Professor of higher education Alexander Jun, Ph.D., presented his scholarly research on Cambodian orphans at a TEDx Talk, titled “Bloom Where You Are Planted: Lessons Learned from Orphan Scholars,” in Thailand on December 15, 2012. This presentation adds to more than 1,500 TED talks aired internationally, and marks the first APU faculty member featured in this forum. TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading,” began as a platform for experts from three fields: technology, entertainment, and design. Today, the event gathers the world’s brightest, most innovative thinkers and doers from a variety of fields, challenging them to present their thoughts, theories, and findings in 18 minutes or less. In addition to the original TED Conference and the subsequent TEDGlobal, a new series of smaller local conferences called TEDx has joined the family of offerings.
Jun lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for three years, conducting research on the ethnographic effects of the 1975–79 Khmer Rouge rule on higher education and local orphanages. Jun found that low literacy and poverty rates coupled with a broken education system make higher education for the younger generation an improbability. “We cannot assume orphans are not destined for higher education. We need to take better care in understanding their lives and how we can make adjustments in helping them achieve their goals of attending college. The solution to this problem starts in giving orphans dreams that are bigger than simply staying off the streets and graduating high school—a dream such as graduating from a university, finding gainful employment, and serving their country,” said Jun, whose three years of research focused on privatization, development, and policies of Cambodia’s higher education system. Author of multiple scholarly works, including From Here to University: Access, Mobility, and Resilience among Urban Latino Youth (RoutledgeFarmer, 2001), he has published extensively on issues of postsecondary equity, access, and retention for historically underrepresented students in urban environments.
“Dr. Jun’s findings challenge the existing notions of what is needed to educate children,” said Robert Welsh, Ph.D., dean and professor of the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences. “His work highlights the importance of paying attention to individual stories and demonstrates the power of studying individual lives. His work exploits some of the weaknesses in research that prefer statistics over stories, and illustrates powerfully that no assumptions should be made of children who have suffered instability, trauma, and abandonment.”
After presenting his research in Seoul, South Korea, Jun met a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) member, which led to an invitation to speak at a TEDx event, “A Culture of Peace.” Hosted by UNESCO at the Thailand Knowledge Park Theater in Pathum Wan, Bangkok, the event included presentations from Jun and eight other speakers representing various industries from Thailand and the surrounding Asian-Pacific region. “It was an honor to speak in the company of this prestigious community of researchers, experts, and audiences. TEDx talks spark deep discussion and connection in smaller groups at more intimate venues,” said Jun.
Continuing his research of higher education in Asia, Jun received a grant from APU’s Faculty Research Council and a fellowship from the Center for Khmer Studies, enabling him to serve as a principal investigator conducting research on expatriate educators living and working in Asian universities. He also continues work on several related projects, including journal articles and the publication of his second book. “As a researcher and professor, I have an amazing privilege and tremendous responsibility to utilize my position to shape educational policy,” said Jun. “I’m an educational ethnographer and storyteller, so I use my gifts to give a voice to those who otherwise have no venue to share their stories. As a means of integrating my faith, I see my role as an opportunity God has granted to assist in sharing the stories of overall resilience and educational achievement as a testament that all things are possible in Christ.”
To view Jun’s TEDx talk, click here.