Work by faculty leads to agreement with 12 Thai universities

November 2 2006

Thanks in large part to faculty members teaching and conducting research, Indiana State University recently signed a collaborative international exchange agreement with a consortium of 12 universities in northeast Thailand, opening the door for shared educational experiences in a variety of areas.

"While we have many alumni in Thailand, our relationship with Thailand has grown because of faculty engagement," said President Lloyd W. Benjamin III. "This agreement is a testament to the work of faculty members such as Karen Lui, College of Education; Brian Kilp, music department; Jean Kristeller, psychology department; and Al Czyzewski, College of Business."

"Brian has struck out in new territory by working with schools, giving sessions and conducting clinics," Benjamin said.

Kilp has made several trips to Thailand, working with the Rajabhat Suan Sunandha University and Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University. With members of his ensemble Trio Bella Voce, he performed and conducted clinics for more than 250 students.

"We had a two day seminar that was attended by the music students at the school plus several local high schools and two other universities. We spent part of the day together and part of the day we split up into brass, keyboards, and strings. We all got back together on the last day and the students performed a short concert with some of the materials we brought with us."

Kilp and his ensemble went to visit two other schools, Rajabhat Loei University, in northern Thailand, and also Rajabhat Udon Thani University, which is southeast of Maha Sarakham.

Kilp has worked primarily with university undergraduate students, but there have been opportunities to work with younger musicians.

"Most of the universities have an outreach mission to work with the local secondary schools. So far every Rajabhat I've been to has been connected to at least one secondary school," he said.

His 2005 visit was a special one. After conducting a series of clinics and classes, he visited Kosumwithayasan School, who was scheduled to perform at an upcoming regional marching band competition. While his expertise is not in marching band, he agreed to help the group improve their sound.

"I am not really a marching band expert, but I could certainly work on their performing, the music side of it," he said.

Kilp spent three or four hours working with their marching band in concert form, rehearsing the music that they were getting ready to take to a competition.

"They played very well, but they weren't doing a lot of the details in the music that we tend to work on a lot here in the states. So I was pointing out crescendos and decrescendos and listening to each other, the way they begin and end the notes correctly together and so on," he said.

While teaching the musical nuances, Kilp provided a good dose of encouragement.

"I kept saying to the students, you can do it, you can do it," he said, smiling.

The hard work of all parties paid off.

"At the end of the day, the students wanted to perform their marching show for me, so they took me out and I went up on a tall, rickety scaffolding to view their performance. It was great, I could really tell a difference in their playing," Kilp said.

Not only had his students done well, they won their regional for the first time ever. But better news was to come.

"I was really happy to learn they won the national competition -- that had never happened in this entire province. In fact, the governor wanted me to come back and receive an award for helping the band. Of course, I wasn't able to do that, but it was really heartening to hear," he said.

When Kilp returned this past summer, he visited the school and saw a photo montage of his 2005 visit on the wall. Then he was presented with a special gift.

"They handed me a book that they had made for the entire school for winning this competition and it contained a lot of photographs of the band. But there was an entire page devoted to my workshop and then in English on the back, it says We can do it!"

"I practically started crying when I saw that, and if you look all through the book, they put little French horn icons on every page, again just as a nice gesture to me. I'm not saying that I helped them win the competition, but maybe I inspired them to do more and that's what it's all about," he added.

He worked with the band again this summer.

"I brought some music that was donated by the music department and they learned the music overnight. When I came back the next day, they were already ready to perform it," he said.

Kilp taught another subject this past summer in addition to the universal language of music.

"I spent a week teaching English, which is very different from what I normally do, but was one of the best experiences I've had in all my traveling," he added.

Kilp, who has visited nine different Rajabhats, had a conversation with Tadsanee Paitoonpong. There was a cooperative effort of several Rajabhats with Kilp's visits, but Tadsanee wished for more cooperation in order to pool resources for bringing in more scholars and organizations.

Kilp and Paitoonpong proposed the idea of a consortium, which resulted in a meeting with several administrators, including Maha Sarakham's president.

Somjet Phusri, president of Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University, is the chairman of the northeast Rajabhats' Presidents Association, made up of 12 universities in northeast Thailand. He pitched the idea of a cooperative effort and received an overwhelming response.

"By that time I was back at ISU, I got a message saying every one of the schools wanted to join such a consortium," Kilp added.

Those conversations resulted in and agreement between ISU and the Thai institutions, all which have a shared heritage of being normal schools.

"In addition to the shared beginnings as normal schools, they're educational system is very similar to ours and they are making it even more so through reforms that are taking place," he said.

According to Gaston Fernandez, executive director of international affairs at Indiana State, the agreement is the first of its kind in the University's history.

"It's an exciting moment. This marks the first time Indiana State has signed an agreement with a consortium of universities," he said.

The agreement provides formal opportunities for visits, exchanges of faculty and students and coordinated and joint research projects in the areas of language learning and teaching, education, the arts, information technology, library services, community engagement and cultural outreach.

Nitaya Klangchanee, vice president for international relations at Thailand's Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University, said, "The United States has played a great role in the development of our country. Our partnership with Indiana State will lead to many opportunities for both students and faculty."

While the agreement opens doors for the University, Kilp will continue his work in Thailand.

"I will continue to working with the students, who are like sponges and want to learn everything you have to offer. But this opens up significant opportunities not only in music, but in other shared interests of early childhood education, special education, language and technology. It's taken a year to get to this point, but it has been very rewarding."

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Contact: Gaston Fernandez, executive director, ISU International Affairs Center,(812) 237-4391 or gfernandez@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or pmeyer4@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Thanks in large part to faculty members teaching and conducting research, Indiana State University recently signed a collaborative international exchange agreement with a consortium of 12 universities in northeast Thailand, opening the door for shared educational experiences in a variety of areas.

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