An Ode to International Student Recruiters

IMG_4587

One of the privileges and pleasures of my work is watching colleagues connect with young Vietnamese who are interested in overseas study, be it at a fair, coffee talk, info session, or individual meeting at a hotel. 

Traveling to Viet Nam and other sending countries is still one of the most effective ways to recruit students, especially if the recruiter is good, which most are.  Sitting at home because of budgetary constraints or other reasons and relying solely on armchair techniques is not going to get the job done, especially in competitive markets.

From parents’ and students’ perspective, it’s a way to put a face to an institution, someone they can like, respect, and trust.  Someone who will follow up, be responsive to inquiries via email, Facebook, and chat apps, and stay in touch. 

Good recruiters enjoy their work.  You can hear it in their conversations and see it in their smiles and body language.  So can students and parents.  Those who do not take pleasure in their work seem (are?) bored and disinterested.  It’s obvious their hearts aren’t in it.  Fortunately, these individuals are few and far between.

IMG_4492As someone who helps create opportunities for colleagues to meet with Vietnamese students and parents, I have the utmost respect for my colleagues who do this important work and know how hard they work.  While the life of an international recruiter may seem glamorous to the folks back home, including exotic pics posted on Facebook, and it does have its rewards, it is time away from loved ones and not enough time for proper rest and relaxation.  

In addition, Viet Nam’s evening is their morning “back home”, i.e., for those from North America, which means they have additional work to complete, including emails and online chats with colleagues.

US colleagues, especially in higher education, have the added burden of essentially trying to counteract the statements, proposals, and policies of their own government, now more than ever.  Rather than providing support or not doing anything at all, the US government, through President Trump and his supporters, is continuously setting up road blocks that they have to get around or hoops they have to jump through.  The end results are huge amounts of wasted energy and growing frustration.

IMG_4496The main and immediate job-related reward for recruiters is admitting a new Vietnamese or other international student who gets a visa and arrives on campus ready to begin her or his new academic and cross-cultural adventure.  A potential long-term reward is the personal, academic, and professional transformation that many young people undergo after a rewarding and substantive international experience.

Peace, MAA

Advertisements

Catholicism, the Vietnamese Language, & Student Recruitment in Viet Nam

mary in viet nam
A (presumably) Catholic Uber driver in HCMC

NOTE:  Don’t worry, dear reader, I will have connected the dots, more or less, by the end of this post.  🙂

Among the various legacies of French colonialism, loosely defined, including colonial architecture, baguettes, butter, economic exploitation, war, and various words (bia-bière-beer, bơ-beurre-butter, bồ-beau-lover, cà phê-café–coffee, lavabo=sink, phô mai-fromage-cheese) was the introduction of Catholicism, which dates to the early 16th century.  (The French colonial era lasted roughly from 1859 to their defeat at the battle of Điện Biên Phủ in 1954.)

One of the ways this was accomplished was through the transcription of the language from “a rendering of Vietnamese vernacular based on the Chinese script” (Chữ Nôm) into the Latin alphabet (chữ Quốc ngữ), thanks to Portuguese missionaries and, later, a French Jesuit missionary by the name of Alexandre de Rhodes, who picked up where his predecessors left off.  (It’s worth mentioning that de Rhodes is one of the few foreigners with streets named after him in Viet Nam.  Such was the magnitude of his singular contribution to Vietnamese culture.)  

The Jesuits’ primary goal? To evangelize the Vietnamese. Unlike their counterparts in South America and Africa, the Tonkinese Jesuits encountered an elaborate, bureaucratic state governed by a well-established monarchy. This meant that they had to tread very carefully and focus their efforts on disenfranchised sections of society. Despite the challenges, says Dutton, the number of converts in Tonkin by 1639 was estimated at about 80,000. Less than 30 years later, there were perhaps 350,000 Vietnamese Catholics, and it wasn’t just a fad: Visit the coastline between Hai Phong and Ninh Binh today and you’ll encounter hundreds of churches and a deeply established Catholic tradition. (How the Latin Alphabet Ended Up in Vietnam, 10.9.17)

IMG_3881
A Catholic church in HCMC

The Latinization of Vietnamese can be viewed as a positive colonial legacy because it made it easier for Vietnamese children to learn their own language without memorizing characters and for foreigners to learn a language that has no fewer than six (6) tones.  De Rhodes, who arrived in Hanoi in 1620, is quoted as comparing the language to “the singing of the birds” and confessing to “losing all hope of ever being able to learn it.”  But learn and master it, he did. 

