Public Administration professor brings passion to the classroom
After earning her master’s degree in public administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Arwiphawee Srithongrung landed a job as a corporate communications officer for Honda in Thailand. Changing career paths was the furthest thing from her mind.
Yet in 1997-98, an Asian financial crisis and economic downturn forced businesses to close and jobs to become scarce. Srithongrung stayed positive.
“I thought traveling across countries, especially when I was young and healthy (would be) rewarding rather than (being) miserable,” she said.
She became a flight attendant for four years in Kuwait.
“The transition was not relatively smooth,” Srithongrung said. “However, my perspective at the time was that in ever crisis there is an opportunity to grow and learn. I was young, energetic and eager to learn new things with an open mind.”
This allowed her to experience countries with healthy infrastructure and public service, compared to her home country of Thailand. Growing up in Bangkok in a family where her father and both grandfathers were involved in government, Srithongrung developed an interest and passion for public administration.
“I think it’s fascinating to study about government and how (it) improves people’s quality of life as a whole,” Srithongrung said.
As she traveled, she was constantly reading and learning, keeping track of each country’s infrastructure and public service in a journal. After four years, she decided to go back to school to earn her doctorate degree in public administration.
New solutions to old problems
In 2006, Srithongrung received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and immediately began working at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she earned her tenure as a public administration professor.
This fall, Srithongrung joined the WSU community as an associate professor of public administration, teaching public finance and state-local economic development.
She has been impressed with the university’s research resources and support, as well as the students’ preparation for class and eagerness to learn. For example, in her state-local economic development course, Srithongrung teaches students principles and public finance tools for local economic developments.
Srithongrung enjoys watching students see old problems in new ways and find innovative and thoughtful solutions. She hopes her students are able to analyze, synthesize and apply their knowledge to improve government and public service for overall quality of life improvement.
“Given that they are willing to learn and grow as young scholars, I (spend time) discussing theoretical/normative questions. These kind of questions cannot occur if students are not equipped with the right basic knowledge,” she said.
Srithongrung plans to share her research with the city and state in terms of public budgeting. Her research areas include creating a public capital spending theory, infrastructure and highway finance, as well as performance-based budgeting.
“I am planning to disseminate my research findings to the state of Kansas and the city of Wichita, so that they can be better informed and equipped with the latest knowledge in the field,” Srithongrung said.