Dear cherished friends of Fulbright University Vietnam,
At the time of my writing, the end of 2021 is fast approaching. A year which, laden with memories disquieting and painful of long-suffering months when Vietnam was storm-tossed by the latest Covid-19 outbreak, many of us might have wished to forget.
However, I believe that every major event in our lives has the potential to impart invaluable lessons to a world already reckoned as highly volatile and in a state of flux. As such, the pandemic is no exception.
As the old saying goes: “If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge, so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.” At this juncture between the past and the future, I would like to invite you to look back on some of the lessons we have learned from the still-unfolding crisis, so we may make provisions for a new year inundated with unknowable risks and fluctuations.
More than ever, the global pandemic has engraved in our mind the inexorable fact that we are now living in a VUCA world, that of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. The ground beneath our feet is shifting by the hour and it has been exacerbated by technology’s breakneck acceleration, the vicissitudes of which have been further precipitated by the pandemic’s sweeping impacts. Today, we have learned the hard way a piercing truth: the failure to prepare and act promptly in the face of change shall result in costly consequences, incalculable and detrimental.
I still remember the early days when Fulbright University Vietnam was established 5 years ago, during which members of the founding board fervently discussed and debated the mission and vision of a 21st-century university. At the time, albeit the impossibility to foretell today’s state of affairs, we all shared the emphatic belief that first and foremost, higher education should and ought to equip younger generations with the critical faculties to confidently confront the unforeseeable that tomorrow may hold. That unshakable conviction has guided each and every step of our unrelenting pursuit of what was deemed an ambitious undertaking: to redefine higher education for Vietnam, its young people, and the future. Each and every day of our 5-year journey has been imbued with dedicated efforts, big and small, from members of the Fulbright community to build an edifying bedrock that shall cultivate and transform the idea of an educated, well-rounded member of Vietnamese society: one who’s not only endowed with the necessary skills and knowledge of a modern, globalized world but equally – if not more importantly – possesses the unique acuity and ability to make meaningful contributions to their community while living up to their full potential.
Under the taxing circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, the past two years have presented the greatest test that Fulbright University Vietnam had yet to undergo to prove the substance of our mission, vision, and educational model. Like any other organization, Fulbright is also susceptible to the dour strains of this unprecedented crisis. And yet, with hindsight, I am proud to share with you the unassailable fact that, it is the very spirit of “Embrace the Uncertainty”, which has been nurtured throughout our 5-year journey, that has also enabled the whole Fulbright community the flexibility to adapt, manage, and persevere when confronted with unanticipated events. Despite being physically distanced, not to mention differences between time zones, during the past semester our faculty and students have succeeded in conducting creative learning experiences, while maintaining the cherished connection of a tight-knit community whose every member is committed to the motto of “learning together, thriving together”. Removed from the usual trappings of a live auditorium, Fulbright has been, nonetheless, able to successfully organize pertinent and impassioned virtual talks and panel discussion whose topics range from economic recovery strategy to reimagining the “new normal” after the pandemic – these are intellectual dialogues and open debates that shall critically benefit and inform the future of Vietnam and its society moving forward. While the pandemic has taken its toll on people from all social strata, the Fulbright community has never shied away from assuming the mediating role of a goodwill agent to galvanize donations and contributions through social projects to provide aid and relief for the underprivileged in Vietnam.
2021 also marked a significant milestone for the university’s storied journey when the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright officially came into operation. The fact that the pandemic has presented unparalleled challenges which pushed many organizations into varying modes of survival, however, has also underlined Fulbright’s resilient capacity and valiant effort to seize timely opportunities to further advance our quest for regional excellence and international accreditation. At the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright, our seminars on Public Policy, Technology and Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, held virtually throughout the year, have enriched, encouraged, and inspired more than 100 distinguished fellows – young professionals and future leaders of Southeast Asia – to impact positive change that addresses pressing issues facing the region such as energy security, digital transformation, and startup ecosystem.
My dear friends,
Throughout my whole life, I have learned the time-tested lesson that once we find ourselves at the crossroads of choices insurmountable to handle alone considering the ominous risks and unforeseeable odds ahead, the most sensible solution is to remind ourselves of and fall back on our core values. The very things dearest and truest to your heart shall help you make the right decision. This recipe has worked wonders for me and looking back, it also applies to Fulbright University Vietnam’s unfailing agility amid the pandemic’s oscillating tumults.
You might wonder: what is the core value of Fulbright? The answer is rather simple and none other than our pioneering spirit and unwavering desire to serve the community and society at large. It is rooted in the credence born 26 years ago with the establishment of Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (now the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management), in collaboration with Harvard, whose mission was to educate and train government’s officials and leaders who shall bolster Vietnam’s economic reforms, also known as “Đổi Mới”. Believed in and built upon since then, while rising above stringent constraints and dire impediments, we are proud to have proved Fulbright University Vietnam its worthy successor by daring to think the unthinkable and making the impossible possible, which entails our adamant effort to facilitate public engagement and participation in transparent and candid dialogues with the government regarding the country’s policies and burning issues.
Once again, the pandemic has put Fulbright to the most trying of tests when it comes to our core value, as we have been entrusted the task of driving forward discussions and advisory work for the country’s economic recovery strategy, or when we were compelled to initiate fundraising campaigns to support medical frontliners and the city’s vulnerable population. All the way through, we are staunchly guided by the moral compass of doing the right thing, which has helped us see through copious cynicism and difficulties encountered along our trailblazing path. In this extraordinary moment in time, the right thing to do is to keep charging ahead with our fervent belief in serving the country and its community to which we always belong, in whichever way possible, even beyond our capacity.
My dear friends,
It was once said that pioneers’ path is often sequestered and fraught with precarious obstacles. Be that as it may, I still believe Fulbright is not alone on its journey toward the advancement of the future of Vietnam through education, for we have had your generous support and good faith in the university’s mission and core values since its very beginning.
I strongly believe that all of our contributions today, in any way, shape and form, shall add to the realization of a university worthy and living up to society’s great expectations – a proud legacy of intellectual capital built, believed, and invested in for Vietnam’s future generations and beyond.
With the sincerest gratitude,
Dam Bich Thuy
President, Fulbright University Vietnam