communications
While Norwich students were taking finals before Christmas break, President Richard Schneider and Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Dave Whaley, were attending Cowboy Night on the other side of the globe with the sixty-member Thailand Alumni Club. Cowboy Night was not the only purpose of their visit though, as the two spent Dec. 11 – 16 in Thailand announcing a new scholarship for Thai students and strengthening the bonds with the alumni club and the relationship with the Armed Forces Preparatory Military School located just outside Bangkok.
“Norwich has a very dedicated group of alumni in Bangkok and they don’t get a chance to get back to the Hill,” Whaley said, and to celebrate the president’s visit, the Thailand Alumni Club pulled out all the stops. With Cowboy Night as the main event, the president, vice president, and club members got a chance to dress like cowboys and kick up their heels to a Thai country band.
Secretary of the alumni club, Col. Kittiphong Wongskhaluang ‘84, said the importance of the trip warranted top-level accommodations.
“The trip was handled by the Alumni Club and the Supreme Command Head Quarters,” Kittiphong said, and President Schneider and Vice President Whaley were attended to by “MP cars with red lights and security officers from the Armed Forces Security Center on active and stand by 24-hours.”
Kittiphong said Norwich’s relationship with the Thai club is long and distinguished and the trip was a way to strengthen a “friendship that can’t be described.”
While in country, Schneider and Whaley also took the opportunity to connect with the Preparatory Military School and announce a new scholarship in honor of Gen. Boonsrang Niumpradit ’70, who was recently elevated to the post of Supreme Commander of the Thai military, a position equal in stature to the United States’ chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The new award compliments an existing scholarship that honors the first Thai student to attend Norwich, Gen. Charn ’64, who served as the Royal Thai Army's Chief of Staff in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Awarded annually, each scholarship package will allow one student from the Preparatory Military School to attend Norwich by offsetting part of the cost, with a maximum of three students per year receiving the funds. Although the Boonsrang and Charn scholarships are valued at $3,000 apiece, Thai students receiving the funds will actually be awarded about $10,000 each year they attend Norwich thanks to the generosity of the Norwich alumni community.
Traveling with Schneider and Whaley to the Southeast Asian country over the break was Robert Bale. As a representative of the Class of ’64, Bale was in country to inform the Thai delegation that his class would add $2,500 to the Thai scholarship pot to encourage more student interest. Also contributing funds for a stronger Thai representation on The Hill is Trustee Joseph Milano ’66, President and CEO of The Union Oyster House and the Honorary Consul General to the Royal Thai Consul General in Boston. Speaking from his offices in Boston, Milano said finalizing the scholarship package took quite a bit of work over quite a bit of time and that it is a remarkable achievement for both Norwich and its Thai alums. About $1,500 from the existing Milano Scholarship will be earmarked for Thai students wishing to attend Norwich, Milano said.
“The difference [in cost] for out-of-staters between Norwich and schools such as VMI and the Citadel is about $10,000,” Milano said. “This scholarship will make Norwich comparable in cost to our so-called military competitor schools, and we should see more of the market share.”
In the 1960s and ’70s, many Thai students attended the University, but those numbers have fallen in recent years, Whaley said. The new scholarship, he said, will serve to “reestablish relationships with the Thai military.”
Thailand is not the only country with which Norwich has military school affiliations. According to Jenifer Hasenfus, International Student Advisor at Norwich, the University has strong ties to the Republic of China Military Academy and École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr in France. Additionally, affiliations with the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Federal Military University of Germany have recently been created, Hasenfus said. With all but Thailand, the schools trade students with Norwich for a semester. Norwich has not sent students to study in Thailand as of yet, and Hasenfus cites the language barrier as the reason. There is an opportunity there, she says, since “one Royal Thai Military student is at Norwich and we have the ability to help an interested NUCC student learn Thai and participate in an exchange, but no one has stepped forward yet.” Two Thai students are expected to arrive on campus in the fall of ’07 and a third is currently working through the application process.
Members of the Corps aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of overseas opportunities while attending Norwich, though. The University has also fostered relationships with nonmilitary schools specializing in various academic fields. Business and management majors can attend Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, while Silesian Technological University in Gliwice, Poland has programs for computer science and computer information assurance majors. Norwich architecture students are currently in Berlin, working in Deutsches Architeftur Zentrum studio as part of the Norwich/ Lexia architecture semester, and slated to begin in 2008, students will be able to attend the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Encouraging Norwich students to become aware of the world around them is an integral part of the University's 2019 plan. Schneider said in the future he hopes to see “every student at Norwich is studying for a term or summer overseas.”
“They will come back as better Americans — they will be better captains of industry if they have lived in a global environment for some time,” Schneider said. Moreover, internationalizing education also benefits the world, as well, the president said. “What better way to get to know Americans than through college students?”
Whaley echoed President Schneider's feelings, noting that “it's a bigger world than the United States.” He also said that “having international military students at Norwich gives all of the students an understanding that there are different cultures out there.” The international program is especially important now, Whaley said, because “it helps students understand our role in the world and how Americans are perceived out there.”
And while Cowboy Night was a highlight of the trip, Whaley said an important realization came out of the Thai adventure when, on the last evening in Thailand, President Schneider hosted a dinner for twelve of the senior alumni. Over dinner, Whaley said, the group discovered that although they live a world apart, they shared common experiences thanks to their time on The Hill, and that is exactly what the Norwich international program was created to accomplish.
“It was 14 Norwich University guys getting together,” Whaley said of the final night’s celebration. “If you had a blindfold on and heard us, it could have been Union Oyster House in Boston or the Officer’s Club in Virginia – their experience wasn’t any different at Norwich than mine.”