New financing builds on a long legacy of U.S. support for Fulbright University Vietnam and its educational, economic, and cultural impact

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam // Washington – U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) today announced the financial commitment of $37 million via a 20-year direct loan to support the construction of Fulbright University Vietnam’s new campus in Ho Chi Minh City. Fulbright University Vietnam is Vietnam’s first independent, non-profit liberal arts university. This project will support the Phase I construction of accommodations, academic buildings, and dining and recreation facilities for up to 1,500 students.

DFC’s investment in Fulbright University Vietnam will help close the gap between the demand for skilled employees in Vietnam’s workforce and educational opportunities in the country, which fall short of what is needed. Fulbright University Vietnam’s mission is to overcome this disconnect to advance economic opportunity and inclusive growth in Vietnam. While Vietnamese students perform well on standard academic tests, employers consistently report that students lack the skills needed to excel, as reflected in the high underemployment rate of college graduates.

“DFC and Fulbright share a commitment to supporting the development of quality, accessible education in Vietnam. Our eyes are set to the future. This significant support of DFC would bring us closer to one that is sustainable and community driven, and to a home for the leaders of tomorrow.” Fulbright University’s President Dam Bich Thuy said.

The United States government has a long history of support for Fulbright University Vietnam. The university traces its roots to a 1991 bill sponsored by Senator John Kerry to develop an exchange program for Vietnamese students and government officials. Following the success of this program, in 1994 the Department of State funded the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to partner with Vietnamese university to establish the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, Vietnam’s first center of public policy. Both the exchange and graduate public policy programs are still in operation today and have trained over 2,000 public and private sector decision-makers.

In 2016, the public policy center incubated by Harvard transitioned to Fulbright University Vietnam, becoming the university’s first academic program. Today, Fulbright University Vietnam offers three academic initiatives – the Undergraduate Program in Engineering and the Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, and a problem-focused research program.

This project is aligned with U.S. foreign policy objectives and enjoys broad support from the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam. The direct loan will advance DFC’s 2X Women’s Initiative, as Fulbright University Vietnam’s current student ratio of women in its undergraduate program at its temporary campus is 65%, and the university will target to recruit an average of 63% women students for its programs when it shifts to the permanent campus. In addition, Fulbright University Vietnam is implementing a broad range of advanced energy and water efficiency strategies in the design of its campus facilities.

Fulbright University Vietnam’s campus will be built in the Saigon High-Tech Park on a 15 hectare parcel of land donated to the university by the Vietnamese government. The campus will be the most environmentally advanced education complex ever built in Vietnam and will serve as a living sustainability laboratory for students, faculty and the interested public.

About the DFC:

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is America’s development bank. DFC partners with the private sector to finance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the developing world today. We invest across sectors including energy, healthcare, critical infrastructure, and technology. DFC also provides financing for small businesses and women entrepreneurs in order to create jobs in emerging markets. DFC investments adhere to high standards and respect the environment, human rights, and worker rights

With high credibility and extensive experience through many construction projects across the country, especially facilities for educational purposes, Newtecons is trusted to be the General Contractor of Design & Construction of Fulbright University Vietnam’s D9 campus.

Fulbright University Vietnam’s flagship campus is built on a 15-ha parcel in the Saigon High-Tech Park in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City. Upon completion, the project will become a sophisticated space for learning, teaching, training, and researching for thousands of students in Vietnam and abroad.

Currently, Newtecons is doing its best to prepare for the project in all aspects, including a professional Steering Committee with diverse experience in construction projects of international standards and cutting-edge equipment and machinery before entering the construction phase.

In the first phase, the Steering Committee is going to build a dormitory, a cluster of lecture halls, and a central lawn – a green space to accommodate students’ outdoor learning and leisure activities.

At the main gate of Fulbright University Vietnam’s flagship campus, adjacent to the central lawn will be a large hall, next to the student center and library. From this building, there will be walkways leading to satellite buildings and functional facilities such as a gallery, an auditorium, and a gymnasium. The two main paths in the campus intersect at the dormitory and the student cafeteria, which will be located on the ground floor. The remaining component buildings will be constructed in the next phases of the university’s development.

Fulbright University Vietnam’s campus will be built in adherence to the LEED standards for sustainable practices design and development of the U.S Green Building Council, along with the EDGE sustainability certification.

