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)

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!





“International Universities – My Visit to Vietnam”

Below is a post from Kurt Linberg’s blog, Higher education: Are we making the grade?  Dr. Linberg visited Vietnam last year as a member of a delegation from The College of St. Scholastica (Duluth, MN), where he was Dean of the School of Business and Technology.  (The other members were Dr. Larry Goodwin, President, and Mr. Thomas Homan, Director of International Education.)

International Universities – My Visit to Vietnam (24.1.14)

When I look over my four years at the College of St. Scholastica, I will likely never forget my trip to Vietnam. The St. Scholastica President, the Director of International Recruitment, and I were immersed into all aspects of Vietnam education and culture. We visited with high school students, high school teachers, college students, college professors and administrators, local business folks, and government officials. We also enjoyed the food, the people, and the culture. I left with a deep appreciation for the Vietnam students’ dedication for learning.

Here is a summary of our trip to Vietnam from the colleague that was instrumental in making this trip such a success, Mark Ashwill.

Thanks Mark!

2014 Vietnam Engineering Education Conference (VEEC)


The 2014 HEEAP Alliance Partners and Arizona State University will host the 2nd annual Vietnam Engineering Education Conference (VEEC) on March 25-26, 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City. VEEC 2014 is a major event bringing together global industry, government and academic professionals to discuss transformative ideas and solutions to engineering and technical education programs in Vietnam. The theme this year is “Transformative Change: Educating Engineers to Innovate the Future of Vietnam.”

The annual conference includes interactive plenary sessions, panel discussions, technical sessions and seminars with emphasis on partnerships between education, industry and government to innovate and build capacity in engineering and technology innovation in teaching, research and discovery.

This year, the conference will be organized by the Ho Chi Minh University of Technology.

Sponsorship Opportunities

VEEC 2014 has a variety of sponsorship opportunities for organizations. For information or to sponsor, contact Jeff Goss at jeff.goss AT

At 30,000 Feet All I See Are Alumni

Below is a guest post from Marguerite Dennis, who has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts.  Those colleges and universities that have dedicated and active alumni certainly have a competitive advantage over those that don’t in terms of student recruitment and exploring new opportunities. 

graduation_000-300x259Over the course of my administrative career I had the opportunity to be responsible for not only the enrollment and retention of students but also for the alumni and fundraising programs at my university.  This “30,000 foot” view allowed me to integrate the enrollment and retention management systems with alumni and fundraising activities.  While this administrative responsibility is not for the faint of heart and certainly would not work at most schools, I would like you to read what I was able to integrate as Vice President for Development and Enrollment. Something you read may spark a discussion with other administrators at your college or university who share the responsibilities of enrolling a class, progressing that class from first to second year, cultivating enrolled students to become loyal and engaged alumni and setting the stage for successful fundraising campaigns.

Consider the following:

A school’s alumni program should begin before first year students register for classes.  I was fortunate to be a part of creating a convocation for all new and transfer students, parents, faculty and administrators.  All first year students, prior to the start of classes, were gathered into a large auditorium, black graduation-like gowns draped over their arms.  After short speeches by the president, deans and a graduate of the school, the students were asked to rise, take an oath and put the black gowns over their street clothes, symbolizing the time, in four years, when they would graduate and become alumni. The symbolism was not lost on anyone in the room, especially parents.  The students entered as individuals from all over the country and the world. They came in all shapes and sizes, wearing designer clothes and/or jeans. They all left looking alike with high hopes for a successful collegiate career.

Fast forward to the week of graduation. All of the seniors are formally inducted into the alumni association at a breakfast and given a certificate for one free continuing education course.  They have already received a list of all of the on-line courses they would be eligible to take at a discounted price. Again the symbolism: the first communication with graduates is not to ask for a donation but to give them a free or discounted course. All of the graduates are given the contact information for the alumni club in their part of the country or the world as well as a list of all former graduates in their area. They know the name of their class agent and have the contact information.

Deans and directors of admission, as well as student service deans, have the ability to inform the alumni office staff of those students who are actively involved in clubs and organizations. Does your alumni staff participate in enrollment activities organized by the dean of admission or the vice president of enrollment management? Does your school have an alumni staff member regularly attend student services events and programs?  These kinds of events have the potential to identify future class agents — students who will extend their school loyalty beyond the campus and help to create or populate alumni clubs.

This kind of cultivation should take place over a four year period, not at the time of graduation.  What it means is that administrators who do not usually cross paths or functions – -enrollment management, student services and alumni– meet regularly to discuss engaged students and plan synergistic events. For example: Can the alumni office provide the deans of admission with a list of graduates in the area who are willing to speak or meet with prospective parents and students? Are the results of a recent alumni survey available for prospective families to review online?  Is there a list of alumni who will provide internship opportunities to enrolled students? And how is all of that information looped back to the admission office?  If today’s prospective family is seeking a tangible return on their educational investment at your school, information from alumni is essential.

The following are some questions you may want to ask your alumni staff:

How does the alumni office communicate with the career counseling staff about the list of alumni internships opportunities available to them?

Does the alumni staff work with deans and faculty chairpersons to identify outstanding students in specific majors?

