College of Education and Human Development

Connect Magazine

A journey to Thailand


For decades, CEHD has maintained strong partnerships with schools, organizations, and individuals in Thailand. From undergraduate study abroad programs to graduate internships, CEHD has established a robust network of relationships focused on research, student exchange, academic study, and professional training. Thailand is also home for many CEHD alumni.

This spring, a small group of CEHD alumni and donors embarked on a journey to listen, learn, observe, and engage with our partners in Thailand. This was a unique opportunity for individuals who have been committed to CEHD to see firsthand the dynamic collaborations and projects that have been happening in Thailand.

Scholars and locals under tree
A meeting with Akha elders at the Hill Area Development Foundation (HADF) center in the mountains in Chiang Rai province. HADF is a longtime college partner and a summer internship placement site for CEHD graduate students.

Belle Yaffe, Louellen Essex, Mary Tjosvold, Christine Warren, and U of M Regent Bo Thao-Urabe had the opportunity to visit current program sites and interact with local students, educators, and community members while immersed in vibrant Thai traditions and customs. The visit showcased CEHD’s internationalization efforts and sustained commitment to infusing global experiences into its teaching, scholarship, and service.

Scholars with books at local site
U of M Regent Bo Thao-Urabe and Belle Yaffe looking through resource materials developed by HADF and local partners.

The experience “helped me to see the depth of commitment we make to local partners and how much time, effort, and resources go into creating these opportunities for our students and faculty,” shares Thao-Urabe (BS ’94, family social science).

Thailand was chosen not only for its historical ties with CEHD but also for its cultural richness and educational opportunities. Visits to current program sites provided valuable insights into the educational landscape of Thailand. For example, the group’s visit to Anuban Wiang Kaen School helped show ways educators are engaging students in project-based learning to solve local challenges and teaching culturally relevant curriculum to create a sense of belonging for their diverse student population.

Such meetings with local hosts facilitated deep conversations about the benefits of these experiences for Thai partners as well as CEHD students and faculty. “It’s essential that our students and faculty see themselves as part of the larger world, and though we have much to offer, we also have much to learn, so these opportunities help to elevate that,” shares Tjosvold (PhD ’75, educational administration).

Warren with local student
Christine Warren speaks with a student during the Anuban Wiang Kaen School visit.

The group also met with women leaders from the Kiew Doi Luang Village, a Hmong community in Chiang Khong, to learn about their Women for Change project in collaboration with the Center for Girls, a longtime CEHD partner. The visit offered these CEHD leaders a glimpse into Thailand’s dynamic shifts in gender roles, education, and economic sustainability. “I am much more aware of the types of learning experiences our students can have and how important it is to have a global view,” says Essex (PhD ’81, educational administration, public affairs, educational psychology).

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A meeting with women leaders at a Hmong village in Chiang Khong. The Women for Change project is a collaboration with the local organization Center for Girls, a CEHD longtime partner and site for our graduate student summer internships.

The Thailand Showcase was a collaboration between CEHD’s Development Office and Office of International Initiatives. The group, led by Office of International Initiatives Director Marina Aleixo and Catherine Solheim of the Department of Family Social Science, was composed of extraordinary women whose support of CEHD allows for these types of engagements to flourish. “The experience of traveling with this amazing group of women leaders was invaluable," Aleixo says. "Beyond the insights we gain from our Thai host, the reflections we shared within our group will undoubtably inform my thinking and leadership in CEHD.”

The visit has sparked new and creative ideas that will facilitate internationalization of CEHD teaching, research, and engagement scholarship. “It was gratifying to interact with fellow CEHD alumni in Thailand and to witness the valuable, positive impact that CEHD’s international program has had on past graduates and which I know now from firsthand experience will benefit future CEHD students. It was a wonderful learning experience,” shares Yaffe (BS ’70, elementary education).


Photo credit(s): Photos courtesy of International Initiatives