Montana State University

Statistics professor receives Fulbright to teach in Thailand

April 9, 2008 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


John Borkowski, MSU statistics professor, will teach in Thailand this summer. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).   High-Res Available

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BOZEMAN -- John Borkowski, a Montana State University statistics professor, has received a Fulbright Lecture Award to teach in Thailand this summer.

Borkowski will leave Bozeman in mid-May and return in mid-October. Besides teaching and mentoring students in a new doctoral program at Thammasat University, he hopes to develop collaborations between MSU and Thammasat. He will also give talks and seminars at other Thailand universities. He expects to visit Singapore and Vietnam.

"It's a great opportunity," Borkowski said. "I would never have imagined this four years ago that I would be doing this."

Borkowksi first visited Thailand three years ago after two MSU graduates recommended that he teach statistics at Thammasat University. Boonorm Chomtee and Kamolchanok Panishkan graduated from MSU in 2003 and returned to Thailand to teach in a Bangkok university. Borkowski was Chomtee's adviser.

Since his initial visit, Borkowski has returned to Thailand three times to teach, present research seminars and attend conferences. In 2007, he joined the editorial board of the journal, "Thailand Statistician."

Borkowski's upcoming trip will be his fifth and longest trip to Thailand, he said. The others lasted two to seven weeks. One occurred during a bloodless coup when the Royal Thai Army overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The 2006 coup seemed to be supported by most of the people he was in contact with, and he only missed one day of work, Borkowski said.

Each trip has added to his appreciation and understanding of the Thai people and culture, Borkowski said. He said he finds the people gracious and wonderful. The weather is hot and humid with "the most incredible storms you can imagine."

His experiences have also made him more aware of critical issues for teaching effectively in Thailand, Borkowski added. Teaching statistics to a roomful of students who speak English as a second language has helped him understand the challenges faced by international students, for example. He teaches in English, but he has slowed his pace and changed the way he presents materials. He avoids colloquial American expressions and chooses simple phrasing.

Nancy Gainer, director of outreach and public relations with the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, said cultural sensitivity is an important quality for Fulbright recipients, and the program heightens that awareness.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is "designed specifically to bring people together to open individuals' minds and really create a sense of mutual understanding," Gainer said in a telephone interview.

Approximately 2,000 people apply for Fulbrights, and 800 are awarded each year, Gainer said. The program sends U.S. faculty and professionals to 140 countries to do research, give lectures or a combination of the two. The Fulbright Scholar Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu