“I hope in 10 years, my daughter will find it hard to choose among Harvard, Cambridge, or Fulbright”

Though a chairman of a multimillion-dollar corporation, Tran Trong Kien still wears his 10-year-old pair of shoes and chauffeurs his clients on the weekends. Kien is one among the life-time donors to Fulbright University Vietnam. Kien agreed to share with Soha.vn, one of the most favourite online newspaper in Vietnam why he chose to donate to Fulbright University.

Kien’s original interview is HERE

                                                                                                                                                                       As a Vietnamese, my biggest fear is for us to have a failed community

Tô Lan Hương: I recently learned that you are one among 7 Vietnamese businessmen who committed to become FUV’s lifetime donors, with a handsome package too, no less. Other rich Vietnamese tend to build pagodas, donate to poor people, or foster basic education in the highlands. It appears you are the first to donate for higher education. May I ask why?

Trần Trọng Kiên: For the past 20 years, I was lucky enough to travel to different places. I saw communities that thrived, such as Denmark, Belgium, Norway, or the Jews in Israel. And of course, I also saw those that failed.

How could these communities, even those with a small population, succeed? How did the others fail? I spent a lot of time trying to find the answer…

” As a Vietnamese, my biggest fear is for us to have a failed community”

I may be wrong, but I think that for all members to live in harmony and thrive as a community, they need to build their success on shared values. And one of those shared values is knowledge. To gain knowledge, a community needs a good education system.

A good education system can develop doctors to provide treatments and care for the community; teachers to teach and mentor the young generation of that community; engineers to work in factories and produce the necessities for the community; business people to lead the economy. Good politicians and community-minded leaders can also emerge from a good education system.

And that is the future of a community.

As a Vietnamese, my biggest fear is for us to have a failed community. My dream is for Vietnam to be the leader of the region because I believe we have the capability; I believe we can.

6 or 7 years ago, Dam Bich Thuy – who was still the CEO of ANZ Vietnam at the time – and Thomas Vallely – the founder of the Vietnam Program in Harvard – came to see me. They told me that soon, when the time came, Fulbright University Vietnam would be established under two platforms: liberal education and non-profit. Then, they asked me for a donation to Fulbright.

To be honest, though I was extremely interested then, I was not sure that I could donate a lot. 6 years ago, I didn’t have a lot of money, didn’t know much about education, and didn’t really contemplate what I could do for this country.

“I do not want to make money from education, so I definitely will not choose to donate to private, for-profit universities”.

But these past few years, after I accumulated a larger sum from my business and hard work, I became more engaged in the FUV project.

When FUV was established with the support from both governments and the potential to succeed, I participated as a member of the governing board. I decided to donate a part of my accumulated capital to maintain the university’s operations. Saying no to “for-profit education”

Tô Lan Hương: But there are many universities in Vietnam… Why did you choose FUV? And why now?

Trần Trọng Kiên: To be honest, before FUV, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t find any university in Vietnam to which to donate. In Vietnam, there are two types: state-funded universities and private, for-profit universities.

I do not want to make money from education, so I definitely will not choose to donate to private, for-profit universities. There are not yet any regulations regarding donations to state-funded universities, and there remain concerns regarding fund-management efficiencies.

So when FUV was established as a first non-profit university in Vietnam, I agreed to become FUV’s donor with a large and long-term commitment.

FUV promises that all revenues and profits, if any, will be re-invested in the university’s operations, and provide more financial aid to more students, regardless of their background, so that more Vietnamese students can afford an education at FUV.  

” For me, I treasure such connection with Vietnam.”

FUV’s mission is: it doesn’t matter where you are from, what your background is, or how good your transcript is… as long as you can convince us that you have the ability to be a leader or one who can initiate positive change in the community, we will offer you a place at FUV.

That means everyone in this country has the same opportunity to obtain a high-quality education. And that is what I want.

All indicators show that general education in Vietnam has improved so much throughout the years. However, that is not the case for higher education. Back in the days, the elite students were from universities such as Polytechnic University, or University of Science.

