The happiness factor

Doctoral candidate Witsinee “Guide” Bovornusvakool explores ways to help workers across cultures

Witsinee “Guide” Bovornusvakool comes from a family of engineers, yet she knew from a young age that engineering would not be the path for her. She was interested in helping people but wasn’t sure how to connect her interest to a career she would enjoy. Growing up in Bangkok, Thailand, she taught piano lessons and considered a career in music therapy.

Then, while pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Bovornusvakool (boh-vah-nahs-vah-kool) discovered a major in industrial and organizational psychology, a relatively new field in Thailand.

“I realized that I wanted to help people in organizations be happy and develop themselves,” she says. “We spend so many years working, so if you can grow and develop yourself, then you can pass it on, not only to your family but to society.”

After college, Bovornusvakool spent a year working in executive training for Microsoft Thailand. She found a passion for training executives on the cross-cultural competencies needed to work successfully.

“We followed the American training,” she says, “but at the same time we had to apply the Thai culture to Microsoft Thailand.”

Bovornusvakool’s family encouraged her to pursue a master’s degree abroad. Her path brought her first to the University of West Florida, where she earned her master’s, then to the doctoral program in human resource development (HRD) in the University’s Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD).

Now Bovornusvakool is in the beginning stages of forming her dissertation topic, which will focus on cross-cultural training for Thai workers going abroad as well as for workers coming to Thailand.

It’s an exciting time to be in the field because of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Blueprint, which goes into effect next year. Part of ASEAN’s goal is to create more opportunities for skilled workers in Southeast Asia to work in other countries.

“[Cross-cultural training] is studied a lot in the U.S. and in China and Korea, but we are still developing in Southeast Asia,” says Bovornusvakool, “so we need research to explain what would help workers be happy across cultures.”

For her, finding satisfaction in her work comes not only from her doctoral program but also through opportunities to apply her knowledge. For the University’s Tourism Center, she helped develop a training curriculum on working with multicultural customers. HRD doctoral program coordinator Lou Quast and her adviser, professor Alexandre Ardichvili, have also encouraged her interest in teaching.

“Every professor has asked me about my goals and let me know about opportunities they think I’ll be interested in,” she says.

Bovornusvakool is currently teaching an applied psychology course to first-year CEHD students who are in the TRiO program, which provides support services for first-generation college students.

“The goal of my class is to not only apply psychology knowledge but also to help the students develop their own learning strategies so they are prepared for their upcoming semesters,” she says.

Bovornusvakool says the excellent resources available to her as an international student have helped her maximize her opportunities. Supplemental courses in English language and writing have helped her communication skills grow, and she has developed a network of friends from many different countries.

Once her doctoral program is finished, Bovornusvakool is open to what comes next. She hopes to bring her knowledge back to Thailand and work in the private sector while also teaching in a university.

“In OLPD, the professors are not only teaching how people develop in organizations and how to lead,” she says, “but also how to apply that to our own study so that we can contribute to the community.”

Learn more about the human resources development program and the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.

Story by Christina Clarkson | October 2014