“I realize how greatly diverse the social enterprises in Vietnam are, and how much impact can we make on society by directly working for them,” exclaimed a Social Impact Fellows Program (SIFP) fellow. Launched by Fulbright’s Career Development Unit in 2021, SIFP – a flagship professional experiential learning program, aims to connect community-minded students to industry partners across Vietnam and kickstart their professional career path. In its last two iterations, the program has successfully placed 32 fellows, training dedicated youth to serve their communities.

Materializing Fulbright’s fervent mission to inspire future leaders and creative thinkers to solve real-world problems, Career Development strives to foster opportunities, experiences, connections, and skills to help Fulbright students and graduates find professional and personal fulfillment across diverse areas of study, interest, and career paths. Among many of its ongoing initiatives, the Social Impact Fellows Program (SIFP) was brought to life as a response to a nowadays’ growing subset of Fulbright students’ interest in a meaningful professional opportunity that can contribute back to society.

SIFP is developed based on a three-pillar framework of (i) early access and exposure to social impact practice, (ii) financial support, and (iii) training and professional assistance.

“Broadly, we envision the ‘meaningful disruption’ in the current higher education and employment landscape in Vietnam, demonstrating how an adaptive liberal arts education adequately tackles the most pressing challenges,” shared Mr. Vincent Pham, Manager of Career and Partnership Development at Fulbright University Vietnam. “That explains two-fold advantages of each SIFP’S pillar for both our students and partner organizations. On one hand, we help our students to find rewarding opportunities that contribute to the betterment of society with wraparound support through financial support and training. On the other hand, we support partners by connecting them to students who are keen to learn, eager to grow, and are deeply motivated by the partners’ social values.

Early Access and Exposure to Social Impact Organizations

Fulbright students are encouraged to start exploring exciting career pathways in a diverse range of opportunities and experiences, developing a fuller understanding of different industries of interest, the requisite skills to succeed, and the world around them. Materializing the bridge to a social-oriented occupation, SIFP curates a collection of partner organizations for students to look into. The sooner Fulbright students can familiarize themselves with these employers, the more aware they are of the breadth of opportunities they can pursue upon graduation.

In the last two years of operation, SIFP has collaborated with a number of partner organizations such as Anh Chi Em, Beacon Fund, Fauna & Flora International, HopeBox Vietnam, Journey of the Senses, KOTO, LIN Center, Panl, Patamar Capital, mClinica, Seed Planter, etc. These establishments have empowered many Fulbright students to start immersing in practical projects, acquiring the concrete know-how in Vietnamese and regional contexts.

For me, the most valuable experience at SIFP was to be immersed in a professional work environment of global settings, learn practical theories, and apply them directly to the daily tasks in Vietnam,” shared Tran Thao Nguyen, a student of Class 2024 and SIFP Fellow from 1st cohort, placed at Fauna & Flora International in Hanoi. “I also realize how greatly diverse the social enterprises in Vietnam are, and how much impact can we make on society by directly working for them.”

Financial Support

Compensation is usually among the chief factors of career decision-making. While seeking a professional opportunity, students must balance what makes sense financially and their personal interests, strengths, and values. Since not every opportunity can satisfy both practical and personal needs, it is common for unpaid internships to be a non-starter for many students. Unfortunately, many organizations in the social impact realm, such as non-profits and social enterprises, may not have the ample funding to provide paid opportunities on a regular basis, which can attract fewer talents pursuing a career.

To close the gap on this issue, SIFP ensures there is a stipend from partner organizations, Fulbright, or a combination of both. This allowance creates equitable access to professional opportunities for students regardless of their socioeconomic status. At the same time, it is to reduce the likelihood that a student may not even consider a social impact career from an early phase.

“While I have always been interested in societal benefit organizations – and volunteered with many relevant projects – it seemed difficult to make it a career, given the likely financial burden,” shared Nguyen Thi Thanh, a freshman at Fulbright and currently SIFP Fellow at HopeBox Vietnam. “Thanks to SIFP removing the financial obstacle, I got a launchpad into an inspiring environment full of supportive colleagues and meaningful direct engagement with HopeBox’s beneficiaries.”

Training and Professional Assistance

Another element that makes a professional opportunity desirable is the professional development benefits which are increasingly emphasized by many multinational corporations. On top of offering functional roles, these companies attract and retain the best human resource by providing a robust talent program that is both challenging and supportive.

Despite their effort in developing a sustainable community-minded business model, many organizations may find difficulties in developing a such talent pipeline. This urges SIFP to step in and provide a structured approach and scaffolded support including pre-fellowship training, ongoing mentorship, and post-learning reflections for Fulbright students. These well-tailored training sessions range from data analysis fundamentals to professional communications, followed by regular check-ins where fellows can share their experience with their cohort along with Career Development staff.

