A thirst for learning, shared


 “It’s hard to believe that when brilliant scholars come into the city, the first place they think of presenting in is an art gallery or a café, when we have this university with guaranteed academic freedom, amazing students and faculty, and a dedicated venue. I want Fulbright to be the first stop. We have so much to offer.”

Sitting by the beautiful waterfront across the Fulbright University Vietnam campus, we talked with Dr. Ian Kalman, resident professor at Fulbright, who initiated our first academic conference: “New approaches to university education in Asia”, held February this year. This was the biggest conference of its kind to take place in the region outside of Singapore, with 129 applicants from more than 20 countries. Ian also helped launch and led Fulbright’s Speaker Series, a (mostly) bi-weekly presentation from academic researchers from around the world on computing, psychology, history, coffee and linguistics, among others. We discussed his journey to Fulbright University Vietnam from New York City’s suburbs, his dedication to education, and Fulbright’s promise as an academic hub, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue and research in the region.

The quiet professor has a long track record as an initiative starter: “I love to build things and watch them grow. I was in student government everywhere, I was part of the effort to build up the conference at McGill for grad students, where we pushed to get funding. Now, it’s one of the biggest international graduate anthropology conferences in the world. The last time I was there, we had people from Hong Kong. If you push into your networks consistently, you’ll get talent from all over the place.” This made moving to Fulbright at the very beginning of the Co-Design Year, a great idea for three different reasons: it is an institution-building effort, a place of higher education, and maintains a “spirit of adventure.

Ian (front row) celebrating Teachers’ Day at Fulbright

“I think that we’re building one of the best student bodies I’ve ever worked with. I’ve taught all over the world, I’ve taught in multiple continents at all sorts of advanced and beginner University levels. And I can say without reservation I’ ve never worked with students this good, who excel both in content, and in their creativity and criticality using that content.”

A short introduction

Ian Kalman grew up in New York City from a Jewish household. Ian’s parents were the first in his family to go to college and encouraged him to pursue a more prestigious education. From public schools in NYC, Ian pursued a Bachelor’s of Anthropology at University of Chicago and was the first in his family to go to a graduate school. “My parents imparted to me the value of education for social mobility, and my university’s liberal arts focus brought me from being a pretty mediocre high school student to being someone who really cared a lot about their studies. To this day, the rigorous core education and the philosophy of lifelong learning I acquired there affect my life positively to this day.”

After graduating in 2005, he became a Peace Corps volunteer in China, teaching people in a small rural village. “I was already passionate about education, tutoring and providing literacy training on the south side of Chicago in 2004. I don’t think I was very good at it at first, but I wanted to get better. I spent the next three years in universities and private schools, from China to Ukraine and then Turkey.”

Dr. Ian Kalman, Faculty member at Fulbright University Vietnam

In 2009, Ian pursued a PhD in Anthropology from McGill University, focusing on the interactions between border officers and Native Americans, and from 2012-13 worked out of the research office in a native American community, developing policy reports for them, and training materials for border officers servicing the region. At the intersection of culture, indigenous rights, and governmental institutions, Ian’s work is part of an emerging field of research, law and anthropology. “After my field work, I finished my thesis at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and helped them build their law and anthropology department. This was really exciting, the first years of a new field.”

Fostering multiple perspectives

Ian’s passion for education and his interest in interdisciplinary research seem to originate from the same source. At its core, it’s both a desire for better communication, and deeper understanding. “I love the teaching aspect of things. Back at McGill, I was adjuncting more than anybody else. And then I transferred to their political science department: people in policy and politics don’t necessarily read anthropologists, so I wanted to write to the audience that makes these decisions.”

Whether to offer quality liberal arts education, to engage with researchers outside of your field or country, or to sharpen your arguments and creativity, the benefits are endless. “Academia tends towards hyper specialization, which in evolutionary terms is not very good for survival, but in academic terms might be necessary. But I’ve always been proud of being more of a generalist. The fact that I’m able to engage with different theories, different methodological approaches, is I think a boon to a place like Fulbright.

This is how we work through our ideas and refine them, as well as how we disseminate them. I find it extremely useful at both in my own research and in interactions to talk to people from different disciplines, both because of what we understand, and what we don’t. Giving a talk to an engaged audience that ask challenging questions you never thought of or listening to someone’s insights and exploratory ideas from an entirely different place, is the absolute best way to refine intellectual discourse. In that aspect, the conference was a huge success, both in terms of academic topics and geographical diversity.”