Now, the elite students study abroad, and there’s a chance that they will not come back. They lose touch with Vietnam for a long time, some for 3-5 years, others for 7-9 years. Some never return. This is because Vietnam doesn’t have universities that can compete directly with universities abroad.

For me, I treasure such connection with Vietnam. These connections can be something as simple as eating a bowl of pho in the morning, drinking a cup of coffee or buying a snack from a street vendor, or speaking Vietnamese every day. From these simple things, you understand your country more, love it more, and want to make it a better place.

“Everyone in my family wants the Vietnamese education system to thrive.”

I hope that one day, we will have top universities to compete with those in the region and abroad, such as Singapore’s NUS, China’s Tsinghua University, Hong Kong University, Tokyo University… so that our children can have more choices in our own country. That is why I am committed to FUV.

After making that decision, I returned home to share it with my family…

From a man who earned millions of dollars at 30, who is still wearing the same pair of shoes, to the moment of “meaningful giving”

Tô Lan Hương: And how did your wife react?

Trần Trọng Kiên: It wasn’t just my wife; my children’s voice mattered too. My wife’s father was a very famous teacher in his field, so you can say that it runs in the family. Everyone in my family wants the Vietnamese education system to thrive. Each of us, my wife, my kids, or me, we have this habit of giving back to the society in our own ways, however we can. And the ‘how’ was an important question to ask. We discussed it together as a family.

And together, we arrived at one collective decision: We cannot spend all of the money we make, so we should give back to the society. And our wish is to give it back through education, and most of this is for FUV.

And I am not the only one. There are others, in Vietnam or abroad, who committed to become FUV’s life-time donors too. Maybe because of their personal reasons, they don’t want to disclose it.

Tô Lan Hương: Since when did you start thinking about giving back? Was it when you became a rich businessman, or when you were still a poor young guy trying hard to get rich?

Trần Trọng Kiên: Now I have some money and gray hair too, but I still hope to be called a ‘young guy’ [laugh].

I don’t really care too much about the absolute amount of money I earn. I care more about how I can use this money to give back, to help my community to develop.

Actually, I think in every different phase of our life, we have a different need, a different goal; we cannot be idealistic all the time. To be honest, when I was poor, my one dream and only goal were to make sure that I had food on the table, clothes to wear, and that my children wouldn’t have to suffer the way I did.

I started doing business when I was 21. Because we were so poor, after my six years in medical school, I decided to pursue business instead. I think I was lucky too. I didn’t have much; but when I first started, the tourism industry grew by leaps and bounds. Just within a few years, in my 20s, I was a millionaire. In my 30s, I owned multimillion-dollar assets.

But when I had more money, I realized one thing. Initially, one can make money to improve one’s living standard; but after you reach a certain point, it doesn’t matter how much more money you can make, your living standard cannot be enhanced any further.

Tô Lan Hương: Just like those leather boots made by Australian Aborigines that you are wearing today, right? I heard that though you are rich, you only wear these.

Trần Trọng Kiên: You see, you only need enough money to have 2-3 houses, to buy clothes to wear, to make sure your children can have a good education. Shoes? A pair for 10 years is good enough.

These past few years, I don’t really care too much about the absolute amount of money I earn. I care more about how I can use this money to give back, to help my community to develop.

Of course, I know I’m nowhere near the richest Vietnamese man, but I know that I accumulated a sum that is larger than most Vietnamese people do. And I know that I’m always interested in medical and educational matters. In general, I am interested in anything that can foster change and community development, help that community thrive, preserve the community’s values and environment, and improve the living standard. And I decided to prioritize education.

I believe that FUV’s transparency and vision can convince such a group of people

I alone cannot create change, but I am willing to initiate change

Tô Lan Hương: President Dam Bich Thuy did not disclose the amount that you committed to donate. Are you comfortable sharing this number?

