Be ready when an opportunity presents itself. Take calculated risks, especially when you are still young. Know thyself and have a vision. Finally, be a leader, not a follower.
These four lessons were offered by Prof. Tony F. Chan, President of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, at the 131st graduation of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) held on 17 May 2019. Offering lessons based on his personal experiences, when he, as a student opted for the newly emerging field of computer sciences, Prof Chan quoted the example of Jeff Bezos who left a lucrative Wall Street job to start Amazon.
Prof. Chan highlighted four significant changes in the environment in which AIT and other universities operate: globalization, changing expectations from universities, technological disruption, and the emergence of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Universities will have to chart their own individual course in order to respond to these challenges, Prof. Chan said, as he enumerated four possible ways of responding: devising a global and international strategy, creating a balance between its long-term mission of creating knowledge and short-term societal expectations, encouraging technology and knowledge transfer, and creating an environment conducive to innovation and nurturing talent. “The case in point for AIT, in particular, is that Thailand and much of Southeast Asia are on China’s Belt and Road. How will it leverage this initiative?” Prof. Chan remarked.
Congratulating graduates, President Dr. Eden Y. Woon stated that the motto of the Institute’s sixtieth-anniversary is “Transforming AIT.” Exhorting students to embark on a path of lifelong learning and transformation, Dr. Woon stated that “any living organization or human being must transform or face irrelevance. In the same way, you have to constantly learn and transform yourselves,” just as AIT realized that if you do not continuously renew yourself, you will soon become irrelevant, Dr. Woon said.
The AIT President stated that when AIT began operations, it dedicated itself to capacity building and social impact through education and research, and it continues to excel in this endeavor even today. While the endeavor itself is still needed, both education and research must now be global, more relevant, and issues need to be looked at continuously with new perspectives and new technologies, he added.
Distinguished alumni speeches were delivered by Dr. Torsak Lertsrisakulrat, Managing Director and Director, Eastern Star Real Estate Public Co. Ltd., and Mr. Sanchai Thiewprasertkul, President, Siam Piwat Co., Ltd. Dr. Anuradhi Malshika Welhenge of Telecommunications and Mr. Sumesh K.C. of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems delivered messages on behalf of doctoral students and master’s students in the School of Engineering and Technology (SET), respectively. Dr. Adeel Tariq of School of Management and Ms. Riya Shrestha of Food Engineering and Bioprocess Technology delivered messages on behalf of doctoral and master’s students of the School of Management and School of Environment, Resources, and Development respectively.
The 131st AIT graduation saw the awarding of degrees and diplomas to 408 students from 27 countries spanning five continents. Top countries of origin of AIT’s latest cohort are: Thailand (83), India (58), Nepal (51), Viet Nam (32), Sri Lanka (22), Pakistan (19), and Bangladesh (15). Students also hailed from Africa (Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe), North America (Canada and USA), South America (Colombia and Ecuador), Europe (France), and elsewhere in Asia (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, the Philippines, PR China, and Taiwan).
The graduation also saw the conferment of Professor Emeritus status on former President Prof. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, Prof. Jayant Kumar Routray, and Prof. Ajit P. Annachhatre.
Four faculty members were honored with teaching and research awards. Teaching awards were granted to Prof. Mukand Singh Babel (in the category of less than 15 students), and Prof. Manukid Parnichkun (in the category of more than 15 students). Dr. P. Abdul Salam and Dr. Sangam Shrestha received awards in the Research Leader (Senior and Junior) categories, respectively.
Four faculty members were promoted to the rank of Professor: Prof. Matthew N. Dailey and Prof. Bonaventura H. W. Hadikusumo of the School of Engineering and Technology (SET), and Prof. Thammarat Koottatep and Prof. Shobhakar Dhakal of the School of Environment, Resources, and Development (SERD).
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Prof. Deepak Sharma officiated as Master of Ceremonies. Candidates were presented by Chair of Academic Senate Dr. Abdul P Salam and the Deans of their respective schools: Prof. Pennung Warnitchai (Interim Dean, SET), Prof. Rajendra P Shrestha (Dean, SERD), and Prof. Nazrul Islam (Acting Dean, School of Management).
Attending the event were members of the AIT Board of Trustees: Dr. Anat Abhabirama (Vice Chair); Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Deputy Permanent Secretary), Ministry of Foreign Affairs; H.E. Mr. Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, Ambassador of Pakistan; H.E. Mr. Nguyen Hai Bang, Ambassador of Viet Nam; H.E. Mrs. Suchitra Durai, Ambassador of India; H.E. Mr. Md. Nazmul Quaunine, Ambassador of Bangladesh; Prof. Bundhit Eua-arporn, President, Chulalongkorn University; and Col. Yanyong Phataralaoha, Executive Director, Thai Pipe Industry Co. Ltd. Also attending were H.E. Mr. Joaquim Amaral, Ambassador of Timor-Leste, and H.E. Mr. Geoffrey Quinton Mitchell Doidge, Ambassador of South Africa. Representatives from the embassies of Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Germany also graced the occasion. Dignitaries included representatives of academia, research organizations, international organizations, chambers of commerce, and trade and industry as well as the non-governmental sector.