Not All US Higher Education Fairs Are Created Equal: Part II

Posted 24/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary, Events

Tags: , , , , ,
Only regionally accredited colleges and universities are allowed to participate in Capstone StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs.

Only regionally accredited colleges and universities such as Carroll University (WI) are allowed to participate in Capstone Vietnam’s StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs.

Truth in advertising:  A fairly legal definition is advertisements that do not make misleading, false, or deceptive claims.  So let’s say Wonderful Educational Consulting  Company is organizing a US higher education fair series and they state in their publicity that only regionally accredited (RA) colleges and universities are permitted to join.  Wouldn’t you logically expect to see only RA institutions represented?

In fact, there are some companies and organizations that make this claim and then do the old bait-and-switch by including nationally accredited (NA) schools.  Why?  In the case of the latter because someone most likely dropped the ball and in the case of the former because money trumps quality.  They say it because it sounds good and they think it’s what US colleagues want to hear but the bottom line is, quite literally, profit.

NA schools are what I like to refer to as the distant cousins of their RA counterparts.  There is no comparison in terms of quality and recognition of credits and degrees.  In fact, most RA schools will not accept transfer credit or degrees from NA schools.  That decision pretty much says it all.

The company I work for, Capstone Vietnam, is probably the only educational consulting company in Vietnam that works exclusively with RA schools in the US.  (If you know of another, dear reader, let me know and I’ll post the comment and proof here.)  Why?  It’s simple – quality matters.

So does truth in advertising.  Bait-and-switch is yet another example of fraud perpetrated on attendees and other institutions.


The Audacity of Monsanto & the Short Memory of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture

Posted 22/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Note:  This is obviously NOT a post about education.  Given the relative freedom of speech that this blog has afforded me since I left the employ of a quasi-US governmental nonprofit five years ago, I reserve to right to explore other important issues related to Vietnam, including the war legacy of Agent Orange and the issue of food sovereignty as it relates to genetically modified crops.

Below is a guest post by Chuck Palazzo, an American war veteran and Agent Orange and Unexploded Ordnance activist and researcher, who is currently living, writing and working in Danang.  Consider this rather lengthy introduction an opportunity to add my two cents, echoing some of the points Chuck makes.

A 13 October 2014 post on Monsanto’s blog Beyond the Rows, entitled Monsanto and Vietnam University of Agriculture Collaborate to Develop Talents in Agricultural Biotechnology, announced a new VND 1.5 billion scholarship program “for outstanding students studying agricultural biotechnology. This scholarship aims to nurture and encourage the engagement of young talents in the development of agricultural biotechnology and products thereof to support farmers.”  How noble but I wish the source of funding weren’t an entity that was once voted the Most Evil Corporation of the Year and which happens to have an unsavory “Vietnam connection.”  Audacity (the Yiddish word “chutzpah” also comes to mind) is the correct word to describe this charm offensive.

[I once advised a well-known student organization that they should be careful who they take money from in the form of corporate sponsorship.  One example was an organization that promotes the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products.  The moral of the story is choose carefully and ethically, when it comes to sponsorship.]

At first glance, I had a visceral reaction to the obscene symbolic and practical significance of  this scholarship program, sponsored by Monsanto, one of the companies that gave the world – and profited handsomely from – Agent Orange  (AO) and is now reaping huge profits from highly controversial genetically modified (GM) crops.  For a paltry $70,000, rounded down, they have bought their way into the Vietnam University of Agriculture and the country’s media, a wolf in sheep’s clothing – in more than one media reference – with a Trojan horse approach to improving the bottom line, so to speak.

Keeping in mind that Monsanto’s 2013 revenue was nearly $15 billion, I wonder what the ROI will be on that 70k?  Monsanto execs must be smiling like a Cheshire cat at how easy it is to buy access and influence in a country that was once on the receiving end of one of its most infamous products, a country that continues to pay a steep price in environmental degradation and human suffering, as do US war veterans and others exposed to AO.

