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President Weekly Letter [2007-07-16]

,16 July 2007


Dear Members of the AIT Community,

o Updates on AIT Charter: Taking into account the feedback and comments received at the special meeting of the Board of Trustees convened on 28 May 2007, the AIT administration in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand, has considered all the major comments received from trustees, which is now incorporated in the revised draft AIT Charter http://www.ait.ac.th/interimpage/pdf/AIT

Trustees have been invited to consult with their respective home governments and to provide any feedback or comments that they might have on the latest version of the draft AIT Charter for consideration by the Executive Committee which will be meeting next on 6 August 2006. Depending on the deliberations at the meeting and taking into account the additional feedback and comments received, the AIT administration would then further revise if necessary the draft AIT Charter, in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand.

The draft AIT Charter endorsed by the Executive Committee would then be sent one more time to members of the Board of Trustees, for their final feedback and comments before the convening of a special meeting of the Board sometime in September 2007 at which the finalized draft AIT Charter would be considered and hopefully approved. The proposed timeframe for processing the draft AIT Charter is available at
http://www.ait.ac.th/Interimpage/pdf/Timeframe.

We are confident that the draft Charter in its current form would now be acceptable to an overwhelming majority of the Institute's partners and we target on completing the whole process by the end of 2007

o Meeting with Chairman of the Executive Committee, H.E. Mr. Pieter Marres: The newly appointed Chairman of the Executive Committee, H.E. Mr. Pieter Marres, Ambassador of The Netherlands, visited AIT on 10 July.

I was able to provide Ambassador Marres with an update on some of the ongoing AIT activities and initiatives. We also discussed ways, in which we could further strengthen the interactions between the Executive Committee and AIT administration, and I have requested the advice and strong support of the Executive Committee, in carefully monitoring and scrutinizing the operations of the Institute in order for us to be more fully prepared when issues are brought for consideration by the Board of Trustees. It is important that issues have been properly and adequately considered before they are presented to the Board and the guidance and oversight on the part of the Executive Committee in this regard is most crucial. I have also requested the support of the Chairman of the Executive in further strengthening AIT's political voice and influence.

o Partnership with Asian University of Science and Technology (AUST): Dr. Viphandh Roengpithya, President and Vice Chancellor of AUST accompanied by Dr. Apichat Tungthangthum, Dean, Faculty of Engineering & Technology, AUST visited AIT on 10 July and met with myself; Professor Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, Dean, School of Engineering and Technology, and Dr. Manukid Parnichkun. We have discussed the possibility of jointly pursuing an integrated bachelors-master program, the modalities of which are being further discussed.

o UNEP-AIT Carbon Neutrality Initiative: On 10 July, I together with Professor S. K. Rakshit, Vice President for Research; Professor Ram M. Shrestha; Dr. Animesh Dutta; Dr. Jonathan Shaw, Director AIT Extension (also Chair of the AIT Environment Task Force) and Dr. H. L. Tien, Head, Infrastructure met with Mr. Surendra Shrestha, Director, UNEP-RRC.AP Office (also UNEP Regional Director for Asia Pacific) and the UNEP team to further discuss the carbon neutrality initiative.

UNEP has now developed the costs details and also consulted with our other outreach partners namely, ADPC and WWF, on the funding scheme for the initiative. AIT will make a final decision within a month's time after reviewing in detail the cost and financial modalities. An external company will be invited to conduct an independent assessment for cost comparison purposes. I would like to thank Mr. Shrestha for partnering AIT in this important and timely initiative, which can also serve as an important showcase for AIT in the region.

o Visit of Professor Ivo Martinac, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) Sweden: Professor Martinac visited AIT on 11 July and met with myself, Professor Peter Haddawy, Vice President for Academic Affairs; Professor S. K. Rakshit, Vice President for Research; Vice President Khin Ni Ni Thein; Professor I. M. Pandey, Dean, School of Management; Professor Ram Shrestha, Dr. M. Nadarajah, and Dr. Preeda Parkpian.

