Life's work challenging for Somvichian

November 22, 1996

Photo by Starr Carroll

Dr. Kamol Somvichian, professor of political science, has taught at the University of La Verne since 1987. Dr. Somvichian earned his B.A. at Chulalongkorn University, his M.A. at New York University and a Ph.D. at the University of London. All three of his degrees were earned in political science and government. During his American Government and Politics class, he discusses the presidential election process in the United States.

by Veronica L. McClendon
Staff Writer

Graduating from the University of London with a Ph.D in politics and economic development, Dr. Kamol Somvichian has brought his resources to the University of La Verne.

Dr. Somvichian has four jobs. He is a professor of political science at the University, he also teaches an MBA course in managing skills on the weekends for executives in Los Angeles. He writes a political/economic column for the Siam Post in Thailand.

"It is a major paper read by millions of people. If I miss my deadline they complain," he said of the newspaper.

His fourth job is run out of his home. "Mode Asia Associates" is a consulting firm that gives knowledge about making investments in Asia.

Twelve years ago Dr. Somvichian began teaching part time at ULV, and in 1987 he began teaching full time. He specializes in the areas in which he obtained his degrees, competitive government and politics and economic development.

Dr. Somvichian teaches World Civilization I and II, American Government and Politics, Comparative Foreign Policy and International Law Organization at ULV.

He is the Founder and Chair of a charitable foundation called "Foundation For Making A Difference." The foundation was established nine years ago by himself and four other colleagues.

"We collect money. We have plastic boxes in the Asian communities, in restaurants and supermarkets for contribution. We use the money collected to help build shelters for poor people in Mexico, feed poor people in Thailand, and send clothing to the Philippines during earthquakes and volcano eruptions," said Dr. Somvichian.

He began teaching at Chulalongkorn University (named after a Thai king) and was dragged into politics, forcing him to leave the university for political life.

In 1972, he was elected to draw up a new Constitution for Thailand. "I was in what was called the National Legislative Assembly," he said. He had to stay in Thailand to make sure that the Constitution worked for the country.

Then he began his quest for politics. Dr. Somvichian became the secretary general of the Democratic Party in Thailand. He said the party is something like the one in the United States and is the oldest party in Thailand.

"I was the Senator. I was also the adviser to the prime minister. He is sort of like the president here," said Dr. Somvichian.

La Verne is not the first school where Dr. Somvichian has taught. Before coming to La Verne, he taught at the United States
International University in San Diego. He was also a Fulbright Professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Dr Somvichian said, "Swarthmore is the number one college in the United States."
Dr. Somvichian will be on Sabbatical next semester, but he is not planning on being gone for long.

"I plan to publish my articles. I have had my articles published every week for the past 10 years. I have more than 500 articles, and I want to put them in a book form," said Dr. Somvichian.

He is also returning to Bangkok to give advice on the Constitution.
He said that his past experiences in politics influenced his teaching enormously. He said, "I have the ability to apply the theoretical aspects to the reality of politics." He also encourages his students to get into politics, because "it is good."

Aside from his busy life he considers himself a mighty good cook.

"Cooking is an art form, one of the more serious undertaking adventures. I consider myself a good cook. I cook Thai food, Japanese food, Filipino food, and not to mention hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I am the cook," he said.

In addition to his work, Dr. Somvichian has been married for more than 30 years and has two children. His daughter Marisa was born in New York City and raised in London. She is a professional electrical engineer. His son Whittey is a third year law student at UC Berkeley, and he already has a job lined up at a major law firm in Los Angeles.

Growing up, Dr. Somvichian faced many challenges. His house was bombed during World War II by an American airplane. "We came home one day and we didn't have a house to live in anymore. It was good that we didn't lose our lives, but we became poor overnight," he said.

Being poor was not a problem for Dr. Somvichian because he had his family with him. Also, Thailand, in general, was a poor country at the time.

"I would like my students to understand that they can truly excel in their education."

An education is second to none, said Dr. Somvichian. He encourages the students to do their parts as the professors do theirs. "I want them to be proud of their institution and themselves," said Somvichian.

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