Social Impact Fellows Program (SIFP)

By providing training and development sessions, SIFP offers its fellows the chance to embark on a rewarding occupation while still being perfectly on track with their progress in climbing the career ladder. In turn, the partners can reduce their staff onboarding time with ready-to-work talents whose critical thinking and interdisciplinary problem-solving approach are among the most striking features.

“SIFP has provided us with the best interns we could ask for. Fulbright students are driven, embracing the liberal arts values – such as being open-minded, thinking out-of-the-box, welcoming differences – and deeply share our mission of creating social impact in gender equality,” complimented Ms. Do Hong Yen – Investment Manager at Beacon Fund, a SIFP’s partner for the past two years.

In total, SIFP has worked with 15 partners and accepted 32 Fellows across the first two iterations of the program. Although a career path in the social-oriented field may deem nebulous, SIFP is determined to make the first touchpoint, connecting an increasing number of young adults to a rewarding occupation and fulfilling life. In turn, these 21st-century strategic changemakers and leaders will go after Vietnam and the region’s toughest societal challenges.

Data analysis emerges as an in-demand skill for the competitive and volatile job market. Embedded within are technical skills such as programming and statistical analysis, as well as transferable skills like critical thinking and problem-solving. Embracing the ideas of skills development for the changing world and education accessible for all, Fulbright Career Development, partnered with UniTrain, a leading educational institution in data analysis, launched the first fully funded Data Analysis Fundamentals Series (DAFS) for Fulbright students.

DAFS 2022 was comprised of four 2-hour sessions, spanning from April 4 to April 15, delving into the principles of data analysis and exploring the logic of two data analysis tools: Microsoft Excel and Power BI. Additionally, students acquired valuable analytical skills through hands-on practices with project scenarios and a simulated test upon course completion. Laying the foundations for other disciplines, DAFS 2022 equipped students with the necessary skills to handle data with confidence.

Hybrid learning

Sharing on the future of data analysis, Vy Le, UniTrain Power BI Trainer, believes that data analysis is an indispensable skill in any profession or field. “From Finance, Human Resources, Administration, Marketing to Social Sciences, learning and applying data processing, data visualization, and data analytics using tools such as Power BI, SQL, or Python will be the highlight in the young generation’s portfolio.

Cuong Nguyen, a freshman at Fulbright University Vietnam, regarded data analysis as an essential interdisciplinary skill. “Even though I have yet to declare my major, I find data analysis very useful for my current research projects, as it helps me analyze and visualize data effectively with readily available tools.” He was also impressed with Power BI, especially its convenience compared to other conventional data-processing applications.

An economics-majored sophomore who spearheaded this partnership initiative with UniTrain, Phuong Le, shared: “DAFS has offered me valuable knowledge and hands-on experience, as well as significantly supported my learning pathway.” Phuong also believes that the knowledge and skills acquired from DAFS would contribute to his future endeavor in the business world, especially in his further pursuit of Data Analysis and Data Analytics.

Trung Ho – UniTrain Excel Trainer and Finance Director at Asia Clean Capital Vietnam, one of the two DAFS 2022 trainers – emphasized that data analysis is among the highly in-demand skills of the future. “In addition to broadening career prospects, data analysis fosters other soft skills that are much needed in this constantly changing world. Through data analysis, students learn to think logically and critically, make observations through numbers, focus on scientific analysis instead of subjective judgments, and cultivate critical thinking for effective communication. Such skills, I believe, demonstrate where liberal education is heading towards.”

Upon their completion of DAFS 2022, Fulbright students have gained a firm grasp on data analysis fundamentals that allow them to practice in real-world settings and are all excited for opportunities that this experience potentially opens.

On April 23, 2022, Fulbright’s Career Day was organized at our Crescent Campus to facilitate students’ engagement with a diverse group of partners, while companies recruit resourceful and creative talent through on-site resumé assessment and individual interviews. With a liberal arts education program at Fulbright, this exposure enables students to not only explore a breadth of professional experiences and opportunities, but also foster a supportive network for their future careers.

This year, Fulbright welcomed  30+ partners including well-known names such as Ernst & Young, Jardine Matheson, KPMG, P&G, VNG, Uniqlo and many more. Among those partners, 11 partners joined the second time. The program also featured 03 panel discussions, which were hosted to offer more insights on different industries and on the topic of the Future of Work. 

“The Career Development team is excited to broaden our partners network this year, from up-and-coming startups to household company names. This year’s Career Day is also proud to focus on “The future of work”, a key theme that the Career Development team has been bringing to our students as they prepare for an increasingly evolving world,” Vincent Phạm, Career Partnership Development Manager shared in his opening remark. 