We discussed various partnerships that could be undertaken between KTH in relevant fields such as energy and environment, sustainable tourism etc. Modalities of the collaboration could be through two-stage masters programs, faculty from KTH helping teach at AIT funded by Swedish agencies and organizations. We also plan on organizing joint seminars and workshops for policy/decision makers in areas related to climate change, sustainable energy etc. Professor Martinac has kindly offered to look into this further and will come back to us with concrete proposals.

o Partnership with FOI-Swedish Defence Research Agency: In follow up to the visit to AIT of Dr. Gustavsson, Head of Department of Underwater Research at FOI in Sweden, Dr. Gustavsson has invited Dr. Manukid to visit FOI to jointly develop a concrete proposal in underwater technology, with possible funding from Swedish agencies, as a technology transfer project to be implemented in the region through AIT. FOI is one of the world's leading research institutes and during his visit to AIT, Dr. Gustavsson was impressed by AIT's work, in particular that being done in the field of underwater technology. Through the proposed project AIT would also serve as a transfer hub for FOI in the region.

o Brainstorming Meeting on Thematic Research Areas: I participated in the first brainstorming meeting on the Institute's thematic research areas which took place at AIT on 12 July. We had the active participation of Dr. Anders Granlund, Counsellor, Embassy of Sweden and Deputy-Director, SENSA Swedish Environmental Secretariat for Asia, whom we had invited.

Professor S. K. Rakshit, Vice President for Research initially made a brief presentation of the expectations from such meetings. This includes feed back on the relevance of the proposed thematic areas by such external stake holders, planning modalities including links and contacts for fund raising for the thematic areas, etc. This was followed by six short presentations by members of the task forces and two presentations on entrepreneurship development and academic quality and pedagogical development. A number of useful suggestions where made by all participants and will help in further focusing our endeavours to seek support and develop further some niche research areas with a critical mass of interdisciplinary faculty and research staff at AIT.

We are most grateful to Dr. Granlund, who is also a member of AIT's Institute-level Advisory Board, for having spared the time to come to AIT and for his contribution.

o Agreement with Ruamrudee International School: I am pleased to announce that we have recently signed a MoU with Ruamrudee International School (RIS) towards establishing cooperation on a long-term and mutually beneficial basis that would facilitate the continuation to secondary education of children of AIT employees and students, promote staff / expert exchange, study visits, foster and facilitate cultural and sports activities, exchange of academic information and materials etc.

Under the MoU, RIS will provide a discount of 10-15% on the regular tuition fee depending on the number of students enrolled, for children of AIT faculty, staff and students. Students of AIT will also be allowed to pay the registration and campus development fees in the form of instalments. On AIT's part a discount of 10% on the regular tuition fee will be provided to currently enrolled students in the master or doctoral programs at AIT who are RIS alumni or children of the current RIS faculty and staff.

Many of the AIT children have over the years gone on to study at RIS after completing their initial schooling at the AIT Community School, and I would like to thank Rev. Wirach Amonpattana, C. Ss. R., Head of RIS, for his strong support in this initiative. I would also like to thank Dr. H. L. Tien, Head, Infrastructure and Ms. Phanit Tiravongchaipunt, Head of HR, for their efforts in bringing this partnership to fruition.

o Siam City Bank-AIT collaboration: AIT recently signed a contract with Siam City Bank Public (SCIB) Co. Ltd. to issue platinum visa cards to all AIT faculty, staff, students and alumni resident in Thailand. A task force headed by Dr. Pritam K. Shrestha, Head of the External Relations & Communications Office (ERCO) has been constituted to move forward with implementation and the launching of AIT-SCIB visa platinum card targeted for 14 August 2007, the orientation day for the new students of August 2007 intake.

The task force had its first meeting on 25 June 2005. Task force members from AIT and SCIB attended the meeting and discussed the launching of the card. Prof. Peter Haddawy, VPAA also attended the meeting. Card holders would be eligible for all privileges associated with the platinum card. Under the agreement AIT would receive 0.8% of every transaction, 1% of all interest charges, and 200 baht per year per card. The accumulated amount from these would be allocated exclusively for scholarships.

o Summer Program Task Force: Vice President for Academic Affairs, Professor Peter Haddawy has formed an Institute-level task force chaired by Professor Ganesh Shivakoti, comprised of Dr. Edward L. Webb, Dr. Hakan Berg, Dr. Nichols J. Dimmitt, Dr. Donyaprueth Krairit, Dr. Matthew N. Dailey, Dr. Jonathan Shaw, Mr. Nick Innes-Taylor, and Ms. Ann Lopez. The objective of the task force is to develop Summer Program for AIT in order to make better use of our underutilized resources during the Intersem, and to increase linkages to other universities. AIT offers a unique environment that can potentially enrich the educational experience students receive at other universities at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

