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Dean’s talk No. 7 : Talking about CHANGE

Change, along with growth, is an important part of the development process. All of us need to be opened to change so that we can continue to develop in creative ways. This is particularly important for social scientists who need to continually contribute to the betterment of our communities and our society
In the academic setting of a university, social scientists do not only teach but guide, inspire and motivate peoples’ potential for creative change. They have an important role in helping students to think clearly, systematically and rationally. In all these ways, we expect students can enrich and change themselves so that they can contribute more positively to groups, organizations, communities and the society as well as to help improve our overall quality of life.
Although we know that we live in this world only one time, we do not always take the steps that are necessary at the time to participate in necessary and creative change. When we see opportunities to change in more creative ways, we may not pursue them because we face challenges from some of our friends and colleagues who might be comfortable with the way things are. It is easier to avoid challenges than to pursue them because change can be difficult to confront. Often, we simply deal with the challenge of change by going along with the opinions of others who resist change. Rather than getting involved, we deal with change by resisting or running away from it. Keepings things as they are is more comfortable.
Needless to say, the challenge of change requires that we look at why people resist change. Sometimes it is for valid reasons that we need to take account of in promoting a specific change. This means that change agents, people who spearhead change, must listen to everyone’s voice when moving toward change. There is a pace to making change that we need to respect. It is important to keep in mind that the change process should lead to innovation and be carried out with the participation of as large a group as possible.
Of course, when we look back at history, there have been many examples where activists, including social scientists with a social conscience, challenged the status quo and called for change in the society. For example, Nelson Mandela, a South African political activist, spent over 20 years in prison for his opposition to the apartheid regime that separated and treated South Africans differently on the basis of their skin color. He became a classic example of how people can motivate change by challenging the status quo, something that was wrong in the society. His vision to end racial segregation in South Africa eventually led to his release from prison and to his becoming the first democratically elected President of South Africa in 1994.
Another example is Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore. He governed that country for more than three decades, from 1959 to 1990. To create the changes that led Singapore to become a ‘first world’ nation, he was responsible for making big changes to improve the political system. He launched a system to increase merit, combat corruption and promote efficiency in government and the civil service. He set into motion a controversial policy called “The ‘Stop at Two’ family planning campaign” in the face of resistance from local residents.  Over time, this scheme became a very effective social development policy that led to a lower birth rate and contributed to Singapore’s successful economic reform.
Over the last decade, leaders and activists around the world have talked about global warming. However, very little action at the international, national or regional levels, either in policy development or in individual and collective practice, has resulted. It seems we have become complacent about undertaking change that will benefit our citizens and the planet with regard to climate change.
However, some policy innovations have been promoted to change our individual behavior around climate change. For example, we have begun to make changes such as installing fluorescent lights or natural skylights in buildings, constructing more energy efficient buildings, using air conditioners less during periods of peak demand, using more energy efficient transportation, and adopting ‘green’ building designs. Although there are a growing number of examples of strategic planning to reduce energy use at the policy level, not many practical solutions have been started at the individual level.
The key to change is that we need to challenge ourselves and create a more bottom-up approach to climate change. In this way change becomes a most powerful concept. It requires us to develop in a more participative way than change that is simply announced from the top.  Change is not merely the arena for policy planners and the heads of organizations but also for university scholars and students. Change can begin and happen in a deeper way with a strong sense of public consciousness. Change can begins and be carried through at the bottom of our hearts within an academic community which values and practices public responsibility.
In the 2016 academic calendar, there will be a number of changes in our University. On behalf of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Naresuan University, I would like to use this opportunity to welcome all of you and invite you to participate in and enjoy these changes. Let’s remember that if the university is not the place that tries out innovations and practices positive change, there will few other places left that create these possibilities. I agree with Leo Tolstoy that:
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”.
Let’s think of how we can be involved in change that contributes to improving ourselves and our Naresuan community.


All the best,

Assoc.Prof.Patcharin Sirasoonthorn, Ph.D
Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences
Naresuan University