Launched on September 5, the first half of Orientation Weeks 2022 has seen a multitude of remarkable events brought together by university-wide departments for more than 250 Fulbright freshmen.

The hustle and bustle returns to Fulbright University Vietnam campus in every corner with Orientation Weeks 2022. As buoyant layers of the two-week program unfold, Class of 2026 students have been familiarizing themselves with university life through the Flamee Journey Handbook, offered by Fulbright’s Student Engagement Unit.

Flamee Handbook

Class of 2026 students have been familiarizing themselves with university life through the Flamee Journey Handbook

Ranging from innovative and creative thinking to civic engagement, Orientation Weeks 2022 is packed with informative workshops and captivating activities. By participating in these sessions, Fulbright newbies can collect stickers for their Flamee Journey Handbook to receive exclusive gifts while learning new skills, making new friends, and above all, developing inner strength for their new future at Fulbright.

Check-in Activities

The program kicked off with Welcome Day, causing a sensation around campus with innovative check-in initiatives to help Class of 2026 students ease some pressure on their first day at school.

At the entrance of the university’s Common Area, the Teddy Bear Corner hosted more than 100 stuffed animals for students. While easing off the anxieties of transitioning to a new life may require far more than just the companionship of a plushie, the Teddy Bear Corner was an inventive initiative that encouraged Fulbright rookies to be more attentive to their perfectly normal sense of alienation. Cleaned and sanitized every day before being handed over to freshmen, something as simple as stuffed animals was tremendously effective for one’s mental health, especially when changes were in flux.

Teddy Bear Corner

The Teddy Bear Corner hosted more than 100 stuffed animals for students

Emotional Board was another initiative to promote mindfulness where newbies were encouraged to record their emotions, either by writing or sketching, in colorful sticky notes. Besides serving as a light-hearted engaging activity that helped freshmen to be observant of their wellbeing, the Emotional Board was also a stunning feature wall to look at.

Emotional Board

Emotional Board was another initiative to promote mindfulness at Fulbright

Many Class of 2026 students were dazzled by the ‘Welcome to Fulbright’ board. By taking selfie pictures with their names on the board, newcomers can give themselves a pat on the back while earning some stickers for their Flamee Journey Handbook. Regardless of their diversity in life experiences and beliefs, these eager young talents made their way to Fulbright to help build a pluralistic learning community and a transformative education environment.

Welcome to Fulbright board

Many Class of 2026 students were dazzled by the ‘Welcome to Fulbright’ board.

Service Fair

Service Fair was a vibrant setting where the freshmen were introduced to Fulbright’s 11 student-centered departments and units for the very first time. Ranging from Learning Support to Career Development, these booths allowed the Class of 2026 to gain better insight into all of the services available for their upcoming interdisciplinary growth. By visiting each booth and chatting with Fulbright staff, they learned the ultimate guideline to get the most out of university experience, while bringing home meaningful gifts as well as collecting Flamee stamps and stickers.

Service Fair Service Fair Service Fair Service Fair Service Fair Service Fair Service Fair Service Fair

Newbie Lunch

As the Class of 2026 navigated the Fulbright campus for the first time, they were to small groups of 10-15 students. Over lunches, they participated in ice-breaking group activities and learned about self-care techniques to identify varying ranges of emotions. Facilitated among small bonding spaces in and out of campus, this initiative fostered meaningful dialogues among young adults about mental health and at the same time, helped them form rewarding connections and build communities with their fellow students.

Newbie Lunch

Newbie Lunch

Over lunches, Class of 2026 participated in ice-breaking group activities and learned about self-care techniques to identify varying ranges of emotions.

Fullife FulNight

Fullife FulNight was a joyous event organized by the Residential Life Unit for both residents and non-residents at the Waterfront Residence. From making origami, painting each other’s nails to peer pong and karaoke booths, the event enabled participants to loosen up, adapt to their new residence and forge connections with flatmates before their first academic school year starts.

Held for only one night during the two-week program, the Fullife FulNight offered a glimpse of many thrilling activities to come including Bustle, Fullife and WeCARE initiatives. These valuable living and learning experiences beyond the classroom will focus on embracing diversity, interpersonal development, communication skills, and the empowerment of independence.

Movie Night

Movie Night was another all-out effort made possible by the Student Engagement Unit. Classrooms were transformed into screening rooms, tickets were printed out and even the claw machines were brought to campus. All of which were to bring about a one-of-a-kind Fulbright movie theater experience where Fulbright freshmen can enjoy iconic films with each other. Among “Inside Out”, “Moana”, “Enola Holmes”, and “How To Train Your Dragon”, they got to choose their favorite movies to watch as well as mix popcorn and soft drinks. Afterward, students had a good laugh by testing their luck at the claw machines and trying out temporary tattoo stickers.

