Mind-changing learning experience at Fulbright


Le Van Phuc, an alumnus of Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), was a university lecturer in the central province of Thua Thien Hue when he decided to apply for – and win – a scholarship to pursue a master’s in public policy at FSPPM, from which he graduated in 2017. 

This year, Phuc was invited to speak at an FSPPM conference held in Hanoi organized to present the master’s program for 2020. There, Phuc recalled how the learning experience at FSPPM fundamentally changed his life and career.

Born and raised in Thua Thien Hue, Phuc was already an academic lecturing at the University of Economics, Hue University. Driven by a desire to improve his academic professionalism, Phuc searched for a master’s program that would fit his needs. Friends and colleagues recommended the Fulbright school.

Phuc applied for the Fulbright scholarship as it satisfied two major requirements: scholarship holders have 100% of their tuition fees covered, and the teaching program meets international standards, just like any other American university. Most importantly for Phuc, this was also a chance to study here in Vietnam in a program directly applicable to the Vietnamese context. In 2015, he was accepted to the MPP8 class and began his two-year journey to obtain a master’s in public policy education.

Fulbright is rife with such transformative stories, even for those who retained their previous career.

Two short years after graduating from FSPPM, Phuc was exposed to new career opportunities. He moved from Hue to Hanoi to work as an independent public policy consultant for social organizations in the innovative startup community.

As he explained, he quickly seized opportunities to advance in his career, a success he attributes to his confidence in the knowledge he obtained and the intellectual foundations he established during his time at Fulbright. He had learned to adapt to new environments and was undaunted by tasks he had never done before. 

“When I look back, I realize how fast my life and my career had changed during such a short time. Fulbright familiarized me with effective ways to adapt to a new life and new environments,” he reflected. 

“The knowledge and skills I learned at Fulbright were a source of growth, making me confident and mature. It did not only change my way of thinking but also helped me break through my limits. I moved from a small province in the central region to Hanoi, the public policy hub of the country.”

Since then, Phuc has developed through rich and diverse work experiences. For example, he assisted the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry to build the Provincial Facilitation of Investment & Trade Index – ProFIT Index 2019. He also co-authored the White Paper for Techfest Vietnam 2019, the biggest annual event for the dynamic startup community in Vietnam. Today, Phuc continues to work as a consultant and lecturer for several training programs on innovative startups. 

Multilateral thinking

Fulbright is rife with such transformative stories, even for those who retained their previous career. Another alumnus, Vu Thuy Vinh, continues to work as a researcher at the Vietnam Institute of Industrial and Trade Policy and Strategy under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, even if her experience of her work has fundamentally changed.

Alumnus Vu Thuy Vinh

Before entering FSPPM, Vinh already had six years of experience with intensive research on exports and imports, free trade agreements, domestic market, logistics, and trade-related infrastructure. She was the main researcher for projects and studies conducted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade as well as economic and trade development projects at the national and local levels.

She applied for the master’s in public policy after following a recommendation by two FSPPM alumni. The first was her senior when she worked as an intern at the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the other is her senior at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. 

Vinh thought highly of both of them. They were talented, enthusiastic, dynamic, and successful in their careers. Her seniors both admitted FSPPM changed their way of thinking, attributing their individual career breakthroughs to the school’s Master in Public Policy program. 

This sparked Vinh’s curiosity, spurring her to read one, then many, then all the articles written by FSPPM lecturers published in the media, a frantic pace of discovery during which she was constantly blown away by their sharp and logical insights based on scientific evidence and modern research methods. 

Once she entered the school for herself, Vinh was pleased with the learning environment at FSPPM, where she could meet a multitude of experienced professionals, each with their field of expertise. The community was a driving force, encouraging her to relentlessly learn. Meanwhile, the knowledge and skills she gained at FSPPM provided her with new ways to look at – and think – a problem.

“It was all very practical. Not only was I able to absorb new concepts, tools, and perspectives, but this was also a chance to re-digest and set straight knowledge that I had misunderstood in previous years. My thinking process as a researcher goes through three stages: theory-reality-solution. With the modern academic approach at Fulbright, I can now grasp problems from a deeper, clearer, more focused approach, most importantly by incorporating more multilateral thinking, accounting for varied perspectives from society and the community. The biggest change after studying at FSPPM is the change in my way of thinking and my way of approaching a problem. There are many economic issues discussed on the media, but these analyses are only skin-deep. Thanks to what I learned from FSPPM, I can provide a deeper analysis,” Vinh emphasized. 

Le Minh Quang, a former student of the 2020 class, Leadership & Management concentration (LM), is now the chief-of-office at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Department of National Remote Sensing. Choosing LM allowed Quang to continue his job as a public officer because of its part-time format.

Le Minh Quang, a former student of the 2020 class

His main duties cover administrative management and human resources development. As the country continues to integrate with global trade, reforms in public administration are becoming essential to keep up with Vietnam’s emerging, dynamic and fast-growing economy.

The LM program provided him with a multilateral perspective, strengthening his ability to devise and implement policies, as well as effective measures to solve problems in management. 

“The learning experience at Fulbright is unforgettable because I was put under the most terrible pressures, and at the same time I had the happiest and the most meaningful time of my life. The pressure is real, and the knowledge and values I acquired are highly significant,” Quang said. 

“In such an academic environment with strict discipline, I changed for the better. I think the LM program is suitable for people working in both private and public sectors. It provides learners with measures to analyze policies and other skills such as negotiation skills. You can apply these skills in any area,” he concluded.

Xuan Linh

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