June 27, 2020

A Fulbright DNA that binds alumni together

June 27, 2020

On June 27, Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) organized an event to introduce the Master in Public Policy program for the 2020 school year to interested parties, with the participation of FSPPM alumni and faculty members. 

FSPPM alumni shared their stories and learning experiences at FSPPM, testifying to the quality of training and the values fostered at FSPPM. 

One such alumnus is Nguyen Xuan Ha. In November 2019, Ha decided to quit his job at a foreign-invested company to work for a small-scale Vietnamese private company. This constituted a tremendous change for someone who had worked in foreign-invested firms for more than 20 years.  

After graduating from Foreign Trade University’s International Business Economics concentration, Ha applied his skills to shipping, logistics and freight forwarding. He advanced in his career path through various management positions, from head of sales department, to head of procurement unit and trade director.

As an experienced manager, he signed up for FSPPM’s Leadership & Management class of 2020. This is when, on the cusp of completing his master’s, he decided to quit his job at a German group to become the CEO of Cargo Care Logistics Corp, a Vietnamese private company with only around 70 staff. 

“It was a very challenging time for me. Just two months after taking the job, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The global economy and supply chains were badly affected. As for those working in logistics like us, the impacts also came from US-China trade war. When Covid-19 became a global pandemic, logistics firms, especially small ones, were really hit hard,” he recalled. 

Nguyen Xuan Ha

With the survival of the company hanging in the balance, he outlined a plan for major restructuring, re-assessing the effectiveness of business activities and the productivity of the staff. At the same time, Ha was still halfway through finishing his thesis, and decided to apply the lessons of leadership and economic management gained at FSPPM to solve his company’s problems. 

As Ha explained, this was the very time he realized that what he was learning in class had real value as effective tools to adapt to changes and challenges. He understood that classroom knowledge could really equip him with the necessary skills to drive the company out of a crisis. 

“I made the best use of what I had learnt from Fulbright school,” he emphasized. Nearly half a year after the Covid-19 outbreak, the company weathered the storm, regained stability, and resumed normal operation. 

Fulbright spirit 

Is this master’s program right for you? And if so, which concentration should you pick? When considering a graduate program in order to continue their education, or to upskill in the face of challenges, these questions are very important, recognized Prof. Pham Duy Nghia, FSPPM Director.

Public policy is an interdisciplinary major, and thus is not reserved for those working in the public sector. Highly applicable and drawing from a wide range of disciplines, it has become increasingly attractive to those from the private sector or working for social institutions. 

“No matter what your background is, you’ll find something relevant at Fulbright school,” Nguyen Thi Xuan Huong, a student of MMP2020 class, claimed. 

In 2015, Huong was selected as a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) fellow for a short course at Fulbright Economic Teaching Program (FETP), the precursor to FSPPM. That was her first time getting acquainted with Fulbright school. She was impressed with the dynamic and modern learning environment at Fulbright. 

No matter what your background is, you’ll find something relevant at Fulbright school – said Nguyen Thi Xuan Huong

In 2018, she found herself in need of policy-related knowledge for her job as a communication strategy consultant for NGOs. She did a little research and remained impressed with FSPPM’s training reputation and prestigious faculty, but felt somewhat reluctant when considering our undergraduate program’s strong economic and quantitative base, given the fact she held a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a social sciences background. 

In the end, she decided to apply for the graduate program at FSPPM, trusting it was the best public policy school in Vietnam. Although the program offered many courses focusing on economics, its methodical teaching framework quickly shored up her economic knowledge. With her serious learning attitude, she shot up to become one of the best performing students of MPP2020 class. 

“No matter where you are working in, economic or social areas, you will find something suitable for you at Fulbright. I was not left behind in this environment because I was inspired by and learned a lot from my classmates and professors. The key to surviving any challenging program is finding the best learning environment for you,” she explained. 

Over the past 25 years of its history, FSPPM witnessed quite a few students who had joined the graduate program and then returned to study again. 

Nguyen Xuan Dinh, deputy director of Vietcombank’s East Dong Nai branch, was a student at FETP in 2004. In 2008, he came back to pursue our Master in Public Policy program. 

During the event, he shared some of the memorable moments of FETP’s K9 class in 2004, when FETP was just a small institution tucked in a back alley on Vo Thi Sau Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. 

Nguyen Xuan Dinh

“There were 70 students in my class, who came from 56 provinces and cities across Vietnam. We lived together, studied together in the campus for the whole year. No one ever thought of going back home to visit their families because of the academic stress. We became close, even more than peers in college. After graduation, everyone returned to their hometowns, but we still kept in touch and supported one another in our work. There is one thing special about the Fulbright alumni community: you may not know each other, you may have never seen each other, but you can know they graduated from Fulbright after a short talk. There is a “Fulbright DNA” that helps us recognize each other easily. In my case, I’ve had several business partners from the alumni network. That Fulbright spirit really helped smooth our work,” he shared. 

The network of Fulbright alumni is one of the proud legacies of our school. Fulbright alumni work in various sectors and come from many parts of the countries. The Fulbright spirit is the thing that binds them together, helping them connect and support one another in their life and career path. 

A pioneer in public policy

Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, FSPPM’s leading professor, said this year’s event reminded him of a momentous moment, a short year past. In the middle of last year’s event, he received the news of FSPPM’s accreditation by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). He had immediately shared the good news with the prospective applicants right then and there.

Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh emphasized the school’s core principle: to be the pioneer in public policy teaching and research.

FSPPM was the first public policy school in Southeast Asia and among only 11 public policy institutions outside of America to receive the accreditation. 

When talking about FSPPM’s vision, Dr. Tu Anh emphasized the school’s core principle: to be the pioneer in public policy teaching and research. Accordingly, the school binds the public, private and civil society communities together in its public policy training environment. 

“From the structure of courses to the structure of students, our school always tries to connect all these communities. We aim to create a mini version of society in the class, involving all kinds of people that are related to policy: from policymakers in central and local authorities, to people working in private companies, university lecturers, and NGO staff. This will create a multi-dimensional space for discussions and debates, a public policy training in tune with the real world,” he explained. 

The professor further emphasized the keystone of FSPPM education: global knowledge is always localized, ensuring that the lessons learned fit in the Vietnamese context. And not just the knowledge: FSPPM students are also equipped with thinking methods, perspectives and attitudes towards current issues they can directly employ to bring forth constructive solutions tailored to Vietnamese society. 

In this year’s admission event, FSPPM for the first time held two demo classes for applicants to assess the teaching quality of the school. Prof. Pham Duy Nghia presented a case study: the Hanoi Urban Railway project for the Cat Linh-Ha Dong route. Case-study teaching was pioneered by FSPPM for our Master in Public Policy program and further refined over more than a decade. FSPPM inherited the cases archive from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School and has been constantly adding Vietnamese cases ever since. Students could approach international cases, compare them with Vietnamese cases, and draw key lessons for Vietnam. 

Led by Prof. Le Thai Ha, the second demo class introduced micro-economics through the lens of “Consumer Benefits and Policy Analysis”. 

In her lecture, Prof. Ha discussed social welfare, a highly relevant topic in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, a multitude of  governments around the world provided a variety of aid packages to families and companies in order to alleviate its negative impact on human lives and economies. Prof. Ha provided an in-depth analysis and insightful commentary on the effectiveness of these aid programs and how they affected consumer behavior.

Prof. Pham Duy Nghia

Xuan Linh

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