Thailand Impact

For very nearly 20 years, the IU School of Optometry has banded together with Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok to set up an optometry program.

In 1999, administrators at Ramkhamhaeng University and members of the Thai Optical Society reached out to the school about establishing an optometry program in Thailand. At the time, optometry wasn't recognized as a profession in Thailand.

With former Dean Gerald Lowther's support, faculty at IU created a curriculum similar to IU's and sent faculty to Thailand to teach the courses. They also began, and have continued, to train the faculty to teach their own courses.

Dr. Richard Meetz, clinical professor emeritus at the IU School of Optometry, said the initial classes were eager to learn.

"These were experienced opticians, not young students," Meetz said. "They were already mid-career, and they were the ones who wanted to take the profession further. They were very motivated and very welcoming to us."

The school currently has 13 full-time faculty members from Ramkhamhaeng and four international adjunct faculty. The 2018-19 academic class includes 64 students, and the program now boasts about 300 graduates. It also inspired two additional optometry programs in the country.

Adventures in business consulting abroad

Although the IU Kelley School of Business has had a presence in the ASEAN region for decades, 2019 was the first year for the school's Global Business and Social Enterprise program, known as GLOBASE, in Thailand.

GLOBASE has served more than 50 small- to medium-sized business and nonprofit clients in Latin America, Africa and Asia since 2009. Working directly with entrepreneurs and nonprofits in emerging economies around the world, more than 1,000 Kelley students have provided clients with tools to tackle their unique business challenges.


"GLOBASE projects are carefully selected to create positive social impact," said Rachel Fleishman, assistant director of global programs for the Kelley School of Business MBA Office.

The goal is to solve real-world business challenges that affect real people, all while learning as future business leaders to explore and grow their talents. Part of the group's work in Thailand included Flying Squirrel Outfitters, a company run by IU alumnus Brian Carraway, who graduated from what is now the IU Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 2007. 

"I can't say it enough, but it was such an honor to work with the students and faculty through the GLOBASE program," Carraway said.

Supporting their alma mater

Like Carraway, many IU alumni who have gone on to do amazing things throughout the world credit part of their success to the world-class education they received at IU.

There are more than 6,000 IU alumni from the ASEAN region. 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."

Read more about IU's engagement in Thailand

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