International Student Receives Rosa Parks AwardMay 3, 2016
On April 21, 2016, the University of Colorado Denver celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Rosa Parks Diversity Award, honoring staff, students and community members for their dedication to promoting diversity, inclusion, and unity. Among the six award recipients was Tayud Mongkolrat, a sophomore in anthropology, who was born in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
When Mongkolrat was a young teenager, his family moved to Colorado so that his mother could pursue a PhD in Special Education. Mongkolrat was somewhat familiar with social activism – several of his family members in Thailand had fought for the rights of social equality and religious diversity – but when he came to the United States, he gained a true understanding of what this meant.
“It was a profound cultural shock to watch American television shows,” explained Mongkolrat, “I did not think I would ever fit in with my schoolmates’ interests and goals in life.”
Outside of his new public high school, he witnessed some instances of violence among different racial groups as well as religious intolerance. Upon graduation from high school, Mongkolrat enrolled at CU Denver and discovered a vibrancy and welcoming diversity on campus that helped him to shape his focus in life. He volunteered to serve as as a Cultural Attaché for the university’s Intercultural Engagement Certificate, then as part of the Executive Council. He is now the Vice President of the new Association for International Students at the University of Colorado Denver. Additionally, he was one of two international students selected to discuss how CU Denver might best collaborate with the Orbis Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides global leadership development through programs that focus on international awareness, critical thinking, and collaborative action.
Through these activities, Mongkolrat has contributed to a welcoming and encouraging environment for other international students at the university. He has tirelessly marketed the Intercultural Engagement Certificate (IEC) by reaching out to individual students, to student clubs, and to faculty – even volunteering to attend classes to discuss the benefits of the IEC. Mongkolrat also participated in the Lynx Leadership Conference.
When asked about his experiences at CU Denver, he replied, “I like many sources of knowledge, to know about the different struggles of people, to help find together how to overcome those obstacles, and walk among people with different ethnic backgrounds.” With a generous spirit and a mission in mind, Mongkolrat is finding that CU Denver is helping him to pursue his vision of social equality.
The CU Denver Experience: International Student Tayud Mongkolrat
Describe your most memorable learning experience at the University of Colorado Denver.
I have had many memorable experiences at CU Denver. One is of discovering and pursuing Anthropology. It opens my eyes to the amazing realm of the human experience. I get to explore the territories I am interested in: culture, history, society, diversity, social justice, etc. It makes me more aware of my surroundings. I am able to recognize issues in our society as well as recognizing the hopes in fixing them.
What was your biggest challenge while going to school at CU Denver?
One of my biggest challenges is becoming more of an adult. I have to learn to become more mature. I had to learn to live alone without my family, get a driving license, and manage my work schedule. I continue to learn more every day.
Are you still in touch with your friends in Thailand? What do they think of your experiences in the States?
I am very much in touch with my friends in Thailand. In fact, many of them came to study higher education in the United States, and we share our experiences. Sometimes we tell stories of funny events we encountered. On other occasions, we discuss more serious issues such as income inequality and gay marriage. The friends who did not came to the United States, on the other hand, keep me updated on what is going on with them in Thailand. Even though they are in Thailand, they relate to many events that are occurring in the United States. We sometimes compare the events in the U.S. with the events in our homeland.
When you graduate, what would be your “dream job”?
My dream job is to be able to work in cultural preservation in Thailand. I want to be able to create a center for preservation and education in traditional knowledge (medicine, martial arts, literature, fine arts, music, performance art, metallurgy, culinary art, etc.) as well as effectively foster the preservation and transmission of local knowledge and tradition. I want to see Thai culture, tradition, and traditional knowledge effectively thrive and grow in modern Thailand. Being modern does not mean you have to shed away all your traditions. I believe that Thai culture can become an important part of modern Thailand.
What advice would you give to other students who are considering to study in America and at CU Denver?
Be comfortable with your identity. Be proud of who you are (your culture, background, etc) and do not be afraid to explore the cultures of the United States. You will be surprised by how much you will learn and how much other people will learn from you.
About The Rosa Parks Award
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American civil rights activist; in 1955, she refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger. Her refusal to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus spurred a city-wide boycott. The city of Montgomery was compelled to lift the law requiring segregation on public buses. Rosa Parks received many accolades during her lifetime, including the NAACP’s highest award. The United States Congress called Parks “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. Her birthday, February 4, and the day she was arrested, December 1, have both become Rosa Parks Day. The Rosa Parks Award honors individuals who have demonstrated a dedication to diversity, inclusion, and unity.
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