I am pleased to learn that the task force has already come up with some concrete and innovative initiatives which are currently being discussed with the schools. I wish to thank all members of the task force for their contribution in this regard and would also like to encourage faculty, staff and students to help AIT leverage off this uniqueness by proposing innovative ways in which we could better utilize our resources during the Intersem.

o Awarding of Sida Planning Grant for Urban Research at AIT: I am pleased to report that AIT has been awarded a planning grant in the amount of 1.5 million SEK by Sida to prepare a proposal on urban research. AIT proposes to set up a regional network to develop a multidisciplinary and problem focused approach on urban research. Sida will support AIT by providing a reference group of Swedish experts in urban development research to assist AIT in the preparation phase. A meeting will be held between AIT and the group in Stockholm at the beginning of the preparation phase to discuss the programme plans. We are most grateful to Sida for their continued assistance and support to AIT.

o Innovation, Technology Transfer and Capacity Strengthening for Africa's Aquaculture: AIT is exploring the possibility of there being cooperation with The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Secretariat, and been invited to partner NEPAD Fish in the concept note on "Innovation, Technology Transfer and Capacity Strengthening for Africa's Aquaculture" which they are currently developing. This emanates from the interest on the part of NEPAD to develop cross-learning and partnership between African and Asian fisheries / aquaculture research, training and development institutions. We are also exploring where there could be synergies between NEPAD and the AIT Asia-Africa initiative.

o Updates on Africa Initiative: The AIT Asia-Africa Initiative is in the process of finalizing a proposal with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Thailand on the organization of a workshop titled: "Doing Business in Africa: The Legal and Regulatory Environment" which is scheduled for 24-25 September 2007 to be held in Bangkok. This is a pioneer workshop with an agenda to provide information to the Thai investors about the various business opportunities in Africa and on how to do business successfully in the African continent today.

Keynote speakers will include representatives of MOFA, Board of Trade of Thailand (BOT), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), African Development Bank and various other distinguished persons from other international organizations and universities. MOFA will sponsor the workshop and the AIT-Africa Initiative Task Force will be assisting in organizing the event. The Task Force is chaired by Prof. Vilas Wuwongse, Vice President of External Relations with Dr. Roland Amoussou Guenou serving as the Project Manager of the AIT Asia-Africa Initiative.

o Progress on Pakistan Task Force: The Task Force working on the details of the establishment of an AIT Center in Pakistan is currently preparing a concept paper and a business proposal to be submitted to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan by the end of July 2007. The primary stakeholders in this Center are the HEC, AIT and the AIT Alumni Association of Pakistan. The Task Force is headed by Dr. Anwar Naveed and other members include Prof. Nurul A. T. M. Amin, Prof. Kazi Ahmed, Dr. Jonathan Shaw, Dr. Pritam K. Shrestha, Mr. Noppadon Rittipongshusit and Mrs. Naina Shakya.

o Taiwan Cooperation : AIT's relations with Taiwan is on strong footing following the renewal of cooperation through the Ministry of Education and cooperation in the form of faculty secondment, scholarship provision and support for joint research with Taiwanese universities. Professor Tsong-Ming Lin, President of the National Yunlin University of Science & Technology, has informed us of the good news that the Ministry of Education, will sponsor and second three faculty to AIT, namely Dr. Huang, Chia Hsing, Associate Professor in Finance, for a 1 year period (Ph.D. in Finance, University of Pennsylvania, USA); Professor Wang, Yaw-Juen, Professor in Electrical Engineering for a 2 year period (Dr.-Ing de l' Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble, France), and Professor Gong, Dah Chuan, Professor in Industrial Engineering for a 2 year period (Ph.D. in Industrial and System Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA).

The Ministry of Education will also sponsor the doctoral studies of two lecturers, Mr. Hsiao-Kuang Kao and Mrs. Su-Nan Tsai, from the Chia-Nan University of Pharmacy and Science (CNU), who will enrol at AIT during the August 2007 intake, in the School of Management (SOM). We already have two faculty members from CNU, Ms. Lizone Chang and Ms. Yi-Chieh Wang currently enrolled in the SOM doctoral program since August 2006.

o Recognition of Faculty and Staff: I would like to commend and congratulate Dr. S. Venkatesh on the publication of his book titled "Financial Reporting and Analysis: An Asian Casebook", co-authored with Dr. Winston Kwok Chee Chiu, National University of Singapore (NUS) and published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. Many of Dr. Venkatesh's students contributed in the writing of the cases which are about companies operating in the Asian context. The cases which are comprehensively covered invites students to analyze not only the financial data but also a variety of operating and industry data, and to look at the "big picture" in the processes of financial reporting and analysis.

