Mark Ashwill @ NAFSA 2019

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Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m excited to inform you that I’ll be participating in four (4) events at the NAFSA 2019 annual conference in late May in Washington, D.C., listed below in descending chronological order.  Note:  Online registration is required for the two seminars.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA


4th Annual Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar at NAFSA 2019 (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27th from 1-3 p.m. 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.

The reason I began offering this free seminar starting in 2016 in Denver was that I noticed that Viet Nam, a strategically important country, was underrepresented, if represented at all, at NAFSA annual conferences.  This year is no exception.  Enter “Vietnam” in a keyword search in the conference schedule and let me know what you find.  

Please follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Ethical Commissions-Based Recruitment: The Need for a New Way (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27 from 3:30-5 p.m. in Washington, D.C.)

Join me, Eddie West, assistant dean, UC Berkeley Extension, and executive director, international programs, and former director of international initiatives at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and Lindsay Addington, director of global engagement at NACAC, for a brief presentation and collective exploration of ways to improve upon the current flawed model of agency-based international student recruitment. 

The raison d’être for this seminar is a statement Eddie and I made in an October 2018 University World News article entitled An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment

The fatal flaw in commissioned recruitment is that most agents prioritise their partner schools’ interests over those of the students and parents they advise. This means that most guide or, in many cases, drive students to their partner schools because of the gold (commission) at the end of the rainbow (enrolment process). 

The purpose is not to debate the merits of commissions-based recruitment but to bring together colleagues who are interested in exploring ways in which it can be made more ethical to the benefit of international students and their parents, in addition to admitting institutions and education agents. 

Follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Commissions-Based International Student Recruitment Agents: Is There a Better Way?  (Wednesday, May 29 from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.)

AC19_Email_Sigs_PresenterJoin me, Eddie West, session chair and executive director, international programs, University of California-Berkeley Extension, and Mayumi Kowta, director, international programs, California State University Channel Islands, for a lively discussion about how the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment can be addressed.  
 
Follow this link to see the official conference description of our session, including the abstract and the learning objectives.  This is a condensed version of the Monday seminar.  


Vietnamese Student Recruitment in Challenging Times  (Wednesday, May 29 from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Model Practices in International Enrollment Management Poster Fair)

Here’s the password-protected session page with resources.  It will be made available to those who stop by.

Abstract

Gain knowledge and insights from a foreign international educator and education entrepreneur who has lived and worked in Viet Nam since 2005. This poster session will focus on how to create and implement a proactive recruitment strategy that includes commission-based recruitment, armchair tools and techniques, and in country activities.

Poster Content: Takeaways

1) an update on the status of young Vietnamese studying overseas, including information changes in country preference;
2) an inventory and description of various non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques; and
3) some information and caveats about commissions-based recruitment.

Learning Objectives

1) Learn about recent facts, figures, and trends related to Vietnamese students studying overseas at both the secondary and postsecondary levels;
2) learn about a wide variety of recruitment tools and techniques, most unrelated to the use of education agents;
3) be well-positioned to either improve fine-tune an existing recruitment strategy or create a new one.  

“The shift of Vietnamese students to Canada marches on”

20190320083629583_5Here is my latest essay for University World News.  If you like the teaser below, follow this link to read the article in its entirety.  This is a follow-up to an April 2018 article I wrote entitled Vietnamese students look at the US and head north (editor’s title).  

I placed a gentleman’s bet with myself that the number of young Vietnamese studying in Canada would top 20,000 last year. Based on the latest statistics for 2018 released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it looks like I won, much to the dismay of Canada’s main friendly competitor for Vietnamese students, the United States of America. 

Shalom (שלום), MAA

US Student Visa Update from Viet Nam: So Far, So Good in FY19

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I know it’s only four months into the 2019 US government fiscal year (FY19) but I look for trends wherever I can find them, even if they’re just beginning to take shape.  Based on US State Department statistics, the number of student visas issued from October 2018 to January 2019 by US Mission-Viet Nam, which includes the Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), pretty much mirror those of the same period last year.  (Overall, 5.9% fewer F-1s were issued in 2018 than in FY17, based on a slightly revised final tally.)  This is a tentatively positive sign, at least for the first quarter of this fiscal year and in view of substantial decreases from other major sending countries and a downward trend in F-1 issuances.  Each month is linked to a PDF download of the relevant statistics for Viet Nam and other countries.  