Perhaps less successful was the conversion of the mostly Buddhist Vietnamese to Catholicism.  Catholics now comprise about 7% of Viet Nam’s population of 96 million.  For historical reasons that transcend a blog post, the majority of them live in central and southern Viet Nam.  (A related point is the close ties between the Catholic Church and the French colonial administration and, later, the Republic of Viet Nam aka “South Vietnam.”  (Link to PDF file article entitled Tools of Empire? Vietnamese Catholics in South Vietnam by Van Nguyen-Marshall.)  Most Vietnamese Christians are Catholics.  Many of the Protestants, who are relatively few in number, are drawn from some ethnic minorities and live in remote areas.

Catholicism & Overseas Study

Since this is a blog about international education, let me concluding by saying that Catholic high schools and institutions of higher education tend to be well-respected, or at least there is no stigma attached to being Catholic.  There is the perception among some non-Catholic parents that these schools offer a warm and supportive environment in which students are well-taken care of – in all respects.  In other words, their religious affiliation can be viewed as a selling point not a liability.  That is not the case with many evangelical Christian institutions, which have a reputation among some parents of wanting to convert their children to that particular brand of Christianity.  This is a perception these schools should address and counteract in their marketing and personal interactions, if it’s not true.

Peace, MAA

Dr. Mark Ashwill to Lead 3rd Annual Riding the Wave Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar at NAFSA 2018

Here’s an announcement about what has become an annual event at the NAFSA annual conference.


riding the wave 2018

If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more. —Eric Shinseki

Capstone Vietnam is pleased to announce that 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 28, 2018 at a center in downtown Philadelphia operated by the Drexel University English Language Center. (The address will be sent to confirmed registrants.)

maa forbesDr. Ashwill is an international educator who has lived and worked in Viet Nam for over 12 years. Before becoming managing director of Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), he served as country director of the Institute of International Education (IIE)-Vietnam from 2005-09. Dr. Ashwill was the first US American to be awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialists grant in 2003. He is the author of the widely cited Vietnam Today – A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads, published in 2004 by Intercultural Press, Inc. (now Nicholas Brealey).

A 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.” 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.”

For more information about Dr. Ashwill’s background, please follow these links to a biographical sketch and a summer 2017 interview entitled Capstone Vietnam: Why This Education Entrepreneur Is Excited About Vietnam’s Future.

The Riding the Wave Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar will consist of a comprehensive overview of current market conditions, recruitment tools and techniques, and different types of recruitment strategies. The title notwithstanding, 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, with the US being one of the most popular destinations, there is a perfect storm brewing that will hinder recruitment prospects, for some institutions and in some countries more than others, in the medium-term.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Dr. Ashwill speak about recruitment in Viet Nam, which ranks 5th among all places of origin in the US, according to the 12/17 SEVIS update.  In addition, there was a 8.62% increase in F-1 issuances in 2017.

The seminar will take place from from 2-4 p.m. on Monday, May 28th in downtown Philadelphia. There will be plenty of time for Q&A during and after the informal discussion. This special event is a productive and enjoyable way to kick off NAFSA 2018!

The Riding the Wave seminar is free of charge and refreshments will be served. Online registration is required.

online reg riding wave

A heartfelt thanks to the Drexel English Language Center & Study in the USA for their support and sponsorship!

drexel logo

study in the usa

How the Vietnamese Use the Internet, Including Social Media

Since most young Vietnamese, including those planning to study overseas, are online, one question to ask yourself is: how big is your digital footprint in Viet Nam?

logo-newerHere is my latest PIE News blog post.  It’s about an important topic that I discussed during my E20 webinar last week and in my recent StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs country briefing and discussion. 