Club Fair

Club Fair was probably the most talked-about event of the Orientation Weeks so far. A joint effort between the Fulbright Student Council and the Student Engagement Unit, the event took place last Saturday, September 10. With the radiant presence of all 27 student clubs spanning from academics to society to sports and arts, the Club Fair was a hit to many Class of 2026 students and an eye-opening phenomenon unlike any other event before.

After making the epic grand entrance towards their designated booths, all of the club executives invited the freshmen to engage in different types of activities and get to know the dynamic of many Fulbright-affiliated organizations. Whether it was recruitment, advertising an event, fundraising, supporting a cause, or awareness outreach, these clubs swept newcomers off their feet with mutually fervent enthusiasm. As the academic year is approaching, the Club Fair gave newbies a sneak-peek into club operations at Fulbright and encouraged them to choose the right community, which in turn, will foster their growth in the upcoming journey with the university.

Club Fair 5

Phương Mai

A small exhibition of bamboo wind chimes that are designed and created by Fulbright students in the course Creating & Making is currently displaced at Cresent Campus. 

These are the products of an one-week mini project to warm students up and to get everyone familiarized with basic tools and materials to prepare for the main project, that will be organized in the remaining time of the course.

Students were grouped, in small teams, to design bamboo wind chimes,. They used only the simplest of materials: bamboo, twine, and a cutting tool to creat products. Faculty and students came for the exhibition, and the students explained their designs. 

Not only our students at Fulbright were busy making waves this summer, Fulbright team also had a busy summer crisscrossing the South East Asia to expand Fulbright’s reach to students in the region and to establish new opportunities for our students. 

As we continue to build a world-class academic program in Vietnam, and set up the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, we believe it is a perfect opportunity to learn directly from some of primary success examples in Asia. 

Our team had a meaningful trip to Singapore where we learned a great deal from some of the premier academic institutions in the region, such as NUS, Yale-NUS, NTU, SMU and a well-established innovation ecosystem of Singapore. 

This trip was the continuing effort to establish Fulbright in the network of strong institution in Asia; it also left us feeling even more committed to our vision to bring access to the top opportunity and quality to young talents in Vietnam.

Some of our meetings in Singapore:

  • Meeting with Chairman Hsieh Fu Hua of National University of Singapore (NUS)
  • Meeting with President Tan of Yale-NUS University
  • Meeting with Chairman Koh Boon Hwee of Nanyang Technical University (NTU) – no pic
  • Meeting with Professor Dương Nguyên Vũ – Director of Center of Air traffic Control, NTU
  • Meeting with Blk 71 team – NUS
  • Meeting with Business Innovation Generator (BIG) – SMU

As Fulbright continues to open our door to students from all the countries including South East Asia, Fulbright team has organized visit to Phnom Penh to attract international students including in Cambodia, continuing to affirm our commitment to diversity, not only to students of Vietnam but also other countries.

Some of our meetings in Cambodia:

  • Cambodia Minister of Education, Youth and Sport visit Fulbright booth in Phnom Penh Career Fair
  • Cambodian students visit Fulbright booth
  • Vietnam Embassy in Cambodia 
  • Meeting with Vice Rector of Royal University of Phnom Penh

“We are very happy to say that, after consultation with Olin, you have been selected to participate in the course. Congratulations!”

That was what written on the welcoming email that we received from this special course named ‘Engineering for Humanity”.

This course is special because there have not been many cases like this where Co-Designers had to fight hard for seats in a class. Additionally, apart from this course, there is no other course in Fulbright so far that only lasts for less than a week.

Five Co-Designers, the chosen ones, came to class with excitement and restlessness. None of us knew what we were going to do, or how we would work in the next few days.

With five professors from Fulbright, we started off our course with an Introduction. We met Ela and Caitrin – the two professors from Olin College of Engineering who led this class, on Monday afternoon.

The whole class were then divided into two teams. We were also introduced to a “Design Thinking” tool named The Innovators’ Compass, which was designed and developed by professor Ela and is becoming more and more popular among designing and engineering community.

The next days were dedicated for our projects. Partnering with us were two community partners, Mr. Thu and Mrs. Nga, two elders living in Ho Chi Minh City.

Our job was to create “something” that would assist these community partners in their daily life. The goal was very clear, and yet the way there was long and winding.

The first step we took was to Observe. We noted down every single characteristic of our community partners. We also asked various questions to better understand their families, their jobs, their life and their lifestyle.

We then shadowed them to watch them in different scenarios such as in workplace, in some social interactions, and even in their family. Those findings helped us found our initial observations and verdicts.

The next step was to Understand to answer the question of “What are important to the partners?”. During this, the two groups tried to generalize those observations and verdicts into Principles.

This step was very critical as it became the premise for every idea later. Using the Principles as the foundation, we generated a long list of ideas. At the end of this phase, we picked out three best ideas to consult with the partners.

