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Webster University Thailand

Study Abroad Student Perspective
Issues and Solutions

Kris Parsons
Junior, Int’l Human Rights
(314)606-2551
saveourplanet08@yahoo.com

Contents

Overview
Categories
Courses


Teaching Methods
Teacher Evaluation
Realistic and Diverse Courses

Administration


Leadership
Oversight
Direction

Cultural Issues

Thai Presence
Community Involvement

Campus Environment





Disconnect
Student Government
Grounds Staf
Homophobic/Hyper-Masculine Environment
Student Respectfulness
Drug and Alcohol Consumption

Personal Notes
Overview
Webster University is one of the few universities that thoroughly
understand the direction higher education is moving in—that is, global.
This university has taken steps to ensure its students receive a truly
global experience and has gone further than any other university I am
aware of by establishing actual Webster campuses abroad. As of now,
Webster is established in at least five countries. However, it seems that
the reality is lagging behind the dream.

Overall, most students expressed satisfaction with their
experience abroad in Thailand. However, none that I am aware of
included Webster Thailand in their happy memories. Many expressed
the unfortunate sentiment that the campus is “a joke” and “a waste of
time” when they could be out in the Thai community having real
educational cross-cultural experiences.
Following is a short list of issues and common complaints from
study abroad students who visited the Thailand campus within the last
two years. I have taken the liberty of contacting them to consolidate
the opinions I heard many often express informally. The most common
issues include classroom environments, a lack of Thai presence and
connection, the direction of the university (including course oferings),
and a lack of informed oversight.
While reviewing the comments of the students I’m sure those
who have visited the campus may be surprised at both the extent of
the issues and the commonality of student opinion. When deans,
accreditation officials and other authority figures visit the campus, they
often leave thinking everything is running acceptably, but it needs to
be said that it is very easy to put on a good presentation. Students are
speaking out about the realities behind the façade and ten-year plans.
In your assessment of the Webster University Thailand situation,
please remember the students. Many students would love to be
involved in the process of improving our international campuses and
networking our global Webster community. This is not only an issue for
academics or administration, but an issue so fundamental that it must
be addressed by everyone—from the students to the President. Thank
you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,
Kris Parsons

Courses

Teacher evaluation
o Based on popularity with students
o Leniency with student attendance and work will earn a
good evaluation
o Possible Solutions

In-class evaluation (including attendance)
Better, more specific questions (ex. syllabus related,
methods, tests)
Teaching Methods
o Reliance on student presentations to fill class time
(Klukowski, Len)
o Classroom environment not supportive to diverse opinions
(Klukowski, Ortiz)
o Test and exams not matching up to class work or
discussion (Klukowski, Ortiz)
o Lack of teacher objectivity—excessive focus on one opinion
(Ortiz, Klukowski, Lay)
o Lack of qualifications or skill for or resistance to universitylevel work (Klukowski, Ortiz, Lay)
o Possible Solutions
 Hire more teachers in these fields
 Train these teachers in higher level education
techniques on a regular basis
 Regular teacher evaluations
 Dismissal
Realistic and Diverse Courses
o The courses ofered 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 St. Louis 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 online a long-term wish
list of classes it hopes to ofer, 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.

Administration

Campus Leadership
o Business-minded, thus academics leaning towards
business and media
o Other types of academics and activities not supported or
valued

o Possible Solutions
 New rector
 New academic director
 Support for new programs and existing student
requests
Lack of oversight from main campus
o New, more firm relationships needs to be established
between St. Louis and Cha-am because the two schools are
going in two completely diferent directions and academics
are sufering at WUT
Direction
o Someone specialized in either race relations or southeast
Asian studies should work with Webster to facilitate a
discussion on the direction that Webster is going, why it
wants to go there, and what that means for both the
students and the country and communities they will be in.
(Perhaps a good asset to all int’l campuses)

