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Fall 2019 Staying Connected in Thailand

Outstanding Graduate Alumnus: Staying Connected in Thailand

Preecha Vajrabhaya of Bangkok, Thailand, earned a master of public administration degree from NC State in 1973 and worked for many years in civil service for the Thai government. Each fall, he and other Thai alumni of NC State hold a gathering there that was first started by David Shafer, the assistant dean for outreach and diversity at the Graduate School, in 2007. Shafer says that Vajrabhaya has been involved ever since.

preecha vajrabhaya
Preecha Vajrabhaya

Describe your career in Thailand and the important contributions you made there.

At the peak of my career, I was the Secretary-General of The Civil Service Commission (CSC), which is the central human resource management of the Royal Thai Government: The CSC is responsible for strategic planning and management of all Thai public employees. In 2008, I led a major reform in the system, modernizing governmental HR practice by implementing performance management and establishing the Merit Protection Commission. The contribution I have made allows for a more effective performance in the public sector and a fair-and-just system.

Where else did you study besides NC State?

I went to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, for my undergraduate degree. I also attended the Royal Institute of Public Administration, London, U.K.

When you were looking for a graduate program, what attracted you to NC State? How did your graduate program prepare you for your career?

Initially, a good friend of my father, Joseph Ryburn, a North Carolinian, recommended that I go to NC State to improve my English. While I was studying English there, I came to realize that NC State’s master of public administration program is quite unique because it provides both necessary theoretical foundation, as well as hands-on practical application. Since Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, many of my classmates were experienced public employees at the state level and military personnel from Fort Bragg. I exited the program with solid scholarly knowledge, and importantly, a priceless collection of real-life case studies and possible solutions for a wide range of scenarios from discussions with classmates. I felt that I was ready to hit the ground running, as I was returning to Thailand to begin my career at the Civil Service Commission. In all, NC State’s MPA program was exactly what I needed.

group in Thailand
NC State alumni in Thailand meet each year in Bangkok with the Graduate School’s David Shafer (center, holding banner). (Photo courtesy David Shafer)

Why is it important to have a venue where Thai alumni from NC State can get together meet with each other?

Firstly, it is a great opportunity to meet, catch up, and exchange ideas. NC State alumni in Thailand are busy professionals who live in various parts of the country; therefore, it is difficult to organize an event. However, in the past decade, we started a tradition where we organize a reunion every time David Shafer visits Bangkok. We, the Thai alumni, are always excited to hear about changes at NC State and in Raleigh, where many of us consider our second home. There are roughly 80 Thai alumni who look forward to attending to the reunion every year. Active members who organize events are graduates from the classes of the 1970s – 1980s. In particular, Nopporn Suwanik and Apiram Posakritsana have been key members.

What would you say to students considering NC State for a graduate degree?

Academically speaking, NC State offers superior quality of education, especially in science, engineering, architecture, and technology. Additionally, the university is a part of the Research Triangle, consisting of NC State, Duke, and UNC Chapel Hill, which enhances accessibility of knowledge within reach. As a graduate student, you will be able to learn and grow academically, while living in a place that is rich in culture and history. Do consider joining the Wolfpack: It will change your life!

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