Trần Trọng Kiên: The amount that I committed to FUV can be a large number if you view it as an absolute amount. However, for such a university with aspiring mission and goals as FUV, mine or others’ commitments are not that much. Yet, if ten thousand people, a hundred thousand people, a million people can commit and donate, FUV can have better chance and resources to succeed. And I believe that FUV’s transparency and vision can convince such a group of people.

I expect that FUV will not be the only institution that nurtures the hopes and dreams of education in Vietnam. What I want most is that if FUV succeeds, there will be more universities, more institutions, more educational models that will be established. Vietnam’s higher education will then be improved. And we, one day, as a country, can dream bigger and aim higher.

I don’t think Vietnamese people don’t want to give. I think they care more about whether their donation actually goes to those in needs in an efficient way.

Tô Lan Hương: Thien Minh Group’s slogan is ‘Inspiring people’. When you donated a part of your wealth for FUV, are you trying to inspire others to do the same for higher education?

Trần Trọng Kiên: Top private, not-for-profit universities in America and Europe such as Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, can operate and create sustainable values thanks to having not only the right educational philosophy, but also the donations and support. These supports are from both successful individuals and the alumni.

And the hardest part is, always, to find the first donors.

I think I can be one among these first few ones, hoping that my action can spark a habit for other people to follow. It’s like this interview. I didn’t accept your interview request just to get my name on the newspapers. I just hope that when someone reads this interview, they can be more willing to donate $20, or $50 for this project. This means our discussion today is not a meaningless one.

Tô Lan Hương: In America, in 2012, Stanford mobilized USD 6.2 billion; in 2018, Harvard mobilized USD 9.5 billion from 153,000 families. Do you think Vietnamese families can do something similar?

Trần Trọng Kiên: I don’t think Vietnamese people don’t want to give. I think they care more about whether their donation actually goes to those in needs in an efficient way. That’s their biggest concern in Vietnam. And if there are more non-profit universities with aspiring visions, I believe this good habit will continue to flourish.

Vietnamese people care about education. I still remember my dad’s most treasured moment in his life. That was when told him that I was accepted to Medical University; I was 16 years old. Vietnamese parents are willing to save every single cent and can easily spend 60% of their income on their children’s education.  

I’m proud of that culture and I trust that this will be the motivation that drives education.

I strongly believe that the habit of Vietnamese people will change: the habit of giving back to the society will slowly ripple.

Actually, the habit of giving back has been around for such a long time in developed countries: a small child can give away a tiny bit from his or her savings; a college graduate can give away $10-20 from his salary to his college’s scholarship fund.

$10 from this graduate student or $1 from this small child may seem small. But 100,000 students, or 100,000 children can create a miracle. It’s a good habit to have. One should learn to share what they have and contribute more to make the community a better place.

I’m sure Vietnamese children are also willing to donate their VND 10,000-20,000. Those parents who spend 60% of their income on their children’s education are also willing to give, as long as they think their donation can make a difference.

I hope one day we’ll be a strong country and no one can ‘bully’ us

Tô Lan Hương: What about you? I heard that when you became a business owner and earned millions of dollars, you still drove your clients to the airport. That was how you learned how well your business operated with direct feedbacks from the clients. Thus, when you committed to give a significant amount to FUV, how do you know that your money is well managed?

Trần Trọng Kiên: Before I became a donor, I was a member of FUV’s Governing Board. There are other Vietnamese people on the board as well. We don’t receive any dividends or bonuses. Our job is to make sure operations at FUV are transparent and effective, to make strategic decisions, and to find a good team to manage the university. It is such a huge honor.

But that was not the reason why I donated to FUV. I donated to FUV because I trust the founding team, their dedication and their effort. With a leader like Dam Bich Thuy, who led major international corporations, there’s no doubt that FUV has excellent standards of human resources management, ethics and leadership, connections and accountability.

Up to this point, I can honestly say that I haven’t met that many people whom I trusted so much. That’s why I didn’t have any doubts about how my money will be used.

