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Celebrating Southeast Asia

Celebrating Southeast Asia

Posted: March 9, 2012

Several faculty members in the Geography and Planning Department have a longstanding interest in Southeast Asia, which led to creating the Center for Southeast Asia Environment and Sustainable Development. From March 13 to 15, the department will present Southeast Asia Week.

“We hope to share our fascination with Southeast Asia with the campus community,” said Vida Vanchan, assistant professor of geography and planning, who is coordinating the effort. Southeast Asia—generally defined as that part of Asia east of India, south of China, and north of Australia—includes 11 countries, two of which are Cambodia and Thailand. Buffalo State faculty members have worked extensively in both countries and developed collaborations with NGOs, universities, and government agencies.

The first event is a documentary film about the ancient temple Angkor Wat, a UNESCO world heritage site that has been included among the wonders of the ancient world. “It was built during Cambodia’s ‘glorious period,’” said Vanchan, “which is a source of great pride to Cambodians.” The film, Ancient Megastructures: Angkor Wat, uncovers the secrets behind the construction of this awe-inspiring majestic temple, built in the twelfth century. You can see it Tuesday, March 13, at 12:15 p.m. in Bulger Communication Center W2.

The second event, Climate Change: Vulnerabilities and Adaptation Measures in Urban Areas of Southeast Asia, will be presented by Kim Irvine, professor of geography and planning and director of the Center for Southeast Asia Environment and Sustainable Development. Irvine has worked with colleagues in Cambodia and Thailand to improve the quality of drinking water, develop sustainable and cost-effective alternatives to Western-style sewage-treatment plants, and teach students from Buffalo State, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and the Asian Institute of Technology. The lecture will take place on Wednesday, March 14, from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. in Classroom Building C122.

The third event, Thailand’s Catastrophic Flood of 2011: Impacts and Management Strategies, will be presented by Thitirat Chaosakul, a Ph.D. candidate in the environmental engineering and management program at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. Chaosakul will discuss the causes, impacts, and emergency responses to the 2011 catastrophic flooding in northern and central Thailand, including the capital city of Bangkok. This flood was one of the largest on record, affecting some 2.3 million people and causing $22 billion in damage.

Vanchan and Stephen Vermette, professor of geography and planning, have traveled to Cambodia twice to provide resources and present pedagogical strategies to practicing and pre-service teachers. In 2009, they visited Baktouk High School in Phnom Penh, which has about 10,000 students and 300 teachers, to provide training to 19 teachers and a geography kit built around the existing curriculum. In January 2012, they provided eight geography and earth science kits and presented a three-day workshop to teachers and pre-service teachers at the National Institute of Education in Cambodia. Vermette has also traveled to Southeast Asia on many research trips, including two that provided undergraduate research opportunities to Buffalo State students.

“We have many close ties to Southeast Asia,” said Vanchan, “and we welcome any interest from the campus community.”

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