Dayley, students update Southeast Asia textbook

The professors who are more than talking heads at the front of the classroom—those who take time to work individually with their students—are the ones that make a personal impact on an education. For College of Idaho political economy professor Dr. Robert Dayley, that professor was Dr. Clark Neher, his mentor at Northern Illinois University.

While earning his Ph.D., Dayley helped Neher research the first edition of the textbook Southeast Asia in the New International Era.  Today, Dayley continues the tradition with his own students at the C of I.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for an undergraduate student to be involved in a book writing process,” Dayley said.

The book, which is used by schools including Boston University, BYU and John Hopkins University, stays up-to-date on the latest political news and events in Southeast Asia by undergoing revisions every three years. When Neher retired in 2002, he invited Dayley to take over the book and continue updating and revising it. Dayley currently is working on the seventh edition of the text, with students helping him research 11 countries in Southeast Asia including Thailand, Vietnam and little-known Timor-Leste.

But how much has really changed in Southeast Asia since the last time the textbook was updated?

“A lot,” Dayley said.

Whether it is a major coup in Thailand, or democratic elections being announced in Myanmar, C of I students Gabe Osterhout, Ben Sutton, and recent grad Courtney Indart ’15 have helped Dayley read through journals and news publications and sort through the noise to identify the most critical developments in countries.

“I couldn’t have picked three better students,” Dayley said. “I really trust the research that these three students can do.”

Osterhout, a senior political economy major from Boise, has been looking specifically at Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia. He enjoyed taking Dayley’s class that uses the textbook, a class he describes as rigorous and fascinating. Assisting Dayley with research is a rare opportunity to continue studying Southeast Asia in depth alongside a regional expert, Osterhout said.

“A faculty-student mentorship like this is only possible at a small, liberal arts school such as The College of Idaho,” Osterhout said.

The seventh edition of the textbook will be released in 2016. And just as Dayley inherited the textbook from his mentor, he wouldn’t mind passing it off to one of his students down the road, though it’s not his goal.

“If any of these students continue to work in this field and I’m still writing the book and retiring, why not?” Dayley said. “But for now, it’s all about students gaining research experience and contributing to an actual publication.”

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