I had a great time at the the fifth HATCH! Fair in Hanoi. I was there for part of the pitching competition in which young entrepreneurs have three (3) minutes to pitch their businesses to a jury board. (Yes, it’s exactly three minutes. They run a tight ship!) There are three (3) more minutes for the judges to ask questions. Last year, there were 305 applications and 54 “hand-picked startups”, an acceptance rate of 17.7%, not unlike that of the most selective colleges and universities in the US. (UC Berkeley had a 2016 acceptance rate of 17.5%.)
It was an inspiration listening to so many ideas, some of which will be transformed into practice and others not. The highlight was the pitch by Nam “Chris” Nguyen, of College Scout (CS), who finished with a few seconds to spare. I was impressed by his energy, focus, and enthusiasm. Congratulations to Nam for rocking it at the 5th HATCH! Fair!
What is College Scout (CS)?
It’s a Hanoi-based ed-tech startup whose services include but also transcend preparing young people for overseas higher education admission. Most companies focus on the latter. In other words, the professional spotlight is what happens before they board the flight to their host country to begin their studies and a new life. CS does that and much more. Perhaps more importantly, it prepares students for academic, cultural, and social success in a new and often very challenging environment. In doing so, it takes the long and holistic view of each young person as a student, future professional, and global citizen.
For families with students planning to study in North America, College Scout is a “one-stop readiness service”. Unlike traditional education agents and related companies that provide ancillary services related to overseas study, CS provides fun and effective prep activities that increase their chances for success not only in the application and admission process, but in the areas of academic, cultural, and social adjustment. (Full disclosure: I’m a proud member of the CS advisory board.)
What is HATCH!?
According to its website, the mission of HATCH! is to support entrepreneurs and promote the early-stage startup ecosystem in Vietnam. By the end of 2013, HATCH! was among the top names for entrepreneurship development in Vietnam, with activities that have made dozens of international headlines; and, not just for the organization, but also for our innovative startups, and their founders and investors, as well as HATCH! partners and sponsors.
HATCH! is the brainchild of Aaron Everhart, who had this to say about the organization: I’m pretty proud of building HATCH!, which grew from a small coffee-talk meeting in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012 to Vietnam’s largest and leading startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem builder. We’ve built it grass-roots using borrowed spaces, volunteer time, and instant coffee packets. Now we’re proud to be producing Vietnam’s only major international startup exhibition and conference, HATCH! FAIR each year… Aaron’s tag line is “I turn ideas into companies,” and he does!
This is the title of an upcoming webinar that is the first in NAFSA’s Academic Programs six-part Architecture for Global Learning – Series II. Here is a brief description:
Many institutions integrate global learning into curricula and co-curricular programming with the goal of producing graduates capable of contributing solutions to global problems. However, institutional leaders, faculty, and managers of global learning environments now face mounting anti-international rhetoric and policy.
Join NAFSA Academic Programs for the first session in our six-part Architecture for Global Learning – Series II. Listen to and discuss the perspectives of leading international education scholars and practitioners on the state of global learning as we enter a period of increased populist and anti-international rhetoric and action. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with experienced and informed global learning specialists who will answer questions of how and why extreme nationalism affects global learning. Presenters will provide their views and responses to participant questions on how to continue to support and implement global learning pedagogies and programs that are under attack.
I agree that it is a time of “increased xenophobia” in many countries but disagree that nationalism, extreme or otherwise, is anything new, especially in the US. In that sense, the title is a bit misleading. US nationalism, which I discuss in a 2016 University World News article entitled US nationalism – The elephant in the room and elsewhere, is nothing new and certainly didn’t begin to rear its ugly and exclusionary head when Donald Trump was elected president last November. In fact, I have argued that the term is frequently misused by some of my distinguished colleagues when what they are actually referring to is nativism.
I am pleased, however, to see that these issues are being debated. Nationalism in general and as an elephant in the room of the international education profession should be a key point, if not the centerpiece, of any consideration of intercultural competence, essentially a skill set, and global citizenship, also a mindset. It is a discussion that should have been launched a long time ago.
I’m pleased to share with you information about the summer 2017 VietAbroader Study Abroad Camps (VASAC) in mid-July. These events are different than in years past because they will last for four (4) days instead of one (1).
For those of you who don’t about VietAbroader (VA), whose slogan is Empower Vietnamese Youth, it is the premier student-run organization in Viet Nam that helps young people who want to study overseas, in particular in the US. I’m honored to have served as a VA adviser almost since the very beginning in 2004. It started out as online forum and then expanded by offering events such as the VASAC, which was first organized in 2005. (I was a speaker at the Hanoi conference.)
There are two ways in which you can participate in the VASAC:
2) Participation in the Education Fairs, which are free and open to the public. This is free of charge and you can have a currently enrolled student who’s home for the summer, or an alum, represent you at the fair(s), if you’re not able to travel to Viet Nam.
