Dealing with the Elephant in the Room: US Nationalism


I will be participating in a session, along with Ryan Buck, Texas State University, and Lee Lambert, Pima Community College (AZ) on US nationalism as an obstacle to the development of global citizenship at the 2017 AIEA (Association of International Education Administrators) annual conference, which takes places from 19-22 February in Washington, D.C.

Nationalism stands in the way of creating global citizens, but it is the subject few involved in international education in the United States want to speak about.  This session focuses on an essential yet neglected facet of international education, as it applies to both US American and international students: a mindset that transcends competencies and skill sets, how to overcome nationalism in pursuit of global citizenship.

Lee has been Chancellor of Pima Community College since July 1, 2013. Before coming to PCC, Lee was President of Shoreline Community College in Shoreline, WA. He also has served as Vice President for Human Resources and Legal Affairs at Centralia College in Centralia, Wash., and as Special Assistant to the President for Civil Rights and Legal Affairs at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.

Ryan is Assistant Vice President for International Affairs at Texas State University.  Before joining Texas State University, he served as the Executive Director of International Student Affairs at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. His portfolio included International Student and Scholar Services, International Education and Global Engagement (study abroad), international marketing and outreach, international admissions, the American Language Academy, and international partnerships, agreements and programs.

The 2017 AIEA Annual Conference focuses on the interplay between boundaries and connections in internationalization. International education leaders must negotiate boundaries due to cultural differences, wide-ranging institutional structures, divergent motivations and meanings, and distinct resource allocations – all of which vary from institution to institution, and nation to nation.

Boundaries create silos which, as Gillian Tett explains (in The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, 2015, Simon & Schuster), present both problems and possibilities for advancement. Silos can create blinders and tunnel vision, discourage progressive thinking, reinforce status hierarchies, and foster skill sets that are epistemologically static and difficult to expand.

On the other hand, utilizing and sometimes repositioning silos can be productive by encouraging strategic thinking and avoiding inward looking approaches and proprietary impasses. (Source:  AIEA website)



Capstone Vietnam is 2015 VietAbroader Conference Event Sponsor

My employer, Capstone Vietnam is the event sponsor of the 2015 VietAbroader Conferences, which will be held – for the first time ever – in seven (7) cities representing all three regions of Vietnam.  These include Can Tho, Danang, Haiphong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Hue and Nghe An.

vac 2015While VietAbroader (VA), Vietnam’s premier student-run organization focusing on overseas study and study in the USA, in particular, celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, this summer is the 10th year that VA has organized study abroad conferences that offer a select group of students and parents the opportunity to learn more about study in the US from the best sources of information, current students, alumni and US higher education colleagues, and then attend afternoon US higher education fairs that are free and open to the public.

Capstone Vietnam will send staff to events in all seven (7) cities this month.  We’re grateful for the opportunity to support one of Vietnam’s top student organizations doing great work in the field of international educational exchange and are excited about the chance to meet students and parents from all over the country who are interested in StudyUSA.

empower vietnamese youthI’ve been a strong supporter of VietAbroader since its founding in 2004, and have served as a adviser ever since.  I’m proud of VietAbroader’s movers and shakers, including those who have long since graduated and become successful entrepreneurs and exemplary role models in a variety of fields here in Vietnam and elsewhere.


International Recruitment Tools and Techniques: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

ac15_homepagehighlight_224x116I’m looking forward to participating in a general session of interest to colleagues involved in international student recruitment entitled International Recruitment Tools and Techniques: One Size Doesn’t Fit All. This session is part of the Practitioner Toolbox Track.

Session Description With the demographic downturn in the United States and increased competition for international students, growing numbers of institutions are recruiting internationally. This session, rooted in the realization that each school is different in terms of staffing and budget, provides an overview of best practices related to international recruitment.

Chair & Presenter(s):

Judy Irwin

Managing Director, Connect Globally, Rockville, Maryland


Mark A. Ashwill, PhD

Managing Director, Capstone Vietnam, Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam

Mark Hallett, M.S.

Senior Director, International Student & Scholar Services, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colorado

Jennifer Falzerano, M.Ed

Director of International Programs, Lane Community College, Eugene, Oregon

Follow these links for more session information and to visit the session blog.

Whether or not you’re planning to attend the NAFSA annual conference and our session, I would like to request your assistance in sharing some information about your international recruitment activities by completing a short 10-question survey.  If we receive enough responses, we’ll share the information at the session and on the session blog.  Thanks!