If the world were just, Monsanto is one of a number of multinational companies of US origin that would be forced to compensate the millions of victims – here, in the US and elsewhere – for the multi-generational effects of one of their marquee products, Agent Orange, rather than being given the opportunity to (once again) profit from Vietnam.   If they want to curry favor with the public here and massage global public opinion, why not establish a multimillion dollar grant program for AO victims, all four generations of them?  No need to accept any responsibility, just make the lives of these people more bearable, less painful, more livable.  Just do the right thing.

Monsanto has two offices in Vietnam.  Note:  Dekalb is a Monsanto subsidiary.

Unit 1303, Floor 13, Centec Tower
72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street
Ward 6, District 3
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Phone: (84-8) 3823 3470 -76
Fax: (84-8) 3823 3473 – 3823 3469

10th Floor, 442 Doi Can Street
Cong Vi Ward, Ba Dinh District,
Ha Noi City, Vietnam
Phone: (84-4) 3762 1146
Fax: (84-4) 3762 1149


The Audacity of Monsanto and the Short Memory of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture

by Chuck Palazzo

 In a recent article, Monsanto and the Vietnam University of Agriculture announced:

“…a pledge of VND 1.5 billion scholarship for outstanding students studying agricultural biotechnology. This scholarship aims to nurture and encourage the engagement of young talents in the development of agricultural biotechnology and products thereof to support farmers.”

As I read this, several ethical questions immediately came to mind. Could it possibly be that the same Monsanto that manufactured one of the most disastrous herbicides in history, Agent Orange, has been allowed to resurface in Vietnam in the guise of agriculture? To be more precise – GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms and Seeds?  That is exactly what has occurred.  According to various estimates, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 11 to 12 million gallons of Agent Orange over nearly 10% of then-South Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. One scientific study estimated that between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange. Vietnamese advocacy groups claim that there are over 3 million Vietnamese suffering from health problems caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange.

Yes, the same Monsanto which, according to their own website, states: “At the time the herbicides were used, there was little consideration within the U.S. military about potential long-term environmental and health effects of the widespread use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.  As a result, the governments that were involved most often take responsibility for resolving any consequences of the Vietnam War, including any relating to the use of Agent Orange. U.S. courts have determined that wartime contractors (such as the former Monsanto) who produced Agent Orange for the government are not responsible for damage claims associated with the chemistry.”

OK, Monsanto, agreed that you were and continue to be complicit with the US Government. OK, it’s convenient for Monsanto and the other manufacturers of Agent Orange to hide behind the US courts. But is it OK for this same Monsanto, which lied to the public about the deadly effects of Agent Orange, be allowed to return to Vietnam under the guise of improving agriculture? Is it OK for this same company that has been responsible for some of the worst chemical concoctions known to man (PCBs is another example) are now held in such high esteem that the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture awards them The Sustainable Agriculture Company Award? Sustainability? GMO’s do not contribute to the sustainability of agriculture or anything else for that matter. To make matters worse, some of the same components used in Agent Orange are also being genetically implanted into GMO seeds – for human consumption. Other GMO seeds have been developed to withstand mega-doses of herbicides without killing the crop itself – albeit, the chemicals will saturate and ultimately destroy the surrounding environment. This is clearly NOT sustainability.

Nguyen Hong Loi and child born without eyes in Agent Orange children's ward at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Nguyen Hong Loi, 24, cares for a child born without eyes in the Agent Orange children’s ward of Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. About 500 of the 60,000 children delivered each year at the maternity hospital, Vietnam’s largest, are born with deformities, some because of Agent Orange, according to doctors. May 1, 2013. Photo: Drew Brown (

Monsanto has not compensated any victim of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the US, or anywhere around the world for the death and destruction this corporate giant has been responsible for over the years. They refuse to. They hide behind US laws, which, in my opinion are a disgrace, as evidenced by my own fellow American veterans who continue to die as a result of their own exposure to Agent Orange and the countless Vietnamese victims who I see and advocate for daily, many of whom are 2nd and 3rd generation victims.

