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UConn to teach Thai businessmen how to create new university (Released: 10/15/96)

by Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Officials at the University of Connecticut have contracted with a group of entrepreneurs from Thailand to help them establish a new university, using UConn's business and general education curricula as their model.

Initially, the academic focus of Sirinsiam International University (SIU) will be on intensive English language instruction, the creation of a UConn-type general education curriculum, and the delivery of a bachelor's degree in business administration, a business minor, and a master's degree in business, says Thomas G. Gutteridge, dean of UConn's business school.

The partnership will give UConn firm footing in the Pacific Rim, greatly enhancing the University's global image and enriching UConn's international capabilities, as well as opening a window through which UConn can access international students and faculty scholars. The potential also exists, says Gutteridge, for faculty exchanges between UConn and SIU, once the Thai university is operating.

The agreement was formalized during a signing ceremony Tuesday at Centennial Alumni House in Storrs, attended by a five-member delegation from Thailand, President Philip E. Austin, Mark A. Emmert, UConn's chancellor and provost for University affairs, Gutteridge, Ross MacKinnon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Mark Wentzel, executive director of the Office of International Affairs, and Lucy Creevy, dean of the Division of International Affairs.

"This fee for service contractual agreement to provide counsel to the Thais will enable us, without reordering academic priorities, or establishing a new campus, or expending our limited resources, to give our faculty and researchers an opportunity to explore another region of the world, even as we assist in building the Thai higher education system. It is a further step in Connecticut's global participation which can be of benefit to the state and its citizens," said Emmert.

It was a combination of UConn's international programs -- including their presence at international student fairs -- and several meetings between Gutteridge and one of the Thai leaders, Puckdee Vithakamontri, when Gutteridge was dean of the business school at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in the early 1990s, that brought UConn to the attention of the Thai's. The Asian group then visited and held discussions with officials at UConn, the University of Oregon and California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo, and hosted site visits for officials from each of the universities in Thailand, before deciding to forge the partnership with UConn.

The Thai businessmen, who formed a private, non-profit company -- BPI -- to establish the University, are funding the entire operation, including the cost of any trips UConn officials will make to Thailand, trips by Thai officials to UConn, any overhead costs UConn may incur in its consultative capacity, and the cost of building facilities for the Thai university.

UConn officials have created a steering committee to further the partnership that includes Gutteridge, MacKinnon, Creevey, Judith Meyer, associate provost, and Lori Aronson, assistant to the chancellor. Gutteridge and Emmert will sit on SIU's Board of Trustees, which currently includes Thai doctors, businessmen, and academics committed to enhancing the educational development of college students in Thailand and other Asian countries, based on the philosophies and standards of higher education institutions in the United States.

Earlier this month, UConn hosted a delegation from China, who also will draw on the School of Business Administration's curriculum as they establish a new University in Shanghai, funded through Aetna.

Once SIU is established, and the business curriculum in place, Thai officials expect to begin expanding their programmatic offerings to include a variety of fields where UConn has strong programs, including computer sciences and information technology, a doctoral program in education, communication sciences, food and nutrition, animal sciences, engineering, environmental analysis, and a general liberal arts program. All instruction at the university will be delivered in English.

Although officials at UConn and BPI expect the partnership to be long-term, the initial agreement will be for three years, renewable by mutual consent. It is effective in January 1997.