Mr. Vincent Phạm, Fulbright’s Career Partnership Development Manager, is delivering his opening remark

Active participation, especially from 1st and 2nd-year students

One of the distinctive features of Career Day at Fulbright was that there was such a great number of  freshmen who participated and proactively initiated conversations with employers. Out of 200+ attendants, there were nearly 60% from Class of 2025 and nearly 30% from class of 2024. 

“For a first-year student, Career Day gives me a clearer picture of the job market for Psychology and Economics, two majors that I’m interested in. Talking with these companies’ representatives here, I feel more confident to choose my major for my third and fourth years,” shared Hoàng Anh Phương (Student of Class 2025)

“Fulbright and Uniqlo established partnership in 2019. I’m impressed by the proactive spirit of Fulbright students, especially first-year ones, in asking questions and building relationships with recruiters. Today, our team offers students opportunities to join the Uniqlo Manager Candidate program. This program aims to build a workforce that not only become our staff or employees but also to become our future managers or directors,” expressed  Lisa Diệp Phan, Head of Human Resources, Uniqlo Vietnam. 

At Career Day this year, TopCV, a curriculum vitae and resumé writing platform in Vietnam which serves as a connector between recruiters and candidates, offered student on-site resumé assessment. Starting off his exploration with this consulting service,  Nguyễn Đắc Hoàng (Student of Class 2025) shared: “Joining the consulting session with TopCV, I realized there are many aspects in my current CV that need improvement. For the CV’s layout, besides using templates, I was advised to include more essential information to optimize my job applications. I also learned how to negotiate with recruiters on benefits and manage my workload to limit [overtime].”

For representatives from Jardine Matheson, one of Fulbright’s strategic partners, the conversations initiated by young students fueled their passion in achieving a globally competent workforce. 

“Students are actively reacting to what we’ve said about our business. Questions followed by questions. It’s great to have a lot of conversations with students,” shared Anna Champion, Head of Early Careers at Jardine Matheson. Elaborating on his colleague’s point, Quang Trần, Jardine Executive Trainee further explained: “There are two main types of questions: one is about the companies and the other is how they can prepare, not only for applying to Jardine, but as a graduate entering the workforce. One word to describe our conversations with students is “natural” since we get along really well and from our side, we enjoy so much.”

Ms. Anna Champion, Head of Early Careers at Jardine Matheson, engages with students in a conversation

Two representatives from Jardine Matheson are sharing their company’s stories with participants

The Future of Work 

At Career Day, the Career Development team at Fulbright also organized three interesting panel discussions, focusing on three topics:  The Future of Work is Here (panelists from Ernst & Young, L’Oreal Vietnam, and VNG Corporation), Career Prospects and Emerging Trends in Arts and Media (panelists from En Pointe Management and two creative freelancers) and The Future of Work in Education (panelists from BHL Education Group, Fulbright, and Manabie). These panel discussions attracted more than 50 attendees each.

“The Future of Work is Here” panel discussion

“In the era of digital automation, things are changing rapidly and some work are taken over by machines. The job market is constantly reconstructed, and we have to constantly up our skills to meet the demands. Employers no longer seek those who fit the [Job Descriptions], they evaluate applicants’ skills to assign the suitable tasks instead,” asserted Ms. Phạm Thị Thu Thảo, Head of Talent Management & Organization Development at VNG Corporation

Ms. Phạm Thị Thu Thảo, Head of Talent Management & Organization Development at VNG Corporation is talking about the reconstruction in recruitment process

Upskilling and interdisciplinary learning are also the trends for those who have been working in the art industry. “Those who work in art and produce creative works have to constantly learn and develop new artistic capabilities. It is essential to the craft, yet it is not enough. In this world of business, creative people also have to be innovative to manage productivity, using strategies such as the design thinking framework. We call it managing the “workflow” in the arts. It is so important, especially for those projects involving many people. Being disciplined helps keep us on track and drive us forward in this industry in the longer run,” Ms. Kay Nguyễn, Film Writer, Director and Producer.

Ms. Kay Nguyễn, Film Writer, Director and Producer is sharing her observations on future of work in creative industry

Thanks to the untiring effort from the Career development team, interns, volunteers and partners, Fulbright’s Career Day 2022 was a great success. It enables us to look forward to a promising future which “is going to show what a transformative liberal arts education can do in the workplace and beyond,” our Career and Partnership Development Manager Vincent Phạm concluded. 

 

An Bình

On March 10, Fulbright’s Career Development and Jardine Matheson co-organized the Business Leaders Networking Event. The event consisted of a panel discussion with three Jardines executives, followed by a networking session where students had the opportunity to communicate with the panelists and learn from their global experience with Jardines.

“What makes a leader special?” – asked Duc Dao, ERP Project Manager at Guardian Vietnam, a health and beauty brand operated by Jardine Matheson.