Monsanto is an incredibly large, multinational company that has the financial capability to do as they please – in the US, in Vietnam and throughout the world. GMO’s do not resolve the world hunger problems; they do not resolve drought-related issues. Poor farmers around the world enter into contracts with Monsanto that ensure the seeds they use are destroyed at the end of each season – forcing the farmer to continue to buy seeds from Monsanto. Yep, control the food and you will control the people.

What about food sovereignty? There is none as long as Monsanto is part of the agricultural food chain in Vietnam and anywhere their seeds are being used.

Sure, let us recognize talent in our universities and grant awards and scholarships based on academic achievement.   But not by using the blood money Monsanto has granted to the Ministry of Agriculture, paid in part by profits earned from the Agent Orange they manufactured and sold to the U.S. Government during the American War. The same Vietnam that was saturated with Agent Orange. The same Vietnam whose victims of Agent Orange who, now very well into the 3rd generation, continue to suffer and die, for very likely, many more years to come.

Not All US Higher Education Fairs Are Created Equal: Part I

Posted 19/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary, Events

Tags: , , , ,
A Capstone StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs, at which nearly 100% of the representatives are from the home institutions.

A Capstone StudyUSA Higher Education Fair, at which the overwhelming majority of representatives are from the participating institutions.

What’s in a name?  When parents and students make the decision to attend a US higher education fair, what are their expectations regarding who will be sitting behind the nicely decorated tables?

  1. To enter the ballroom and see a group of mostly student volunteers representing US institutions of higher education; or.
  2. To have the opportunity to meet with official representatives of  US colleges and universities.


Color me transparent but companies that organize and advertise fairs at which educational institutions are represented mostly by local student volunteers are cheating students, parents and other members of the public who come seeking accurate and detailed information from bona fide representatives of the home institutions.  Even though higher education fairs are free and open to the public, attendees not getting what they paid for in terms of time and effort expended to travel to the hotels that host these events if they only have the opportunity to meet with mostly Vietnamese student volunteers.

Of Dog & Pony Shows

The companies that put on these dog and pony shows are some of the same ones that bus students to fairs to artificially inflate attendance, hire companies to pay “students” to attend the fair, buy “likes’ for their Facebook fanpages rather than growing them organically, try to inflate the number of upvotes on its YouTube videos (without realizing that Google has technology to monitor viewer activity and prevent this type of fraud – just Google “YouTube” and “301+” to learn more), use the names of well-known companies in Google AdWords in a lame attempt to drive traffic to their websites,  etc.  It’s all smoke and mirrors, a disturbing pattern of deception.

Only those foreign higher education fairs that have at least, say, 75% foreign representatives should be permitted to use the name.  Others should be forced to explain the truth about their faux fairs, including a disclaimer on their website and in all advertising.  (A guy can dream, can’t he?)  Anything less is fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting students and parents.




Workshop on Higher Education Admission Reform in Vietnam

Posted 10/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Conferences

Tags: , , ,

On Saturday, 27 September, I participated in a workshop on the reform of Vietnam’s higher education admission system hosted by Vietnam National University-Hanoi.  The workshop, which was led by VNU-Hanoi President Phùng Xuân Nhạ and Vice President Nguyễn Kim Sơn, received extensive print and electronic media coverage.  For those of you who read Vietnamese, here is a sampling of articles:

Nhiều trường ĐH sẵn sàng tham gia phương án đổi mới TS của ĐHQGHN (VNU-Hanoi)

Hội thảo về đổi mới tuyển sinh đại học, sau đại học theo hướng đánh giá năng lực (Quân đội nhân dân)

Nhiều trường “tốp trên” sẽ thực hiện phương án thi đánh giá năng lực (Dân trí)

Các chuyên gia nói gì về phương án thi đại học 2015 của ĐHQG Hà Nội?  (Infonet)

