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A statement regarding the academics at Webster University’s Thailand Campus

From recent study abroad students

For more information please feel free to contact:
Dana Pacheco
Anthropology, Year 4
Webster University St. Louis
Kris Parsons
Int'l Human Rights, Year 3
Webster University St. Louis


August 20, 2010
To whom it may concern:
I recently returned to St. Louis after spending my second spring semester and summer
abroad at the Webster University Thailand Campus (WUT). As much as I thoroughly enjoyed
my cultural and personal experiences abroad which Webster facilitated, I cannot help but feel
slighted in terms of the academic experience offered by Webster Thailand. Obviously WUT
has a much smaller student body and faculty, and is therefore limited in the courses that can
be offered; however, a smaller campus should not mean lower standards or a lower quality of
academics at any Webster University facility.
When I first applied to take part in Webster University’s study abroad program, I had
no doubts that the academic quality at every campus would be the same across the board. I
never heard any complaints, regarding the academics, from students who previously studied
abroad, except for a few rumors that WUT was more laid back than the other campuses. As it
turns out, this rumor was a vast understatement. Many of my classroom experiences at WUT
were less intensive and far less engaging than many of my high school honors classes, let
alone the classes at Webster St. Louis. A fellow study abroad student, Kris Parsons, once
remarked to me “I would not have stayed for a year had I known what the academic quality
was like [at WUT].” I have to admit, I share her feelings.
I am about to begin my senior year at Webster St. Louis and I have been more than
satisfied with every class in which I have enrolled at the St. Louis campus. After finishing
my second semester at WUT, I am left wondering if my decision to sacrifice two semesters of
quality academics for the sake of studying in a foreign country was worth it. This was not a
trade off I thought I would have to make, and one that no student should have to make.
The reality is that except for three courses in my two semesters at Webster Thailand
(1.Thai Language Level II, 2.Thai Language Level IV, and 3.ANSO- 2000 Thai Ways), I felt
unchallenged, uninterested, and intellectually un-stimulated by every other course I took. For
the first time in my university career, I sat in class bored, wondering how this curriculum
passes for university education, as it would hardly compare to the workload given in my St.
Louis classes. Also, the teachers’ standards for student work would barely have met those of
even some of my high school teachers.

For example, in one psychology class, there were 4 quizzes, a midterm exam, a
final exam, and 3 papers scheduled into the syllabus for the semester. But after
the midterm exam, the students “did so well” that the final two quizzes and
two of the papers were waived.

In another class, we were assigned a single paper for the entire semester (apart
from the midterm and final exams) which “could be anywhere from 1-4 or 5
pages “if we felt we could write that much.” This was quite shocking
considering I had just written no less than three 15-20 page papers and two 1015 page papers during my finals the previous semester in St. Louis.


In the same class, due to a new regulation put in place to keep the campus
‘green’, professors were asked to try not to order texts for the students but
rather use texts which the students could access online as e-books or provide
handouts instead. In compliance with this rule, this particular professor listed 3
texts in the syllabus, said that there was one copy of each available in the
library, and provided us with 5 handouts on the first day of class (none of
which stated which text they came from). For the remainder of the semester
this professor proceeded to sit at the front of the room and read from the
textbooks with which our few handouts did not correspond, leaving us nothing
to follow along from. Finally, we were rarely assigned any readings ahead of
time to prepare for class discussion. We were simply left guessing which book
was read from and what topic the professor was reading about throughout each
class period.

These are only a few examples of the extreme discrepancies between academic
standards at the St. Louis campus and standards at WUT.
Putting both standards and academic quality aside, another issue which needs to be
addressed between Webster St. Louis and WUT is the seeming lack of communication, not
just between those running the university, but also interdepartmental communication.