Our team’s partner was Mr. Nguyen Dac Thu. He has no health-related problems and can still support himself financially. Even at 78 years of age, he possesses an incredible memory.

He shared that what he wants the most in his life is to be close to his sons and grandchildren, who are currently living in the United States and Australia. Thus, Family was the key word that we chose for Mr. Thu.

After running our ideas through him, we decided on the final product: a  scrapbook named “The adventurous adventure of Mr. Nguyen Dac Thu.”

The next step, then, was to create prototypes and pilot them to receive feedbacks. We repeated this step many times to further refine our product idea even more.

Our product, the scrapbook, is a compilation of pictures and stories about Mr. Thu’s adventures from his childhood days until now. Quotes that resonate with his memories are also features in the book; those are the words that he has been treasuring in his mind.

This scrapbook, thus, serves various purposes. It not only is a collection of memories, but also motivates him to take on new adventures in the future.  

Each product we developed in this class was tailored to our partner’s specific needs. Whereas our team developed the scrapbook for Mr. Thu, the other team created another product for our second community partner, Mrs. Nga.

The product they chose to design for Mrs. Nga was a special chair because of her herniated disc problem, which caused her inability to stand for a long period of time.

The chair is foldable, and is light enough for Mrs. Nga to carry around and even use as a backpack. The team hopes that the chair can become Mrs. Nga’s travel partner.

This course serves two purposes: one is the Engineering purpose, and the other is the Humanity purpose. That was why we also spent half of our time learning more about the aging population in Vietnam.  

Ela and Caitrin introduced us to the Empathy Activity where we tried out different tools that simulated the common health problems among elderly people.

This activity encouraged us to put ourselves in the shoes of old people to understand the difficulties they faced everyday. We also realized how lucky we were to have a healthy body to appreciate it more.

This same course lasts for 15 weeks in Olin College of Engineering, but when we did it this time at Fulbright, it was compressed to fit within a week.

The workload, thus, was unbelievably huge for all of us. In spite of all the pressure and tension, when we looked back on what we had gone through, we knew every effort we made paid off.

We gained for ourselves lots of lessons. They are not only the lessons on technical skills, but also the lessons on life, on how to care about  and do good for our community. Without the Humanity side, Engineering serves no purpose.  

Ly Minh Tu

Student of Co-Design Year

On October 15th, the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) held its Opening Ceremony for the 2020 Master in Public Policy cohort.

At the ceremony, faculty and staff welcomed fifty-eight new students, comprising thirty students in the Policy Analysis concentration and twenty-eight students in the new Leadership and Management concentration.

This is the first time the Master in Public Policy program has two majors. Full-time Policy Analysis students study for fifteen months with courses in English counting for the majority of instruction. Leadership and Management students study for eighteen months, studying every two months for nine days with Vietnamese as the language of instruction.

Incoming Masters students were selected through a rigorous process that included satisfying a number of entry requirements: Having a minimum of five years of post-graduate work experience, writing essays, interviews, entrance examinations, and taking standardized tests like the GRE.

Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Director of FSPPM said, “Ninety-five percent of you students are working. To be able to sit here today, many of you have to think carefully, even making trade-offs between your personal and professional lives.”

New graduates come from all regions of the country: 47% are working in the public sector; 19% from universities and research institutes; 29% from businesses and 5% from social organizations.

“Expect the students to follow the tradition inherited from the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP),” Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh continued: “His father has a ‘fire tests gold, work ethic’, we hope that Fulbright’s rigorous training process will help you grow into managers, leaders, and policy analysts in the near future.”

Sharing this expectation, Mary Tarnowka, United States Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, said, “Public issues are rarely resolved themselves; instead, they are resolved by active leadership. These incoming students will demonstrate their leadership to help improve people’s lives and policies.”

The Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Public Policy Master Program marks the second year of FSPPM as a school part of Fulbright University Vietnam with many improvements in curriculum design and content, learning, and pedagogy. For example, this year the school will use the “flipped classroom” model to create a flexible learning environment, build a student learning culture, and optimize classroom study time.

The opening ceremony was attended by Mary Tarnowka, US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, Dr. Ryan Derby-Talbot, Chief Academic Officer at Fulbright, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, FSSPM Director, faculty, staff and alumni of Fulbright.

From 2007 to 2016, Dr. Bottomly served as President of Wellesley College, a preeminent liberal arts college in the United States, and the top-ranked college for women in the world. A distinguished immunobiologist and prominent scientist, Dr. Bottomly was a faculty member at Yale University for many years, and also served as Yale’s Deputy Provost. She is an elected member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors.

Dr. Bottomly succeeds Senator Bob Kerrey, who served as the founding chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. 

Announcing his decision to step down from the board, Senator Kerrey said, “Fulbright University Vietnam occupies a special place in the unique relationship between the US and Vietnam. It has been a great honor to serve as the university’s first Chair. Over the past three years we have made great strides towards achieving our dream of a creating an innovative Vietnamese university.”

