Happy 10th Birthday, Capstone Vietnam!

Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc (Independence – Freedom – Happiness)

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10 years ago this week Capstone Vietnam, now one of Viet Nam’s premier full-service educational consulting companies, was established in Hanoi. That was a time when our vision, mission and values were still taking shape and the groundwork being laid for our future work.  Since 2012, we have had an office in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and a nationwide presence through various events and activities, both on- and offline.

recruit in vnWhile our official slogan is Reaching New Heights, which is related to our company name, Capstone, meaning a “high point” or “crowning achievement,” we are also inspired by this unattributed saying, Success Without Integrity is Failure. This sentiment will continue to guide Capstone’s work for the next 10 years.

10 year logoWe’re grateful to the many clients, both individual and institutional, and our partners, who have placed their trust in us, as well as staff who have contributed to the success of Capstone Vietnam, over the past decade.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, our development and growth have paralleled that of Viet Nam, in some respects.  I included Viet Nam’s national motto above because it also applies to private sector companies that are given sufficient leeway and flexibility to carve out a niche in the market, make contributions, and do what they do best. 

One testament to our Capstone’s success is that other companies have copied our business model in the spirit of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.  On the dark side, this copy and paste mentality also reflects a decided lack of creativity and intelligence among some in this and other industries.  As you know, this tendency is not unique to Viet Nam.  

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Capstone student volunteers promoting our fall StudyUSA & Canada Higher Education Fairs – with smiles on their faces!

If the spirit moves you, raise your glass, alcoholic beverage or not, and make a toast to independence, freedom, and happiness in the field of international education in the private sector.  Chúc mừng sinh nhật lần thứ 10, Capstone Việt Nam!

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam

For the people of Vietnam, who were just beginning to recover from five years of ruthless economic exploitation by the Japanese, the end of World War II promised to bring eighty years of French control to a close. As the League for the Independence of Vietnam (Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi), better known as the Viet Minh, Vietnamese patriots had fought against the Japanese invaders as well as the defeated French colonial authorities. With the support of rich and poor peasants, workers, businessmen, landlords, students, and intellectuals, the Viet Minh (led by Ho Chi Minh) had expanded throughout northern Vietnam where it established new local governments, redistributed some lands, and opened granaries to alleviate the famine. On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh square. The first lines of his speech repeated verbatim the famous second paragraph of the USA’s 1776 Declaration of Independence.

Source:  History Matter, George Mason University


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Photo courtesy of National Defence Journal

All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.”

Those are undeniable truths.

Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.

In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center and the South of Vietnam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united.

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood.

They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people.

To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.

In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people, and devastated our land.

They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank-notes and the export trade.

They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.

They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.

In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese Fascists violated Indochina’s territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.

Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation. On March 9, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.

On several occasions before March 9, the Vietminh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Vietminh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Caobang.

Notwithstanding all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese putsch of March 1945, the Vietminh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.

From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.

After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.

The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.

For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Vietnam and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.

The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country.

We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.

A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eight years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent.

For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.


This speech was given on 2 September 1945 at Ba Đình Square by Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Viet Minh, who declared Vietnam’s independence under the new name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) in a speech that invoked the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Source: Ho Chi Minh, Selected Works Vol. 3, (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960–62), 17–21.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Mark Ashwill to Lead 4th Annual Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar at NAFSA 2019

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Capstone Vietnam is pleased to announce that Dr. Mark Ashwill, managing director and co-founder, will speak at an unofficial, pre-conference Viet Nam student recruitment seminar to be held on Monday, May 27, 2019 in Washington, D.C.   

The Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar consists of a comprehensive overview of current market conditions, recruitment tools and techniques, and different types of recruitment strategies, plus plenty of time for Q&A.  These are challenging times for international student recruitment, including in Viet Nam, with a rapidly changing market and more competition than ever. While more Vietnamese students are opting to study overseas, a perfect storm has been brewing for some host countries, combined with a growing list of positives and pull factors for others.

There are at least 200,000 young Vietnamese studying overseas in 50 or so countries and territories. Here are the top five (5) host countries, which play host to 87% of them (173,627).  

1. Japan (72,354, 2018);
2. USA (29,788, 8-18)
3. South Korea (27,061, 4-18)
4. Australia (24,094, 11-18) ; and
5. Canada (20,330, 12-18)

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Dr. Ashwill, who has lived in Viet Nam since 2005, talk about recruitment in this strategically important country.  The seminar will take place from 1-3 p.m. on Monday, May 27th in Washington, D.C.  It is open to any education colleague who recruits in Viet Nam.  (US higher education colleagues must represent regionally accredited institutions.)  

There will be plenty of time for Q&A during and after the informal discussion. This special event promises to be a productive and enjoyable way to kick off NAFSA 2019! 

The seminar is free of charge and refreshments will be served.  Online registration is required.  The exact location will be sent to all confirmed participants.  