Tô Lan Hương: Giving away such a handsome package to a university, what do you want in return: a legacy for future generation to remember you by?

Trần Trọng Kiên: My biggest wish is for Vietnam to thrive, to become a strong country so that others cannot bully us, to become a rich country so that our people can live a better life with equality. And Vietnamese people like me can proudly say that we are Vietnamese when we travel abroad.

I always wonder how we can best define a Vietnamese’s patriotism. We love our country; but the way we express our love is different, depending on our personal choice.

Some prefer to express their sense of patriotism by denouncing China when they violated our sovereignty on the South China Sea. Some show it by protecting the environment, fighting for gender and social equality. Your way of writing a good article to spread the goodness in life is also a way to express your patriotism. I express mine by investing in education.

I think Vietnam needs a push, and I hope education can do just that. Today, there’s one FUV. But tomorrow, there may be many more, with creative educational models that can foster change. And that is why I commit to be FUV’s life-time donor, not for any other motives.

Tô Lan Hương: Though you said you don’t want FUV to honor your name, FUV’s President told me that one day, FUV will honor their donors the way Harvard did for theirs.

I chose to invest in FUV, to give away a part of my wealth to support this university because I could see FUV’s potential.

Trần Trọng Kiên: I don’t know what they will do after I die because that’s not something I can control. But I assure you that that’s not the main objective for donors like us, my family and me included, when we donate to a university.

I receive not a cent of dividends or bonuses, but I will get in return rich values that you cannot see now.

Tô Lan Hương: You refer to FUV as a small start-up. But I’m sure that it’s an investment which will not bring you any dividends or bonuses.

Trần Trọng Kiên: Correct!

Tô Lan Hương: So, what will be your “benefits” in this investment?

Trần Trọng Kiên: … a better community!

Tô Lan Hương: But that’s not the “benefit” you’ll receive.

Trần Trọng Kiên: Have you forgotten that I am also a part of this community? That’s more important. The benefits I’ll yield cannot be measured.

Tô Lan Hương: If I define you as an idealistic and generous person, I think a lot of other people will agree. But if I define you as a dreamer, I’m sure some other will also agree. What do you think?

Trần Trọng Kiên: I don’t think so! I think I’m a practical investor. As a businessman, I choose to invest in projects with high probability of success, both in business and charity work. I chose to invest in FUV, to give away a part of my wealth to support this university because I could see FUV’s potential. The educational model that inspired FUV worked in America, a highly developed country. And here with the right management and the support from both governments, I believe in FUV’s success.

I have my own calculations too. For example, if FUV succeeds, it can provide 1,000 – 1,500 well-trained graduates for the workforce every year. It will benefit the society we are living in. More importantly, if FUV succeeds, it will inspire many more educational models and institutions, and collectively, create a push for the whole education system. Then, there won’t be just 1,500 well-trained graduates a year, but many more…

I always tell my staff to “use kindness as the compass in life and at work.” I’m experienced enough to know that not everyone will agree and understand with what we are doing. However, I still believe that if we do something good, every day, there will be some more people who understand and help us create the ripple effect of kindness.

I hope in 10 years, my daughter will find it hard to choose among Harvard, Cambridge, or FUV

Tô Lan Hương: Just a few months ago, I read in the news that you recently founded Thien Minh Aviation JSC. Some articles mentioned that you had to sell real estates and borrow from the bank to invest in commercial aviation. I’m not sure how you can deliver your commitment to FUV when you need to focus your capital on so many major projects.

Trần Trọng Kiên: Thien Minh Group is entering a new phase, TMG 2.0. There are so many things that need to be done in this transition period. That is why I stepped down from the Board of Directors of certain banks and corporations to focus my effort on TMG. However, I remain on FUV’s Governing Board because FUV is my life-long commitment.

At TMG, when we invest in new projects, we need to borrow capital from the bank, especially now when we are running 5-7 projects simultaneously. But my commitment for FUV is from my personal wealth. That will not change, even in such period as this.