The opportunity to help create a new liberal arts university in Vietnam is a worthwhile and important endeavor. The energy and dynamism of Vietnam’s young people makes Vietnam a particularly special place to create a new institution of higher learning,” Dr. Bottomly said.

It was with great enthusiasm that I nominated Kim Bottomly to succeed me. I’ve enjoyed working with Kim and know she will do an excellent job. I of course remain very committed to the university’s success and look forward to supporting the endeavor however I can.”

“I am deeply honored by the opportunity to serve Fulbright University Vietnam,” Dr. Bottomly said. “The opportunity to help create a new liberal arts university in Vietnam is a worthwhile and important endeavor. The energy and dynamism of Vietnam’s young people makes Vietnam a particularly special place to create a new institution of higher learning.”

Dr. Bottomly continued, “The entire Fulbright University Vietnam community owes a great debt of gratitude to Bob Kerrey, whose tireless efforts have been instrumental in advancing the university from bold dream to vibrant reality. I look forward to working with the university’s leadership and faculty to develop world-class educational opportunities for students from Vietnam and around the world.”

Fulbright University Vietnam’s President, Ms. Dam Bich Thuy said: “Having spent her career as a faculty member at some of the world’s most distinguished universities, Kim is exceptionally well-positioned to work with me and the university’s faculty, staff, and students to develop rigorous undergraduate and graduate teaching programs and impactful research initiatives.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said, “My friend Bob Kerrey has dedicated his life to public service, in the military, politics, and finally in higher education. Bob’s indefatigable efforts on behalf of Fulbright University Vietnam, even when it has hurt to relive a war to which he’s done so much for so long to bring closure and peace, exemplify his determination to do what is right, rather than what is expedient.”

Secretary Kerry continued, “Bob and I share a commitment to see the university prepare future generations of Vietnamese leaders for service to their nation and the world.”

Fulbright University Vietnam, Vietnam’s first independent, nonprofit university, was announced by President Barack Obama in May 2016.

The university welcomed its first graduate students later that year. The university’s graduate program in public policy was established by Harvard University as the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in 1995. Fulbright University Vietnam’s undergraduate program in engineering and the liberal arts and sciences will welcome its first undergraduate students later this year.

Fulbright University Vietnam is building its main campus in Ho Chi Minh City’s Saigon High Tech Park. The first phase of construction on this site, which will accommodate 1500 students, is scheduled for completion in 2021. Until moving into its permanent campus, the university will be based in District 7.

Prof, Dr. Pham Quang Minh, Dean of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Hanoi National University).

Graduating from the University of History, one of the most famous universities in the former Soviet Union. He pursued graduate studies for his PhD in Germany at Passau University and Humboldt University. Since 2002, Professor Minh has spent time teaching and in management at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Prof. Minh has been a Visiting Fellow at universities and research institutes around the world including, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, Indonesia Institute of Science (LIPI), Jakarta, Indonesia, Asian Studies Institute, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, SciencePo Institute, Paris, France.

“What makes Liberal Arts different is that it is not like training colleges in former Soviet or Vietnamese systems. Instead, education provides comprehensive knowledge”.

Dr. Pham Quang Minh, Dean of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Hanoi National University) shared observations based on his experiences and suggested different ideas for educators and students.

A graduate from the University of History, one of the most famous universities in the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s, Dr. Minh returned to Vietnam as a lecturer in History at the University of Hanoi.

Then in the 1990s, he pursued graduate studies for his PhD in Germany at Passau University and Humboldt University. Since 2002, Professor Minh has spent time teaching and in management at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

With experience in higher education in research, teaching, and management, Prof. Minh has been a Visiting Fellow at universities and research institutes around the world including, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, Indonesia Institute of Science (LIPI), Jakarta, Indonesia, Asian Studies Institute, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, SciencePo Institute, Paris, France.

He was a Visiting Scholar at Pomona College, a liberal arts school that attracts students from 63 countries and 49 states in the United States.

Recognizing that we are “a product of many different educational backgrounds and academic experience” from around the world, Professor Minh said that “Liberal Arts” is so new in Vietnam that many parents and students do not understand.

“I had four months teaching at the Liberal Arts College at Pomona. Professors at Pomona say they are “Harvard of the West,” but they also say Harvard is “Pomona on the East Coast.

” The school is very popular, with a tuition fee of $40,000 USD a year. The 2016-2018 fee schedule is $67,225. The tuition fee doesn’t cover other fees in the academic year. They are very proud. That was the first time I knew about liberal education. We all pay attention to the big schools, the UC, Harvard, Cornell, Yale. All know the schools are large, but not emphasized is how they are all Liberal Arts. In fact, liberal arts colleges are the direction we need to go,” said Dr. Minh.