The 7th “Engaging with Vietnam – An Interdisciplinary Dialogue” Conference

 in combination with The First Vietnam-US Higher Education Forum

engaging with vn

I am pleased to share this announcement from the organizers of The 7th “Engaging with Vietnam – An Interdisciplinary Dialogue” Conference in combination with The First Vietnam-US Higher Education Forum. This two-day event will attract Vietnam scholars and other experts from Vietnam and all over the world.  For the first time, there is a one-day pre-conference forum devoted to Vietnam-US higher education and I’m honored to be one of the speakers.

July 7-8, 2015

33A Pham Ngu Lao, Hanoi, Vietnam

Organization partners:

University of Hawaii at Manoa – USA

Hanoi University of Business and Technology- Vietnam

Portland State University – USA

In addition to the partners listed above, the forum and conference will be co-hosted by Monash University, the East-West Center, Thai Nguyen University, the University of Oregon and the US Mission Vietnam.
Sponsors include the Australian Embassy-Vietnam, the Australian Consulate-General in Honolulu, Vietnam Airlines and CJ Travel.

This year the 7th Engaging with Vietnam Conference will join the U.S. Mission and Vietnam partners in commemorating the past, present and future of relations between the two countries. The conference will dedicate day one day to the 1st Vietnam-US Higher Education Forum, which hopefully will be annual from now on. You are invited to this exciting two-day event this July in Hanoi!

Day 1: The 1st Vietnam-US Higher Education Forum

Theme: The Internationalization of Higher Education: Policies and Practices

Organizing Committee: Phan Le Ha (University of Hawaii at Manoa), Dang Van Huan (Portland State University), and Nguyen Ngoc Hung (Hanoi University of Business and Technology)

Presentations on Day 1 are solicited by invitation only. Attendance is open to all via registration on the website.

Day 2: The 7th Engaging with Vietnam Conference

Theme:  Knowledge Journeys and Journeying Knowledge

The Engaging with Vietnam conference series has been, since the time of its inception, interested in the production of knowledge about Vietnam. This interest stems from the realization that the knowledge that people produce about Vietnam depends on many factors, such as where people are located and what they know. Put simply, people inside of Vietnam and people outside of Vietnam approach the study of Vietnam with different ideas, and come to different conclusions. This dichotomy is then complicated by the fact that people inside of Vietnam journey to places outside of the country to study, and people from outside of Vietnam journey to Vietnam to study and conduct research.  These physical journeys lead to intellectual journeys that change people’s ideas, something that we can call “knowledge journeys.”

At the same time, academic theories from around the globe (China, France, Russia, North America, etc.) have journeyed all over the world in recent decades as well and have changed the way people think too. We can call these mobile theories “journeying knowledge.”

The Seventh Engaging With Vietnam – An Interdisciplinary Dialogue Conference seeks to examine both of these phenomena – knowledge journeys and journeying knowledge – in an effort to understand how they influence the way that people produce knowledge about Vietnam.

With this in mind, we would like to invite you to participate in the Seventh Engaging with Vietnam Conference. Please refer to the website for more details.

Engaging with Vietnam Founder:  Phan Le Ha

Conference Chairs and Convenors:  Phan Le Ha & Liam Kelley (University of Hawaii at Manoa) & Nguyen Ngoc Hung & Pham Sy Tien (Hanoi University of Business and Technology)

The 10th VietAbroader Study Abroad Conferences Are Coming!

sac11-1024x683 (2015)Mark your summer calendar, U.S. higher education colleagues!  I’m pleased to announce that the main 2015 VietAbroader Conferences – Passing of the Torch will be held on Saturday, July 18th in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Sunday, July 19th in Hanoi.

For the first time ever, there will also be conferences in Hue (7/10), Haiphong and Can Tho (7/11), Nghe An and Danang (7/12). With this change VietAbroader demonstrates its commitment to reaching out to underserved communities, educating aspiring young people across Vietnam about U.S. study opportunities and providing them with accurate information and tools with which to make the best decisions for their future. This change will also enable U.S. institutions and schools reach out to a wider and more diverse pool of Vietnamese applicants in the coming years.

Other new features include the following:

  • Interactive Format: Guest speakers will share inspiring stories from applying to U.S. colleges to overcoming challenges abroad.
  • Comprehensive Information: Participants will be given handbooks with accurate, updated information on U.S. college admissions.

