In this issue, MUIC 360° Magazine highlights MUIC’s significant achievements this year in the face of the challenges of the pandemic even as the college looks forward to a normalizing situation helped in no small part by the vaccination of almost all of its employees and students.
Cover Photo Credits:Hult Prize
Eighty thousand teams. Three thousand universities. One hundred twenty-one countries. All vying for the US$1 million prize that would serve as a seed fund to the winning team’s business startup project. That’s how massive the Hult Prize is—a business competition in partnership with the United Nations that challenges university students worldwide to come up with solutions to address the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is no small feat then that a team from Mahidol University International College (MUIC) called Kratomic battled fellow competitors and be among the only 40 surviving teams out of 80,000 to reach the semi-final round (dubbed as the Global Accelerator Round) in August 2021 in the United Kingdom, a slogging journey from winning first the On Campus round in December 2020 and then the Impact Summit in April 2021 when they faced not only teams from Thailand but from other countries too including Japan and the United States.
The theme for 2021 was “Food for Good, Transforming Food into a Vehicle of Change.” The team originally entered the competition under the startup name DITUS which aimed at empowering Thais living in poverty to farm snails for income. After many discussions with the experts during the Global Accelerator round, however, the team decided to change their business idea by creating Kratomic, a startup that aims to distribute and market Thai “kratom.” Within a week, the team managed to come up with a whole new business model, tested their product on 50 people, and secured US$30,000 in presales, prompting impressed judges to describe Kratomic as “the most entrepreneurial startup” in the round.
Though the journey of Team Kratomic ended in the semi-finals round in a medieval castle called Ashridge House in the UK, it was a groundbreaking success, pioneering a path that other teams from MUIC can follow in the near future.
The team is composed of Ms. Darya Makhotkina, who hails from Russia; Ms. Intira Setavoraphan, a Thai-Singaporean; Ms. Princess Erica Mendoza Gallemit, a Filipino; and Mr. Kantaphon Chaokitkha, a Thai and the lone student from Business Administration majoring in Finance while the first three are majoring in Food Science and Technology.
360° Magazine was able to interview two of the team members to give us a glimpse into their group’s foray into this international competition.
For Erica, the competition enabled them to learn a lot of things and meet so many inspiring people—talented and driven fellow competitors and industry experts and business leaders who acted as mentors. “The Hult Prize challenges young people to build a startup that truly creates a positive social impact in their community.”
Kantaphon spoke for the group when he described how tough the competition was: “The hardest part of it was the attempt to be a real entrepreneur: From coming up with an idea for a business, to launching it, and to learning how to scale it up.”
What kept them going then? For Kantaphon, it is “the faith we have in one another. It kept us moving forward when the going gets tough.”
On the other hand, Erica said, “It’s the passion for a better future that kept us going. And yes, I don’t think I could’ve gotten to where I am without our team.”
Speaking of teams, Erica shared what she thinks is a good recipe for their team’s success. “You need a team which you have great chemistry with and who care about each other.”
Meanwhile, Kantaphon said the individual competitor must always remember that “inability to take action kills more dreams than failures ever will, that’s what we learnt from the competition. Also, without determination, there is no drive, and when there is no drive, the startup goes nowhere. Lastly, the most important quality when running a business is perseverance. Success doesn’t come easy for anyone.”
It is also undeniable that behind every team’s success is a great support system. And these four talented students acknowledged the support they received from all sectors. Their ajarns: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chanida Hansawasdi, Asst. Prof. Dr. Chayanant Hongfa, Dr. Piti Ongmongkolkul, and Ajarn Laird Allan, all from the Science Division, and Asst. Prof. Dr. Thanarerk Thanakijsombat from the Business Administration Division; much assistance from MUIC especially from the Office of Student Affairs; and financial sponsorship and travel document support from Mahidol University’s International Relations Division.
For their fellow MUIC students who are also aspiring to compete in the Hult Prize, Kantaphon offers this advice: Don’t wait for the right time, because there is no right time. Take action now.
By Assoc. Prof. Chulathida Chomchai, M.D.
You will see that, most of the time, the teams in these types of competition are always made up of students from different majors. Our campus experience is organized in such a way that students from varied backgrounds and areas of study can mingle and become connected. This is very unique to MUIC and is a direct result of our liberal arts philosophy. Students from different majors are immersed in their GE classes. They get to know one another and form meaningful connections.
I think one of the secrets to their success lies in the fact that each of the students on the team is able to bring in unique perspectives, experiences and mindsets, according to what they have been trained to do in their respective programs. And because of their ability to work as a team, to include one another’s ideas where it counts the most, students are able to synthesize a final product that is creative, innovative, and speaks to the judges in the way that wins them these competitions.
The year 2021 marks the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic that has upended normality around the world. The resulting eight-month lockdown in Thailand this year has continued to present challenges to higher education—primarily the delivery of quality learning to homebound students.
Despite all these, the Mahidol University International College (MUIC) community responded with vigor and creativity and determination. Not only has online learning—assisted by educational technology—been successful, but students and mentors alike demonstrated adeptness in making the most out of the situation.
The college itself—under the guiding hand of its leadership—is successful in weathering the tempest. And these achievements—picked from a list of equally laudable feats—reflect the resiliency of the MUIC community and its desire to reach the heights of success.