I would like to congratulate Professor Vilas Salokhe, for having been invited Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia to serve as an international reviewer of research proposals submitted by Croatian scientists, which is fully financed by the Ministry. The entire peer review process is conducted exclusively through electronic means.

Dr. Barbara Igel has been promoting entrepreneurship development initiatives at AIT aiming to support the economies in the region, and to this end I would like to commend her on the successful presentation of her paper at the Entrepreneurship Development Conference (EDC) 2007 plenary session in Durban, South Africa recently. Her talk was attended by around 700 delegates from all over South Africa and international academics, bankers, finance professionals, and consultants from the US, Netherlands and India. Two nationwide broadcast interviews helped to publicize AIT's mission and achievements in this context. Dr. Igel also serves as the Associate Editor of the Journal of Asia Entrepreneurship and Sustainability
http://www.asiaentrepreneurshipjournal.com/

o Meeting with AITCV Director: On 10 July, I together with Professor Vilas Wuwongse, Vice President for External Relations; Ms. Patcharee Wangsakan, Head of Finance; and Mr. Teerapan Sattagowit, AIT Internal Auditor met with Dr. Fredric Swierczek, Director, AIT Center in Vietnam (AITCV) regarding the audit conducted by the Internal Auditor during 18-22 June 2007 on the AITCV operations. The purpose of the meeting was to present the audit findings as well as to try and jointly work towards improvements and also strengthening of some of the processes.

The AIT Finance Department will help install the Oracle accounting system at AITCV in order to have in place the same accounting system and to create effective control in the AITCV budget system. The installation will take about 2-4 months to complete. The inter-branch liabilities between AITCV and AIT currently stand at around Baht 20 million from 1992 until May 2007. It was agreed that the inter-branch liabilities would be settled based on available supporting documents and under a shared 50 % agreement where such documents are not available. We are currently still discussing the arrangements on the issue regarding honorarium and other expense charges to AITCV. To gain better cash inflow, AITCV will reinforce the Institute's credit policy. A draft agreement between AIT and AITCV will be developed that would help clarify and efficiently facilitate the operational and financial requirements of both AIT and AITCV.

o Selection Process for Coordinator - Partner Relations and Development: Further to the resignation of the Corporate Relations Coordinator Ms. Kanya Worawichawong, External Relations & Communications Office (ERCO), her position was redefined as "Coordinator - Partner Relations and Development" and has been advertised. From the many applications received for the position, six applicants were short listed. Interviews are in the completion stage.

o Renewed Cooperation with DAAD: I would also like to share the good news on the renewal of our cooperation with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which was our major partner in the past. DAAD will be providing 5 scholarships each for CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) countries in the two intakes of August 2007 and August 2008. The modalities of implementing the scholarships are being worked out and are expected to be completed in time for the August 2007 intake.

o Visit of Delegation from Universitas Islam Indonesia in Yogyakarta: In follow-up to the promotional visit undertaken by the School of Engineering & Technology (SET) to Indonesia and discussions with the Universitas Islam Indonesia in Yogyakarta, a delegation consisting of Drs. Syafaruddin Alwi, Chairman of WAQF Foundation of the University; Ms. Sutarno, Vice Rector; Dr. Asmai Ishak; Dean, Faculty of Economics; and Dr. Fathul Wahid, Dean, Faculty of Engineering visited AIT on 13 July, to discuss and finalize an MoU for their staff development to pursue postgraduate studies at AIT.

The delegation was received by Professor Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, Dean, SET and some of the SET Field of Study Coordinators. The delegation also met with Professor S. K. Rakshit, Vice President of Research during which the potential for collaborations in joint research between the two institutions were explored.

o Visit to Indonesia: I am currently in Indonesia on a two-day mission, 16 and 17 July, during which I will be visiting the AIT Center in Indonesia (AIT-CI) and meeting with the Director, Dr. Sugimin Pranoto, to finalize the two-stage masters program with Gajah Madah University in the field of transportation engineering.

I will also be meeting with Dr. Roestam Sjarief, Secretary General, Ministry of Public Works and visiting Pelita Harapan University-Tanggerang, West Java, at the invitation of the Rector, who is interested in partnering AIT under the unified bachelors-masters program.


I wish you a pleasant week ahead.


Sincerely,


Said Irandoust

President