If you’re interested in becoming an institutional sponsor and/or participating in the public fair(s), please contact one of the VA representatives listed on the last page of the sponsor proposal.
Help VietAbroader Pass the Torch and Empower Vietnamese Youth!
Everyone I know who is happy is working well at something they consider important. Abraham Maslow
I had the opportunity to speak to about 150 10th graders at one of the more selective high schools in Hanoi earlier this week. I chose to speak to them not about overseas study in general or study in the USA or another country in particular but about finding their ikigai, which is related to quality and quantity of life, what to study at university, and which career(s) to pursue after that.
Ikigai, of course, is a Japanese concept that refers to reason for being, the thing that gets you up in the morning, the passion that drives your life. While a seemingly simple concept to define and illustrate, it is not always so easy to find. For students who are 15 or 16 years-old, it is the right time to begin exploring.
I asked them some questions that get at the heart of the matter to help them think more concretely:
What are you good at?
What do you think you might be good at but are not sure yet?
What do you enjoy doing?
What do you have a passion for?
While I didn’t have a projector because the presentation took place outside, I described ikigai as being at the center of what I like to call an existential sweet spot.
I also shared some relevant quotes about time (The key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things?’ Because time is all you have. Randy Pausch, 1960-2008), how to follow your heart and live your life (Steve Jobs, Stanford University 2005 Commencement Speech), and how to be happy in life (the “grand essentials of happiness” from George Washington Burnap).
To underscore my point about the value of time as the most precious commodity in life, I helped put the finiteness of life in perspective. “Let’s say you live until the age of 80, which is five years older than Viet Nam’s current life expectancy. You’ve already lived 19% of your life. What will you do with the remaining 81%?”
Then I introduced the concept of psychological flow, which is related to ikigai. It was developed by the Hungarian psychologist, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who defined it as a “highly focused mental state” and “effortless concentration and enjoyment”. He said: The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. I also like this definition from the Wikipedia entry about flow: Flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
In order to make the abstract concrete, we discussed examples of flow, including writing, composing music, writing code, playing chess, cooking, dancing, painting, solving a difficult math problem, etc.
I concluded with a quote attributed to Confucius: We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one. Sadly, some people never come to this realization. High school is the ideal time for young people to become aware of life possibilities and constraints.
Finally, I had the students answer the following questions – in English or Vietnamese. Some shared their answers with the group.
What is your passion?
When do you experience psychological flow?
What do you hope for?
Looking out into the audience, I noticed that quite a few students were actually listening, a sign of interest and curiosity. As for the others? Hopefully, they get it sooner rather than later. Young people naturally think of life as never-ending while those of us who are older and/or experienced death at an early age know that the clock is ticking.
Have you found your ikigai?
“The key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things?’ Because time is all you have.” (Randy Pausch, 1960-2008)
Below is some information about a Strategic Recruitment Workshop that I’ll be leading next June in Dalat, Viet Nam. Please follow this link to the Capstone Vietnam website for additional information, including schedule, cost, and online registration.
After a very successful first Strategic Recruitment Workshoplast June in Phan Thiet, we have decided to organize a second one. You are cordially invited to join me, my staff and other presenters for two full days in beautiful Dalat in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam to receive a detailed briefing about student recruitment in Vietnam.
This workshop will take place from June 19-21, 2017 following the ICEF Thailand – Viet Nam Agent Roadshow in HCMC and our two StudyGlobal Education Fairsin Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi. I’m pleased to acknowledge Study in the USA as an event sponsor.
The purpose of this workshop is to give you the tools you need in terms of knowledge, insights and strategy in order to increase your chances of success in recruiting Vietnamese students in what has become a highly competitive market in recent years.
In addition to Dr. Mark Ashwill, Managing Director, presenters will include educational advisers from Capstone’s Hanoi and HCMC offices, marketing specialists, high school leaders, and students currently studying overseas.
Each participant will receive a copy of Keys to Successful Student Recruitment in Viet Nam, an up-to-date guide written by Dr. Ashwill, and a packet of materials with information about Vietnam, and facts and figures about student recruitment.
The workshop is intended for any colleague from a regionally accredited institution in the US or an officially accredited institution in another country with an interest in learning more about Viet Nam and factors related to student recruitment. Last year, colleagues included recruiters, deans, directors, and other senior international education officials. The number of participants is limited to 25.
Dalat (Đà Lạt) is the capital of Lâm Đồng Province. The city is located 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level on the Lang Bian Plateau in the southern part of the Central Highlands region. Dalat, known as the honeymoon capital of Viet Nam, is a popular tourist destination. With its year-round cool weather, the city supplies a wide range of agricultural products and has a highly successful flower industry. Dalat is known as the “city of thousands of pine trees” because of the pine forests and the “city of eternal spring” because of the year-round mist that appears in the valleys.
