March 1, 2021 at 8:32 pm

Alumni News | Mike Rattanasengchanh Helps Students Connect Past and Present

Ohio University alumnus Mike Rattanasengchanh, who earned a Ph.D. in History and a Contemporary History Certificate in May 2019, accepted a position as Assistant Professor of History at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in closures across the nation.

Despite the unprecedented circumstances, Rattanasengchanh has worked to give his students pathways to success and to find ways to continue his research and writing on U.S. foreign relations and Vietnam War-era Thailand.

Rattanasengchanh currently teaches both online and in person at MSU. His teaching responsibilities include introductory surveys and more advanced classes on Asian Imperialism and the Vietnam Wars from the perspective of Vietnam, along with U.S. Foreign Relations.

While Rattanasengchanh is comfortable teaching online as necessary, he notes that he has experimented with new types of assignments in order to keep students engaged, including utilizing social media, news articles and primary sources. This combination of contemporary platforms with documents from the past has helped students to make connections between what is happening in the world today and what they are talking about in their history classes.

Rattanasengchanh credits the Contemporary History Institute and the classes he took while getting his certificate in contemporary history with helping him to illustrate for his students how historical events inform contemporary issues. Rattanasengchanh also notes that CHI helped him to expand his reading and writing into disciplines beyond history, bringing a broader perspective to his own research and a multidisciplinary approach to his classes.

While Rattanasengchanh is teaching, he is also pressing forward with writing projects, even though research has become more difficult given pandemic restrictions. His primary project aims to turn his dissertation on U.S.-Thai Cold War Propaganda and Nation Building, into a book manuscript. Rattanasengchanh is also working on a journal article examining U.S.-Lao relations from 1957-1961 from the Laotian perspective. Recent publications on that subject have focused on the U.S. perspective and Rattanasengchanh seeks to ensure that the Lao documents are also included in the conversation.

Rattanasengchanh wants current CHI students to understand the importance of the guest speakers—in person or online—and the opportunity this provides for students to learn about topics that are beyond their own research and to interact and stay in touch with scholars in fields they might otherwise have little contact with. Finally, he encourages students to think broadly about careers after graduation, both in terms of location and sector. He noted that academia can be hard to enter into, even in non-pandemic years and reminds students that they should be open to all opportunities they encounter, even if these may be outside of their comfort zones in terms of where they are located.

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