POLI/GDS Field School in Northern Thailand

Tour of the Yada Organic Farm in Ban Nai Soi

Students visiting temple in Thailand

Lunch at Yada Organic Farm in Ban Nai Soi

Lecture and tour at Earthrights International, a Thai based international environmental NGO

Thai Field School teaching team (L to R) Will Greaves (POLI), Katie Dey (CAPI), Robyn Fila (CAPI), Songkrant Pongboonjun (Law)

Thai field school classroom session

In 2023, the Department of Political Science, Global Development Studies and the Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives (CAPI) developed a new initiative for UVic Undergraduate students -- a field school in northern Thailand examining policies of development and the environment. The 1.5 unit, cross-listed course (POLI 391/GDS 391) took place in May 2023 and included 1 week of intensive classroom study at UVic followed by 2.5 weeks of experiential learning in Thailand. This field school is unique as priority is given to those students who are typically underrepresented in overseas opportunities. 

Read more about the Thai Field School in the Ring.

For more information about the 2024 Field School, contact Robyn Fila in CAPI.

Highlights from 2023 field school

From May 9-28, 2023, the group consisting of 10 students, two instructors, one teaching assistant/cultural liaison, and CAPI’s communications officer participated in the field school in Thailand, supported by a part-time, locally-engaged facilitator. During this time, academic and experiential learning highlights of the course included:

  • Lecture and tour at Earthrights International, a Thailand-based international environmental NGO;
  • Visit to Mae Moh, the largest coalmine and coal-powered electricity plant in Thailand, and a meeting with a local community leader;
  • Tour of Chiang Mai University (CMU) Faculty of Law, including meeting with the Dean and faculty members, and receiving one lecture on Thai legal education and one on challenges for Indigenous peoples and refugees in the Thai-Myanmar border region;
  • An evening at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre hosted by the CMU Faculty of Law;
  • Visit to the community of Kaberdin in Omkoi, and a meeting with local youth organizers;
  • A meeting and Q&A with the elected headman of the Ban Nai Soi community;
  • Meetings with three local NGOs in Mae Hong Son province: the Karenni Social Development Center (an education and social service provider); the Karenni Social Welfare Development Center (an arm of the Karenni National Progressive Party, part of the Myanmar National Unity Government-in-Exile since 2021); and the Ban Nai Soi Community Learning Center (an educational organization);
  • Two days of activities with a group of 16 Karenni secondary students from refugee and displaced communities;
  • Lecture and tour at the Yada Organic Farm in Ban Nai Soi.

Course description and requirements

Spend two weeks in northern Thailand learning about local economic development and environmental challenges, specifically those issues that highlight the importance of inclusivity, equitability and sustainability in community development and resilience movements. Through community visits, conversations with civil society groups, museum visits, and travel throughout Thailand, students will learn about the impacts of environmental challenges on everyday life and on rural and urban landscapes. They will also learn about community resilience and innovative approaches to such environmental challenges, and strategies aimed at advancing sustainable community development. Topics and site visits may include: mining and the impact of extractive growth strategies on the local environment and on communities; deforestation and local experiences of climate change; grassroots anti-poverty initiatives; community resistance to environmentally damaging economic growth strategies and community resilience; and, legal rights and political movements of ethnic minorities. Finally, we will consider the intersection of some of these issues with local and international supports to refugee and undocumented communities in Northern Thailand.

Through classroom learning, site visits and direct engagement with communities and NGOs in Thailand, students will acquire a deeper understanding of the interconnections between humans, development policies and practices, and the environment. Students will also learn about how communities organize to resist harmful practices that affect livelihoods and the environment, and about community struggles, and the politics and processes of resilience.

Course requirements and expectations:

  • Attendance and participation in all pre- and post- departure training and classroom work.
  • Completion of all course requirements, including in-country (Thailand) activities, and one blog post for the CAPI website. Details will be provided in the course outline.
  • Profile picture and bio for the CAPI website.
  • Completed GSO pre-departure form and final narrative report (on an external portal). Details to be provided once program participants are identified.