Comprehensive Knowledge

He said translating “Liberal Arts” into Vietnamese does not encompass all of what Liberal Arts is. Dr. Minh compared traditional universities with liberal arts saying that many people are confused, that parents and students are not clear what constitutes liberal arts and what the liberal arts means.

What makes Liberal Arts different is that it is not like training colleges in former Soviet or Vietnamese systems. Instead, education provides comprehensive knowledge: the ability of the individual, especially the methods and skills of a graduate to be able to adapt to the world fully,” he said.

He also recalled the period of the University of Vietnam in the past (in the spirit of liberal education), but wrongly applied for transfer to another school after two years of general education that makes the whole society bewildered and confused.

“The whole world does not do that,” Dr. Minh said.

He elaborated by saying that intensive training in a discipline such as training a mathematician, philosopher, or historian requires them to have some basic same training. It is a comprehensive education.

“The issue we are discussing here is whether we want to be basic or intensive. This is hard. We are working at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities. If training history, then you have 4 years of only studying history. Only study travel 4 years if focusing on travel. Mathematicians have 4 years of only math. I think that’s a very basic mistake. Schoolboys are curious yet they leave baffled. Obviously now, mathematics must know about art. Literature must also know about logic… So “Liberal Arts” will give people a lot,” he said.

He said that he combined the experience of the university where he studied in Germany and Pomona College where one learner would probably have 1 major and 1-2 minor. “I studied Southeast Asia while I was in Germany. In addition, I studied two additional disciplines. I can study Mathematics, Drawing, or Theology… But I chose two minor sciences, Political Science and European History. Because my strength is history, a history degree transferred to Southeast Asian studies well. Taking the other two branches was excellent. I broadened my background from world history to Southeast Asia.

So how can he become expert? The program allows you to become an expert or do something that does not lead to being an expert. In Germany, the majors take about 50-60% of your credits out of the 120 credits you study. 70 credits of the Southeast Asian area was more than enough. The two sub-branches were only 50 credits. So, I can still be a Southeast Asian expert and have knowledge of the other two. You can not say you can not become an expert, but you can not say you are confused or bewildered,” he continued.

Looking at Vietnam’s higher education system, the Professor recommended Vietnam redesign curriculum and move away from the training program structure.

“A student in a four-year history program, goes from ancient and medieval history, to modern history, to Vietnamese history, and then to African history… That is just history with more history. Students are very bored and confused. I recommend instead of taking 120 credits in history, students can earn 50 or 80 credits and it will come out the same. The remaining credits can be about 20 or 10 in economics, and a foreign language in addition to English.

The model of Vietnamese universities has long been specialized in a field and deep enough to become an expert. I assure you, 4 years later no one becomes  an expert. But innovation in Vietnam is always difficult. Even the bachelor of history adjusted to the training of 70-80 credits would be enough. That still leaves us with a difficult, different argument to be had.”


Lecturer from Japan-Japan University (JICA). He holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s, doctorate, and master’s degree at the University of Tokyo (Japan).

Going to Japan in 1993, when I was 19 years old, I was a product of Vietnamese society. I just wanted to have a career, make money immediately, and then I got a Liberal Arts education…

4 years after graduating from two universities in the late 1990’s, Hanoi University of Science and Technology and Hanoi Foreign Language University with an English major, Mr. Nguyen Dang Minh had the chance to study in Japan.

He studied Engineering, but unlike the mechanical engineering “trained in the Russian way” at the University of Science and Technology, Minh entered the Honda Technical College with a specialization in service and repair technology.

After two years studying, he continued with his Master’s degree at the University of Tokyo specializing in industrial engineering. In this academic setting, he experienced a distinct learning style separate from his education at the University of Technology in Engineering.

Two degrees in two places would be recognized by the Toyota Group to get him work. When he started a business here, Mr. Nguyen Minh realized something that seemed strange to this corporation. Someone would come in having studied Chemistry, but learn to work on mechanics at the company.

He himself was a mechanical engineer who had been working for less than three years and was transferred to Toyota’s management and research system for China. 7 years of work here helped him develop enough skills, which made him look back to the education model in which he was trained.

It motivated him to take a Ph.D. in business administration. After returning to Vietnam in 2011, he began his education as a lecturer at the Hanoi University of Economics and has been acting as deputy director of the Institute of Business Administration at this university.

Adaptive Learning and Changing

Dr. Phan Le Binh was a colleague of Mr. Minh at the University of Tokyo. Unlike Mr. Minh, Mr. Binh was educated in the Japanese education system to receive his doctorate as one of the first four Vietnamese to receive a scholarship to study in Japan.

After that, Dr. Binh became the first and only Vietnamese national to work at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) headquarters in Japan.

Returning to Vietnam, he continued to work at JICA for many years and is a veteran of transportation development, urban planning, and management. One of the turning points was when he was sent by the Japanese side to teach at the Vietnam-Japan University.

