October 18, 2017.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Greetings everyone, it is my great pleasure to be with you on this wonderful and historic day.
Indeed, today is a day for celebration of both the past and the future. For two decades, the Fulbright Economics and Teaching Program has been providing a world-class program in economic development to future Vietnamese leaders. It has established a strong reputation as a provider of excellent teaching and research, one that has demonstrated its value to Vietnam and the world, time and time again.
Today, however, marks an important transition.
The Fulbright Economic and Teaching Program has taken the bold step of transforming itself into the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management. The FSPPM is the first program of the new Fulbright University Vietnam, and will offer FUV’s first ever degree — a Master’s Degree in Public Policy.
I am grateful to the excellent faculty and dedicated staff for guiding this transition, and to you, the students, for being the first class of this important and exciting program.
I am confident that this program will provide you with valuable learning experiences, launch you forward into your careers, and prepare you to be fantastic leaders. I am also confident that the program will exceed your expectations while doing so.
I do, however, have a request of you, students.
As you are the first class of this program, you have a unique opportunity — a responsibility — to shape the culture of FSPPM. As the founding class, your actions will influence just how hard students work in this program, how high they reach, how deep they make their discussions, and how collaboratively they work together.
I ask you to think carefully about this, so that you can help create a culture for learning to thrive at FUV.
Fulbright University Vietnam has a grand vision.
First, FUV seeks to educate students not through rote memorization, but through inquiry-based education. That is, at FUV, students are the ones that must do the thinking and discussing of their subjects; not just listen, copy and repeat.
At the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, for example, you will take classes based on Harvard’s reputed case-study method of teaching.
This will give you, the students, the opportunity to engage in the questions and problems at the heart of your courses. I encourage you to push yourself, and really own those questions and problems, as your own.
That is what will make you a better thinker, a better leader, and a better learner.
For education is at its best not just when faculty teach excellent classes (which the faculty at FSPPM do) but when students wrestle with hard ideas — yourselves.That means admitting when you don’t know something, and then doing the hard work of figuring it out, maybe even making mistakes.
As any scholar knows, some of the best learning comes from making mistakes. So push yourself to jump in, and take advantage of FUV’s inquiry-based approach to education. It has so much to offer you; but you will only get out of it what you put in.
Second, beyond engaged teaching FUV seeks to significantly impact Vietnam and the world. Vietnam is well situated, as a country on the rise, to creating a bright future.
This, however, requires facing significant problems and challenges. For example, how should Vietnam work to face and fight climate change? How can Vietnam resist the widening rich-poor gap that consumes so many other developing nations?
How can Vietnam become a source of global creativity and development in a quickly changing world? Questions like these are hard, but they need to be asked. Fulbright University Vietnam is a place where we ask you to ask them, in service to this bright future.
We are depending on you to make FSPPM’s education meaningful, to positively impact Vietnam and the world for the better. Finally, in addition to its model of teaching and commitment to positive change, Fulbright University Vietnam provides a place for learning to thrive here in Ho Chi Minh City.
This campus — here — is a sacred space. It is a place that can alter mind-sets, create initiatives, produce wisdom, and ultimately make you a bigger version of yourself.
FSPPM provides a place where the important conversations about public policy, management, and beyond, can be had. It is here that students, faculty, staff, visitors, dignitaries, and the public collaborate and create a community that produces more together than any of us could as individuals.
And this leads me back to the request I made of you, students, at the beginning of my remarks. I ask that you please take the lead in making this place — this campus and its culture — collaborative, productive, and meaningful. I ask that you ask your questions, take pride in your work, and listen to those who come to campus.
By doing this, not only will you be getting the most of your education at FSPPM, you’ll be leaving a lasting gift to Fulbright University Vietnam. Those are my formal remarks — my promise of the great education you are about to engage in, the request of you to be thoughtful in shaping both FUV’s and Vietnam’s future.
Before reaching the end of my talk today, however, I wish to share with you one final story. This is about me and my own graduate student experience. I remember when I first started graduate school, I was greatly intimidated. I remember someone mentioning in one of my first classes the name of a mathematician I didn’t know, and I almost convinced myself to quit the program.
Everyone else seemed to know things I didn’t know, and I was afraid to show that I didn’t know those things. As a result, I hesitated to ask questions in class, wouldn’t talk to others about my questions, and certainly wouldn’t admit that I didn’t know things.
And then one day, in a conversation with a fellow student who certainly seemed to know a lot more than me, she said “Well you Ryan seem to know so much, and it’s intimidating.”
I almost fell out of my chair. She thought I was intimidating? What nonsense!
That made me realize that my fears about whether I knew enough or not were largely in my head. It then started to dawn on me that the purpose of graduate school wasn’t actually to know everything (about math) already, it was to push myself to be honest about what I didn’t know.
Once I got used to this idea, I started asking questions in class, started raising questions with colleagues outside of class, and even talked with faculty members about what I didn’t yet understand.
Thank goodness I was willing to let myself not know things; it made me a much better mathematician in the long run, because it made me learn just how to learn. So one simple piece of advice I offer you, as you enter your own graduate program, is not just to take advantage of the wonderful program that FSPPM offers; it is to work on mastering yourself, mastering your own fears, so that you can not only grow as a student of public policy, you can grow as a person.
I wish you all the best, inaugural class of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, we are so very glad to have you here as Fulbright University Vietnam’s first cohort of graduate students.
Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management
FUV CAO Inauguration Address/Dr Ryan Derby-Talbot