I was invited to speak to a delegation from Washington state that was here under the auspices of the 2014 International Leadership Mission to Vietnam. My audience consisted of representatives from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, including Associates in Cultural Exchange, Boeing, Cascadia Consulting Group, Highline Community College, Microsoft, Seattle Central Community College, Seattle Metro Chamber, Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the University of Washington, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Washington State University and various county governments, among others.
My topic was Vietnam, Washington State & Educational Exchange, including an overview of recent history (“so far, so fast”), key indicators of quality of life and the various challenges that Vietnam faces as a rapidly developing country (e.g., economic growth vs. sustainable development), a discussion of Vietnam-U.S. higher education exchange with an emphasis on the flow of Vietnamese students to the U.S., the special relationship between Washington (WA) and Vietnam (think apples, Boeing, cherries, Microsoft, potatoes, Starbucks, to mention some examples), and WA as a top three destination for Vietnamese students.
After noting that seven (7) out of 41 schools from 20 states that joined Capstone Vietnam’s spring StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs were from WA and that nearly 11% of all Vietnamese students were enrolled in Washington colleges and universities last year, I described what I refer to as the “Washington Advantage”:
- Recruitment efforts of its colleges and universities
- High school completion program (aka Running Start)
- Word-of-mouth marketing
- Family ties
WA institutions of higher education, especially its community colleges, have been coming to Vietnam for a long time in search of students. One of the major draws for parents is the state’s high school completion program, which allows students to earn a WA high school diploma and an associate’s degree in two years, normally, i.e., killing two academic birds with one stone. Another reason so many Vietnamese students choose WA as an overseas study destination is that so many have gone before them and spread the word. Finally, as the 11th largest Vietnamese-American community in the U.S., some students stay with relatives in the area, thereby saving even more money.
While we didn’t have enough time to discuss other opportunities in education and beyond (e.g., medicine, IT), my hope is that many delegates will follow up with the new contacts they made during their time in Vietnam, and be inspired to think of new ideas and mutually beneficial ways of becoming involved in Vietnam’s development.