He, together with his colleagues Edward Tran, Market Analyst at Schindler Vietnam, and Van Chu, E-commerce Manager at Pizza Hut Vietnam, was speaking at the panel discussion on “Building a C-level Mindset as an Early Starter”, part of the Business Leaders Networking Event hosted by Fulbright’s Career Development and Jardine Matheson.

“We are living in a very uncertain world. COVID-19 aside, everything else is changing too. Take e-commerce as an example. Ten years ago, a corporate leader did not have to care about e-commerce, as e-commerce was only in its rudimentary stage. But now, leaving e-commerce out of a business is barely imaginable.” This uncertain and ever-changing world is what a leader must adapt to. “A leader has to learn how to learn, stay up-to-date on how things are changing, and foster a generalist way of thinking,” said Duc.

Edward also echoed Duc’s statement on the generalist and growth mindset: “Know some finance if you’re a marketer and know some marketing if you’re a financial analyst. You’ll be able to start seeing the bigger picture that way.”

Addressing Duc’s question from a different perspective, Van suggested that being a good leader demanded great interpersonal skills, among others. “Being good listeners is what distinguishes leaders from bosses. A leader listens. A boss does not, hence they would likely not get far [in their leadership careers].”

So, how can students prepare themselves to be ready for the future and to become future leaders, while they are still at university?

“Step outside of campus,” said Edward. “Collaborate with people outside of your communities and comfort zone to develop your skills set, including leadership. If opportunities to do so are not readily available, create them. Be the initiator.”

Van, on the other hand, advised students to be more ‘present’ in class and open to learn new things, even if they might be challenging and seem irrelevant at first. “There are certain skills and knowledge that you think will be obsolete by the time you enter the workforce. This is not always the case – many university courses teach you important theories that will be applied in your day-to-day work. Therefore, stay in school, and stay focused in class!”

Recalling his experience of pursuing a degree in political science in college, Duc emphasized that majors did not always matter, but rather the transferable skills that students could pick up during their university years. “Studying political science allowed me to learn how to learn, how to write effectively – in both academic and professional settings, and how to manage different stakeholders. It’s not just about the knowledge in political science, or whatever majors that you’re undertaking. It’s about the things you do in college, the skills you can acquire, and how those can help you and your future employers.”

This remark was endorsed by Anna Champion, Head of Early Careers at Jardines: “Your majors don’t matter when it comes to your careers – perhaps except for a few very technical majors like law or medicine. The

important thing is whether you can translate what you have acquired in college into what your future employers need, and what you can contribute to them.”

The event closed with a networking session between Jardines’ representatives and Fulbright students. This gave students the chance to discuss directly with guest speakers about their future careers, discover the range of opportunities at Jardines, and expand their professional network.

The Business Leaders Networking Event is the very first collaborative event between Fulbright and Jardine Matheson in this academic year, which will pave the way for future engagements of both parties before and during Fulbright’s Career Day in 2022.

The world of work is changing every day. After 2 years of fighting with COVID-19, there are many significant changes in work and the workplace. As these monumental shifts in the labor market are already impacting our daily lives, we want Vietnam, its employers, and employees to be ready. In October 2021, Dreamplex and Fulbright University Vietnam partnered to support Human Resources & Business leaders to learn, practice, and get ready for what the Future of Work holds. Both organizations are tackling the question of what the future of work will look like from unique organizational perspectives.

The long lockdown due to COVID-19 has promoted the phenomenon “Work From Anywhere” or “The Hybrid Work” model. While employers are excited to welcome back their employees to the office, employees want to choose where they work and how. Many employees are now preferring flexibility in the working model post-pandemic (1). In addition, almost 70% of Gen Z in Vietnam support the hybrid working model, which combines the best of remote work with in-office work. This allows them to have more choice in how, when, and where they work (2). This is one of many changes towards what the Future of Work looks like.

In an increasingly competitive job market, organizations need to offer more flexible, attractive, collaborative, community-oriented workplaces that deliver on the needs of their employees. Dreamplex offers a uniquely differentiated “Work Experience as a Service” that perfectly meets the needs of fast-growing companies that understand that their employees want more from their workplace. Fulbright University Vietnam is a new liberal arts institution inspired by the liberal arts tradition, focusing on preparing the next generation of changemakers, leaders, and innovators to tackle Vietnam and the region’s largest challenges by equipping them with the competencies to take on what the future of work will be.

With an emphasis on what the future of work looks like from unique perspectives, Dreamplex and Fulbright University Vietnam are signing a partnership agreement and launching The Future of Work – Mini Course to kick-off this formalization. Together, Dreamplex and Fulbright University Vietnam aim to address the rapidly evolving world and facilitate leaders learning how to create leading organizations.

This official partnership is building off Dreamplex and Fulbright University Vietnam’s first official engagement, where Dreamplex hosted Fulbright’s Career Day in April 2021. The event garnered 40+ partner organizations and 300+ total participants from partner organizations and undergraduate students.