There are five (5) institutional sponsorship packages, including Diamond (5k), Platinum (4k), Gold (3k), Silver (2k) and Bronze (1k). (These costs are for Hanoi and HCMC only.) There is currently one Platinum slot left and the Gold, Silver and Bronze slots are wide open.  The registration deadline is May 15, 2015.

vac 2015Follow this link to download both sponsorship documents: Benefits Information for Institutional Sponsors and the Conference Proposal. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Thu Pham (anhthu.pham [AT], Co-President, or Ms. Thu Diem, Head of Partners & Sponsors, (anhthu.diem [AT]

The conferences include morning seminars that provide pre-screened attendees and their parents with information about U.S. education and fairs in the afternoon that are free and open to the public, where students and parents can meet face-to-face with currently enrolled students, alumni and official representatives of more than 100 U.S. institutions. Here is the tentative agenda (as of March 2015):

  • 08:00 –08:40    Check-in
  • 08:45–09:10     Opening Ceremony & Keynote Speech
  • 09:10 –09:30    Presentation: Why Study in the U.S.?
  • 09:30 –10:00    Experience Sharing: Opportunities & Challenges in the U.S.
  • 10:00 –10:30    Experience Sharing: Pursuing Your Dreams
  • 10:30 –10:45    Break
  • 10:45 –11:30    Discussion in Small groups
  • 11:30 –11:45    School Quizzes
  • 11:45 –12:00    Closing Ceremony
  • 12:00 –14:00    Lunch Break & Networking
  • 14:00 –17:00    College Fair with Representatives from Over 100 U.S. Institutions

What is VietAbroader (VA)?

Then US Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Michalak, and I after delivering introductory remarks at the 2009 VAC in Hanoi.

VA is Vietnam’s premier student-run nonprofit that provides students with information and guidance to encourage them to study abroad, primarily in the United States. The VA Study Abroad Conference (VAC), the organization’s flagship program, was launched in 2005. I had the honor of speaking at the first Hanoi conference. It is also my honor to serve as one of four VietAbroader advisers, a position I have held since the organization’s founding 11 years ago. When I joined the VA forum in 2004, before it evolved into a full-fledged student organization, there were only a few hundred members. There were over 80,000 when the forum was phased out last August in favor of Facebook and a more interactive website.

Every year, it is my pleasure to help VA’s leadership reach out to potential institutional sponsors. Why should U.S. colleges and universities that welcome Vietnamese students to their campuses consider becoming a VAC sponsor? Because it’s one of the most popular and widely publicized events of its kind, and will help you brand and market your school to a large and targeted audience.  Capstone Vietnam, of which I’m managing director, is a corporate sponsor of the VACs and a long-term VietAbroader partner, along with IDG Ventures Vietnam and EducationUSA.


Taking Vietnam to the Next Level: The Role of Education


I recently had the opportunity to speak to members of UPCEA at its 100th annual conference and post-conference international briefing with a focus on Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam – Higher Education in Context.  The University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education in the US.

Below a description of my international briefing presentation:

speaker2015 is a year of several noteworthy anniversaries in Vietnam of historical and personal significance.  40 years since the end of the war, 20 years since the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the US and 10 years since I moved to Hanoi.

This presentation will include information, insights and observations gleaned from nearly a decade of living and working in Vietnam as an educational entrepreneur, first for a US international education NGO whose slogan is Opening Minds to the World and, since 2009, for a Vietnamese educational consulting company whose slogan is Reaching New Heights.

The theme of the discussion is “taking Vietnam to the next level” – innovation over imitation, substance over image, veracity over veneer – and the contributions that education can make, including international educational exchange.  The latter includes student recruitment, student and faculty exchanges, study abroad programs, service learning and internships, education and training programs, including online, etc.

Vietnam is a country on the move.  Daunting obstacles overcome. Suffering redeemed. Phenomenal progress achieved. New summits yet to be conquered.  How can your institution benefit from incorporating Vietnam into its internationalization strategy?  What contributions can you make to help take Vietnam to the next level under the rubric of global service and in the spirit of doing well and doing good?

Jill Biden, one of my fellow speakers and wife of US Vice President Joe Biden.
Dr. Jill Biden, one of my fellow speakers and wife of US Vice President Joe Biden. Dr. Biden was the conference keynote speaker.

I also spoke at an innovation roundtable named after my blog (with an extra dose of “intrigue”!) and at a meeting of the UPCEA International Network about student recruitment in Vietnam.  Thank you, UPCEA, for the opportunity to speak to your members about two of my favorite topics, international education and Vietnam!