Tô Lan Hương: Of course you can easily send your children abroad for a good education. However, have you ever hoped that one day, your children would study in Vietnam, at universities like FUV, and not anywhere else?

Trần Trọng Kiên: My two oldest are in college. But my youngest daughter is only 7 years old. I hope that in 10 years, when my daughter has to decide which university she wants to study at, she’ll find it hard to choose among Harvard, Cambridge, or FUV. That means we do something right. And I long for that day to come.

Tô Lan Hương: Thank you so much for the interview!

By: Tô Lan Hương (soha.vn)

Dr. Murray previously served as Dean of the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University from July 2009 until December 2014. Dr. Murray assumed the deanship two years after SEAS became Harvard’s newest school.

During this formative period she led a  strategic planning effort aimed at defining the school’s teaching and research agenda, integrating design and active learning in the curriculum, and supporting diversity and research initiatives.

“I am thrilled to join Fulbright’s board. Opportunities to create a new university ab initio are rare. I look forward to working with President Thuy and her talented team to support an environment where students are empowered and encouraged to engage in broad and deep interdisciplinary study,” Dr. Murray said.

“I am particularly excited by Fulbright’s vision on incorporating the ‘grand challenges’ and opportunities facing Vietnam, its neighbors, and the world, into the student learning experience, so that the university’s graduates are prepared and inspired to help society grapple with these forces.”

Over the course of her distinguished career Dr. Murray has worked in industry, the academy, and the public sector.

During more than two decades at Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies her research resulted in several patents. In 2010, she was appointed by former U.S. President Barack Obama to the U.S. National Commission on the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Dr. Murray was also confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science from December 2015 to January 2017.

In this role, she oversaw $5.5 billion USD for the Department’s competitive scientific research, which includes scientific computing, basic energy sciences, biological and environmental sciences, fusion energy sciences, high energy physics, and nuclear physics.

As the Director, she also managed the development, construction, and operation of open-access scientific user facilities, and she managed 10 of the Department’s 17 National Laboratories.

“Cherry embodies the ideals of what we hope to see in our future graduates. She applies her education and research for impactful insights into society, policy advocacy, and for collaborations with leading research institutions and public bodies to better national and international landscapes for science and technology,” President Dam Bich Thuy stated.

“I am excited to have her perspectives and experience as we position Fulbright to best leverage rigorous science and engineering with a liberal arts mindset.”

Dr. Murray has served on more than 80 U.S. and international scientific advisory committees, governing boards, and U.S. National Research Council panels and was the recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation – the country’s highest honor for achievement and leadership in the advancement of science and technology.

She has served as an advisor to the government of Singapore on science and technology policy and currently chairs the Board of Trustees of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Okinawa, Japan.

Dr. Murray holds a B.S. and a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. H. Kim Bottomly has been elected Chair of the Fulbright University Vietnam Board of Trustees.

From 2007 to 2016, Dr. Bottomly served as President of Wellesley College, a preeminent liberal arts college in the United States, and the top-ranked college for women in the world. A distinguished immunobiologist and prominent scientist, Dr. Bottomly was a faculty member at Yale University for many years, and also served as Yale’s Deputy Provost. She is an elected member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors.

She talks with Fulbright about her new role:

It’s quite the experience that I see on this sheet, and I’m really wondering where does Fulbright University Vietnam come into this narrative. You have quite the list of experiences, and I’m wondering how Vietnam comes into this.

It’s a fascinating story from my point of view. Late in my presidency at Wellesley College, I met an alum whose husband worked in Hong Kong who had been involved in this effort to create a new university in Vietnam.

Through that connection, I was visited by a couple of people who are now on the board of trustees at Fulbright. Eventually, President Thuy herself came to talk to me. Mostly to talk about what does good undergraduate education look like from my perspective.