The Future of Work – Mini Course: Explore. Reflect. Connect

“Understanding the future of work is investing in our collective future. It means we can be best prepared for the unexpected changes and developments that the future brings, and we continue to foster in humans an infinite well of potential to adapt to uncertainty”, said Vincent Pham, Manager of Career & Partnership Development at Fulbright University Vietnam. 

With disruption from exogenous forces such as the COVID-19 pandemic, growing automation of labor intensive work, and ubiquity of technology, employers and employees of the future will need to invest in the reskilling and upskilling of the labor market to meet future demands. These overarching factors have employers and employees thinking about the “new normal.” For example, what does leadership look like with the growth of remote work, or what role does an “office” play when building company culture?

The Future of Work Mini Course, in partnership with Fulbright University Vietnam, will leverage Fulbright’s teaching and learning pedagogy. We prioritize active learning through direct communication with speakers, collaboration among peers, and critical thinking. And by processing and synthesizing a breadth of topics relevant to changing labor markets and Vietnam’s economic development.  

Throughout the Future of Work Mini Course, learners will: 

  • Explore new ideas and concepts that can inform their perspective on the future of work.
  • Reflect on their current organization’s readiness for the future and synthesize new strategies to improve outputs.
  • Connect with a diverse cohort of learners to understand practical contexts and applications of new ideas, innovations, or improvements towards “future-proofing” their employer and employees.

The Future of Work Mini Course will capture the spirit of liberal education by facilitating exposure to a breadth of interrelated topics and demand participants to connect the dots, formulate new insights, and pave the way for the future of work in Vietnam.

5 modules of the course:

1.  Contextualizing the Future of Work
by Vincent Pham, Manager of Career & Partnership Development, Fulbright University Vietnam
Date & Time: Saturday, 20/11, 9:00AM – 11:00AM

2. Company Culture
by Abhishek Mathur, Vice-President & Chief People Officer, VNG Vietnam
Date & Time: Saturday, 27/11, 9:00AM – 12:00PM

3. Employee Experience
by Ai Lien Tran, Chief Human Resources Officer, AIA Vietnam
Date & Time: Saturday, 04/12, 9:00AM – 12:00PM

4. Leadership
by Warren Eng, Founder & CEO, Leaders Create Leaders
Date & Time: Saturday, 11/12, 9:00AM – 12:00PM

5. Upskilling & Reskilling
by Thai Van Linh, Founder & CEO of TVL Group
Date & Time: Saturday, 18/12, 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Who can attend the course? 

The Future of Work Mini Course welcomes all individuals who are interested in advancing what the future of work looks like in their organization and beyond. In particular, we believe that individuals who have the opportunity to shape our lead company culture and decisions would benefit greatly from this course. 

We look forward to enrolling a diverse group of industries to increase the cross-pollination of new ideas among our learners.

What you will go through in each module: 

1. Welcome & Ice Breaker (15 min)
This is an opportunity to briefly introduce the practitioner and why he/she decided to engage in this course. In addition, we want our students to get to know each other better, given engagement will be increased if students have better rapport.

2. Instructor-led Content (45 min)
This is an opportunity for the instructor to provide their understanding and approach on their topic.

3. Student-led Discussion (75 min)
Students will be assigned light material to be read / watched / listened to prior to your module. The material will either be curated by the instructor, Dreamplex and Fulbright, or a combination of both. Depending on assigned material, students will go into breakout rooms to discuss their takeaways and then develop a mini-presentation on what they have learned.

4. Q&A & Closing (45 min)
Students joining the course are as keen to meet with our instructors as they are to discuss the topic. The “Q&A & Closing” serves as an opportunity to do general questions from students for the instructor and about the topic.

Fee Information: 

  • Full course (5 modules): 5,000,000 VND
  • 1 module: 1,000,000 VND
  • Early bird package: 3,500,000 VND/ 5 modules for those who register before 12/11/2021

If you have any concerns or problems with registration, please contact Ms. Phuong – 0844349996.

All the modules will be held on the Zoom platform.
See details of each module and register here.

The Future of Work: It’s time for leaders to get real! 

Thai Van Linh, Founder & CEO of TVL Group, says of the future of work, “Knowledge is the biggest advantage we can give to ourselves. The layering of knowledge, both diverse and deep, builds a foundation that strengthens the course of your personal and professional life.”

Warren Eng, Founder & CEO, Leaders Create Leaders adds: “Leaders in Vietnam will need to think, learn, feel and act differently to embrace this new reality and uncertainties that lie ahead in this Covid era. How we lead ourselves, and others, will determine if we just survive, or thrive, in the future of work.”

