Thailand semester brings culture to campus

As the journey of the fall semester begins at Missouri Southern, students are not simply on a college campus in Missouri, but also in Thailand.

MSSU is bringing Thailand to life on campus in its 16th themed year to support studying abroad.

Due to this program, students now have the opportunity to experience several different countries before graduating.

“We place a lot of emphasis on study abroad here,” Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute of International Studies, said.

“But we realize that not every student is able to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad.

“With the themed semesters the idea is to bring the world to the campus.”

With the realization that MSSU had never profiled a country in Southeast Asia, Thailand became the focus this semester.

Forty-two activities will be held throughout the fall semester, representing the culture of Thailand.

Activities include guest speakers, films, book signings, concerts, documentaries and a theatrical production.

Shalea Purdy, freshman biology major, will be experiencing the themed semester for the first time.

“I think the themed semester is a good way to get involved with your worldly surroundings.

“As students I think we don’t seem to be in ‘the know.’ MSSU helps to give us a background of different cultures,” Purdy said.

Dr. William Kumbier, Department of English and philosophy, was part of the planning committee for this year’s themed semester, and has chosen the films that will be shown throughout.

“I had to find out what films seem to be important in Thailand’s film history, then find which are available and how to get your hands on them,” he said.

“We ended up with six films, not only entertaining but have something to do with helping us understand culture in Thailand,” Kumbier said.

At first, Kumbier was confused by Thailand being the theme of the semester, but after researching the area found that he liked the theme.

“I’m glad we chose Thailand. When you get the realm of Thai dance and theatre it’s really rich in that area, which will make for great cultural events this semester.”

James Lile, associate professor, department of theatre, is putting on a production of shadow puppets in support of the Thailand themed semester.

Lile researched the different aspects of Thailand to find something well suited for his department to contribute to this semester.

“Southern Thailand has an old shadow puppet tradition called nang talung,” he said.

“The puppets are projected back onto the screen so the audience is watching the silhouette of the puppets as they perform the action.

“We are doing a play in the style of nang talung, clearly we can’t be exactly to the culture, but it’s inspired by a Thai form based on a Thai story,” Lile said.

Students have the opportunity to experience one tradition of Thailand in a way they are not familiar through the shadow puppet play.

“My hope is that students will take the time to go ‘Oh this is unusual,’ but then realize the dramatic and theatrical potential of the puppets and get into the spirit of Thailand,” Lile said.

“This is part of the international mission of the university and it’s a kind of entertainment that you’re not going to see.”