Webster University is a name that many residents of Hua Hin and Cha – Am have seen or vaguely heard about, but what do you really know about this very significant resource in the Regional community? Hua Hin & Cha – Am Today recently published two articles about visiting scholars to the University and their stories but this is certainly not the full picture.
We are very fortunate to have in our community a world renowned tertiary educational institution which deserves more than just passing comment. There are currently more than 400 students enrolled with this figure increasing every year. The Webster website provides a full description of the USA accredited University Degree and Masters Programs available. It would be just ‘lazy journalism’ to repeat this readily accessible public information. Check out the website for details of these programs soon!
Fortunately we were invited to have a ‘taste’ of the Webster experience and open access to the people at Webster who make the difference; the management, staff and perhaps more even importantly the students! This included an opportunity to have conversations with Mr. Ratish Thakur, the Rector of Webster and many other staff, but also to join new students during their recent orientation for the 2013 summer intake.
First Consider the Context of Higher Education in the Global Scene.
In the United Nations Secretary-General’s own words, “when we put Education First, we can reduce poverty and hunger, end wasted potential – and look forward to stronger and better societies for all.” One of the three priorities of Education First is to foster global citizenship.
ASEAN integration: To respond to the establishment of the ASEAN Community Thai graduates are expected to meet international standards and to recognise their responsibility as member of the ASEAN Community. Asean integration strongly encourages higher education institutions to produce the graduates of international quality who equipped with professional skills, language skills and inter-cultural skills. This includes Globalisation Policies and projects to respond to globalisation including mobility projects, branch campuses overseas and inter-institutional partnerships English as the dominant language Benchmarks and standards required to properly evaluate unfamiliar foreign qualifications
How Does Webster University Meet These Expectations?
Webster is the only American University in Thailand accredited both in USA and Thailand and has been ranked by the US News and World Report as one of America’s best colleges. It offers internationally-recognised American degrees for a globalised business world. Most of the programs offered here are accredited by professional bodies. Webster today operates as a private, nonprofit, accredited University offering undergraduate and graduate education.
The Webster Global Citizenship Program aims to ensure that every undergraduate emerges from Webster with the core competencies required for responsible global citizenship in the 21st century. By helping them develop knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, understanding of personal and global responsibility, and the abilities to integrate and apply what is learned, the Global Citizenship Program is designed to help Webster students excel in this new world.
A small example was described to me about how Vietnamese students were able to give personal accounts of the experiences of the Vietnamese people during the Vietnamese war. This perspective really provided a very different flavour to that history discussion.
Mobility and Cultural Experiences
Because of the nature of the Webster system worldwide, it is relatively easy for Webster students to study at different campuses. Some students elect to study abroad for an entire semester (16 weeks) at a single campus. Emersion in the culture of the country where the campus is based is a clear strategy aimed at maximising an overseas student’s experience. It has something called the ‘student mobility programme’.
A student pursuing a course in a campus in the U.S. can opt to do a semester in any other campus in any country. For this ‘study abroad’ scheme, the university sponsors the student’s travel expenses.
“This enables the student to continue the same course content in a different setting where he gets the additional benefit of getting to know a new culture, new teaching methodology, and also an opportunity to learn the local language, norms and ethnicity,” said Mr. Thakur.
Webster University Around the World
Mr. Ratish Thakur commented that, “Webster University Thailand and around the world, have a strong commitment in providing a true global learning, not only in a global environment but also providing opportunity for students to travel around the world to study in any of our over 100 campuses and educational locations around the world in USA, London, Geneva, Leiden, Vienna, Shanghai and Cha-am, Thailand.”
In addition to its own international campuses, Webster has also formed partnerships with universities that are based in a student’s country of interest. For example, The Webster Graduate School is tied with Regent’s College in London; and Webster maintains a relationship with Kansai University in Osaka, Japan and with The Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico. As recently as 12th March 2103 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Webster University, Thailand and Kaziranga University (KU), Assam, India with the objective of having mutual collaboration between the two universities for student exchange, faculty exchange and joint programs.