Ms. Dam Bich Thuy – President of Fulbright University Vietnam remarked: “We are delighted to witness the construction of our flagship campus officially begin. This is the culmination of planning, fundraising, and negotiation efforts over the last few years. Fulbright University has always prioritized experiential learning opportunities dedicated to building students’ competencies. The flagship campus will be a spacious, versatile, and high-tech facility that serves our education mission.”

Photos from the construction site:

Setting up site drainage.

Aerial view of 15ha site, looking Northeast.

Site office from above, before roof installed, looking West. Internal road being worked on in foreground.

Site office from above, roof installed, looking West.

First concrete pour, for site office foundation.

Recently, Fulbright University Vietnam kicked off the construction of its Flagship District 9 Campus.

Over the next 3 to 4 months, the 15-hectare site will be excavated, levelled, and compacted in preparation for the construction that will follow. This work will set the stage for foundations and basements, superstructure, enclosure, and finally fit-out. Construction will last three years, until the final inauguration of a new, cutting-edge center for education and research.

With extensive experience on projects in Saigon High Tech Park, C&T Construction has been selected to carry out earthworks. Turner Construction, a leading global construction project management firm, will lead the construction management throughout the project.

“By kicking off excavation activities on site, we are now laying the groundwork – very much literally – for the future of higher education in Ho-Chi-Minh City. We have a long road ahead, but this moment holds special meaning, as we have begun turning a vision into a physical reality. We are grateful for the incredible support of all parties, particularly the leadership of Saigon High Tech Park and the local authorities,” said Jesse Boone, Director of Facilities and Campus Development at Fulbright.

Designed by SHoP Architects, the academic and student life buildings and central lawn will form the nucleus of the campus and our main facilities, from which Fulbright will expand in subsequent phases of construction.

The main gateway building located at the head of the lawn will house a distinctive amphitheater at its core, as well as the student center and library. A network of pedestrian streets will extend out from the lawn and main building and offer a landscape of vegetation and water features. All paths will reach focal-point buildings designed to host quintessential college facilities such as galleries, theaters, or a gymnasium. The convergence of two major passageways will form iconic “flatiron” dormitories with a ground floor student dining hall.

“What excites me about the Fulbright project is to think that we are trying to design a campus and a school that will help the lives of thousands of young people, many of whom are not even born yet,” reflects SHoP Architects co-founder Gregg Pasquarelli.

Embedded Sustainability

Water features will play an important role in the landscaping of the Fulbright campus. Rain is a key aspect of life in Ho Chi Minh City and water management is critical to the resiliency of the campus and the project’s goals of environmental stewardship. The Fulbright buildings will celebrate this key feature of the local environment, integrating drainage and water reclamation into visible design elements throughout the campus and the landscape.

The campus is designed as a primary teaching tool in and of itself—a leading example of sustainable planning and engineering practices that acts as a model for responsible growth both locally and internationally. Thus, the project will seek out the US-based LEED accreditation, a benchmark of sustainable design, construction and operations standards, as well as its Vietnamese counterpart, LOTUS.

“We at Fulbright are excited to see the efforts of planning, fundraising and negotiation merge into this realization. The university has always made a priority of providing competencies-based, experiential learning opportunities for our students. This flagship campus affords us opportunities for growth through innovative, newer technologies, and through flexible learning spaces,” explains Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam.

At the Campus groundbreaking ceremony of Fulbright recently, Dr. Derby-Talbot, Chief Academic Officer, has addressed key features of Fulbright University Vietnam:

This is a remarkable moment for Fulbright University Vietnam in transitioning from the abstract to the concrete — literally.

Before casting Fulbright’s plans in concrete, however, we have been doing something smart.

We have been doing what progressive companies like software designers do in making innovative products — we have been co-designing our program.

Dr. Derby-Talbot, Chief Academic Officer of Fulbright University Vietnam.

For the past year, faculty and students have been working together in our Co-Design Year to create, improve, and hone Fulbright’s undergraduate program.

This means that students and faculty have been working together in teams to design features of classes, learning activities, and spaces. Their work has looked more like what you would see at a start-up company, rather than a traditional university.

Through this process of co-design, we have produced a great program thus far, and we have learned a lot.

We have learned for example, that starting with the solid base of an American-style, liberal education, we can incorporate modern ideas and innovations that enhance student learning, and create together something truly excellent and unique — a new approach to undergraduate education, tailor-made for Vietnamese students.

In other words, Fulbright is not only being built to be an outstanding university, it is being built to be an outstanding university uniquely designed for Vietnam and for the future.

But the Co-Design Year has been about more than just setting up the university. It has been about building a culture.