October 2018: 206 vs. 275 in 10-17

November 2018: 390 vs. 364 in 11-17

December 20181,077 vs. 1,299 in 12/17

January 2019 1400 vs. 1165 in 1/18

For what it’s worth, this amounts to a statistically insignificant decrease of 1% rounded up.  While the December issuances were down, they rebounded in January to the tune of 20% over 2018.  At this point, we’ll have to wait until “high season”, i.e., from May-August, to see what’s really happening and what the prospects are for the 2019/20 academic year and beyond.  So far, so good for those US colleagues who recruit in Viet Nam.  Stay tuned!  

Source:  Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Expanding the Fulbright Legacy in Vietnam (?)

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.  -Mark Twain (1835-1910)

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This was the title of a 2018 article written by Mary Beth Marklein (MBM) for Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning (Volume 50, 2018 – Issue 1, pp. 63-70).  The online version was published on 22 May 2018.  Since I have been following the development of Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) since it was first announced, I read Mary Beth’s piece with great interest and, ultimately, disappointment.  It read like a one-sided, US-centric puff piece that could easily have been written by the FUV public relations office or that of its benefactor, the US State Department. She took the time to speak to quite a few FUV people who, of course, confirmed her rosy view of this institution and whitewashed its recent controversial history.  In other words, she committed a number of sins of omission.    

Here are some comments from colleagues who know Viet Nam, all of which are spot-on, in my opinion.

She has drunk the establishment Kool-Aid.  She thinks no one can truly do any wrong, I guess.  She certainly skated lightly past a few important issues, such as how money was extracted from the Vietnamese for Fulbright U.  

Like most Americans, she conflates two quite different concepts: “unbiased” and “pro-U.S.”  Ironically, at most high-quality universities in the U.S. a large number of faculty see it as their mission to make their students aware of the powerful criticisms of the “neoliberal” world order, “globalization”, and U.S. policy.  Even in the U.S., serious scholars (with some exceptions) are not mindless sycophants of U.S. imperialism.  But FUV is much more U.S.-nationalistic than most universities in the U.S.  So it’s worse than just “meddling” and imposing a U.S.-style institution on Vietnam — it’s imposing a lousy U.S.-style institution on Vietnam.

Below are some of my comments in red after the author’s paragraphs in blue.  

If U.S. readers have heard about FUV, it is probably because of the cloud that hovered over it in 2016 when FUV announced that Bob Kerrey would be chair of the FUV’s board of trustees. A decorated war hero who went on to become the Governor of Nebraska, a U.S. Senator, and a university president, Kerrey’s reputation was forever stained in 2001 by a revelation that he had led an attack in 1969 that killed 13 Vietnamese women and children civilians, and then covered it up. 
 
Where did MBM get the “13” figure – Kerrey’s memoir or the US military?  The figure I have from various reliable sources is 21.  That’s number that was used in the initial New York Times report from 2001 that broke the story.  In fact, his Bronze Medal citation reads as follows:  “The net result of his patrol was 21 Viet Cong killed, two hooches destroyed and two enemy weapons captured.”  
MBM also stated that Kerrey and his unit killed only women and children, forgetting about the 65-year-old grandfather whom Kerrey held down as one of his men, Gerhard Klann, slit the man’s throat, according to Klann.  
 
MBM referred to Bob Kerrey as a “decorated war hero” without mentioning the fact that one of his medals, the Bronze Medal, was awarded for the Thanh Phong war crimes.  
MBM neglected to mention that rather important fact that Kerrey’s mission that fateful night in February 1969 was a Phoenix Program operation.  
 
Kerrey has acknowledged and apologized, multiple times, for his actions; still, the FUV appointment prompted both demands for Kerrey’s resignation and a spirited defense of his appointment. Today, Kerrey’s name remains on the FUV website as a member of the board of trustees. FUV Trustee Ben Wilkinson disputes a report, published in May 2017, that Kerrey had quietly resigned (Ashwill, 2017). Nevertheless, Thuy has taken over the chair’s duties (Taft, 2018). 
 
