Your place in the world is where your great gladness and the world’s great hunger meet. – Frederick Buechner
I can’t describe how great it is to be back at Payap University as the Head of International Campus Life. After grad school, I considered a spectrum of opportunities all over the world. Despite more lucrative options, I chose to return to Payap because I imagined this job would be a perfect fit for my gifts, skills, and experience. I also believed it would be a place where I could continue growing and serving in new and meaningful ways. Thankfully, both of those things have been abundantly true already in my first few months. The picture above is of the Pentecost Building where I work.
I have an amazing boss in the Office of International Affairs. It seems God-ordained that Dr. Prathana and I would get to hang out for 2 days in New Jersey over Christmas last year while she was working on her Fulbright. Little did I know she would become my boss and that we’d have a strong relationship from the start. Perhaps it goes without saying, but work is so much better with a great boss. In football they talk about the leaders on the team as the first ones at practice and the last ones to leave the locker room. Dr. Prathana is like that here. She’s almost always the first one in each morning and the last one to leave. That dedication, hard work, and leadership enables me to accomplish greater things in my own job. Here we are in Princeton along with another Thai teacher from Payap who is getting her Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary.
It’s been an adjustment getting back into the Thai way of doing things. For instance, it had been almost two months and my contract still had not been signed. I was patient and just thought I should wait it out. One day I mentioned it to Dr. Prathana after work around 6:00 PM. The next morning I got a phone call, “Ozzie, this is Dr. Prathana. I’m here in the Human Resources Office. Your contract is ready.” While Thailand has some systems in place to get things done, it is important to remember that people and relationships are really what drive accomplishment in this culture – much more so than in the West.
As part of my job, we’ve organized some great events in the International College along with the International Student Union. We had Community Outreach Day, where we sent out teams of students into the community to do projects at various organizations in Chiang Mai. We also put on IC Camp, which is a yearly event involving traveling to a nearby resort, spending time together, and eating good food! Activities like these are a crucial part of student development and building community. Having such a diverse community of people come together with remarkably different experiences, beliefs, abilities, and interests is a beautiful sight.
Every week I publish a newsletter called Payap Happenings. If you’d like to get on the mailing list, let me know. I try and track down everything that’s going on at Payap and in the community that’s relevant to our students, faculty, and staff. It’s a work in progress but it’s picking up speed.
Here’s a picture of a recent International College Assembly. We talked about Empowering Payap Peace-builders, a program based on Payap University’s Core Principles and put on by the Office of Community and Spiritual Life.
Perhaps my most exciting news is that a paper I’m working on was accepted and I will present at a UNESCO-APEID International Research Conference in Bangkok in November. The paper is a non-empricial discussion on co-curricula in higher education in Thailand and Southeast Asia, specifically its contribution to academic performance, student development, community building, and more! I have a couple other research projects brewing as well. I’d like to apply for Ph.D. programs at some point in the future so this is good experience and helpful for me to narrow down my research interests.
In addition to student activities, orientations, and working with student leaders, I also get the opportunity to teach two general education courses: Truth and Service for Holistic Living and The Path to Wisdom. It is an honor to teach these courses and I look forward to many class discussions with our awesome students.
Payap, like any other university, is not perfect and needs lots of work, but I am very encouraged by the direction it’s going and the leadership in place. I’m excited be a part of Payap and to grow alongside the students, faculty, and staff. I deeply believe holistic and high-quality education is a great need and hunger in Thailand and the world, and it is in education that I find my great gladness. So, for now, I’m confident I’ve found my place in the world.
To God be the glory. Let the journey continue,