The secret to building a great educational experience — and I have been thinking about this for quite a long time — requires more than a great curriculum or an excellent campus.

Students and faculty have been working together in teams to design features of classes, learning activities, and spaces.

It requires people who not only take courses, but wonder.

It requires people who not only take in information, but question.

It requires people who not only point out problems, but who come up with solutions — themselves.

It requires people who want more than a degree, who in fact want a rich, meaningful life full of purpose and service.

This is what the Co-Design Year has really been about, about creating a community of faculty, students and staff, that will fill these buildings of our new campus with inspiration, imagination, and continued improvement.

And it is this, that will continue to distinguish Fulbright University Vietnam as an outstanding university, now and for years to come.

To get a sense of what I mean, I’d like to give you a window into the Co-Design Year.

In the short film that follows, I hope you will be able to see what I mean when I say that the Co-Design Year has been about more than building a university, it has been about developing people.

Thank you.

Crescent Plaza, locating in the Phu My Hung neighborhood, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, will become the new home for Fulbright University Vietnam; the flagship campus in District 9 is under construction and is expected to be ready in the next few years.

The Crescent Campus is opened from the 2018-2019 academic year and houses all activities serving both the Undergraduate and Master’s students.

Prior to this milestone, the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) – the predecessor of Fulbright University Vietnam – operated at the Vo Thi Sau Campus in District 3.

Throughout 30 years, the Vo Thi Sau campus witnessed each historic step FETP took to become The Fulbright School of Public Policy Management – Fulbright University Vietnam as it is known today.

On June 27, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Michelle S. Giuda made her first visit to Fulbright University Vietnam’s campus in Ho Chi Minh City.

The visit was on her agenda during her working trip to Vietnam June 26-28. During the trip, Assistant Secretary Giuda visited Fulbright University Vietnam, met with Vietnam’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) members, gave a public presentation at the American Center, and gave remarks at a Media Literacy event.

On June 28, Assistant Secretary Giuda will visit Hanoi, Vietnam where she will give a presentation at the American Center, meet with embassy staff, and meet with YSEALI volunteers.

June 14, 2018 

Thank you so much President Thuy for that warm introduction. 

Good afternoon. I would like to also recognize Director of Development Xuan Thanh and Chief Academic Officer Ryan Derby-Talbot.

As you know, FUV has been many years in the making, and the U.S. Government is committed to supporting this great endeavor and the upcoming inaugural undergraduate class.

FUV is the continuing evolution of the Fulbright Economic Teaching Program, which – in cooperation with Harvard University – has had more than two decades of success training over 2,000 of Vietnam’s leaders.  We expect the future graduates from FUV will take Vietnamese higher education to the next level.

FUV represents the start of something new and vital to Vietnam’s future.  Fulbright University Vietnam is the first U.S.-style University in Vietnam based on American higher-education traditions of academic independence, open inquiry, research, and critical analysis, but firmly grounded in Vietnam’s rich cultural traditions and heritage.

This new campus is just the start of a natural evolution in Vietnam, and the United States’ already strong education partnership, and the deepening of innovation in Vietnam’s education systems.

Societies need highly educated, experienced professionals to selflessly take up the mantle of leadership both in business and government.  They also need institutions ready to train talented individuals.  In that sense, FUV can contribute significantly to Vietnam’s future, with the United States as its proud partner.

The United States has been a part of the Fulbright Economic Teaching Program since 1994, and we are thrilled to continue the next chapter with Fulbright University Vietnam.

President Trump and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc charted an agenda for United States and Vietnam relations, building on the positive momentum of the Comprehensive Partnership between our two countries. The leaders of our two countries set a wide range of comprehensive goals ranging from enhanced political, defense and security, education, people-to-people exchange, humanitarian, and war legacy issues.

Each of you here today will have a role in achieving these goals and shaping a prosperous future.  We are so proud to be here with you today on this journey with Fulbright University Vietnam.

Thank you and good luck! Xin cảm ơn!

At the Soft Opening Ceremony, Fulbright University Vietnam welcomed U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink, U.S. Consul General Mary Tarnowka, and others to the newly open Crescent Campus. 

Fulbright looks forward to welcoming many prospective students, parents, undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff to the campus in the coming months. 

Fulbright University Vietnam’s Cresent Campus on its Opening Day (June 14). 

Opening Remarks by Ambassador Daniel J. Kritenbrink at Fulbright Campus Opening on June 14.