OPEN LINE is a medium of communication between Dr. Amnuay Tapingkae, Interim President of Payap Univesity, and everyone in the Payap community. Once a week he is interviewed by Dr. Kenneth Dobson, Adviser to the President, about how the university is responding to the urgent and emerging issues being brought to his attention.
K: Dr. Amnuay, what’s your top concern this week? What do you want us to know about how the university is responding to our financial and enrollment difficulties?
A: As we wait for another installment of financial help from the Foundation of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), the foundation has requested a response from the Ministry of Higher Education about our restructuring and downsizing. This week I found out that a friend, Dr. Pornchai Mongkhonvanit, President of Siam University in Bangkok is on the governing commission of the Ministry. I have asked him to help us get the response the CCT needs, and he agreed to help. Dr. Pornchai has valuable contacts through the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning and as a past president of the Association of University Presidents, both of which we have been members over the years.
K: Personal contacts can often clear the way when formal channels get bogged down.
A: I think it might be that way all over the world. As Payap was getting started it was Dr. Konrad Kingshill’s contacts in the USA that helped us when we needed help to realize our dream of a campus home for Payap. Konrad’s contact with a US Representative in Michigan brought us our first American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) grant. To qualify for this we needed a US-based board, and Konrad recruited people to form the Chiang Mai Mission Board. I fondly remember some of the key board members including Dr. Douglas Sherman who was chair, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Kirkman. And on our side we had not only Dr. Kingshill who was our college’s first Vice President and occasional Acting/Interim President, but Dr. E. John Hamlin who facilitated us in being housed on the Kaewnawarat campus, as did Ajarn “Bonnie” Boonchuan, Head of the McCormick School of Nursing and Midwifery. As this network of connections expanded it was Ajarn Martha Butt who coordinated our international affairs and developed the systems that kept funding flowing. Sponsorship by the Chiang Mai Mission Board, that helped get us started, was followed by sponsorship by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. The United Board sponsored our requests for ten years in a row. The campus as we have it is due to these ASHA grants.
K: I remember you and Ajarn King share June 22 as your birthday.
A. For several years Ajarn King, the Rev. Buddy Martinez a Disciples of Christ missionary at the seminary, and I would have a joint birthday dinner arranged by my wife, Siree. I miss those dinners. I miss Ajarn King, who died several months ago. I would love to put our heads together as we used to do, to turn Payap University around. While I am thinking of my 86th birthday last Monday, I want to thank the many friends and colleagues who sent well wishes on-line and in person.
K: The birthday party is over but new tables, trimmed in festive cloth, are going up in the outer office.
A: Tomorrow will be an important day in our financial recovery strategy. Payap University will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Krung Thai Bank. The regional manager of the bank with 40 local managers and officials will be here. In the MoU we will agree that Krung Thai Bank is our university’s bank. They will agree to accept some of our real estate as collateral for borrowing money we need, since the financial down-turn due to COVID-19 has prevented us from making deals with potential land purchasers. The bank will also facilitate personal loans and benefits for Payap University personnel who are having financial difficulties. This is another way we are providing help for faculty, staff and retirees.
K: You mentioned retirees and that reminded me of the CCT’s demand that we reduce personnel.
A: That process of resizing units and people retiring is now in full swing. I have a real heart for those being impacted. We wish them the best. It is painful to see them leave. They share our pain in trying to turn Payap around.
K: How are we doing in the turn-around?
A: We still don’t know what the future will be. We do not know whether the CCT will provide sustained and sufficient financial help to get us through this emergency, and we do not know what our enrollment of new students will be. In that regard, there is good news as we come to the beginning of our new academic year on July 1. We are counting about 550 new students, and we have hopes for 600. Students and parents have begun to report to the dorms and make plans for moving in. Life is returning to the campuses. We welcome parents and students to visit the campus any time now. If the COVID-19 situation improves we expect 200 new students from China, but that depends on when international travel from China will resume. Meanwhile, Dr. Golf, our chaplain and Assistant President for religious affairs and student development is raising funds to assist students who are impacted by COVID-19 shut-downs. We do not want to lose a single student.
K: I was talking to Dr. Michael Day, head of the English for Communication Department of the International College, and he has a plan for making sure our fourth year students successfully complete their programs by December. Through a combination of on-line materials and lectures with discussions every student who needs a course will have it, and the required “internship” will be re-engineered to fit every student’s situation. There will not be a need for any of these students to be on campus. They will not need visas or international travel plans. No student will be stranded. Each one is being asked if this is satisfactory. In this way we might not lose any of them. We will also work out plans for students who are in town and in the country.
A: I believe all of our international programs need to be functioning this way to get through the coming semester. We are smaller than we used to be, so we can be better able to accommodate individuals. Planning for a mass of students is not how we will excel in our new normal circumstances. I want to assure students that we will be recruiting faculty members for the International College after our consolidation. At the same time, I deeply appreciate the cooperation of many department heads and deans who are accepting new and sometimes reduced roles.
K: One of our international students wrote to you in behalf of a number of concerned students. I think this responds to the concerns.
A: Yes, I read Petra Lemberger’s letter and I hope she and her colleagues are still convinced that Payap can provide the quality of courses they expect. If Petra or any student has a question about whether this coming semester will provide what they need they should get in touch with their adviser or head of their department right now.
K: The opening of the new academic year is upon us.
A: We will officially begin the new academic year on July 1 with a worship service in the Henry Luce Chapel at 10 a.m. At that time we will be honoring Payap employees who are completing 25 years with us. Anyone in town is invited to attend.
This is the fifth OPEN LINE between Dr. Amnuay and the Payap University community. Please do not hesitate to write to the President at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office of the president to make an appointment to visit with him personally. Our sixth OPEN LINE will be on line on Thursday July 2.