US-Vietnam Educational Exchanges: Impact and Prospects


Plenary Session

On Friday, 10 December, I attended a conference in Hanoi for US Government exchange alumni (e.g., Fulbright, VEF, etc.) .   The conference was open to the public and to all US Department of State alumni who have participated in a U.S. Government-funded exchange program from Vietnam.  The US Embassy-Hanoi billed it as “an opportunity for the public to learn about the benefits of US-Vietnam Educational Exchange Programs and help alumni to meet, share memories and exchange ideas.” 

To my knowledge, this was the first ever event of its kind for all USG exchange alumni – not just Fulbrighters or VEF alumni.  I’ve been around awhile but I’m not all-knowing, so corrections and clarifications are welcome.  The only alumni conference for all US-educated Vietnamese of which I’m aware is one I helped to organize in July 2009 when I was country director of the Institute of International Education-Vietnam.  There’s an article entitled First Annual EducationUSA Alumni Conference held in HCMC  (PDF) on p. 11 of the March 2010 issue of Vietnamese State Alumni Newsletter that includes some unattributed quotes from my opening remarks. 

Below are the agenda and session descriptions from US-Vietnam Educational Exchanges: Impact and Prospects.

 08:00 – 09:00: Registration

09:00 – 10:00: Opening and Plenary Session:  Included Ambassador Michael Michalak, Dr. Hoang Ngoc Giao, Vice Director, Institute of Policy, Law and Development, Mr. Trinh Thanh Hai, Independent Management Consultant, and David Moyer, Assistant Public Affairs Officer, US Embassy Hanoi. 

10:00 – 10:15: Tea-break

10:15 – 11:45: Break-out Sessions

Session 1:       Introduction to U.S. Higher Education and U.S. Government sponsored scholarships (Language: Vietnamese)
Designed for students, scholars and professionals who are interested in studying, doing research and participating in a U.S. Government professional exchange in the U.S. Program officers from the U.S. Embassy, the Fulbright Program, EducationUSA and Vietnam Education Foundation will introduce a wide range of scholarship opportunities as well as their application processes.

Moderator:  Mr. Ngo Dinh Quynh, Cultural Affairs Specialist

Panelists: 

  • Ms. Vu Quynh Nga, Fulbright Program Director, US Embassy Hanoi
  • Ms. Nguyen Dang Minh Chinh, Cultural Affairs Assistant, US Embassy Hanoi
  • Ms. Bui Hanh, Program Assistant, Vietnam Education Foundation
  • Ms. Nguyen Le Huyen, Education Adviser, US Embassy Hanoi

Session 2:       Student and Professional Exchanges: Experience and Impact (Language: Vietnamese)
Designed for alumni and the public who are interested in learning about benefits of U.S. Government funded exchange programs for students and professionals. A panel of alumni from diverse background will discuss how their respective programs have changed their professional and personal lives.

Moderator:  Dr. Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, Lecturer, Department of International Studies, Vietnam National University

Panelists:

  • Ms. Nguyen Van Anh, Director, Center for Research and Application of Gender, Family and Adolescent Sciences (CSAGA)
  • Ms. Nguyen Pham Thu Uyen, Vice Head of News Section, Vietnam Television Center in HCMC
  • Dr. Can Van Luc, Senior Advisor to the Chairman, Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam
  • Ms. Nguyen Nhu Ngoc, Junior Leasing Executive, CBRE

Session 3:       The Importance of Scholar Exchange to support educational reform in Vietnam (Language: English)
Designed for scholars who are interested in doing research in the U.S. and for educational institutions who are interested in hosting American scholars. A panel of both American and Vietnamese scholars will discuss how US-Vietnam scholar exchange can support education development efforts in Vietnam.

Dr. Bui Phuong Lan, Vice Director, Institute of American Studies

Panelists: 

  • Mr. David Thomas, Executive Director, Indochina Arts Partnership
  • Dr. Do Van Xe, Vice Rector, Can Tho University
  • Prof. Nguyen Thuong Lang, Lecturer, Faculty of Commerce and International Economics, National Economics University
  • Assoc. Prof. Ngo Thi Xuyen, Coordinator of the Advanced Training Program, Hanoi University of Agriculture

Session 4:       “Once a Fulbrighter, Always a Fulbrighter” (Language: Vietnamese/English)
Designed for Fulbright alumni and prospective candidates. A panel of Fulbright alumni will discuss various networking opportunities among Fulbright returnees, how they can build on their Fulbright experience through mentoring, partnership and community service.

Moderator:  Ms. Nguyen Thi Thu Thao, Country Director, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation

Panelists:

  • Mr. Vu Tu Thanh, Representative, US-ASEAN Business Council
  • Ms. Do Minh Thuy, PR/Marketing Manager, Lien Viet Securities Company
  • Dr. Ha Van Sinh, Director, PTC Language Center Nha Trang
  • Mr. Doan Huu Duc, Chairman, Vietnam Consulting Group

18:30: Reception hosted by Ambassador Michael Michalak for US Government exchange alumni

This conference was one of Ambassador Michalak’s last education-related events.  Those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Mike Michalak wish him all the best in the next chapter of his professional life.  Unlike some other ambassadors I have known, Ambassador Michalak was open, friendly, down-to-earth, and had a sense of humor that served him well.  He connected with the Vietnamese people, the supreme compliment for any diplomat.

Chúc sức khỏe! Cheers! Toasting with several generations of US-educated Vietnamese at the 1st alumni conference in July 2009 in HCMC.
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