Abhishek Mathur, Vice-President, and Chief People Officer, VNG Vietnam says: “The pandemic has accelerated what the work in the future will look like. Virtual or Hybrid teams will be the new norm. Work will no longer be limited to a location, but one can ‘Work from anywhere. Hybrid working provides opportunities for organizations in terms of access to talent globally and reduces business costs. Building a customized employee experience and supporting employee wellbeing is the core to a strong organizational culture that can adapt to any changes, anywhere.”

Ai Lien Tran, Chief Human Resources Officer, AIA Vietnam, added: “In the turbulence of the world changes, employees’ desires connect exhaustedly to what work means. It’s a crucial time for the organizations in Vietnam to take these needs and feelings into a strategic plan, curate and cultivate them well into the future of work design and journey.”

References

1. McKinsey, 2021, It’s time for leaders to get real about hybrid.
2. Dreamplex and Decision Lab, “Gen Z in the Workplace 2021”, 2021

About Dreamplex

Dreamplex creates “A Better Day at Work” that perfectly meets the needs of fast-growing companies that understand that their young employees expect more from their workplace. Well-designed private, branded offices, 5-star hospitality-level care, and an engaging program of social activities, training & development, and wellbeing initiatives help those companies attract, engage, and retain Millennial and Gen Z talent in Vietnam. Dreamplex has 5 locations across Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In 2021 and 2022, Dreamplex will be adding three new locations including The UnOffice projects in District 2 and The Campus in district 4, and one more in Ham Nghi. 

About Fulbright University Vietnam

Fulbright University Vietnam is Vietnam’s first independent, not-for-profit, liberal arts university. We are an expanding international team of educational innovators, with deep roots in Vietnam, strong political and financial backing, and connections to educational institutions around the world. We believe in the power of collaboration, transdisciplinary thinking, and risk-taking, and we understand that effective education requires putting students at its center. Globally integrated but deeply embedded in Vietnamese society, Fulbright is dedicated to providing world-class education, utilizing the latest advancements in institutional design, teaching, learning, technology, and other fields to create an institution that is both innovative and globally relevant. Importantly, Fulbright is committed to serving Vietnamese society through rigorous research and responsible civic engagement. 

On April 24, Fulbright launched its first-ever Career Day. Initiated by Career Development at Fulbright, the event was designed so that students could meet and learn from a diverse group of partners, while companies could recruit resourceful and creative talents through on-site CV assessment and individual interviews.

With a liberal education program like Fulbright, this kind of exposure allows students to not only make better decisions when it comes to choosing their majors, but also foster a supportive professional network for their future careers. The event welcomed over 100 representatives from 42 corporations across all industries, from consulting, financial technology, digital solutions, communications, to education, non-profit, and fashion. Among them are hugely sought-after enterprises such as GroupM – the global number one media investment management, Schneider Electric, Procter & Gamble, Jardine Matheson, plus many more.

Over 160 undergraduate students attended the fair, 20 of them are recipients of VietSeeds’ scholarships from universities across HCMC. Prior to Career Day, students had their resumes reviewed and received detailed advice on how to conduct themselves, including recommendations for attire and elaborate interview tips. Some even got personalized business cards. These were to make sure students showed up confident, well-prepared, and ready to impress potential employers. Such efforts paid off, as over 60 interviews were conducted or scheduled, with great feedbacks from interviewers.

“People often asked what they can do to stand out at events like this. The interesting thing with this event was that every student I spoke to stood out. They just got it right! Their natural curiosity and ability to engage and interact with us shone through. Too many times I have been at similar events across various countries where students haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity. The regular reaction is ‘I am going look down and grab freebies and hope I don’t have to interact’. Fulbright students, however, often made the first approach and were often engage in conversations with us for a significant time. The most spectacular thing about all this is most were first year, if not second year students. What a brilliant way to start the connections,” says Anna Champion, Head of Early Careers and Group Coaching at Jardine Matheson.

With 13 speakers from industry-leading companies, three panel discussions covered highly anticipated topics, particularly female empowerment in the workforce, the future of work for Generation Z, and how to bounce back and learn from failures. Having spearheaded the initiative, Mr. Vincent Pham, Fulbright’ Manager of Partnership Development remarks:

“Fulbright’s Career Day was built on two values: Transformative Connections and Immersive Experiences. If Fulbright’s Career Development can successfully facilitate partners and students to be in the same space and provide students with a basic framework of how to engage, students can develop transformative connections through interacting with diverse partners. The ideal outcome is that these transformative connections can lead to an immersive experience (e.g., internship) where students can dig-deep on an industry, develop a particular skillset, and/or meet impactful mentors.”

Mr. Vincent Pham

What made Career Day 2021 even more special was that Fulbright students played a significant role in organizing the event themselves. Lý Minh Tú, a student intern at the Career Development office recalls: “The best moment for me as an organizer was when after the Career Day, some partners pulled me aside and told me they had met so many amazing and high-performing Fulbright students. The connection between students and industry representatives that we tried to create via this event was over-achieved thanks to the dedication and well-preparedness of our students.”

