The concept of Convocation may seem strange to most foreigners, but for Vietnamese people, it has been a long and living tradition.
The idea of Convocation, literally “a calling together,” in the West symbolizes a ceremony in which the University community celebrates newly enrollingand returning University students, and reaffirms the values and progress of the University itself.
In Vietnamese tradition, Convocation is a celebration at the start of the new school year to honor the value of learning.
Fulbright University Vietnam has been recognized by Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, as one that “takes the best of the American tradition of liberal arts and sciences education and advances it through the lens of Vietnam’s aspirations, identity and history.” Fulbright’s Convocation Ceremony, in turn, is where tradition meets creativity.
Where education and integrity come first
Integrity is one of the most important virtues that Vietnamese students need to uphold, especially in education. At Fulbright, it is also believed to be the most respected virtue.
“Fulbright is a community that we are designing together to be a thriving learning community. A learning community can only thrive if its members jointly uphold standards of integrity, shared commitment, and excellence,” said Dr. Ryan Derby-Talbot.
Unlike any other community in which shared values may be implicitly understood, Fulbright is determined to express our standards in the most meaningful and explicit way. As students were officially initiated into becoming members of the Fulbright community, they had to reaffirm that they would uphold the Fulbright Honor Code, the principles that make Fulbright’s learning community function effectively, and thrive, for all members.
The recital of the Honor Code by 113 students of the first inaugural class of 2023 became one of the most memorable moments of the ceremony, a moment that moved hundreds of parents, faculty and guests at Convocation. It was palpable how everyone at the ceremony responded to the tone of the recital. The students committed themselves to the serious work of an education at Fulbright, and this Convocation ceremony honored that.
Where speeches are not lectures but inspirations
Traditionally, the Convocation address usually aimed to provide information on the University’s achievements and aspiration. It was not the case at Fulbright’s Convocation. All addresses extolled the power of ideas and the central place they hold at Fulbright.
The main Convocation address was delivered by Ms. Le Diep Kieu Trang, who served as the former CEO of Facebook Vietnam, the COO & CFO of Misfit ventures, and currently, works as the CEO of GoViet in Vietnam. Being one of the most respected people in Vietnam and the start-up world, her speech is nothing less than inspirational.
“Keep in mind that it should never be about you, but rather it’s about your fellow human. And make sure no one gets left-behind,” was Ms. Trang’s message to the incoming class.
It was also in-line with what Fulbright is trying to build. “Perhaps the most important thing you’ll build in your years at Fulbright is a community. … It will be the basis for the community at Fulbright University Vietnam for a long time to come,” Dr. Ian Bickford, Provost and Vice President of Fulbright, reinforced in his speech. Dr. Bickford believes that only being around like minded peers can students thrive and foster as learners.
“To me, [daring to explore, dream and discover] is the essence of a Fulbright University Vietnam student. … Your possibilities are limitless, and Fulbright University will help you find those possibilities,” Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, emphasized.
Where students are placed in the heart of everything we do
If walking into a room of not only her peers, but also the most prominent experts in Vietnam, and delivering an eight-minute speech made incoming student Nguyen Hoang Nam Anh frightened, she certainly didn’t show it.
Anh was chosen to be a student speaker at the Convocation ceremony, an honor usually reserved for the University’s leadership team or guests of honor. For Fulbright, the spotlight belongs to our students, those who don’t just have an interesting story, but can tell it in a way that resonates with everyone in the audience.
Giving the students a chance to share their stories was one of many distinctive features of Convocation. Fulbright students freely unveiled their ceaseless energy and talent.
Whether it was a last-minute performance they threw together, or a well-rehearsed sing-along song, Fulbright students came together as one voice to share one main message: “In the upcoming academic year, there will be a lot more struggles, stresses and messes, but we are ready to embrace them all because (1) we know we are not alone, and (2) we know that at the end of the road, we will always find something truly meaningful and useful to our life and career,” as Anh articulately put it.
For such a young university as Fulbright University Vietnam, there’s so much to do, and this is just the beginning. Convocation reinforces that we are not on our own, but part of a much larger community.