At the time, I was at Wellesley, it is a very highly ranked liberal arts college. We think of ourselves as specializing in undergraduate education. It was a wonderful time to just talk about what makes an undergraduate feel like they are receiving a great education on campus. That’s where it all began.

I just kept up contact with these individuals. As I heard more and more about Fulbright, the more interested I got. The more exciting it seemed as a wonderful thing to do.

The other thing that was really interesting about it, they weren’t really interested in starting a school that was exactly like an American school, which is a wonderful educational system, but were thinking of innovating and creating the best possible experience for undergraduates. That appealed to me tremendously. It all started there.

How has your role with Fulbright evolved and what are you most excited about in your relationship and engaging with the university here in Vietnam?

Eventually, I was asked to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees. So that was the first evolution. That’s a huge responsibility because you want to be able to help govern a new university and help with its success over the years.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what the academic program will look like by talking to the Chief Academic Officer, helping Thuy think through the issues she might face as a President, sort of as a president-to-president conversation. So, being very involved in the development of this new idea.

Perhaps the most significant thing for me was just walking into the office at Fulbright University with all the people who have been involved in making this effort successful. It’s a small space bustling with people putting their hearts and souls into getting the first class established and recruiting the students, and telling people about the wonderful opportunity that resides here.

It’s wonderful to see such a great team working together under the leadership of a really wonderful President, President Thuy. You rarely see that kind of emotional working environment where people really care about the project, where they really see the need for it. That was my first impression.

Diversity for students. Diversity for faculty. Fulbright is promoting diversity, from economic circumstances, regional and geographic variation of where our students come from. Why does diversity matter for a university campus? What does it add?

I’m such a big believer in diversity. First of all, you can’t have a great undergraduate education unless you have diversity in a student body, in particular. When I say diversity, I’m not just talking about gender diversity, or race diversity or ethnicity. I’m really talking about the type of diversity that reaches out to all people who come from different kinds of backgrounds.

That means you would love to have as part of your student body students who come from remote farming communities or come from families whose families have never went to college before and bring those rich life experiences to the other students in Fulbright. I think that’s very important.

It’s necessary for the excellence in education. Students get to understand each other more thoroughly and bring their experiences to the classroom.

Also, you need it for the talent. If you only focus on those students who know about the university or who can afford to go to the university because their parents have enough money, you have a limited pool of students that are represented in the university.

There are a lot of smart, talented students out there and you’ll be missing out on that talent if you don’t actually try to recruit students and help afford them to come.

Fulbright wants to be a liberal arts university. It intends to be both in either Engineering or Social Sciences. We want it to be a Liberal Arts experience. You were a hardcore scientist that led a liberal arts university. Why is the Liberal Arts important for a biologist? Why does it matter for a physicist or a chemist?

That’s a great question. The answer to that has been shown in the sense that we find that the best scientists out there in the world are those that come from small, liberal arts colleges. I think the reason is that those particular scientists have had the opportunity as undergraduates to explore other fields.

To understand about philosophy, to be able to be versatile in other fields like political science. I think those who are committed to sciences and yet are exposed to other disciplines really make better scientists in the long-run.

The other thing to keep in mind is that not all scientists are like me working in a lab creating new knowledge. A lot of scientists are trained as scientists, but go on to be reporters or politicians. They have a lot of opportunities to go into things that are not naturally just research-based science. So, you want those individuals to have a broad base of information.

Going forward, looking at your role as Chair of the University [Board of Trustees], there’s a lot coming down the pike. Introducing our first students, building our new campus. I’m curious, in closing, what most excites you in the upcoming chapters of Fulbright? What are you looking forward to?

What I’m looking forward to most is this first group of students who will come to Fulbright to say this really exists as a school. That will be a thrilling experience. Then, just to be able to graduate classes and go to graduation ceremonies.

Just to see the students who will come in, go through 4 years, and graduate and be full of life about their own possibilities and the future. It just doesn’t get any better than that. You’ve had a lot of opportunities to see students grow over a period of time and that’s just a magnificent experience all around.

