“If we are timid about pushing all boudaries, we will fail”


“As we are now writing the next chapter of the Fulbright School, if we shy away and try to be a little bit timid about pushing all the boundaries, I think we will fail” – said President of Fulbright University Vietnam Dam Bich Thuy.

Remarks by President of Fulbright University Vietnam Dam Bich Thuy at the reception of Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust.

Thank you, Professor Xuan Thanh, Professor Tu Anh, President Faust, and especially Harvard University team.  For me, this is a historic site. It is a place where new ideas and values for the society were conceived.

And then now today, again, you are here with us, and we want to share with you how we continue that tradition: stretching our imagination, stretching what we want to do for Vietnam and for the people of Vietnam.  I know that a lot of people think that coming to a country like Vietnam, it will be difficult to talk about the changes.

But I have to say that, probably in all of your visits in Vietnam, you saw how strong the level of excitement, the level of hope and the level of desire to be able to be a part of the global economy are. We believe that, at the Fulbright School and now the Fulbright University Vietnam, we will have a chance again, hopefully to make history.

Though I’m not a historian, I know that being a historian you have, the luxury of being able to deal with the past but at the same time, you can create and hopefully create a foreseeable trend in the future. I hope that what we have achieved with the Fulbright School, we will continue to see that trend here in FUV.

So again, for us, FUV is a completely unprecedented concept that we’re trying to build in Vietnam.

A lot of things that our colleagues from the US might take for granted, “Ok that’s the way our higher education institution is supposed to be. What is new about it?”  It is something that has never been done in Vietnam and even in some of the Asian countries.

So, what are we trying to do?

Number one: We want to build a completely independent institution in Vietnam.  We believe that without independence and without the kind of governance that we want to instill, it is impossible for FUV to deliver the kind of mission that we promise society.  It is a kind of quality education that all the young Vietnamese deserve.  However, after many periods of war and struggle, the independence here is not about trying just to be great, and you are like a sleeping beauty in the castle.  The independence here means that we should be able to place a decision, which is the best for the society, for the people, for the parents, and for the students of Vietnam.

The University is going to embrace a concept that many Vietnamese still struggle with:  We are going to be a not for profit institution.

Not for profit doesn’t mean that everybody comes in and gets a free ride, and not even trying to make your own contribution and investment. We want to basically build an institution that everybody thinks that they can access as a solution and invest in that institution.

Parents who can afford should feel proud that they are putting their money there to invest in the most valuable investment of their lives – their children’s education.  The students who are of a struggling or poorer background should feel that money is not something that can stop them from dreaming and being good citizens of society.

The government should also feel like, “Ok, I’m investing in something that is going to last forever for Vietnam, and it is not something that one day a foreign institution can come in and take it away.”

The third aspect of the University that we are building and this is something that I find to be most exciting and most challenging in this place. It is the liberal arts education.

 I know that even in the United States, liberal art education or liberal education is still being questioned about the effectiveness, but we at FUV, we believe this is the right thing for Vietnam.  People may think that given the choice, “Ok, I want to go another direction.”

It is fine, but then depriving the youth of Vietnam from a chance at access to something like a liberal education, I think it is a loss for the young people here.  Why are we dreaming for that?  We are happy with good traders, good engineers, and good computer scientists.

However, at the same time, as you said this morning at the University in front of so many young students, it is the ability to inquire, the ability to ask yourselves a lot of questions, and to become not only an effective worker, but also a good citizen of a country, a good citizen in the global world. We believe that a liberal education will give you that and Vietnam needs that.

We know that a lot of parents are worried about, “Ok, maybe they won’t get a job.” We hope that with FUV, and the way we design curriculum and with our founding Chief Academic Officer sitting here, we should be able to dream of the kind of corporate citizens, country citizens and global citizens for Vietnam.

With these three characteristics of FUV that we are trying to build, it is not going to be easy. We know. But then, if you ask me that what’s keeping me up at night.

I have a lot of things to think about when I’m staying awake at night. I have always told myself, 23 years ago, dreaming of a program like the Fulbright School, it must be something so audacious and courageous to be able to do that.

That is the reason that when we are now writing the next chapter of the Fulbright School, if we shy away and try to be a little bit timid about pushing all the boundaries, I think that we will fail.

People like Tommy who 25 years ago did try to do something that our society could never be able to imagine, and I think that’s probably the honor and also the challenge that we, as a team, are trying to live up to.

We haven’t been able to deliver the school yet, but hopefully ten years from now, five years from now, when you make your third, fourth, or fifth visit, we can share with you what we can achieve and hope that it will be successful.

Thank you!

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