The signing of an educational agreement between the two universities took place during the conference “Understand the Past | Transform the Future”, hosted by the Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute on July 29, 2022, at the Reverie Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City.
In attendance was a coterie of distinguished scholars, esteemed alumni and guests, as well as representatives from Fulbright University Vietnam and Columbia University, who all share long commitments to the development of Vietnam, and in particular, Vietnamese Studies, on the regional and global stage.
With the establishment of the Vietnamese Studies program at Columbia University in 2017, and very recently, the Vietnam Studies Center at Fulbright, the agreement marks a new chapter in our continued partnership towards spearheading research, international exchange, and collaborative projects for the enrichment of the study of Vietnam among scholars and students from both institutions, and across the globe.
The journey from Columbia University…
Under the auspices of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI), a hub founded in 1949 for the study of modern and contemporary East, Southeast, and Inner Asia at Columbia University, many units across Columbia have joined WEAI’s initiative in the extensive yet rigorous engagement, and development, of Vietnamese Studies. They include departments in East Asian Languages and Cultures, History, and Political Science, the School of International and Public Affairs, the Columbia Business School, to name several. Together, they make Columbia University the leading academic institution on the study of Vietnam in the United States.
Ms. Liên-Hằng T. Nguyễn, Dorothy Borg Chair in the History of the United States and East Asia, and Director of the Weatherhead East Asian Culture, remarked: “We are truly excited for the future in working with our academic partners. [The signing of our agreement] is a historic moment for Columbia University and the cementing of our relationship with Fulbright University Vietnam.”
Mr. John Phan, Cofounder of Vietnamese Studies, Assistant Professor in East Asian Languages and Cultures, WEAI Faculty Affiliate, said: “Vietnam has transformed over the past few decades, and the global interest in Vietnam has transformed accordingly. New research into Vietnamese language, literature, culture and history has burst beyond the confines of traditional knowledge. New efforts within Vietnam and abroad are revolutionizing our understanding of Vietnam and its place in the world. It’s time for a new approach, a new center, and new progress in Vietnamese Studies.”
… to Fulbright University Vietnam
At the conference, Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, remarked on the official agreement between Fulbright and Columbia University: “At Fulbright, we don’t just teach our students to know and to do, we also teach them to be. The reason why we are here today is that we need to stay true to our identity. We teach our students to be global citizens, but above all, we teach them to be responsible Vietnamese citizens.
“We accomplish this by embedding Vietnam in the center stage of all Fulbright’s activities, from the core course Modern Vietnamese Culture and Society to our Vietnam Studies major, and other extracurricular activities so that our students can understand Vietnam and our identity to be best prepared for the challenges our future brings. Through this collaboration with Columbia University, we fervently hope to further promote these values and identities to more students in Vietnam, and in the U.S., so that they can take advantage of this unique strength and become well-grounded global citizens.”
The WEAI’s vision for Vietnamese Studies at Columbia stands at a cutting edge of new scholarly explorations of Vietnam on the global stage, and is defined by “deep engagement with contemporary Vietnamese culture and society; commitment to educating the world of Vietnam’s relevance to all fields of studies; and collaborations with top scholars across the globe, especially and particularly within Vietnam”, as presented by Mr. John Phan at the conference.
Those pillars are also deeply shared and echoed in the foundation of the Vietnam Studies Center (VSC) at Fulbright University Vietnam towards efforts to “redefine Vietnam Studies, and to change the public’s common perception and understanding of Vietnam […] from a multi-perspective approach, and carefully examining Vietnam in regional and global contexts,” said Dr. Nguyen Nam, Director of the Center and Faculty of Vietnam Studies at Fulbright.
He also remarked: “Vietnam Studies is best understood not as an independent academic discipline, but as a transdisciplinary field. This crucial but challenging task would remain impossible without international collaborations, of which VSC will serve as a link that connects transdisciplinary scholars both inside and outside Vietnam, constituting a global community of research and practice. And now, with our partnership with Columbia University, we aim to create new meaningful and substantial opportunities for research and learning not only for Fulbright students and faculty, but also for students and scholars from across Vietnam and around the world in a wide array of academic interests.”