The Webster Student Experience
“Students here don’t learn about other cultures – they experience them every day.” said Mr Ratish Thakur. Students and the staff at Webster come from all points of the globe, including European countries, the Americas and Asia (including Thailand).
Foreign students expressed their motivation to study at Webster in terms of
Thai student we were able to talk to at the summer 2013 intake added an interesting perspective to those of foreign students. For them this is an opportunity to being exposed to other cultures and emersion in the English language before they venture out of Thailand. This may be considered a ‘stepping stone’ to the wider world. These students clearly understood the potential benefits of a much broader perspective than the more traditional Thai education model. One Thai student expressed her ambitions to enter international diplomatic service; we wish her every success!
There are currently three designated accommodation options in Hua Hin each with a student ‘Resident’s Assistant’ to help with any settling in issues or problems that may occur along the way. This is in addition to a very active Student Council which has regular meetings with the Rector. He is very clear that he has a strong ‘open door’ policy. With a student to staff ratio of 20:1 students become personally known to the staff and quickly develop a strong sense of being a real part of the ‘Webster community’.
Webster clearly understands it’s duty of care to students, some of whom may be travelling overseas for the first time. Mr Thakur was eager to impress on students at this intake not to be complacent about potential personal risks. The use of motorcycles by those who may be unskilled or inexperienced was one clear example of this concern.
The student experience includes a series of excursions to cultural events and the prospect of joining a variety of special interest groups and sporting activities. Community projects are undertaken with students working on a voluntary basis often focusing on environmental improvement. They even have their own ‘on campus’ Songkran celebration!
The Rotary Club of Royal Hua Hin proudly collaborated with the students and administration of Webster University Thailand to help charter the first English-speaking Rotaract Club in District 3330.
Some Points of Interest
- Webster University is located off the Pranburi to Cha – Am bypass Road. From Hua Hin head West towards Hua Mongol then right on the bypass Road towards Cha – Am (Bangkok). You will see the signs to the left after you enter Petchaburi Province.
From Cha – Am take a U turn on this bypass road heading towards Prachuap Khiri Khan Province several kilometres after the Imperial Lake View Golf Course. After the U turn, again follow the directions to turn left.
- Origin of the Name: Webster University’s home campus is located in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Webster University Worldwide was established in 1915 in St. Louis, USA by the Sisters of Loretto. Initially it was a university for young women but was later opened to men.
- The Gorlok is Webster University’s school mascot worldwide. It is a mythical creature that was designed by Webster staff and students many years ago. It has the paws of a cheetah, the horns of a buffalo, and the face of a Saint Bernard dog. Gorlok is actually a reference to the college’s USA home address, at the intersection of Gore and Lockwood Avenues.
- Webster University celebrated its 10th anniversary in Thailand by offering more than 61 million baht worth of bursaries to qualified Thai high school students. Ninety-four Thai students received the bursaries which were worth more than 650,000 baht each during a four year university career.
- Apart from the mainstream academic subjects covered in the Faculties of Arts & Science, Business & Technology and Media & Communications, Webster offers a very diverse range of learning opportunities to learn other less traditional subjects. For example: Topics in Culture – Thai Ways,
- Chinese Language, Roots of Religion, Public Speaking, Human Sexuality, Art Appreciation and even the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll!
- Webster in Thailand includes a smaller Bangkok Graduate Centre, not as the ‘head office’ but as an off shoot to the main Cha – Am facility.
A Final Word
Webster Thailand is an example of how universities have changed from being cloistered and exclusive institutions towards being significant players in the development of students as ‘world citizens’. In a personal and practical way it is easy to see how those studying at Webster will be equipped to play their part in this globalisation process. However Webster is also eager to be a local contributor including the formation of links with local business and community institutions. You may wish to consider how these links can be strengthened; talk to Webster. Think laterally; everyone wins!
Our thanks to Webster for the open access afforded Hua Hin & Cha – Am Today. The local community is very fortunate to have this university in our midst and should embrace such a forward thinking institution. Go, Go, Go Gorloks!
For more information visit www.webster.ac.th.