Going to Japan in 1993, when I was 19 years old, I was a product of Vietnamese society. I just wanted to have a career, make money immediately, and then the university education at the University of Tokyo brought the ideas of Liberal Arts,” said Dr. Binh.

Following a degree in architecture and construction, after graduating, Mr. Binh was surprised when he saw others studying in the same course with backgrounds in construction, transportation and the other half with banks and advertising companies.

I was surprised, really that when I was 23, I did not understand. Later on, my classmates and I were equipped with what the school offered. It was the ability to think logically and the ability to present content for others to understand themselves. When there is a weapon, my friends did not upgrade his study. They went to search for a job and show how smart and presentable they were in order to be received,” said Mr. Binh.

Mr. Binh’s development at JICA was also interesting and stimulating. Being the first non-Japanese at the company to be recruited, Mr. Binh did all of his assignments and although he may have been in charge of traffic planning, he may shift to other areas because of rotational positions.

After three years working in that position, I could possibly move to a different one in agriculture, HR, or anything. At JICA in Vietnam, I do everything from booking a car, translations, hotel, management ODA projects, and most importantly remaining unafraid when I take on a new task. When I was managing ODA projects, they told me that I had a new project working as a lecturer. I got a job even though I was not teaching professionally,” he said.

Sharing about the universal value of “Liberal Arts” from personal experience, Dr. Binh said that this educational model equips learners with a variety of skills, identifying problems, and problem solving. In Vietnam, university training is mainly focused on professional training in order for a graduate to fit in a job.

While in Japan, such liberal arts development is done at the college level. Japanese college graduates are skilled and do any job. Japanese colleges are more interested in providing students with diverse perspectives and methodologies.

Both Dr. Nguyen Dang Minh and Phan Le Binh have experienced the value and spirit of the liberal arts, and they emphasize that that is the decisive factor of having an effective education. With liberal arts, in addition to core training, students are encouraged to be lifelong learners, creative, open-minded, and interdisciplinary.

“I think education must come from an educational philosophy. If the philosophy is lost, then educational strategy is not anything because the strategy would not serve any purpose. Opening up the meaning and reason for studying makes people feel comfortable learning,” said Dr. Minh.

According to a report on Revolution 4.0, more than 50% of jobs in the near future, in the next 20 years, will disappear or fluctuate dramatically because of emerging and dissolving industries. People must be adaptable and change based on a comprehensive knowledge based to develop new skills. Educators are pointing to the need for education to prepare their children for not only school years, but also years far off in the future.

Daewoo Professor of international affairs, Director, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and Director, Rajawali Foudation Institute for Asia, Harvard Kennedy School.

Dr. Saich, Director of the Ash Center at Harvard University, discussed Xi’s priorities and aspirations leading the Chinese government.

With his centralization of power, Secretary General Xi Jinping is considered the most powerful leader since Secretary General Deng Xiaoping.

Dr. Saich is a specialist on China and Director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University. During his lecture at the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, he focused on Xi’s path to power and the trends following the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Dr. Saich said, to date, Xi consolidated power to maintain his authority. Noting that Xi will definitely have another five-year term, Dr. Saich outlined that “the question is, with power in hand, what will he do next?”

Political Priorities

In 2012, when Xi Jinping was inaugurated, the Chinese political landscape slowed and the economy stood on the precipice unsure of its next move. Xi considered the issue serious and decided to focus on consolidating the Chinese Communist Party.

One of the challenges of 2012 was to consolidate the political power of the Chinese Communist Party in the context of internal conflict.

“Xi Jinping prioritized the balance of power among people within the party. The only way to concentrate power in one’s own hands is to remove the opposing factions and strengthen his support groups,” said Dr. Saich.

To this end, observing China last year, Dr. Saich added that all major developments centered around consolidating Xi’s power.


He outlined 5 important events:

At the sixth plenum, Xi was officially recognized as the nucleus of the Chinese leadership. Nuclear leaders are elected leaders and then elected a nucleus of leadership. Nuclear leaders have the power to veto internal disagreements and make their own decisions.

At another event in January this year, five former senior leaders were disciplined with alleged corruption for engaging in “political conspiracies.”

“It is remarkable that anti-corruption is used as a political tool to purge factions, as long as the Party does not address ideological issues. Xi’s position did not hesitate to use the charge of “engaging in political intrigue” to show his power, surpassing old practice,” said Dr. Saich.

A third event took place in March 2017 when the Communist Party Central Committee officially acknowledged Xi’s influence over economic reform, minimizing the role of Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

At the beginning of 2015, the “Four Comprehensive” doctrines of Xi were officially announced and promoted in the mass media: “building a rich and comprehensive society, deep reform comprehensive management, comprehensive management of the country, [and] comprehensive management of the Party.”

Another important political move was the elimination of the Chongqing Party Secretary before the 19th Congress.