Peace, MAA

Live from Viet Nam – An E20 Webinar!

e20 webinar

Last week, I had the opportunity to present on one of my favorite topics, Viet Nam, to a virtual audience of over 40 US colleagues, including those from higher and secondary education.   I’m grateful to Syed Jamal from Branta and Renait Stephens from Study in the USA, event co-sponsor, for inviting me and for scheduling the session earlier than usual, i.e., at 10 p.m. Viet Nam time.  (The usual time is 10 a.m. Pacific, which is 1 a.m. my time!) This meant that I still had my wits about me and was relatively coherent after a long day of travel and work. 

Branta-01

In my approximately 20-minute presentation, I provided a wide-ranging overview of current/recent issues and trends in Viet Nam in order to place interest in overseas study and student recruitment in a broader societal and even historical contact. 

In addition to a country update that included up-to-date statistics about young Vietnamese studying overseas in general and in the US in particular, I talked about some keys to success in a very competitive market, emphasizing how important it is for institution to find what works for them often through a process of trial and error.  I concluded with a brief discussion of the importance of digital marketing in a country with a high Internet and social media penetration rate, especially for one at its stage of development, and the often problematic issue of student visas.  Regarding the latter, it’s important to focus on what is within our control, e.g., embrace visa counseling and reject scripting.

I also shared a link with all participants to a password-protected page I created on this very blog entitled Selected Online Resources About Viet Nam & Student Recruitment.

Peace, MAA

 

Worldwide Caution (?)

worldwideI was looking for some information on the US State Department website a while ago and came across this notice.   Wow, the world is such a scary place, especially outside the borders of the US, a country that has come to be known within its borders since 9/11 as the Homeland, much to my dismay and that of many other thinking people.

Here are some of the places to avoid in a long and growing list of countries: 

  • high-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
  • hotels, clubs, and restaurants
  • places of worship
  • schools
  • parks
  • shopping malls and markets
  • tourism infrastructure
  • public transportation systems
  • airports

Did they overlook anything?  Travel abroad, check into your hotel, lock the door, and stay there!  Room service, anyone?  

The Caution notes that In multiple regions, terrorists, guerrilla groups, and criminals seek to kidnap U.S. citizens to finance their operations or for political purposes.  That pretty much reflects the prevailing view that US American life is more valuable than non-US American life but I didn’t realize it was THAT valuable! 

The caution neglects to inform the presumably concerned reader that homicide rates in the US were seven times higher than the average of other high-income countries, due in large part to a gun homicide rate that is about 25 times higher than in other high-income countries.

Having said that, most communities in the US are safe, as are most communities in other countries.  The US, unlike most other countries, especially its peers, has to come to terms with mass shootings as common occurrences, which are related to the availability not just of guns but assault weapons (of mass human death and destruction).  Then there is police brutality not directed against people who look like me but fellow citizens of color. 

On a personal note, I’m happy that I live in one of the safer countries in the world where crime is pretty much limited to “crimes against property,” including the occasional drive-by bag and purse snatching, especially in HCMC/Saigon.  No “cautions” here, just good old-fashioned common sense, e.g., leave your valuables at home (or in the hotel safe, if you’re a tourist) and carry your bag away from the street.

eyes-useless-when-mind-is-blindIn the midst of this “worldwide caution” and rampant fear, here’s a question that practically asks itself:  Why are so many people around the world so pissed off at the USA?  Look at past and present foreign policy, CIA dirty tricks, military interventions and, more recently, Donald Trump’s incendiary comments and actions.  Why do they hate us (US)? The reasons are obvious and plentiful but not to nationalists, whose ideological blinders do not allow for self-reflection and introspection.

Peace, MAA

Rhetorical Question: “Why don’t Viet Nam’s universities rank higher in Asia?”

uwn rankings article 3-18

There is a tendency in Vietnam, with the media as an on- and offline amplifier, to engage in self-flagellation about education and other societal issues rather than looking carefully at the broader context and the, sometimes, hopeful reality. This results in journalists and many Vietnamese playing the ‘blame game’. The obvious targets here are the Vietnamese government, including the Ministry of Education and Training, and the nation’s universities.

This is my latest article for University World News.  I wrote it because I think some of the reporting in the Vietnamese media is unfair and doesn’t take into account rankings methodologies.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.

Peace, MAA