During my first semester at WUT, students were informed that several more
professors were hired for the next academic year which would enable a broader
range of course offerings. After hearing this news, I expressed my interest in
returning for a second semester and inquired whether or not more classes
would be offered in the Behavioral and Social Sciences department. The
response to my inquiry was “you are the first student who has come to me
expressing any interest in this department (BHSS). Right now we are focused
on raising enrollment of full time students most of whom come from Asian
countries. The current market in Asia is for Business and Media degrees so that
is what we must focus on for now. Perhaps somewhere down the road, when
enrollment goes up we can look at improving other areas and expanding your
department. So at this time, I have to say that we most likely will not have
anything more to offer you if you return next spring.” This was hardly the
response I expected, but it certainly discouraged me from the possibility of
returning to WUT for a second semester. It is understandable that there must be
a business aspect to running any university; however there also has to be an
academic aspect and WUT is extremely weak in certain departments. It seems
unfair to only focus on certain departments while making it nearly impossible
for other students, particularly those majoring in Anthropology, Sociology,
Religious Studies, Philosophy, etc. to attend this campus unless they take a
semester of classes unable to fill any of their degree requirements.

Overall, the academics at WUT leave much to be desired and many students would
like to see this change. A number of improvements can be made to raise the quality of
academics at Webster University Thailand despite the size of the student body such as:
establishing better overall communication between campuses, initializing discussion and


consensus of academic standards to ensure a quality education is offered at every campus,
and finally more oversight from the St. Louis campus to ascertain whether or not these
standards are met at the WUT campus. If possible, please involve previous study abroad
students in further discussions. We have lots to say and would like to be included in this
Thank you for your time.
Dana Pacheco
Anthropology, Year 4
Webster University St. Louis

Additional Comments from a fellow study abroad student:
1. Overall impression of Webster-Thailand: The way St. Louis is advertising the Thailand
campus is with pictures of people on elephants, not pictures of people in classrooms. There's a
reason for that. People go to the Cha-am campus to ride elephants, to pet monkeys and tigers,
to eat the Thai food (at the mall), to go to the beach, etc. I, personally, was disappointed because
I went to Thailand to learn about Buddhism, continue my Thai language studies, understand an
Eastern perspective on human rights, to teach and to learn. The only one of those offered as an
option on campus was learning Thai with Ajahn Jim. Everything else I had to go do on my own.
2. “The course offerings are quite lopsided. If you take a look at the course list, you can see that
the campus leadership is trying to push business and media. Liberal arts are getting the boot. If
that is the direction they want to go--to be a business and media school--then STL should tell
students that so they can make their decision knowing whether or not they are going to have a
good, valuable academic experience related to their area of study or not. As of right now, WUT
has posted a long-term wish list of classes it hopes to offer online, and that is what students look
at before they study abroad. Once they have paid all their money and the actual course book is
issued, they are left with two pages of business and media classes, a handful of psychology
courses, and a smattering of vaguely-outlined, general international relations courses with one of
two teachers.”
3. “Lack of oversight from main campus: A new, more firm relationship needs to be
established between St. Louis and Cha-am because the two schools are going in two
completely different directions and academics are suffering at WUT.”


4. “The connection between STL and Cha-am needs to be better established and more impartial.
Certain people have a tendency to tell people what they want to hear and many times what they
say is not what's actually happening on the ground.”
5. “There is a disconnect between all parties at the school. The impression of nearly all the
students and faculty is that three people are making all the decisions for the whole school and
no one else has any input or they will be fired. The faculty is completely disconnected
from one another and the students and the administration. The students have to fight for
every inch of power they have over their own college experience.”
6. “Would I do it again? Despite my disappointing experience at Webster Thailand, yes, I would
do it again. Thailand and Southeast Asia in general is a wonderful place and a wonderful
opportunity for studies in the behavioral and social sciences and for Webster in general. It has so
much to offer and we have so much to learn. It's important to establish this campus in Cha-am
and seize this chance to give students a completely new, open cultural experience.
Kris Parsons
Int'l Human Rights, Year 3
Webster University St. Louis