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A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship!image001

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from Viet Nam!

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Beyond Viet Nam:  A Time to Break Silence, a speech Dr. King gave at the Riverside Church in New York City on 4 April 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated is always worth a read and a listen on this or any other day:  text and audio.  His friendship with Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Zen master, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist who is now back at his “root temple,” Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế in central Viet Nam, is one of the reasons he gave that seminal speech.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“Now What?” TedX Hanoi May Provide a Few Answers

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Here’s some information about the latest TedX Hanoi event on 19 January 2019 that will attempt to provide some answers to this very timely question.  

The signs of Vietnam’s amazing progress are all around us. Increased growth from Vietnamese companies, and increased investment from international firms, lead to better jobs and rising incomes. With a new high-rise on seemingly every corner, more and more families can afford high-quality housing, and cars to keep their loved ones safe. Increasing numbers of students are studying overseas, while private schools and local universities are rapidly innovating to keep up with this demand. Rising incomes and improved education have unleashed a burst of creative energy, evidenced in the cool  cafés, quirky restaurants, and innovative start-ups that populate Hanoi.

At the same time, these developments are uneven. The benefits of better housing, private vehicles, and private education are not shared by everyone. Air pollution has steadily worsened, and Hanoi now regularly ranks among the most polluted cities in the world. The lust for growth threatens traditions. A city once defined by its ancient temples, Old Quarter, and 1,000 years of history, now looks in many areas like any other modern Asian metropolis.

As more and more people attain the quality of life that Vietnam has been striving for, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves: Now what? How has Vietnam made this amazing progress? What direction do we need to focus on for the future? And how do we get there?

I’m happy to see this kind of discussion and debate taking place though I do think they could have had more key fields represented among their chosen speakers.  Here is the official answer to this obvious question, “How do you select the speakers for TEDxHanoi?”

The answer is not a simple one. As curators,  we read everything we can find that has to do with new ideas worth sharing, and we hear recommendations from our community. There are so many great choices, women and men with ideas worth spreading and stories worth sharing

Check out the list of speakers here.

Another question is one of follow-up and finding a way to track the short- and long-term results of this conference.  Talk is cheap.  as the saying goes, but it is an important first step.  

A word about access in a country with a nominal 2018 per capita income $2,603 ($7,882, PPP).  Either the ticket cost should be much lower or the sponsor (cash) subsidy much higher. 

As of 15 January, 92.42% of the tickets had been sold.  The early bird rate was 880,000 VND ($38) and the regular ticket cost 1,080,000 VND ($46.56).  That is not a lot of money for people of means but it is for most Vietnamese, including students.  

Here’s the budget breakdown.

  • 100 guest tickets, presumably gratis.
  • 101 early bird * 880,000 = 88,880,000 VND
  • 262 standard = 1,080,000 = 282,960,000 VND

371,840,000 VND/23,193.80 VND = $16,031.87  

16K is pocket change for the event sponsor, a company with a market capitalization of $14.03 billion, as of 16 January 2019.  Speaking of which, a smart PR move by Vingroup via Vinschool The Harmony to host this high profile event.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Fulbright University Vietnam & Moral Leadership?

48425414_726336877749126_906051796659601408_nGiven events of the past few years, these are two phrases that mix like oil and water.  Think textbook cognitive dissonance.  Or a feeble attempt at rehabilitation in the eyes of the public, an audacious means of gaining the moral high ground from the morass of historical tone and gross insensitivity.  

My first reaction upon reading about this 10 January 2019 lecture and, more importantly, the series of which it is a part, was “that’s rich coming from an institution that engineered not one but two consecutive PR disasters related to the US War in Viet Nam.”  

The first involved Bob Kerrey, who was offered and accepted the position of chairman of the board of trustees.  That misguided appointment was the source of considerable controversy and ultimately became a thorn in the side of a budding bilateral relationship – at the highest levels.  

The second involved another war veteran and “one of the most influential figures in the US-Viet Nam relationship you’ve never heard of,” Thomas Vallely.  He made a series of cruel and insensitive statements about civilian deaths during the war in an interview that was published in early 2018 in Politico

In case you’re just tuning in, dear reader, or are not entirely up-to-date, have a look at the articles and posts below.  

Bob Kerrey

Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking? by Mark Ashwill (MAA)  (8.7.16)

47 Signatories Urge Bob Kerrey to Resign from Fulbright University Viet Nam Position by MAA (8.9.16)

The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position by MAA (26.5.17)

Thomas Vallely

How a U.S.-Backed University in Vietnam Unleashed Old Demons by Isabelle Taft (4.2.18)

More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells by MAA (17.8.18)

The Importance of Speaking Up About “Things That Matter by MAA (26.12.18)

Make amends and come clean, FUV; then you’re entitled to launch a Moral Leadership Speaker Series in good conscience.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA, The Unquiet US American