Anh Thư

Fulbright’s Career Development, in partnership with Infinity Blockchain Ventures (IBV), hosted the “IBV Mini Challenge” in the latter half of Fall Semester 2020. This served as an opportunity for Fulbright undergraduate and graduate students to engage with real problems society faces, applying their creative and critical thinking skills in a compressed time frame. 

 IBV challenged students to think about a “Smart City”, where a “Smart City was defined as not only well-equipped with technology but one that has been developed with livability, sustainability, and cultural identity and appreciation in mind. On the Mini Challenge Launch Day, students were presented with two specific topics under the Smart City theme: 
 

  1. How might we develop a technology-enhanced solution to promote the local tourism and vacations in the city i.e. “Staycation” activities? 
  2. How might we develop an “art-tech fusion that motivates young people to visit and enjoy museums and other historical sites to build a stronger local culture and identity? 

On the Launch Day, students were provided with an ideation workshop to practice working within their teams and begin brainstorming possibilities. The Launch Day was followed by a week of students designing and iterating on their ideas – interlaced with opportunity for coaching sessions – and closing with the Mini Challenge Pitch Day. On the Pitch Day, students were asked to give a 10-minute presentation with 5-minute Q&A to two guest judges: Cris Tran, CEO at Infinity Blockchain Ventures, and Robert Vu, Head of Publishing at AmanotesOverall, six student teams entered the competitionwhere five teams were comprised of undergraduate students and one of graduate students. 

 Cris served as a driving figure in visioning and delivering the Mini Challenge. When asked why he felt his investment of time and resources was worthwhile, he shared: “At IBV, we believe that the best way for students to prepare for their future career and potential horizons is getting exposed to the real challenges that everyone and our company faces... It allows students to imagine what is missing and what could be better from their perspectives. 

 As a guest judge, Cris reflected on our student’s pitches: We were very surprised with the level of enthusiasm from the students and the quality of work they delivered during the final pitch! Students only had one week to preparewhich is very impressive. However, we saw the limited practicality of pitched solutions against reality, which is exactly what IBV wanted Fulbright students to experience – showing them what more they have to learn.” 

 The winning team of the Mini Challenge, named “Nhà Sử Phiêu” took on the “Staycation” topic, developing a mobile application that would re-imagine a visitor’s experience to museums and historical landmarks with augmented realityWhen asked why the students entered the competition, one of the team members, Nguyễn Thu Huyền (Class of 2023), reflected on how Fulbright’s environment allowed for serendipitous friendships: “It is such a coincidence for the four of us to meet and become a team in such a short period of timeĐặng Nguyễn Hướng Dương is my roommate in the dorms, Phan Nguyễn Tường Minh is my programming partner from Computer Science 1, and Trường Hoàng Binh Sơn is my partner from Fulbright’s Debate Club. Deep down, too, I think we all wanted to take this chance to apply the knowledge and skills we have gained at Fulbright thus far — to compete and challenge our limitations.”  

 Another team member from Nhà Sử PhiêuTrường Hoàng Binh Sơn (Class of 2024), reflected on how a liberal arts education and Fulbright extracurriculars supported their pitch: utilized what I learned from my Introduction to Psychology course to design the reward system in our product, which directly relates to human motivation and behaviors (e.g. intrinsic and extrinsic motivation). Additionally, through training sessions and debate competitions of Fulbright Debate Club, I developed more systematic reasoning to present ideas and communicate effectively to my teammates. 

 Career Development at Fulbright strives to foster opportunities and experiences to help all Fulbright students find professional and personal fulfillment across diverse areas of study, interests, and career paths. This is done through students engaging in meaningful exploration in a breadth of activities and programs, such as the IBV Mini Challenge.  

 When deciding to pursue and deliver on this particular program, Vincent Pham, Manager of Partnership Development at Fulbright, shared: “The Mini Challenge was a three-fold event: First, iwas a direct response to students who had voiced their opinions in seeking real-world application of the competencies they are learning at Fulbright. Second, it was scoped so that it was challenging enough to pique students’ interest and require commitment, but not too “large” that it would make the challenge too daunting – allowing students to experiment and explore different opportunities through intentional scaffolding. Finally, in collaboration with Cris of IBV, the Mini Challenge was a way to bring forth more creative programming between universities and employers – to engage in activities that are mutually beneficial to everyone involved.” 

 The IBV Mini Challenge served as one of many activities afforded to Fulbright students during Fall Semester 2020, which included events such as the Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festivala mental health professionals panel discussion featuring four practitioners across the field, a writing workshop led by Thùy Minh of Vietcetera, and more. 

