'Lifelong student' teaches others the importance of integrity
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For a few weeks of the year, Robert Dayley's classroom looks a little different than his typical room at The College of Idaho. During those weeks, the subject matter is similar to what might be taught on the small college campus in Caldwell, Idaho, but the warm, humid air, sounds of traffic, and in some areas the sights of elephants walking freely in the jungle sets a different scene. It is a scene the professor knows well.
"If I taught chemistry I would take students to a chemistry lab," he said. "Besides books and films, the only way to get [students] talking to people and learning about a society is to go there."
His lab — the country of Thailand — has become more than a place to do research. For much of his life, it has been called "home."
"When I turned 19 I received my mission call to Bangkok, Thailand," he said. "Two years in Thailand changed me. It was not only an amazing spiritual journey, but also it put me on a new course in life that I've followed ever since. … It's safe to say my mission to Thailand is largely responsible for my career path."
For Brother Dayley — who was named the 2011 Idaho Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education — becoming a professor wasn't something he had always planned on doing; however, as a son of two educators his choice of profession didn't come as a total surprise.
"My mother taught second grade for 30 years and my father is an administrator with a 40-year career at Weber State University," he said. "With both of my parents being educators, it's what we talked about around the dinner table."
After returning from his mission, Brother Dayley attended Weber State College and switched his major from psychology to political science and took as many courses on Asia as were offered. After he graduated from Weber State, he returned to Thailand for a summer to teach English before starting his Asian studies at the University of Oregon. In Oregon, he met his future wife, Carrie Patzer, at institute. After he completed his master's degree, they headed to Northern Illinois University for his Ph.D. program — again, focusing on his love of Thailand by specializing in Southeast Asian politics.
"During my studies I was awarded a year-long Fulbright grant to conduct research in Thailand," he said. "So with my wife and 3-month-old daughter, we left for Thailand, and we had an amazing experience."
After graduating with his Ph.D. in 1997, Brother Dayley accepted a few teaching positions at various locations in the U.S. and is now a professor of international political economy and Asian studies at The College of Idaho, a privately-funded liberal arts college founded in 1891.
"I wanted to figure out a career I could fashion so I could get back to Thailand and study it and talk about it," he said. "Being a college professor is really being a student for an entire lifetime."
Since returning from his mission, Brother Dayley — with a growing family on some of those travels — has taken more than 10 trips to Thailand and other Asian nations.
"My kids all love it," he said, joking that "they each have a favorite treat they want me to bring home each time I go."
But it is more than candy Brother Dayley hopes his students are bringing home with them.
"It is gratifying to see students discover the world on these in-country courses," he said. "I customize each experience so students meet villagers, development workers, government officials and college students their own age. Similar to how my first experience in Asia changed my life, many of these students return to Asia and develop careers in business and international development. It is a wonderful feeling to get a thank you from a former student whose path was influenced by my teaching."
In addition to his "lab work" done in Thailand, Brother Dayley has helped to create a campus focused on integrity.
"I helped support the creation of an honor code on campus a few years ago," he said. "The College of Idaho's new honor code is, in my opinion, far more robust than what exists at most colleges and universities. ... I learned from President [Spencer W.] Kimball that integrity is 'what you do when nobody is watching.' I believe that young people develop integrity when they learn to expect it of themselves. ...
"You can't govern yourself if everyone around you mistrusts you and monitors you. Academic integrity is a correct principle that a community should expect and it is best developed through a sense of self-respect. I assume trust with students until they do something to violate that trust — which is the exception, not the norm."
Brother Dayley said that a campus culture of true integrity begins with assuming it of each other.
"I see myself more as a life mentor rather than someone who professes knowledge and evaluates students," he said. "I would rather that my students leave The College of Idaho with integrity more than any other skill or knowledge set. It's pretty clear that the world needs more people with integrity in every sector of society. Young people need to discover that they have integrity. The only way to do that is to expect it of them and then cultivate opportunities to prove it to themselves. The academic environment is a perfect place to discover one's sense of self-respect."
Although it is sometimes difficult to manage his time with three children and as a member of the Caldwell Idaho East Stake high council, Brother Dayley said that it is through being flexible in prioritizing his time that he is able to manage.
"Overall, I am blessed with a career that I love and find gratifying," he said. "My family is wonderful and very supportive of work and Church commitments. My wife and kids are wonderful and our striving to live the covenants we've made has blessed our family."