Omnes semitae eius pacificae, which means All Her Paths Are Peace. (From the CSS College Crest)
It’s unusual for a US institution of higher education to send a delegation consisting of its president, a dean and a director of international education to Vietnam. For an entire week. But that’s exactly what The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) did in March. CSS, which was founded in 1912, is a Catholic (Benedictine) institution located in Duluth, Minnesota (MN), where it is situated in a 200-acre forest overlooking Lake Superior. U.S. News & World Report magazine consistently ranks the college among the best colleges and universities in the region for academic excellence. The Washington Post named St. Scholastica one of the “hidden gems” in US higher education based on rankings done by college advisors from across the country. Here are some more CSS facts and figures:
- programs in the sciences, management, international business, psychology, mathematics, computer information science, economics, communications, marketing, business, social work and many other traditional liberal arts and humanities majors
- total enrollment of 4,100 students across five campuses in MN evenly divided between traditional undergraduates in Duluth and non-traditional students in graduate programs, accelerated evening programs and online programs at all five campuses
- 140 students from more than 40 countries
Who and Why
- Dr. Larry Goodwin, President
- Dr. Kurt Linberg, Dean, School of Business and Technology
- Mr. Thomas Homan, Director of International Education
The purpose of their trip was “to gain a better understanding of the education landscape in Vietnam and the opportunities available not only to recruit students but also relative to study abroad opportunities for our own students and faculty. Our hope is to come away with a better understanding of Vietnam, its institutions, its national and domestic concerns and its student populations.”
As Dr. Goodwin wrote in an article that recently appeared in a college publication, this was more than a business trip; it was personal. Forty three years ago I was a reluctant warrior stationed in Quang Tri just south of the DMZ, interrogating captured and wounded North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong at a brigade field hospital. During my year deployment, I met ‘the enemy,’ men swept up, like me, in the unfolding struggle. I spent three days with a high school mathematics teacher from Hanoi, a husband and father, with whom I might have been friends in other circumstances. I saw grievously wounded men, one in my arms, die.
Then a young soldier; now a seasoned educator. This return was a chance to join two chapters of my life together, to connect me to myself. I will be processing impressions and feelings for a long time, but one thing is already absolutely clear: This journey only deepened my conviction about the importance of the St. Scholastica mission. Catholic Benedictine education is about the transformation of the human person; for us, education is a moral as well as an intellectual project. Clear and critical thinking is important; so are imagination, compassion and courage. Whole-person education really matters.
My staff and I had the privilege of spending the entire week with our CSS colleagues. For them it was the ultimate experiential learning opportunity, the bookends of which consisted of a HCMC airport pick-up on Saturday evening and a Hanoi departure Sunday a week later.
During that time, they had a country briefing, met with an American high school teacher and his class at a well-known Vietnamese school, spoke with US Commercial Service colleagues in the Consulate General, visited the University of Economics – HCMC, Ton Duc Thang University, the Vietnam International Education Development (VIED) division of the Ministry of Education and Training, two Hanoi universities and two highly regarded high schools, along with meetings at the US Embassy, AmCham-Hanoi, and with a US expat who runs a successful software engineering firm.
In addition, they participated in a TV show taping and an information exchange with students in Capstone’s HCMC office, as well as an information session for interested students and parents in our Hanoi office to wrap up the week. Dr. Goodwin made a side trip to Quang Tri province via Hue that weekend while Dr. Linberg and Mr. Homan traveled to Ha Long Bay.
That eventful week was a crash course in Vietnamese society and culture that provided our colleagues with the opportunity to meet with a variety of people in the education and business sectors, all of which will help them decide what role Vietnam should play in the College’s internationalization strategy and what the next steps for CSS should be in Vietnam.