This annual event again came up with a rich harvest of successful alumni who have made their mark—and continue to do so—in their respective fields, bringing honor not only for themselves but also to their alma mater.
Ms. Aniqa Islam Marshall (Science-Biological Sciences, 2016) – Outstanding Academic Alumni
Ms. Samornpun Somnam (Travel Industry Management, 2010) – Outstanding Management Alumni
Ms. Alissara Kulchaipanich (Business Administration-Marketing, 2012) – Outstanding Professional Alumni
Ms. Nuttha Janesiripanich (Science-Food Science and Technology, 2014) – Outstanding Community Service Alumni
Ms. Pongpisuth Jongudomsuk (Social Science, 2017) – Rising Star Alumni
A group of MUIC students won 1st Place in the DASTA Innovative Tourism Project Pitching 2021 held on August 20, 2021 under the category “Digital Technology (Undergraduate).”
The WithinThai Project team was composed of Sirada Sri-uthaisiriwong, Sivakorn Kengmala, and Thitirat Sikharinrat (all from the Tourism and Hospitality Management Division), Kriangkrai Suriyasakol (majoring in Marketing), Parattapon Dansinpan (majoring in Computer Engineering) and Panitta Okascharoen (a student from KMUTT). The team received a 30,000 Baht cash prize.
Ms. Yanisa Sirisomboonchok, a freshman Finance major student, and Ms. Prajawal Bhosale, a sophomore who majors in International Business, were chosen as “Ambassadors for a Day,” a competition organized recently by several women ambassadors and women UN leaders in Bangkok in observance of International Women’s Month on March 8, 2021. Ms. Yanisa shadowed Ms. Kyungsun Kim, Representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) for Thailand while Ms. Prajawal shadowed Her Excellency Mrs. Ana Lucy Gentil Cabral Petersen, Ambassador to Thailand of the Federal Republic of Brazil. Both students were able to observe firsthand and even participate in diplomatic activities.
Ms. Piriyada Limprapat, a Finance student, won the “Gen Z Ambassador,” “TOP 100,” and “Outstanding Scores” awards in the recently concluded “From Gen Z to be CEO” organized by the New Economy Academy (NEA) of the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) which saw 20,000 contestants. Eighteen other MUIC students competed and most of them were selected for internship abroad including Ms. Pirayada.
The thesis project entitled “Eye to Eye” of Ms. Yasinee Sriworawiang, a student from the Communication Design Program, was selected from hundreds of applicants for exhibition during Bangkok Design Week 2021 on June 12-20, 2021 at TCDC Bangkok. Her project was conceived to bring more attention to vision problems after concussions by utilizing visual learning materials, an interactive exhibition and a mobile application to communicate and promote public understanding about concussion.
With the onset of lockdowns and work/study-from-home in the second quarter of 2020 due to Covid-19, online teaching became the norm. With the unique challenges and opportunities presented by online teaching, MUIC lecturers proved that they are equal to the task. A group of lecturers from the Science Division received Honorable Mention in Mahidol University’s Online Teaching Award 2021. They are: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ramesh Boonratana, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Taweetham Limpanuparb, Dr. Tara Chalemsongsak and Asst. Prof. Dr. Manchuta Dangkulwanich.
Ms. Chandy “Dym” Loeurng, a student in the Master of Management in International Tourism and Hospitality Management program of Mahidol University International College, was selected as one of the 12 finalists among contenders from several countries in the Young Talent Program of World Tourism Lucerne 2021 in Switzerland.
Mr. Benjamin Wangcharoenwong, President of MUN (Model United Nations) Club and a Finance student, was tapped to represent the MUN Clubs of five universities in Thailand at the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Thailand’s Membership in the United Nations at Vithes Samosorn Hall in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Bangkok on December 15, 2021.
As the representative of the youth delegation, Mr. Benjamin delivered a speech on the topic “Dream of Youth.” Other executives of the UN, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and representatives of youth groups such as Model United Nations (MUN), UNODC Youth Forum 2022, ECOSOC Youth Forum 2019 and others also attended the event.
It has always been said that crises are opportunities. In this case, the Covid-19 pandemic is a crisis that has served as an opportunity for the MUIC community to demonstrate resoluteness and determination.
360° Magazine has asked Assoc. Prof. Chulathida Chomchai, M.D., MUIC Dean, on what the crucial factors are in successfully managing a crisis. We also asked her to describe her management style in the face of a crisis. This is her answer:
I think the most important aspect of crisis management is communication. This can take place in various situations, in various formats, directed at various stakeholders and over a period from weeks to months to even years, as in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Because the crisis inevitably brings forth so many emotions including panic, anxiety, and fear, all of which contribute to the overall mood of the organization, choosing to communicate in a way that is as individualized and tailor-made as possible can hopefully help to calm volatile situations.
Because the Covid-19 pandemic is a multi-faceted issue that affects so many aspects of life and greatly influences the sense of well-being, communication to each group of stakeholders in our college requires differing approaches. The faculty members may require a more detailed and scientific discussion-type session, while students and parents may prefer a focused communication that deals directly with the safety and efficiency of the learning environment.
On the other hand, the staff are mainly preoccupied with continuing their various operations and may respond better to a practical, FAQ-type approach that is tailor-made to their particular roles.