Cultural Issues

Lack of Thai presence
o Lack of Thai teachers, administration, and thus perspective
o Lack of courses taught on Thai culture and lack of qualified
people to teach them
o No community connection or involvement
o Americanized experience (American professors are very
American)
o School ofers tourist trips rather than cultural experiences
o Possible Solutions:
 Hire more Thai teachers or Thai experts
 Do an inquiry and ask some serious questions about
what Webster is doing in Thailand and what its goals
are
 Need to reach out to each student regardless of
nationality and still network all the students with
diverse backgrounds (unity in diversity—perhaps an
extra-curricular group or forum rather than only
Collage of Cultures)
Activism and Human Rights
o Quote from student: “It seems like Webster Thailand not
only dropped the ball on this, but they’re acting like there’s
no ball to hold. I’m not asking for hand-holding [on cultural
interaction], I just want to know that my school does good
things.”
o Possible Solutions:




More human rights focus and more community
connection
Faculty focus on human rights issues
Volunteer projects
Visiting speakers from the community

Campus Environment:
Overall unhealthy environment in the Webster community
 Disconnect
o At WUT, a disconnect exists between the students, the
faculty, the staf, and the administration.
o Possible Solutions
 Departments can help establish a strong connection
with the professors teaching the same classes at
WUT and other campuses. A discussion of curriculum,
method, expectations, etc. would be helpful in
bringing WUT up to par with university-level courses
and would also benefit those here in St. Louis by
ofering a cross-cultural perspective on the subject
matter. But overall, the connection between STL and
Cha-am needs to be better established, less
centralized and more impartial. Department-todepartment communication facilitates that kind of
interaction.
 Goals and purposes should be jointly evaluated
between STL and Cha-am.
 Student government
o Popularity contest
o Arguments with staf and among students
o Organized activities always include alcohol
o Possible Solutions
 Involve study abroad students (the
vote/participation)
 Add more majors to recruit diferent types of
students
 Gardening and Upkeep Staf
o Rumors and issues about lack of worker’s rights and
country of origin
o Possible Solution
 Make a silent inquiry
 Homophobic and Hyper-Masculine Environment
o Student attitude and comments create an unfriendly and
possibly unsafe environment when combined with alcohol
o Faculty and staf attitude as well

o Women are viewed as sexual objects while men seem to be
under pressure to climb the American masculinity ladder
o Possible Solutions
 Programs designed to foster tolerance and
acceptance
 Student recruitment eforts explain the position of
the university about LGBTQ rights and harassment
policies so a student can decide if they want to come
to the university or not
 Open and firm condemnation of such attitudes and
comments
 Allowance of study abroad students to create student
organizations and events
 Bring in visiting sexualities scholars (perhaps Thai)
and speakers
Drug and Alcohol Consumption
o Unhealthy environment
o Peer-pressure party environment
o Study abroad and full-time issue
o Staf and faculty issues as well
o Possible Solution
 Controlled Substance and professional etiquette
program implementation
Student respectfulness
o Webster advertises that it produces world citizens and for
that to become a reality in its study abroad experience,
cross-cultural interaction needs to be respectful.
o Possible Solution
 Training students in cultural awareness and respect
before they go to a diferent country. This is very
necessary and should be obligatory.

Personal Notes:

I would formally like to commend Prof. Marc Bourget of the English
dept. and Ajahn Jim of the Thai language dept. on doing an excellent,

university-level job. I’ve heard no complaints about either of them and
thoroughly enjoyed their classes.
I would also like to commend Prof. Jim Hightower (Critical
Thinking, Formal Logic) for two excellent courses. I am unaware of the
circumstances of his departure but he is a tragic loss to the Webster
community and perhaps should be considered for a position at the St.
Louis campus either teaching or overseeing connectivity between
students, faculty, staf, and all our international campuses.

(Thai) All about appearance—it’s really easy to make it look like
everything’s fine.
Fuck the façade—the truth needs to come out.
Every time deans and accreditation officials and other authority figures
visit the campus they leave thinking everything is okay but the
students are finally speaking out on what goes on behind the
presentation.
Forget all the baht we spent on gardening and get to the academics.
The system is a part of the problem—
1. Change the rules without changing the game
2. Change the players without changing the rules
3. Change the rules, players, and the game