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UGA college donates tsunami aid to Thai colleagues

By Jessica Kirk
and Dan Rahn
University of Georgia

The devastation of the Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami was still being revealed when Ed Kanemasu and his University of Georgia colleagues returned from their winter holiday. Their concerns focused on Thailand.

Mainly, they thought of people in three Thai universities: Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and Kasetsart.

"The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has been cooperating with these universities for 15 to 20 years on student and faculty exchange programs," said Kanemasu, CAES assistant dean and director of global programs.

UGA and the Thai universities have each funded one- to four-month faculty stays in Thailand or Athens, Kanemasu said. The scientists worked on research mainly on peanuts, natural resource management, food science and crop modeling.

Scholarships

The Thai government gives scholarships to outstanding students studying abroad in graduate degree programs, too, he said. UGA has hosted about 20 of these students, mainly in food science, over the past 10 years.

So when the CAES administrative council met in January, the group agreed they needed to provide scholarships for victims affected by the tsunami.

They decided to invite each department and unit to donate $500 from their scholarship funds. "We felt the needs were so immediate that we wanted to act quickly," Kanemasu said.

CAES Interim Dean and Director Josef Broder said the goal was to provide a $1,500 scholarship for each of the three universities. The group quickly raised $6,350.

Most units gave $500. Others came up with more. The plant pathology department, because of its long-term relationship with Khon Kaen, donated $1,500.

"We are deeply grateful to the Georgia 4-H Foundation," Broder said, "for their assistance in making these scholarship funds available to the recipients."

Response

"That was just a wonderful response," Kanemasu said. "I was amazed at how much was raised, considering how tight our budgets are now."

David Knauft, former CAES associate dean for academic affairs, was scheduled to visit Chiang Mai and Kasetsart in April. He used the opportunity to present checks to each.

Chiang Mai President Pongsak Angkasith is scheduling a trip to the UGA Athens campus, where he hopes to renew a memorandum of agreement with UGA.

The CAES group's goal was to provide a scholarship for one student for each university. Information officers in the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., say students need about $2,400 per year for room and board. The King of Thailand pays for tuition for any Thai who passes the college entrance exam.

Results

Each university, however, was allowed to put the money to its best use. And each is using the gift, Kanemasu said, in different plans for tsunami relief.

At Kasetsart, he said, the funds are being used to help the families of three researchers and one graduate student who died in the tsunami at the Ranong Coastal Resources Research Station.

Khon Kaen took a group of students to help rebuild tsunami-torn areas. They used the funds to provide transportation and supplies for that effort.

Chiang Mai is creating a larger fund for students affected by the tsunami. As part of that fund, the CAES scholarship will go to four students who lost one or both parents in the tsunami.

Kanemasu and Broder say they hope to take the scholarships a step further and help provide graduate study at UGA for students identified in this year's efforts.

"We'd like to be able to keep track of the student recipients and possibly help them financially in the future," Kanemasu said.

(Jessica Kirk is an information specialist and Dan Rahn a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Jessica Kirk is an information specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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