I’m afraid MBM is missing the forest for the trees.  The point is Kerrey should never have never been offered that position and, having been offered it, should have refused.  Of course, Ben Wilkinson (BW) disputed what I revealed in my May 2017 article.  Always the loyal soldier, I refer to BW as the “quiet American,” a textbook example of someone who is interculturally competent (IC as a skill set) yet a US nationalist (nationalism as a mindset/ideology).  His blood runs red, white, and blue.  He was dead wrong in this case.    
 
The debate over Kerrey is healthy and necessary, but it also distracts from the larger story of the making of Fulbright University Vietnam, a story that includes cautious baby steps and giant leaps of faith.    
 
Regarding the “debate over Kerrey” – whose fault is it that?  Two consecutive PR disasters:  1) Bob Kerrey’s appointment; and 2) Thomas Vallely’s interview with Isabelle Taft for Politico.  He said that Kerrey shouldn’t be singled out for criticism because of the sheer ubiquity of violence against civilians in the Mekong Delta. In other words, so what if Kerrey and his Raiders murdered a couple dozen people in some village.  It was a common occurrence.  Besides, “There’s no one in Thạnh Phong going to FUV,” as he put it in a snide and hurtful as remark.  (Check out my article from August 2018 for more information, if you dare.)  FUV is its own worst enemy.  Ted Osius, former US ambassador to Viet Nam, joined FUV as vice president and then resigns six months into the job.  A little birdie told me that Vallely is on the way out.  Gee, I wonder why?  

Last but not least, another sin of omission is a major source of funding for FUV, namely, the balance of the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF), a scholarship-for-debt program.  That $20 million came indirectly from the Vietnamese government, a partner in this project in more ways than one.  

Finally, what about the victims, both the living and the dead, of Kerey’s war crimes in Thanh Phong?  What about the cruel and insensitive comments by Vallely in that Politico interview?  What about the cynical and persistent use of education not only as a tool but as a weapon of soft power in trying to shape Viet Nam in the USA’s image, which is decidedly anti-Fulbright?  

I could say more but I think this will suffice for a blog post.  

Note:  The author is a Ph.D. candidate at George Mason University, where her focus is on US higher education as public diplomacy.  My hope is that she develops a more critical perspective on the issues she writes about and doesn’t continue to uncritically toe the line of US public diplomacy.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA, The Unquiet US American

On the outside looking in: A US American in Vietnam

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I have spent over 40 percent of my adult life outside of my home country, never content with having my soul controlled by geography, to paraphrase George Santayana. I carry a U.S. passport but it doesn’t define me. I am a U.S. ex-patriot and global citizen who calls Vietnam home.

Follow this link to read my latest essay for VNExpress International.  It includes some personal reflections of my nearly 14 years of living and working in Viet Nam.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

New Approaches to University Education in Asia

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While I will reserve judgement, the theme of this Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) conference sounds like yet another example of US Americans telling others, in the case, Asian universities, how it should really be done a la Daddy knows best.  Why not just New Approaches to University Education?  

Or, as one colleague put it, “It’s nice to see that (Thomas) Vallely & Co have found that Vietnam is too small for their ambitions.  They want all of Asia to hear their wise words about higher ed.”    I wonder if there will be any criticism of US higher education as a negative role model, in some respects?  

Said colleague continues:  My own humble opinion is that what’s needed is a conference organized by Asians to explain to Americans how we can improve our universities.  My colleagues and I could tell many, many stories about how university education in the U.S. has deteriorated over the years.  In the 19th century, American colleges were at best comparable to European high schools.  We might be getting back to that in the 21st century.   

I wonder what advice Asian scholars would give to Americans about how to raise the level of education in the U.S.  Unfortunately, in order to avoid offending thin-skinned Americans, they’d probably keep most of their thoughts to themselves, and would not say, for example, “Drop the slogans!”  “Fire the bureaucrats!”  “Give lower grades!” “Ignore student evaluations!” “Abolish competitive athletics!” 

If FUV really valued the liberal arts tradition to which it pays lip service, it would organize such a conference.  My colleague and I won’t hold our breath.  

In the grand tradition of comparative studies, the US, with which the event sponsor, the Coca-Cola Corporation, and FUV are affiliated, like all countries, is a positive and negative role model, including its higher education system.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA