Article by Vipada Musick, Evergreen School
When I first moved to Maryland to begin working at the Evergreen School in 2013, I was apprehensive about meeting new people and unsure of how I’d settle into the region. For eight years prior, I had lived in a small, rural town in Western Pennsylvania, where I didn’t know anyone beside my colleagues at work and a handful of neighbors. I was still getting adjusted to life in the United States after spending my entire life prior in Bangkok, Thailand.
As Chula graduates, we carry an immense amount of pride in the institution and its reputation as the premier university in Thailand, which makes it easier to forge connections.
To my good fortune, within the first few weeks of being in Maryland, I connected with the alumni association of my alma mater, Chulalongkorn University, which is in Bangkok and known affectionately as “Chula.” The Chulalongkorn University Alumni Association—Mid Atlantic (CUAAMA) is a nonprofit organization with more than 100 members. Our mission is to advance education about Thai culture; provide scholarships and financial assistance to selected student applicants; and to foster and facilitate communications among alumni of Chulalongkorn. In 2017, a friend at CUAAMA roped me into becoming treasurer of the organization, and I’ve been a part of its leadership team ever since.
I’ve been able to make steadfast friendships through the organization. It’s also been nice to associate with people who work in different industries than my own, from doctors to engineers to scientists. As Chula graduates, we carry an immense amount of pride in the institution and its reputation as the premier university in Thailand, which makes it easier to forge connections.
As treasurer, I spend most of my weekends managing the organization’s accounts and collecting donations for our biggest annual fundraiser, the Chula-Rural Area Project, which raises money to support rural Thai students attending Chulalongkorn. The effort was started in 1981 to provide equal educational opportunities, in accordance with the intention of King Chulalongkorn.
In addition to raising money year-round, CUAAMA hosts a black-tie gala each fall, called “Chula Night.” As one of two Chula alumni associations in the country, the other being in California, we have members fly from as far as Texas to attend our gala. Chula Night is undoubtedly the highlight of each year for me. I spend the evening running between the raffle table, collecting tickets from members and connecting with friends. And our efforts always pay off — last year, we hit our goal of $10,000 for the Chula-Rural Area Project, even when members were unable to meet in person due to COVID.
I've been able to lend my experience as a business officer and certified internal auditor to help with the temple’s internal audit. One way I showed my gratitude for the late controller’s efforts was to help rebuild the strong system she had developed.
CUAAMA also supports local Thai cultural organizations in the region. For instance, each year we raise $1,000 for the Sunday school program at Wat Thai Washington DC, a local temple. I’ve been able to lend my experience as a business officer and certified internal auditor to help with the temple’s internal audit. One way I showed my gratitude for the late controller’s efforts was to help rebuild the strong system she had developed.
Going forward, my goal as treasurer is to assist CUAAMA in recruiting younger members to the organization. In Thailand, we have an acronym for the process of welcoming and mentoring younger students as they transition into a university: SOTUS, which stands for Seniority Order Tradition Unity and Spirit. In this spirit, younger students are expected to respect and obey senior students, and seniors, in return, are expected to help guide freshmen through their first year.
Just as the SOTUS system is tied to the belief that different generations are called to help one another, I hope that CUAAMA can provide greater support to our younger graduates in the years ahead. Our oldest active member was born in 1949, and we have a lot of alumni who graduated from the university in the 70’s and 80’s. We’ve taken measures in the past few years to bring in more graduates from the next generation — we have a flourishing social media presence, for example — but there is always more we can do.