Keynote Address: “Intercultural Competence as a Cornerstone of Innovation”


I was honored to be invited to give the keynote address at the recent annual Conference of Business Innovation, organized by the FPT Leadership Institute.

First, a word about the parent company.  FPT, Vietnam’s leading technology company, was founded in 1988 as The Food Processing Technology Company.  Its first contract was  to provide computers for the Russian Academy of Sciences in partnership with Olivetti in 1989, which laid the groundwork for its IT department.  A year later, the company was renamed The Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technology and the rest, as they say, is history.  In addition to its dominant market position within Vietnam, FPT’s operations are global in scope, with clients or rep offices and companies in 16 foreign countries, including Laos, Cambodia, America, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Myanmar, France, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, United Kingdom, the Philippines, Kuwait, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Keynote Address

Since my topic was Intercultural Competence (IC) as a Cornerstone of Innovation (Mối giao thoa văn hóa là nền móng cho sự sáng tạo), I started off with some comments about innovation, which is a hot topic in Vietnam.  Just in the past week or so, I’ve seen media references such as “Vietnam Needs More Innovation:  Experts” and “Vietnam Needs to Foster Innovation to Sustain Growth, Report Says.”  I added that Vietnam needs innovation to foster sustainable development, which is more far important than growth in the long-term and for quality of life.  While there are many examples of innovation occurring in Vietnam, including at FPT, a copy and paste mentality is still prevalent, including in my industry.

conference graphic

During the remainder of my allotted time, i.e, one-hour, including 20 minutes for Q&A, which turned into a half hour, I briefly defined the concepts of innovation, culture, intercultural sensitivity (a mindset) and intercultural competence (a skill set), introduced the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), a framework that describes the different ways in which people can react to cultural differences organized into six “stages” of increasing sensitivity to difference, and offered an overview of a related tool that measures intercultural competence, the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).  I also mentioned foreign language proficiency as an integral component of IC, discussed ways in which people can develop IC, referred to some recent research that proves overseas experience makes us more flexible, creative and complex thinkers, pointed out some ways in which the US and Vietnam differ within this context (i.e., to Vietnam’s credit and advantage) and shared some useful resources.

The US and Vietnam:  A Study in Cultural Contrast

handbook of ic competenceIn discussing the contrast between Vietnam and the US, I drew from a co-authored book chapter entitled “Developing Globally Competent Citizens – The Contrasting Cases of the United States and Vietnam” (with Dương Thị Hoàng Oanh), which was published in 2009 in The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence (Darla Deardorff, editor).  One of the points we make is that nationalism, which is predominant in the US, is a cognitive and affective barrier to developing intercultural competence and global citizenship.  In Vietnam, where national identity is rooted in patriotism, it is easier to create globally competent citizens.  In general, young people here are more open, interested and curious about the world beyond their country’s borders and are not burdened by a nationalist worldview, or ideology, which exalts one country above all.

A Great Leader of a Global Project with a Multinational Team

A “bonus” was an overview of a case study about Sir Ernest Shackleton, a Anglo-Irish explorer, who participated in four expeditions to Antarctica in the early 20th century, of which he led three:  A Great Leader of a Global Project with a Multinational Team.  The story is as much about leadership as it is about leading a multinational team.  While Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17 failed, he succeeded in that he and his entire team survived the tragedy. (Source:  “Intercultural Competence in Business:  Leading Global Projects,” Robert T. Moran, William E. Youngdahl, and Sarah V. Moran; The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence, ed., Darla Deardorff).

pm-1 (maa)
Making a point. Photo: Hoàng Anh Tuấn

In Conclusion

Among the conclusions were:

  • IC gives you the ability to work successfully with clients around the world
  • IC can play a valuable role as a catalyst for innovation, including with multinational teams
  • IC can give you a competitive advantage in working with foreign clients and partners

Participants ask a number of excellent questions, including some of my impressions of Vietnam after living here for nearly 10 years, ways in which Capstone Vietnam been innovative, some related to IC, others not.  I was gratified to see so much interest in IC on the part of FPT.  It’s not surprising, given the company’s international operations and its focus on innovation.  Just as FPT has been a trailblazer as Vietnam’s leading ITC company, it’s exciting to think that perhaps it will be a trendsetter in this area as well.

Article in Vietnamese:  ‘Giao thoa văn hóa thúc đẩy sự sáng tạo’ (29.11.14)  If you don’t read Vietnamese, just use a service like Google Translate to get the gist.