Bulletin News

Thailand Program Earns Chancellor’s Award


Orvil White, the SUNY Cortland faculty member who pioneered a summer program bringing the College’s student teachers to Thailand, has won a competitive State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Internationalization.

The assistant professor of childhood/early childhood education, who launched “Teach in Thailand: An Internship in Teaching Across Cultures” in 2012, is one of only four recipients across the SUNY system for 2013-14 and the first from SUNY Cortland in eight years. He will be recognized during the 2013 Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, in the Park Center Alumni Arena.

“I was very pleased to receive the Chancellor’s Award and it is nice to have the time and hard work on the Thai program recognized,” said White, a SUNY Cortland faculty member of six years. “I know it is not my effort alone that is being rewarded as I have supported my many others along the way. 

“That support has come from my department chair, the College president and certainly from Mary Schlarb, the director of SUNY Cortland’s International Programs Office.  I also believe this award will continue to strengthen the collaborative efforts that have been established between SUNY Cortland and our Thai partners.”

The Chancellor’s Award for Internationalization distinguishes new and innovative programs in less commonly traveled destinations, along with the study of underrepresented academic disciplines in international programs. It also provides $4,000 to support White’s Thailand program and encourage student participation in the future.

Coordinated by SUNY’s Office of Global Affairs, the top proposals for the highly competitive award are selected by a committee of SUNY campus representatives from statewide applicants.

White was no stranger to Thailand when he built the program. In 2005, he developed a working relationship with graduate students from the Science Education Center at Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok. He has visited the country six times, providing 20 professional development workshops for teachers and five university lectures during his travels.

This past August, a group of seven spent nearly three weeks in the Southeast Asian country, leading a series of professional development workshops for Thai teachers. Along with White, that group included SUNY Cortland senior childhood/early childhood education majors Kayleigh Caswell and Courtney Cox and Associate Professor of Childhood/Early Childhood Education Susan Stratton.

Orvil White

In addition to getting a taste of teaching English as a second language (ESL) in a foreign classroom, the SUNY Cortland students — as well as students from Tompkins Cortland Community College and SUNY Cobleskill who joined them — demonstrated a more hands-on type of instruction for Thai educators. Thai teaching relies heavily on antiquated lecture methods, so the task of the group from Cortland was to bring hands-on inquiry, which included games and activities, to the overseas classroom.

The trip was possible thanks to a unique partnership SUNY Cortland shares with SWU. Sponsored by the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Basic Education Commission, which provided transportation, housing and teaching materials in Thailand, it’s a working relationship that views this past summer’s visit as the first of what will become a regular study-abroad destination for SUNY Cortland students.

The SUNY system’s international programs database currently only lists two programs in Thailand. SUNY Cortland’s blueprint would allow future teachers throughout the system to hone their teaching skills while developing global competency and cultural awareness.

The program, in short, captures the essence of “SUNY and the World,” one of Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher’s six fundamental ideas for the system. The award for internationalization has been earned by just 41 projects over the past decade.