See the video interview with Dr. H. Kim Bottomly here:

From 2007 to 2016, Dr. Bottomly served as President of Wellesley College, a preeminent liberal arts college in the United States, and the top-ranked college for women in the world. A distinguished immunobiologist and prominent scientist, Dr. Bottomly was a faculty member at Yale University for many years, and also served as Yale’s Deputy Provost. She is an elected member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors.

Dr. Bottomly succeeds Senator Bob Kerrey, who served as the founding chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. 

Announcing his decision to step down from the board, Senator Kerrey said, “Fulbright University Vietnam occupies a special place in the unique relationship between the US and Vietnam. It has been a great honor to serve as the university’s first Chair. Over the past three years we have made great strides towards achieving our dream of a creating an innovative Vietnamese university.”

The opportunity to help create a new liberal arts university in Vietnam is a worthwhile and important endeavor. The energy and dynamism of Vietnam’s young people makes Vietnam a particularly special place to create a new institution of higher learning,” Dr. Bottomly said.

It was with great enthusiasm that I nominated Kim Bottomly to succeed me. I’ve enjoyed working with Kim and know she will do an excellent job. I of course remain very committed to the university’s success and look forward to supporting the endeavor however I can.”

“I am deeply honored by the opportunity to serve Fulbright University Vietnam,” Dr. Bottomly said. “The opportunity to help create a new liberal arts university in Vietnam is a worthwhile and important endeavor. The energy and dynamism of Vietnam’s young people makes Vietnam a particularly special place to create a new institution of higher learning.”

Dr. Bottomly continued, “The entire Fulbright University Vietnam community owes a great debt of gratitude to Bob Kerrey, whose tireless efforts have been instrumental in advancing the university from bold dream to vibrant reality. I look forward to working with the university’s leadership and faculty to develop world-class educational opportunities for students from Vietnam and around the world.”

Fulbright University Vietnam’s President, Ms. Dam Bich Thuy said: “Having spent her career as a faculty member at some of the world’s most distinguished universities, Kim is exceptionally well-positioned to work with me and the university’s faculty, staff, and students to develop rigorous undergraduate and graduate teaching programs and impactful research initiatives.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said, “My friend Bob Kerrey has dedicated his life to public service, in the military, politics, and finally in higher education. Bob’s indefatigable efforts on behalf of Fulbright University Vietnam, even when it has hurt to relive a war to which he’s done so much for so long to bring closure and peace, exemplify his determination to do what is right, rather than what is expedient.”

Secretary Kerry continued, “Bob and I share a commitment to see the university prepare future generations of Vietnamese leaders for service to their nation and the world.”

Fulbright University Vietnam, Vietnam’s first independent, nonprofit university, was announced by President Barack Obama in May 2016.

The university welcomed its first graduate students later that year. The university’s graduate program in public policy was established by Harvard University as the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in 1995. Fulbright University Vietnam’s undergraduate program in engineering and the liberal arts and sciences will welcome its first undergraduate students later this year.

Fulbright University Vietnam is building its main campus in Ho Chi Minh City’s Saigon High Tech Park. The first phase of construction on this site, which will accommodate 1500 students, is scheduled for completion in 2021. Until moving into its permanent campus, the university will be based in District 7.

Dr. Le Viet Quoc and Mr. Ben Wilkinson bring experience and personal backgrounds that aid their passion in helping found Vietnam’s first undergraduate liberal arts university.

Fulbright University Vietnam announced the expansion of its Board of Trustee with the addition of Dr. Quoc Le (Le Viet Quoc) and Mr. Ben Wilkinson.

As a boy growing up in rural Central Vietnam, Quoc Le (Le Viet Quoc) was fascinated by machines, inventors, and mathematics. These passions shaped his subsequent interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning.  Today he is a scientist at Google, where he is one of the leading artificial intelligence researchers at the Google Brain project.