“Sun Zheng Tai is considered a rising star of Chinese politics, a potential candidate to succeed the post of General Secretary,” said Prof. Anthony.

In short, during his first term, his priority was to consolidate the Party’s power and his control.

Moving forward, there are 6 related political priorities of Xi.

The first is to revive and expand the spread and promotion of traditional Chinese culture, especially Confucian thought, to enhance the legitimacy of the government. His moves seek to marry the idea of Confucian thought with the Party, implying that the Party represents the traditional values of the Chinese nation. Doing so makes it difficult to criticize the Party, because a citizen would implicitly criticize Confucian thought and culture itself.

“This is surprising because during my school years, Chinese leadership in the 70s led a propaganda campaign to boycott Confucianism as an old, backward force,” commented Professor Saich.

Second is to continue emphasizing Marxism and the underlying ideology of the Chinese political system.

The third is representing government as a simpler, familiar being closer to the people in order to break this divide of senior officials as elites. One image showed at the presentation featured Xi Jinping eating popular dishes. As opposed to the lavish lifestyles of previous leaders, he chose the traditional Chinese meal. After Xi Jinping went to eat at a certain restaurant in Beijing, the restaurant became famous.

Fourth, another effort made clear was that of the anti-corruption campaign being a factional struggle.

“Looking at the history of the three recent leaders, the rival who took the position of Secretary General was accused of corruption and removed. The most effective tool to purge factions is allegations of corruption. Under Xi Jinping, the anti-corruption campaign aims at strengthening the legitimacy of the Party,” said Professor Anthony.

Fifth, tighten control over the state and society. President Bill Clinton famously said, “Trying to control the Internet is like trying to nail jello into the wall.” Dr. Saich promptly showed a picture where someone had successfully nailed jello to the wall.

“The Chinese Communist Party not only wants to control the Party but also control the masses. Newspapers are censored. Even Chinese universities are banned from using English material. It shows a contradiction: on the one hand, China wants to turn universities into world class, but not to research, read, and publish documents in English, how can that be achieved?”

Finally, it promotes nationalism and “aggression” in sovereignty claims.

“China is trying to tie the interests of the Party into national interests. It makes the patriotic critique of leadership policy unreasonable. National party opposition or any opposition party is national opposition. That makes it difficult,” he analyzed.

Democracy in Moderation?

A reader wonders about democracy in China: How did an institution and regime like Xi Jinping build public support for the state and the party controlling power? There should be a challenge to giving up individual interests, the pressures of the people, the institution of democracy itself.

Saich commented, if someone is 45 years old or older, then life in China is better: there is more food, higher income, among other things. The general person does not notice or mind who has what control because your standard of living has increased.

Currently, civil society sectors are extinguished by the Party’s authority.

“Thanks to the Party’s ingenuity, the Party persuaded the people that there was no ruling party,” said Dr. Saich. It is difficult to have a civil society framework. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party offers incentives for voicing responses but does not come to the same end as a Western democracy.”

They also put in place mechanisms to encourage greater transparency and anti-corruption feedback. Saich added, “In general, no party member will mess around. But my friends are university professors. Intellectuals in China are very dissatisfied with the current leadership. The problem is that the Chinese Communist Party does not believe in the people.”

If you believe that Internet users are forbidden, close Facebook, do not allow college to use English documents, what are you saying about the people.

Saich concluded for all of its power and might, he saw a scared Chinese Party: “It shows signs of a weak Party. Xi is afraid of something. Obviously, no one knows what will happen. But now people are more supportive of Xi. That is the only option. But if there were a second choice, they could choose.”

SHoP Architects co-founder Gregg Pasquarelli sat down with Fulbright to describe the process and inspiration that distinguishes Fulbright’s campus design and development.

To Build From the Ground Up

Why was SHoP first interested in the Fulbright campus project?

SHoP was interested in working on the Fulbright campus here in Ho Chi Minh for a variety of reasons. First of all, to envision a university from the ground up is an amazing experience and opportunity.

Secondly, I think Fulbright has challenged us to almost rethink what higher education is and to bring the ideals of the Vietnam and the ideals of the United States together in a single building, in a single campus, is an incredibly interesting opportunity. So, as architects, we were just thrilled with the challenge.

What aspect of the Fulbright project most excites you personally?

What excites me personally about the Fulbright project is to think that we are trying to design a campus and a school that will help the lives of thousands of young people, many of whom are not even born yet.

So, to sit here at this point and try to think about what will help people see the world in a different way 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now is incredibly inspirational. It makes me get excited every day when I wake up and start to draw.

SHoP mentioned “spaces for innovation.” We’re wondering what does SHoP do to support, build, and craft a “space for innovation?”

SHoP is fortunate enough that not only do we innovate within our own company and that it is a huge part of our culture, probably almost half our space in the office is just open. It doesn’t have desks. It doesn’t have rooms. It’s a place that can constantly change. So, we can test out new technologies.

