Payap University in Chiang Mai Thailand is holding its 43rd commencement service Saturday evening, November 21, 2020. The commencement service will serve the purposes of all commencement events, but this year there are significant differences. Payap is still observing necessary pandemic precautions and government policies. So, there will be a reduction in the number of participants. Graduates will be seated with wider space between chairs than previously (see the picture from the dress rehearsal). Family will be limited to one per graduate inside the commencement arena, but other family and friends will be allowed outside on the grounds. Faculty will not be in the procession or seated in the arena, only some senior administrators and representatives of the Board of Trustees will be participating. The service will be broadcast live via the Internet and on FM radio. This year’s graduating class is composed of 701 graduates from the 29 departments of Payap’s 6 faculties and 3 colleges.
This is the second graduation service of the week for Payap. Following tradition, the McGilvary College of Divinity held a service Wednesday evening to conclude its 131st year. Seminary students are expected to quickly enter Christian service careers as they leave McGilvary. The graduation service is essentially a dedication service in which graduates are given symbols of ministry. Services of ordination are entirely separate. Seminary graduates will be awarded diplomas in the Payap commencement again this year although plans are underway for the McGilvary College of Divinity to become a separate degree-granting institution on its own as soon as arrangements are completed.
At this time last year Payap University was facing the most serious financial crisis of its history with costs far outstripping income and enrollments falling. A number of extraordinary measures were considered, including selling some of the university’s excess land, agreements with the government of China to receive up to 300 students, developing plans with private and government enterprises, and consolidation of programs to centralize the use of buildings. The COVID-19 emergency ended any thought of expanding our outreach at this time to include students from China and the epidemic stalled sales of land as the Thai economy began to fall. At the same time, enrollment in Payap’s Thai and International programs rose as some students found it expedient to stay in the country rather than trying to go overseas as they had considered doing. The sense at the present is that Payap has stabilized. (Previous blog essays have discussed this: www.kendobson.asia/blog/mcgilvary-college and www.kendobson.asia/blog/amnuay-tapingkae ).
The university is now able to reorient itself toward a post-COVID future. 2021 will be better.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.