Đổi mới tuyển sinh ĐH theo hướng đánh giá năng lực (Pháp Luật thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)

GS Bành Tiến Long và TS Mark (thứ nhất và thứ 2 từ phải sang) đánh giá cao phương án đổi mới thi bằng bài thi đánh giá năng lực của ĐHQG Hà Nội. Ảnh: Bùi Tuấn. (Source:

GS Bành Tiến Long và TS Mark (thứ nhất và thứ 2 từ phải sang) đánh giá cao phương án đổi mới thi bằng bài thi đánh giá năng lực của ĐHQG Hà Nội. Ảnh: Bùi Tuấn. (Source:

  (Ảnh) Một số hình ảnh Hội thảo “Đổi mới tuyển sinh đại học, sau đại học theo hướng đánh giá năng lực: thực tiễn triển khai thí điểm ở ĐHQHN” (Photos from VNU-Hanoi)



The Geography of Foreign Students in U.S. Higher Education: Origins and Destinations

Posted 23/09/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary, Reports

Tags: , , , ,

Below is an excerpt from a 10 September 2014 ICEF Monitor article about an excellent Brookings Institution study of international student flows to the U.S. with detailed information and useful analyses.  Start with the article and, when you have time, print off and read the entire report.  I’ll be back soon with an analysis of Vietnamese students, including sending and destination cities and popular fields of study.


A new study by the Brookings Institute, The geography of foreign students in US higher education, goes beyond collecting data on international students in America to offer fascinating insights on:

  • The metropolitan centres international students are choosing to study in – and often, to stay in to work after graduation;
  • The international cities sending the most students to the US.

In this article we’ll explore some of the most important findings from this interesting new take on US student data.

Steady growth in international student numbers

quick note on the methodology of the report: the primary data source was US Immigration and Customs Enforcement I-20 forms from 2001–2012, in particular the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS – PDF) data submitted by US schools with foreign students enrolled under F-1 visas. The Brookings Institute then filtered the sample to include only:

  • F-1 international students in bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral programmes;
  • F-1 international students in metropolitan and global cities with “at least 1,500 F-1 visa approvals over the 2008 to 2012 period”, which yielded “a final list of 118 US high F-1 visa metropolitan areas and 94 global high F-1 source cities and hometowns.”

Given these restrictions, the Brookings report counts 524,000 international students in the US in 2012, versus SEVIS’s 2012 total of 858,180 F-1 and M-1 students in the US for that year. (SEVIS is now reporting 966,333 F-1 and M-1 students studying in the US as of July 2014.)

The main point for the purposes of this article is that the Brookings report and the overall SEVIS data show notable growth in international student numbers in the US. According to the Brookings methodology:

“The number of foreign students on F-1 visas in US colleges and universities grew dramatically from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012.”

The report notes that the biggest increases come from sending countries considered “emerging markets,” such as China and Saudi Arabia.

Why the focus on metropolitan centres and sending cities is interesting

s much as has been written about the cultural and economic benefits of international students for host universities and local communities, there is much room for discussion on the wider implications of hosting international students. In short, international students can provide long-term links to the key global regions from which they originate, whether these links are research-oriented, diplomatic, or economic.

The Brookings Institute notes the following areas of potential impact:

  • International students can be “valuable assets to local business communities that are seeking to expand globally.” They cite the IT sector, where “immigrant entrepreneur networks play a critical role in technology industries’ international expansion, linking Silicon Valley to new technology hubs in Bangalore (India), Hsinchu Science Park (Taiwan), and Shanghai (China).
  • “Migrants can increase the availability of valuable market information for exporters from origin-and destination-countries, find buyers, learn about regulatory requirements and overcome market imperfections.”
  • International students, if successfully attracted and retained post-graduation, can allow the US to “tap powerful diaspora networks around the globe.”

Those American cities with significant numbers of international students are the best placed to enjoy such benefits – particularly when the cities also contain exciting work opportunities for foreign graduates. A key consideration here is the limited extent (currently) to which US immigration laws allow talented international students to remain in the country to work post-graduation.