Selected Testimonials from 2016
The retreat provided crucial insight into and practical takeaways from myriad aspects of student recruitment in Viet Nam. It also afforded excellent networking opportunities among US higher education institutions and Vietnamese educational sectors. (Steven Hales, Dean of International Education, Contra Costa Community College District)
I really learned a lot about the Viet Nam market vis-à-vis the type of non-degree or pre-degree programs that we offer. I’m not new to the field, I’m not new to recruitment, but as we are fairly new to Viet Nam as a market, it was important to learn. And, I did. So much. (Denise Davis, Director, International Programs, Division of Continuing Education, University of California, Irvine)
I am really impressed with the Strategic Recruitment Retreat that was organized by Capstone. The retreat was well-organized and provided critical insights into marketing strategies in the Vietnamese market. You really need a trustworthy partner like Capstone who knows this market inside and out. (Emily Liu, International Recruitment Specialist, English Language Institute, University of Delaware)
Whether your institution just started recruiting Vietnamese students or has had a few years of recruitment experience, you will be able to gather a lot of helpful information about the market from this retreat. Capstone staff are all very enthusiastic about their mission of assisting institutions to develop strategies to recruit Vietnamese students. Besides work time, the location of the retreat was perfect to let us enjoy some downtime & relax. (Le To, Adviser, New Mind Education)
About Mark A. Ashwill, Workshop Leader
Dr. Ashwill is an educational entrepreneur who has lived and worked in Viet Nam for over a decade. He served as country director of the Institute of International Education from 2005-09 and co-founded Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company later that year.
A 2011 Hobsons consultant’s report noted that “The work of Dr. Mark Ashwill, formerly of IIE, and the former US Ambassador, Michael Michalak, helped to promote the United States as a destination for Vietnamese students, and strengthened the ties between the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) and US universities.” In June 2012, Jeff Browne wrote on his Vietnomics blog that “Much of the credit for the strengthening US-Viet Nam higher education link goes to Hanoi-based educator, Mark Ashwill, director of Capstone Vietnam and key advisor to student-run nonprofit VietAbroader, both of which help Vietnamese students navigate the American education culture.”
He has written extensively about recruitment-related issues on his blog and in articles, and has presented on the same at NAFSA and other national and international conferences. He has served as an informal adviser to the VNU (Hanoi) Institute for Education Quality Assurance (INFEQA) and frequently been interviewed by journalists from print and electronic media on a host of education-related issues.
Dr. Ashwill has also presented at numerous workshops, conferences and seminars in Viet Nam and the US on issues related to US-Viet Nam educational exchange, student recruitment, accreditation, higher education admission, and global citizenship and intercultural competence, among other topics.
Dr. Ashwill has served as an adviser to VietAbroader since its founding in 2004, is a member of the Advisory Board of Teachers for Vietnam, a US-based non-profit organization, and is a blogger for The Huffington Post. He is the author of Vietnam Today: A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads (with Thai Ngoc Diep), which was published in 2005 by Intercultural Press (now Nicholas Brealey Publishing). Vietnam Today, a substantive cultural introduction to the country, has been widely cited and is considered to be among the best books of its kind. He was the first US American to be awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialists Grant to Viet Nam in 2003.
Dr. Ashwill is widely viewed as a thought leader in the field of international education in general and US-Viet Nam educational exchange in particular. He has spent his entire career working in various areas of international education, including study abroad, language & culture instruction, Fulbright advising, educational advising, & international student recruitment in three different sectors: public, non-profit and private.
Capstone Vietnam is a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and HCMC. In its nearly eight (8) years of operation, Capstone Vietnam has earned a reputation for quality service and ethical business practices. We work exclusively with regionally accredited institutions in the US market, the only company in Viet Nam (and perhaps the world) that does, and officially accredited institutions in other countries.
My staff and I recently organized a Strategic Recruitment Retreat in Phan Thiet for a select group of US higher education colleagues representing four-year institutions, both public and private, and community colleges from seven (7) states. What they have in common is their desire to welcome more Vietnamese students to their campuses and communities.
The retreat was how I envisioned it – a rare opportunity and chance to spend quality time with colleagues with different levels of knowledge and experience who are interested in learning more about Viet Nam and student recruitment here in both formal and informal settings. It was a wonderful learning experience for all of us.
Sessions touched on the following topics: a country update that placed demand for overseas study in societal context, student and parent expectations and reality, visa counseling vs. scripting, digital and traditional marketing, use of education agents (partner beware!), the role of high schools in promoting overseas study, the role of departments of education and training, 30+ possible ways to succeed in the Vietnamese student recruitment market, and a wrap-up discussion that dealt with developing custom-designed recruitment strategies and included consultations.
We also had several guest speakers, including colleagues from a department of education and training (DoET), one of Viet Nam’s top high schools, and a Vietnamese student currently studying in the US.
Thanks to the participants and guests for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us in this exciting “pilot project” and to my staff for their hard work and contributions to the success of this event. I’m also grateful to Study in the USA, a partner and corporate sponsor, who organized a lucky draw, the winner of which sent a representative to participate in the retreat.