April 24, 2020
Dear AIT Family
Today is April 24, the last day of classes for the January Semester at AIT. For those students who are graduating this May, this has been a semester that you will never forget. You will remember how the world, your home country if you come from overseas, Thailand, and AIT battled the Coronavirus these past few months. Your alma mater closed on March 18 and moved all its classes to interactive online instruction. Some of you went back home right after that, but others stayed on campus. Your final exams in a few days will also be online and, sadly, your May 22 Graduation Ceremony has been cancelled. We apologize for not being able to give you one of the momentous occasions of your life, but we hope that we can welcome you back to our December Graduation Ceremony!
All of us, from the May graduates to the continuing students, to the faculty and staff of AIT, have lived through a difficult period so far in 2020, and the end is not in sight. We have learned that staying healthy and cooperating with one another become priorities in our lives, and we all realize that this is not only a life-changing crisis we are going through right now, but a world-changing crisis. Academia, of which AIT is a member, will never be the same again.
When I came to AIT in the Fall of 2018, among other things, I advocated for more innovation in our teaching, and we have learned that we must do that not just to be better, but to survive. With almost all universities around the world closed without a clear restart date, we must engage more and more with students online. AIT’s expertise is based on valuable experience and student feedback over the past six weeks, on technology AIT has developed, on individual online initiatives by different units at AIT, on learning from best global practices, on acquisition of new technology, and on “out of the box” thinking in web-based education. Earlier this year, I set up the AIT Academic Contingency Task Force—headed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Knowledge Transfer—to explore and devise and coordinate ideas of innovative interactive platforms for education, including faculty training, and ensure that these will be applied not only if classes cannot begin in August, but for the future when they will be interwoven into our stimulating face-to-face residential experience, resulting in an even more innovative education at AIT.
We hope that as Thailand’s COVID-19 situation improves, as the global battle against this virus turns the corner, AIT will be able to open its doors in August of 2020. But as I said above, even if the global situation prevents AIT and other universities from opening on time this Fall, AIT is ready to welcome new and continuing students to pursue their education “without missing a beat”! Whenever all of you do enter AIT’s Gate, you will find a safe and creative environment where education and research will continue on the five strategic focus areas of AIT: Smart Communities, Climate Change, Food-Energy-Water, Infrastructure, and Technology, Policy, and Society. And it is so clear to us that sustainability issues in which AIT specializes are key to this planet’s survival, as we now witness firsthand the formidable power of nature.
Now a word about what is happening at AIT at present. So far, the campus continues not to have a confirmed case of COVID-19. We have been blessed with proactive cooperation by all students and residents, with steady efforts by mission-essential personnel and faculty, and with heart-warming generosity by donors. Just today (April 24), we are completing the distribution of 10 free face masks to every student and resident on campus, thanks to a 20,000-mask donation from the AIT Belt and Road Research Center, with funds from the AIT Chinese Alumni. We are also grateful to other donors who, in this very difficult economic period, have shown their belief in AIT by continuing to support AIT’s education and infrastructure.
Thailand seems to be doing better with COVID-19, but it continues to be in a state of National Emergency, and as long as that is the case, AIT will remain vigilant and closed, with staff working from home. For those who are on campus, we thank you so much for the sacrifices due to the restrictive measures we have had to implement to keep the campus safe. For those who are at home outside AIT or outside Thailand, please take care! For those who are leaving AIT after this semester, good luck, safe travels, and stay healthy please!
Dr. Eden Woon