Dr. Kalman having a conversation with Dr. Daniel Lee Kim (from Pelita Harapan University, Indonesia), who attended Fulbright’s 2019 Academic Conference

This is true for professors, from all around the world, who participated in the conference, but it is also doubly true for the students at our university, a major motivation for Ian. “Our visibility locally and in the ASEAN region opens doors for future cooperation, becoming an intellectual center for HCMC, for Vietnam and Southeast Asia. We can create an opportunity for students to see and participate in this cutting-edge research currently taking place at other institutions. It’s valuable for the students both as an opportunity to, for them to learn from the presentations, but also this form of modeling of what it is to think through a difficult problem and to come up with innovative ways to understand it. They ask good questions and they’re infinitely curious. This is what I love, you know: when the talk ends and a group of students and the public from beyond the university line up to talk with the speakers afterwards. That’s wonderful.”

Antoine R. Touch

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TRƯỜNG FULBRIGHT VÀ HÀNH TRÌNH “VIỆT NAM HÓA” TRI THỨC TOÀN CẦU Bên cạnh hoạt động giáo dục đào tạo, đông đảo công chúng Việt Nam biết đến Fulbright nhờ những nghiên cứu mang tính phản biện khoa học về tình hình kinh tế - chính trị và những đối thoại chính sách thẳng thắn với các nhà lãnh đạo về những vấn đề hóc búa nhất mà đất nước phải đối mặt. Tuy nhiên, ít người biết rằng, những kết nối sâu sắc này đã được ươm mầm từ hơn ba mươi năm trước khi nhóm giáo sư Harvard lần đầu tiên đặt chân đến Hà Nội. Đầu năm 1989, Thomas Vallely, cựu lính thủy đánh bộ trong chiến tranh Việt Nam, khi đó là Giám đốc Chương trình Việt Nam tại Đại học Harvard, cùng Giáo sư Dwight Perkins, lúc đó là Giám đốc Viện Phát triển Quốc tế Harvard đến thăm Việt Nam, khi hai nước còn chưa bình thường hóa quan hệ. Những vết thương chiến tranh với Mỹ đã cản trở bất kỳ khả năng hợp tác nào. Ngoại trưởng Việt Nam khi ấy, ông Nguyễn Cơ Thạch chia sẻ với nhóm giáo sư Harvard rằng ông phải đọc và dịch sang tiếng Việt cuốn Kinh tế học của Paul Samuelson để tìm hiểu về các khái niệm của kinh tế thị trường – bất kỳ điều gì để tìm ra con đường thoát khỏi hiện trạng đổ nát hoang tàn thời hậu chiến. Tầm nhìn thực tế này của các nhà lãnh đạo Việt Nam đã đóng vai trò tiên quyết cho sự hình thành của trường Fulbright. Ngược với những lo ngại ban đầu, nhóm chuyên gia của Harvard thấy mình được chào đón ở Việt Nam và đươc tạo điều kiện nghiên cứu bất kỳ vấn đề kinh tế quan trọng nào (nông nghiệp và công nghiệp là hai trọng tâm nghiên cứu ban đầu). Nhưng có lẽ, những nỗ lực giáo dục mà chương trình Việt Nam của Harvard đã triển khai mới để lại dấu ấn lâu dài hơn cả. Xem toàn bài tại: -- Trường Chính sách công và Quản lý Fulbright đang tuyển sinh Chương trình Thạc sĩ Chính sách công năm 2024 niên khóa 2024-2026 với 2 chuyên ngành Phân tích Chính sách; và Lãnh đạo và Quản lý. Ứng viên trúng tuyển sẽ nhận được mức học bổng từ 40% - 100% từ Chương trình. Thời hạn ứng tuyển: 12/3 – 09/6/2024 Link ứng tuyển: #FulbrightVietnam #ThacsiChinhSachCong #TuyenSinh2024 #Scholarships


(English below) ✨ LỜI CHÚC NĂM GIÁP THÌN 2024 ✨ Bước sang thềm năm mới Giáp Thìn, Đại học Fulbright Việt Nam xin được gửi đến mọi nhà lời chúc tốt đẹp nhất 🐉 Với trái tim tràn đầy hy vọng hoà cùng niềm vui đầu năm, chúng tôi vô cùng trân trọng sự tin tưởng và hỗ trợ vô giá Fulbright nhận được trong hành trình vừa qua, là động lực hướng đến những điều tuyệt vời sẽ tiếp nối trong năm nay 🌟 Nhân dịp năm Rồng, Fulbright xin kính chúc vạn sự hanh thông, mọi niềm mong thành hiện thực 🌟 --- ✨ HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR 2024 ✨ As we step into New Year, the Year of the Dragon, Fulbright University Vietnam would like to extend our best wishes to everyone 🐉 With hearts filled with hope and joy as we embark on the new year, we deeply appreciate the invaluable trust and support Fulbright has received on our journey thus far, serving as motivation towards the wonderful things that will continue in the year ahead 🌟 As the Dragon's year unfolds its tale, Fulbright extends wishes, setting sail. Prosperity's breeze, in every gale, May dreams come true, without fail 🌟

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