The program was brought to life by Student Engagement, a division of the Office of Student Life at Fulbright University Vietnam, with the aim of sharpening students’ leadership skills through hands-on training and wholesome group activities.
After much buzz and anticipation on campus, the 2022 Fulbright Leadership Camp finally took flight on June 11 and 12 at Buu Long, Dong Nai Province. Over the course of two days, 50 campers – who were mainly officers from Fulbright student clubs – were treated to a full-scale package of energizing group exercises, self-development modules, and team-building activities designed to foster vital leadership skills in the vein of Fulbright’s spirit of “learning by doing”.
That spirit is deeply embedded in the university’s student-centered and project-based approach to learning methods incorporated both in and outside the classroom, of which the Fulbright Leadership Camp’s program was a clear exemplar. Alongside learning the backbone lessons on leadership styles, resource management, and strategic planning, student attendees of the Camp were also divided into six teams to come up with proposals for community projects that would demonstrate not only their strengthened capabilities but also proven to be feasible and beneficial to the positive change they would like to see in local communities in the future.
A practical and people-centered training program
This year’s Fulbright Leadership Camp was a joint effort between the university’s Student Engagement division and The New Leaders, an educational organization focused on the development of emotional intelligence among leaders to “better connect with others and inspire them to take action for a good change”. Lending their expertise in the strategic leadership curriculum developed at the Harvard Kennedy School, coaches from The New Leaders – who were Harvard graduates and certified trainers in Public Narratives – have designed a program made for lasting impact for Fulbright students attending the Camp.
Self-awareness, leadership styles, strategic planning, team motivation and inspirations for concrete actions were among the main focus of the Camp’s many activities. For starters, Fulbright campers were encouraged to practice storytelling techniques. By learning to reflect and build on their individual life experiences, students were to communicate who they are, their personal values, and visions for the future through persuasive narratives that confidently demonstrate the mark of a leader.
In turn-based role-playing games, campers had the chance to learn about the six styles of leadership, as well as particular situations in which one style would prove to be more effective than the others. Resource management was another focal point of the Camp’s program, wherein the fundamental skills to come up with and follow through doable objectives, feasible goals, and a practical execution plan were brought to Fulbright students’ full attention.
Last but not least, that a leader is nothing without a great team is yet another critical lesson that participants of the Fulbright Leadership Camp had the chance to acquire through workshops on how to call on a team of high-performing and passionate talents who all share the same dreams, visions, and values.
Among the 90% of student campers who reported satisfaction with the program was Quach Minh Phat, Class of 2024 and President of FulPride & Alliance, Fulbright University Vietnam’s official LGBTQ+ support group: “The lessons from the Camp were extremely valuable for my future plans with the FulPride & Alliance Club. It also gave me this wonderful opportunity to get to know students from other cohorts, from whom I can learn tremendously to improve my skills in the foreseeable future.”
“Lead the change where we see people struggle the most”
For their group assignment of coming up with a community-minded proposal, Fulbright campers were divided into six teams and asked to answer the following questions: “What has been bothering you lately?”, “What change do you want to see in your community?”, and “How do you realize them?”.
When it comes to thinking, and acting, for a cause, Fulbright students were unfailingly chock-full of ideas. At the Camp, they came up with projects ranging from building a platform to bring second lives to clothing and goods for the Fulbright community, to raising awareness of sexual harassment and STDs in secondary and high schools in HCMC, from connecting teen moms with support services and providing them with sufficient pregnancy knowledge to creating a platform for easy-to-find, reliable and trustworthy partnership, etc.
After careful consideration on the feasibility of each project’s objectives and outcomes via an execution plan, their level of potential impact on the targeted community, and engaging demonstrations of effective leadership skills, the Camp’s Judging Panel has awarded Team One with the Best Project Award, which entailed VND 20.000.000 to realize their proposed project.
Named “Let It Flow”, Team One’s campaign will foster a women-friendly environment at Fulbright, where women on period will have access to support for menstrual products, wellbeing, and physical health. The project stemmed from the students’ observations of the obstacles that many women are faced with: instead of embracing and living in sync with their menstrual cycle, many young women are struggling with inconvenience, cramps, and even embarrassment.
“We will organize workshops in which gynecologists and psychiatrists will be able to explain the breadth and depth of women’s health and reproductive system, thus encouraging cycle syncing,” said Dang Xuan Thy, Student of Class 2025 and a member of Team One. “Every woman should be able to live in sync with her cycle. She should be working with her body, not against it. Once she begins cycle syncing and lives more in tune with her body’s natural rhythms, she may feel more productive, energized, and experience fewer undesirable period symptoms.”
The runner-up was Team Four, who was awarded VND 10.000.000 for their proposal of Fin Management, a project aimed to provide the Fulbright community with knowledge of personal finance, specifically freshmen who start to embark on a journey of being financially smart and independent. “We would like to lead the change where we see people struggle the most. By raising awareness about financial management, Fin Management will change all the negative attitudes associated with “money,” and gradually change people’s behaviors toward a far more financially secured life,” shared Tran Ngoc Phuong Nghi, Class of 2025 and a member of Team Four.
Limit-breaking activities to discover oneself and connect with like-minded changemakers
During the students’ two-day Leadership Camp at Buu Long, group activities, which were rated their most favorites, brought everyone closer together and created some of the most unforgettable memories. Chief among them was a challenge in which students were blind-folded, placed in disparate spots, and connected to one another only by a rope.
Each member of the team had to follow their leader’s instructions to locate the other teammates, then form a perfect square of the given rope. Blind-folded as they were, the campers found this exercise as one of the most “eye-opening” experiences, for it shed light on the power of team trust and the potential of group achievement in the wake of a true collaborative relationship between a leader and her team.
“Personally, the best takeaway from the Fulbright Leadership Camp was all about those blissful moments that I shared with my teammates,” said Nguyen Phan Viet Hang, Class of 2024. “You know what, despite the fact that we were the very first team to do the blind-folded challenge, we actually won the Best Teamwork Award! When I was finally able to uncover my eyes, I couldn’t believe how perfect of a square we’d managed to pull off. We had complete trust in our leader, and it was so rewarding!”
Another highlight of the Camp’s group activities was Stage Night, where student groups were given 30 minutes each to put on live performances of their choice. Time constraints didn’t seem to have much effect on their ambition, and creative abilities, in pulling off the most entertaining, buoyant and engaging acts for fellow campers. With their Bingo (Lô Tô) minishow, Team Six charmed the crowd away with their impromptu yet arresting performance, and received the highest votes on Fulbright’s Student Engagement Group on Facebook to win the well-deserved Best Performance Award.
“Without doubt, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from the 2022 Fulbright Leadership Camp was ‘listening’,” said Hoang Dang Quynh Phuong, Class of 2025 and a member of Team Six. “At the Camp, I’ve had the chance to listen to and learn from different perspectives from my team leader and teammates, not to mention wonderful fellow students at Fulbright. Together, we have created beautiful memories over those short-but-sweet two days. The Camp was a fantastic opportunity that I was privileged to be a part of – to fully immerse in this pool of positive energy, and to have the confidence to step out of my comfort zone. My mindset has been shifted from “I can’t lead” to “I can lead”, and I would love to see myself keep on growing with every future step I take.”