Eakamon “Andy” Oumtrakool, Ph.D., assistant professor of business administration, and Areerat “Poy” Lertchaipitak, Ph.D., assistant professor of business administration, are experts in their field and dedicated advisers, but those aren’t the only ways they enrich the Olivet College community. Oumtrakool and Lertchaipitak are originally from Thailand, and the couple proudly shares their culture and instills global diversity lessons in their teaching.
“Eakamon and I have pretty similar backgrounds,” Lertchaipitak said. “We both come from Thailand — he is from Bangkok and I am from Chiang Rai in the north. I went to college in Bangkok, and we actually ended up attending the same university, Kasetsart University, but on different campuses. We didn’t know each other at the time, but we both came to America to pursue master’s degrees, and that’s when we ended up in the same class.”
Both Oumtrakool and Lertchaipitak attended West Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University, sharing a passion for financial planning and ultimately completing two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. each. Ten years after their first meeting in class, the couple was married, and they welcomed their daughter, Aurora “Rori,” in 2016. While Oumtrakool and Lertchaipitak’s experiences as students helped them connect, it was also during this time that they developed an interest in teaching.
“As a graduate student, you typically have the option of serving as a teaching assistant or research assistant,” Oumtrakool said. “I always chose to be a research assistant, but I wanted to try something different — a new challenge — and I decided to try teaching.”
“I always found myself connected with people,” Lertchaipitak said. “When working as a commercial business loan officer in Thailand after earning my bachelor’s degree, I always enjoyed meeting with clients and helping them. When I had the chance to serve as a part-time graduate student instructor, I loved it. I had students thank me for helping them understand retirement plans, investment options and consumer loans. It was rewarding to help people better understand their finances and make informed decisions.”
The couple’s path to Olivet may be the most remarkable leg of their journey, which Lertchaipitak describes as God’s plan. Since she was seven-years-old, Lertchaipitak had a growing fascination with the snow, and she was determined to live in a cool climate. Her adviser at Texas Tech University knew this and helped her connect with Tom Humphreys, assistant professor and director of insurance and risk management at Olivet College. From there, both Oumtrakool and Lertchaipitak immersed themselves in the Olivet College family and haven’t looked back.
“At the time of my interview at Olivet, I was pregnant in the last trimester with my daughter,” Lertchaipitak said. “Dr. Maria Davis, provost of the College, embraced us and was very family-oriented. There was a delay until we could visit Olivet’s campus, but everyone was so welcoming when we did. Laura Barlond-Maas, associate professor of English, even stepped in to help care for Rori while I was giving a teaching demonstration.
“From that day, we really connected with the College’s culture and family-oriented focus. The people we met were amazing, and I loved the Square and thought it was so beautiful. And, I knew it would be cold for several months of the year!”
“We liked the small college feeling after coming from a big research program,” Oumtrakool said. “We wanted to work for a place where we can have close relationships with our students. It makes me feel like our students are family, and we really enjoy the community here at Olivet.”
Now in their fourth year as members of the OC faculty, Oumtrakool and Lertchaipitak are proud Comets. They especially enjoy college events, like the spring and fall forums and Opening Convocation, and they’ve even hosted an annual Financial Education Day.
During this academic year, the couple served as advisers to seniors Andrew Todd and Stewart Manges who became the first Olivet College team to both enter the Financial Services Career Exploration Competition and win. In addition, they led a global learning trip to Thailand in December 2019.
“Leading a student trip to Thailand was a full-circle experience for us,” Lertchaipitak said. “Everything in Thailand is so different — food, culture, climate — but these students were never afraid to try new things. I didn’t expect them to embrace it at that level, but I was so pleased that they did. We really respected them for having an open mind and being so willing to learn, especially since we understand the challenges and opportunities of experiencing a new country.”
To Oumtrakool and Lertchaipitak, these experiences are the bonds that create family.
“Olivet is more than a college; it is more like a family, both in terms of culture and relationships with students,” Lertchaipitak said. “For example, during the recent pandemic, students have checked in with me to see how I am doing just as much as I have checked in with them. They ask me if my family members are ok and if I feel any loneliness. They have made me feel very special.”
“I have the same feeling,” Oumtrakool said. “Olivet is unique because professors care about students and we offer a relationship-based education, and those close relationships go both ways.”