by Carolyn Arnold
Today, a global perspective is a crucial part of a well-rounded education. Nanatthun (Olarn) Wongbandue ’82, from Thailand was informed by that desire for a global perspective long before it became a universal value. He decided to pursue the study of communication in the United States with the goal of bringing what he learned back to Thailand. Since earning his master’s degree from the graduate School of Corporate and Political Communication at Fairfield in 1982, Wongbandue (for the last 30 years) has taught communication at Chulalongkorn University, the oldest and one of the most prestigious universities in Bangkok.
A desire to continue his education abroad and experience new cultures led him to the United States. After he received his undergraduate degree in mass communication from Chulalongkorn University, Wongbandue wanted to continue his studies in America because of the recognized quality and variety of programs that were available here.
“Years ago, as a bachelor’s degree student in Thailand there were only two choices for us after graduation: work or study abroad,” he said. “And I believed that studying abroad was a great chance to experience and learn new things.”
After extensive English language training, Wongbandue began looking into programs in America.
“In those days we had no Internet to find information. I consulted with a friend who went to Connecticut and he said that there was one university there with the most beautiful campus, which was also prepared to accept foreign students.” Wongbandue applied, and was accepted to the Fairfield program along with four other Thai students.
Traveling to Connecticut was the first foreign trip for Wongbandue, and he wasn’t disappointed with what it had to offer. “I studied with many great professors who understood the concerns of Asian students,” he said. He also recalled the dynamic atmosphere of the classes and students.
Following his graduation, Wongbandue immediately began working as a government university professor at Chulalongkorn University. He is currently head of the Department of Mass Communication and also serves as the director of the Center of Excellence in Digital Media.
Teaching has been a great source of pride for Wongbandue. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate students in courses that focus on theory, and applied courses including “Introduction to Mass Media,” “Sports Program Production,” “Basic Television Program Production,” “Advanced Television Production” and “Principles and Practices of News and Documentary.”
“I love to teach,” he said. “It was my first job after I graduated from Fairfield and I will do it until I retire. I see many students who are as interested in wanting to learn as I was. Their knowledge becomes a part of our country’s progress.”
Being able to use, teach, and expand on the skills and knowledge he learned at Fairfield is something that Wongbandue will always be grateful for. “Fairfield opened its doors to me to explore the world of education,” he said. Back when he was a student, the study of communication was still new to Thailand and Wongbandue was eager to expand it. “Communication has tremendous power and helps a country prosper,” he explained.
While he has not been back to Fairfield since he graduated, Wongbandue noted that he keeps tabs on Fairfield’s progress. “Fairfield was a new and small university when I was there 30 years ago and I am so proud to tell everyone that Thai students were a small part of its history.”
And, he added, if anyone has the opportunity to visit Asia, “don’t forget to visit Thailand — the Land of Smiles!”