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Anyarat Nattheeraphong

Anyarat Nattheeraphong (PhD English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 2013)

I was shortlisted for the UK Alumni Awards 2022 in Thailand. Here's my story.

Education has always been my passion. When I was young, there were always teachers I found inspiring and regarded as my role models. I always observed the way these teachers inspired their students by working closely with them, listening to them, and ensuring that their voices were heard. The more I reflected on what I saw, the deeper an understanding I had of how a teacher's actions could uplift the lives of others. One thing that remains vivid in my mind is what my university teacher conveyed at the pre-graduation ceremony I attended. The key message that captured my heart and soul was: "Education is funded with public money. Public servants serve the people of the country." Since then, whenever life rewards me with opportunities, I always think of what I can do to contribute more to the wellbeing of others.

Back in 2009, I was awarded the Royal Thai Government Scholarship to do my PhD at the University of Warwick. The experiences I gained during my PhD years shaped the way I approach life. I have learned that failures are opportunities to do better. The advantage of participating in a wide range of activities both inside and outside of the University allowed me to empower myself and others. The more I see the world, the more I discover about myself and I learn more about what I can do to enable other people in the same way.

When I came back to Mahasarakham University (MSU) in 2013, I started to fulfil my dream. I designed a long-term English development project entitled "MSU Homeroom". The project is aimed at helping students develop skills essential for their growth and development, as well as building their confidence and learning new skills. We help our students learn English both inside and outside the classroom by providing support and organising language and social activities that cater to different needs and interests. Many of our students are from under-privileged backgrounds, from low resourced schools and from rural areas and they need motivation and confidence building exercises alongside positive reinforcement to allow them to learn and engage.

MSU is a regional university with a distinctly heterogeneous group of students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, so we decided we needed a long-term, university-wide student development programme. Some students are first-generation college students (FGCSs) who come to MSU with a variety of strengths and challenges. Both FGCSs and non-FGCSs need a safe, supportive community of learning where they are encouraged to appreciate diversity as well as being empowered to set their goals and make positive and impactful changes in their lives. At the same time, they are developing the skills and abilities necessary for their future academic and professional endeavours.

To achieve the goals, the project organises activities that can be categorised into four main themes: English and foreign language learning activities; cultural activities (we have a Christmas market every year and last year we had more than 10,000 students join us for that!); skill-based activities; and global citizenship activities. We serve at least 50,000 students each year.

There are so many inspirational stories to share when it comes to working with my team and student volunteers to uplift the lives of MSU students. Both the volunteers and participants have gained more confidence and become more motivated and proactive in their learning and self-development. We have successfully established a community of learning that is getting bigger and stronger every year, with many of our students giving back to the programme and inspiring the next generation. Our team keeps improving our work to ensure its impact and sustainability, and our community is made stronger through our Facebook page and the book I wrote about the project.

The change I have witnessed in the students is what inspires me to do more for them and I will continue to do so. It brings me so much joy.