February 11, 2020
Dr. Balas in Thailand

At UNT Dallas, connecting with the community is a key vision. Those connections typically focus on our southern Dallas neighbors. Well, Dr. Glenda Balas, Professor of Communications and former dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, expanded that vision just a bit last month, traveling half way around the world to connect with the people and schoolchildren of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

As a member of the Fulbright Alumni Service Corps Trip, Dr. Balas served as an ambassador for the United States, learning about the Thai people and embracing their culture. She taught English to children at an under-resourced primary school. She and nine other ambassadors worked with 1st-6th grade students at a school in Chiang Mai. She helped develop English language content, focusing on vocabulary, pronunciation and engaging with an English-speaker.

"To accomplish these goals in my classes, the students and I sang songs -- Happy Birthday and Baby Shark were favorites -- and played games that awarded prizes for correctly answering questions in English," Dr. Balas said. "The teaching experience was incredibly satisfying. We met and interacted with educators and administrators from Chiang Mai and, more importantly, worked with some of the brightest, hope-filled and engaged young students of our careers."

The Fulbright team also found time to do some learning of their own.

"We toured a women's correctional facility, shelter for abused women and children, factories producing traditional Thai ceramics and silks, several local markets, an elephant sanctuary and a children's home for orphaned and abandoned children," Dr. Balas said. "We also ate at many local restaurants and visited a number of Buddhist temples. Our knowledge of Buddhism and Thai academic culture was further enhanced through a lengthy discussion with a monk at a nearby university."