Where Students Go

The Brookings Institute found that from 2008 to 2012, “85% of foreign students pursuing a bachelor’s degree or above attended colleges and universities in 118 metro areas that collectively accounted for 73% of US higher education students.”

Some metropolitan areas command very significant proportions of that 85%:

“The New York metropolitan area had by far the highest number of F-1 visa approvals: more than 100,000 over the 2008-2012 period, accounting for more than 8% of national F-1 approvals. Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington made up the remaining top five metro areas, each with between 35,000 and 70,000 F-1 visa approvals. The 10 metro areas with the most F-1 visa approvals together accounted for 36% of all approvals; these metro areas also represent some of the largest by population.”


Map: 118 U.S. Metro Areas with at Least 1,500 Foreign Students, 2008–2012

Map: 118 U.S. Metro Areas with at Least 1,500 Foreign Students, 2008–2012

International Student Recruitment Agencies: A Guide for Schools, Colleges and Universities

Posted 21/09/2014 by maavn
Categories: Reports

Tags: , , ,

nacac-logoCongratulations to NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) for producing a guide about how to work with education agents! As more and more US colleges and universities look beyond the borders of the US for students, International Student Recruitment Agencies: A Guide for Schools, Colleges and Universities, will help them to navigate the sometimes rocky shoals of international student recruitment.

NACAC describes the guide  as “a new publication that details concrete steps institutions can take to engage with agencies responsibly. The guide addresses the following steps to sound practice:

  • assessing campus readiness to engage in agency-based international student recruitment
  • establishing institutional protocols for work with agencies and policy
  • developing a contract, with special emphasis on institutional and student protections
  • identifying and vetting prospective agency partners
  • creating an agency manual and delivering trainings
  • monitoring agency performance assessment.

An executive summary and/or the full guide can be downloaded from the NACAC website.

pie news logoFor a summary, check out this article from The PIE News entitled NACAC publishes guide on how to work with agents, from which an excerpt appears below.

NACAC unveiled details of its guide, International Student Recruitment Agencies, on the eve of its 70th national conference, where it will be presented to its membership.

Eddie West, Director of International Initiatives at NACAC, explained that the guide (available online) was planned when NACAC initially revised its Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP) to permit members to use commission-based recruitment practices when working internationally (this practice is not permitted domestically).

“The Assembly felt the association needed to do more than just allow the activity, given the many risks involved, and that it also needed to better define what’s meant by the three principles [of accountability, transparency and integrity that NACAC states must be employed if working with agencies],” he told The PIE News.

“Repairs to cable break disrupting Vietnam’s Internet to take nearly 20 days”

Posted 20/09/2014 by maavn
Categories: Articles


Ouch!  The Internet is not just a place to read the news, download music, catch up on the latest gossip or play games; it’s also where business is increasingly conducted.  This latest cable break reminds me of a line from the classic movie Groundhog Day in which Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is trying to place a  call to Pittsburgh to make his escape from Punxsutawney, PA but all of the phone lines are down because of a major snowstorm:  Come on, *all* the long distance lines are down? What about the satellite? Is it snowing in space?  Bottom line – we are, for better and for worse, reliant upon the Internet and dependent upon a 20,000-kilometer-long submarine communications cable system that connects Southeast Asia with the US mainland, across the Pacific Ocean via Guam and Hawaii.


Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre News

Internet users in Vietnam will have to suffer slow connection speeds for at least 18 more days, as repairs to the undersea cable system, part of which broke down on Monday, can only begin on September 29 and will take a week to finish, a telecom firm said Wednesday.

Repair work is expected to be greatly affected by foul weather, especially Typhoon Kalmaegi, FPT Telecom general director, Nguyen Van Khoa, told tech newswire ICTNews.

Follow this link to read the rest of this 18.9.14 Tuoi Tre News article and say a prayer for good weather in the coming two weeks in the East Sea!



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