Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley of Bhutan returned to Penn State to accept the Distinguished Alumni Award yesterday and added a School of International Affairs (SIA) tour and meeting to his busy agenda. “This is an historic moment in the development of our program,” said Dr. Tiyanjana Maluwa, director of SIA, remarking that Prime Minister Thinley is the highest ranking dignitary to visit the school to date.
The prime minister was accompanied by Daw Penjo, Foreign Secretary; Lhatu Wangchuk, Bhutan's Ambassador to the UN; Sonam Togbay, Minister Counselor, Bhutan Mission, New York; and Lt. Col. Kinley Chopel, ADC to the Prime Minister. The group was going on to New York for meetings at the United Nations.
The prime minister said that he would like SIA students to know that although Bhutan is a “small country precariously located from a geographic point of view between the two fastest growing economies in the world, it has positioned itself well to realize the opportunities of this position rather than be obsessed by the disadvantages of it.” He learned more about SIA at a meeting with faculty and staff members including Professor Johannes Fedderke, Professor Dennis Jett, Professor Denis Simon, Dr. Tineke Cunning, director of Career Services, and Stewart Combs, director of Admissions.
“The prime minister commended the faculty and staff of SIA for its contribution to international education and understanding,” Maluwa said. He also encouraged SIA to engage with the UN, especially with the smaller countries, with a view to initiating a dialogue in search of solutions to some of the common problems and challenges that the world faces such as the impact of globalization, conflict over resources, climate change, and humanitarian disasters, explained Maluwa.
As part of Prime Minister Thinley's visit to the UN, he said he planned to encourage other states to continue to pursue the objectives set out in the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He said that Bhutan intended to propose the addition of “happiness” as a ninth MDG. Bhutan has been promoting the philosophy of “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) which strives to strike a balance between the spiritual and the material.
Prime Minister Thinley received a master's degree in public administration from Penn State in 1976.