Does the alumni staff regularly meet with the athletic department to identify the most engaged student-athletes? Does the alumni office staff regularly attend athletic events?

Has the alumni staff conducted focus groups of junior and senior students to learn what alumni events would most likely appeal to young graduate?

It may be Facebook and Twitter today but what is the collaboration between the alumni office and the IT staff to identify the best way to technologically stay connected to graduates?

Does the alumni office staff conduct surveys of recent graduates? How is that information used? Who receives the results?

I was not enthusiastic when the president asked me to assume the responsibilities of alumni and fundraising and still maintain the overall responsibility for enrollment and retention. I thought I would be spread too thin and not be able to do a credible job.  What I learned is that if you have a solid marketing background you can market to both prospective students and alumni using similar skills.  Having “the whole ball of wax” certainly had its advantages. This administrative structure allowed for collaboration that did not previously exist.  It helped with fundraising. It centralized functions and contributed to a transparent and holistic management of students from pre-enrollment to post-graduation. It eliminated certain silos. It brought a disparate group of staff together to work cooperatively.

In an environment when presidents, provosts and chief financial officers are struggling to create new business models, it can only help to look at the current organizational chart with an eye to the future.  This is one suggestion. There are many others.

Guest Post: A U.S. Colleague’s Perspective on Vietnamese Students

SIUlogoI’ve been involved in international education for a long time, having lived and worked in both the U.S. and overseas. I love what I do. I get to travel the world, meet wonderful students, supportive parents, and dedicated colleagues who are also interested in international education. In all of my years of travel, however, I had never been to Vietnam until this year. What an eye-opening experience!

As an American, my exposure to Vietnam was either through American history classes and the media or the few Vietnamese students I had met in my ESL classroom. These perspectives were limited and, in some cases, flawed.  Media is less than favorable, history lessons are incomplete, and the students were incredible.  I wasn’t sure how to approach my first experience in Vietnam so I did what any traveler does:  I dispensed with my preconceived notions and was ready for any experiences that lay before me.  They were all tremendous.

Taping a show about SIU.  From left to right:  Ha Quyen, host; Cheryl Ernst; Kimberly Leonard, Dean, SIU College of Liberal Arts; and Nam, SIU alumnus.
Taping a show about SIU. From left to right: Ha Quyen, host; Cheryl Ernst; Kimberly Leonard, Dean, SIU College of Liberal Arts; and Nam, SIU alumnus.

Before traveling, I contacted the few Vietnamese students I know on campus. We interviewed two of them for our Vietnamese brochure and they put me in contact with alumni.  Without the help of these two ladies my trip would not have been as rewarding as it was.  Typically, when I contact a student and ask for help, I am given a few names or hear some expressions of interest.  Little did I know that in working with our students and alumni, I would be introduced to some of the most incredible folks I have ever worked with.  The alums were eager to help in many different ways.  They attended presentations and helped man the booth at the VietAbroader fairs in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.  One even participated in the taping of a TV show about Southern Illinois University (SIU).

The Vietnamese students I met were motivated, articulate, and enthusiastic. They asked focused and well-informed questions about our programs and a variety of fields. While all students ask about finances (it’s an important topic!), the students at our fairs and info sessions asked many other questions. They wanted to know about the student associations on campus, available resources, and housing options, for example.

The students I have had in my program as teaching assistants and in my classroom as students  have been motivated, intelligent, confident, and eager. Because Vietnamese students are not the primary demographic in my program or classes, they could easily be overlooked. However, this is not the case.  They are willing to speak up and contribute thoughtful and insightful comments. They are prepared, often better than others in the class.

After an info session in Capstone Vietnam's Hanoi office.  Cheryl, Kimberly and two SIU alumni.
After an info session in Capstone Vietnam’s Hanoi office. From left to right: Dũng (alumnus), Cheryl, Kimberly and Nam (alumnus).

The Vietnamese students we have had are of such a high quality that I was able to place two of them into my language program.  It is unusual to have non-native speakers teaching other non-native-speakers.  Both of these students were excited at the opportunity to teach in our Center for English as a Second Language (CESL).  Initially, I had concerns but none of our international students complained about accent, teaching methodology, or personality. The ladies received above average evaluations and were true contributors to our CESL team.

Because of my experiences with these dynamic students, I am actively seeking Vietnamese students to come to my language program (i.e., CESL) and our highly regarded university, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU).

Cheryl A. Ernst, Ph.D.
Director, Center for English as a Second Language
Department of Linguistics
Southern Illinois University

IIE Selects Five U.S. Universities for Partnership Program with Vietnam

department-of-state-logoThanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), five U.S. universities will have the opportunity to incorporate Vietnam into their internationalization strategies and develop partnerships with counterparts in Vietnam in the coming academic year – with the assistance of the Institute of International Education (IIE).

iie-logoThe International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP) grant includes a November 2013 visit for high-level delegations from each of the five institutions to three cities in Vietnam – presumably Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City – to meet with potential partners, U.S. Mission officials, representatives from the Vietnamese Ministry of Higher Education (read Ministry of Education and Training), and other education-related organizations, according to IIE’s press release.

Congratulations to…

Ball State University (IN)
Fort Hays State University (KS)
Marquette University (WI)
Northern Arizona University and
Stetson University (FL)