In 2014, Quoc was recognized by the MIT Technology Review as one of the top innovators in the world under age 35. Quoc’s work has won multiple awards at international conferences on machine learning and artificial intelligence and has been profiled in the New York Times Magazine.

Quoc obtained his PhD in Computer Science at Stanford University and a Bachelor of Software Engineering (First Class Honors) at the Australian National University, where he was a Distinguished Scholar. He is a proud graduate of Quoc Hoc Hue High School in Hue.

“I have eagerly followed the Fulbright project for several years, and I am thrilled to join the Board,” Dr. Le said.

“I look forward to working with the Fulbright team to create an innovative, world-class university that can help future generations of Vietnamese young people unleash their full potential. I have been fortunate to study at great universities. I am excited to help build a great university for Vietnam.”

Ben Wilkinson’s connection to Vietnam also stretches back his childhood, when a middle school teacher who was a veteran first sparked his interest in Vietnamese history and culture. Today he is the executive director of the Trust for University Innovation Vietnam (TUIV), a Boston-based nonprofit organization that is supporting Fulbright’s development.

Prior to joining TUIV, Ben worked for many years at the Vietnam Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. For a decade, he served as the Vietnam Program’s representative to the Fulbright Economic Teaching Program (FETP) in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ben supported the efforts of FETP’s faculty to launch Vietnam’s first masters in public policy program, as well as innovative policy analysis and dialog initiative. Ben helped convene the initial conversations with stakeholders and supporters in Vietnam and the US out of which the Fulbright concept emerged. Ben holds a degree in East Asian Studies from Harvard College.

“It is an honor and a privilege to join Fulbright’s board of trustees as a representative of TUIV,” said Ben.

“I look forward to working with my fellow trustees and the amazing team that President Thuy is assembling to create a transformative academic institution.”

Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, Fulbright’s founding president, said “I am delighted that Quoc and Ben has agreed to join the board of trustees. Quoc embodies the spirit of innovation and creativity that I hope will be defining features of Fulbright University Vietnam’s approach to teaching, research, and problem-solving. Ben’s great wealth of Vietnam experience and his lifelong devotion to our nation will be invaluable asset for the university.”

Diep Dzung joins the Board of Trustees bringing experience in management and a deep understanding of Fulbright’s mission and vision.

Fulbright University Vietnam announced the addition of Mr. Diep Dzung to its Board of Trustees.

Dzung is no stranger to corporate financial leadership in Vietnam. In 2015, he was elected Chairman of Saigon Co.op, one of the largest retailers in the country, in large part because of his demonstrated record of corporate leadership. Dzung managed an 11 percent growth in Co.op’s revenue last year despite economic difficulties. Under his tenure, Saigon Co.op has also been recognized for its improved service quality and successful expansion of supermarket locations. He also is currently on the Board of Management for Ho Chi Minh City’s Development Bank.

Dzung previously served as the General Director of Ho Chi Minh City Finance and Investment State-Owned Company (HFIC), a state-owned financial investment firm. As the General Director, he helped strategize how to best represent State capital in enterprises with State stakes, focusing on improving competition and business efficiency. He played a vital role in the building of Tan Cang – Hiep Phuoc Seaport, a strategically located seaport set to grow trade in southern Vietnam.

Prior to HFIC, Dzung helped build the Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone and was its Deputy General Director since 2004. He also helped build Phu My Hung Urban Area in 1997, a modern urban multifunctional area that built upon wetlands in Ho Chi Minh City.

“I am honored to play a part with Fulbright as it transforms the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) into the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) as well as expands the Fulbright name and vision to an undergraduate program,” said Dzung.

“Dzung previously attended the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program and later lectured in Financial Analysis at the school. He is an embodiment of what we hope to see in a graduate from one of our programs,” said President Dam Bich Thuy. “I believe that his wealth of work experience and understanding of our mission will be an asset for Fulbright.”

Dzung won Fulbright Scholarship to study in the U.S in 1999. He holds a Master’s degree in Corporate Finance from Bentley College and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Ho Chi Minh City.