We can test out new ideas. We can meet and talk and have groups come together to try and tackle really interesting challenges that we’re facing in the world. We’re also very lucky in the fact that we get to work for some of the best and most advanced technology companies in the world.

We’re building a lot of buildings in New York and in Silicon Valley. So, we see that these companies are doing the same thing as well.

Spaces that we can’t even envision today how a student in 10 or 20 years might use it. It’s about giving students the opportunity to control their own destiny, to invent their own ideas, and to solve problems in the world that we don’t know what they are at this point. So it’s that openness – that ability to gather – that is incredibly important.

Friendly. To the Environment and With Society.

Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City is moving toward being a ‘smarter’ city. What does SHoP envision a sustainable campus being? What does sustainability mean to you?

Ho Chi Minh City is an incredibly interesting and thriving metropolis. As a born and raised New Yorker, when I arrived here the first time, I felt the same energy in Ho Chi Minh that I feel in Manhattan every day. It’s diverse. It’s vibrant. It’s interesting. It’s growing. It’s young. It’s looking towards the future.

So, when I think about designing buildings in cities around the world, you try and tap into that energy. As a growing city – as in all the cities that are coastal – we’re facing big issues with sea level change, with climate change. We have to try and think about what that university will be, and what the conditions will be decades from now.

So, sustainability is incredibly important not just in the sense of technology having photovoltaic panels or other kinds of things. But also what the buildings feel like. How do they deal with the sun? How do they deal with the wind? How do they deal with sea level change?

The most sustainable thing you can do as an architect is make buildings that people love and that they take care of and that use high quality materials that last a long time.

You don’t want people to rip things down and renovate them every 20 years. That’s an environmental disaster. But building buildings that last 50, 100 200 years? That’s the most sustainable thing you can do.

What do you think defines a SHoP project?

A SHoP project is different than, I think, many other architects where they have a definitive, signature style. They always use a particular color, a particular shape, or a particular form.

SHoP is incredibly interested in working closely with our clients, thinking about the local context, using traditional materials, and taking those materials and using cutting-edge technology – laser cutters, robots – to take traditional materials and reinvent them into a new way of looking at those materials for the 21st century.

Are there ways that the general public can follow and be aware of what SHoP is doing?

I’m very fortunate to be a founding partner at SHoP and to have helped start this firm with my partners almost 20 years ago. We are working on incredibly diverse projects all over the world. Sometimes it’s hard for even me to keep up with everything we’re doing and innovating.

That’s what makes it exciting to go into the office every day, and to travel around the world, and to be able to connect with amazing clients like Fulbright. Right now, we have 19 major projects under construction around the world.

So, over the next two years many of these projects are going to be finished, and there will be a lot of press about them. You’ll be able to read quite a bit about them. But the best way to connect is when you are in New York is to stop by the firm and say hi. We’re constantly changing what we’re doing.

SHoP as Participants, Observers, and Learners

We’re wondering whether there will be possible workshops, discussions, meet and greets with the general public in HCM while planning, working, and constructing.

We would love to start to think about a public outreach process. On some of our projects we’ve had 20, 30, 40 meetings with the public and have people come in, show them the model, show them the ideas, talk about what we’re trying to do. We love listening to feedback. We love public engagement.

We also envision when the campus gets built that it’s not going to be a campus that has a wall around it and only people who are students and faculty have access. We see it as an asset for Ho Chi Minh City and an asset for Vietnam as a whole.

Anyone is welcome to walk on that campus, to meet the students, to talk to professors, to see what’s going on and to see the interaction. We’re designing the campus in a way that will always be welcoming.

You visited a lot of architectural places in Vietnam.  What impressed you the most?

I think that what is interesting in Vietnam is the traditional Vietnamese village planning, how it’s different in the north, in the central, and in the south. Just learning that difference over thousands of years, how it emerged. Then to see the French colonial influences on the architecture. Then to see the Western influences on the architecture.

But most importantly to see how Vietnam is bringing these things together. I think that we haven’t even seen yet what a true Vietnamese architecture is going to be, because it’s going to blend those thousand years of history and what’s coming next in a country that is filled with so many young people looking toward the future.

I hope that our project is one tiny, little part that can push those visions forward. It’s just an amazing country and an amazing place to spend time.

What does SHoP hope to learn about Vietnam while working on the campus?

I want to learn how to be a better Vietnamese cook, for sure, because the food is so good here! It’s amazing!

I really will say this: Vietnam has an energy and an incredibly positive attitude about the future. It is a place that I just love being every time I come here.  I’m happy. I’m energized. I’m inspired. The people are fantastic. They’re smart. They’re driven. You can see that it’s really a country about the future.

We feel honored to be able to spend time here and to be able to design a building that we think is going to be very important for the future of Vietnam. I can tell you that we have already learned so much just by spending time here.

But, definitely, I want to be a better Vietnamese cook.