 With Spring Semester 2021 on its way, Fulbright’s Career Development aims to both deepen and expand its “creative” partnerships, identifying and piloting nuanced ways to engage with partners that bring greater alignment of interests and needs between students, employers, and Fulbright. 

Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festival (FMFFF) is an initiative by Fulbright’s Career Development department, where students get to experience a wide range of high-quality Vietnamese movies, from action blockbusters to independent art films. It is much more than just an entertaining experience, in fact, the festival offered students an opportunity to directly discuss with and learn from the movies’ directors and producers. As the driving force of contemporary Vietnamese cinema, these young and promising filmmakers shared their insights into the art of filmmaking, as well as development prospects of the industry.

The festival included five screening events of some contemporary motion pictures that have attracted significant interest from Vietnamese youth, followed by in-person discussions with the moviemakers. Fulbright warmly welcomed director Tran Thanh Huy and actor Wowy Nguyen of “Rom” (the box office sensation that brought in 55 billion VND in the first 10 days of screening), director Trinh Dinh Le Minh and actor Le Cong Hoang from “Goodbye, mother”, and the crew of “Saigon in the rain“: director-writer Le Minh Hoang, director of photography Nguyen Khac Nhat, director of music Pham Hai Au, producer Cao Thuy Nhi and female lead Ho Thu Anh. The festival’s “menu” also included a series of experimental films by director Mzung Nguyen, and a close-up meeting with Thierry Nguyen, founder of Studio Bad Clay, the wizard behind the spectacular visual effects of Vietnamese blockbusters like “Hai Phuong”, “The Immortal”, “Sweet 20″… and “Trang Ti”, the period fantasy coming to theaters next year.

Founder of Bad Clay Studio – Thiery Nguyen taking photos with Fulbright students

At the FMFFF, Fulbright students raised questions about the art of filmmaking, from cinematic techniques, artistic philosophies, to the development prospects of the Vietnamese film industry. Guest speakers’ stories about their passionate yet challenging journey with filmmaking inspired students to further explore “the seventh art”.

The story of Trinh Dinh Le Minh was particularly thought-provoking.  His first movie, “Goodbye, mother” became the proud representative of Vietnamese independent films to compete at many prestigious film festivals, including Busan International Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, and San Diego International Film Festival, etc. The movie, an emotional LGBT romance with a highlight on family love, received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the audience. For Minh, it is the fruition of over ten years of delicate preparation, where he worked on multiple short films and documentaries to gain experience and hone his skills.

From insiders’ perspective, the directors also shared many poignant remarks and behind-the-scenes narratives that cannot be seen on the silver screen. Their sharing encourages students to be more appreciative of and tolerant with cinematographic works, and at the same time it opens up new layers of meaning of the film, “Easter eggs” that viewers may have missed after the first screening.

In fact, for a feature-length movie to come to life, the crew has to spend months, even years pursuing the project. For example, “Rom“, the first Vietnamese film to win “New Currents” (the highest award at Busan International Film Festival, Korea) took eight years before finally being premiered to the public. Yet from viewers’ standpoint, anyone can give judgments and criticisms on cinematic works.

Fulbright students experiencing the film project “The Light after Life” directed by Mzung Nguyen

“Before joining the session with the crew, I had prepared so many questions for them about things that I found inadequate or confusing in the movie. However, not until I listened to the filmmakers’ confidences did I really understand how much effort they invested in the movie. Thanks to that, I feel more respectful of their hard work and enthusiasm, and start to see cinematographic works under a different light,” confessed Dang Anh Kiet, a freshman at Fulbright.

Filmmaking is a creative arts industry that combines a variety of expertise, from historical-cultural studies, anthropology, project management, finance-investment, or even engineering and computer science… For that very reason, in the multidisciplinary liberal education environment at Fulbright, The Fall Film Festival is an opportunity for students to explore a wide range of career options that both satisfy their passion for movies and employ their unique abilities and strengths. At the same time, interaction with students is a refreshing experience for directors and filmmakers that allow them to have a better understanding of the young generation, the core audience of contemporary motion pictures.

Director Tran Thanh Huy of “Rom” shared that he was unable to contain his excitement when faced with sharp questions from students.

“90% of Fulbright students at the festival have seen the film and have questions and hypotheses that strike directly at the heart of the film. Their vision gained my respect. Sometimes during the talk, the students had me and Wowy on the edge of our seats, so much so that at the last minute, I was forced to say something I never disclosed about ‘Rom’ before, even during the PR trip for the movie!”, Tran Thanh Huy shared.

A photo director Tran Thanh Huy shared on his Facebook page after attending Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festival

With the success of the first mini film festival, Career Development at Fulbright is harboring more exciting ideas to enhance and enrich student experience. Mr. Vincent Pham, Manager of Partnership Development, who is in charge of the Career at Fulbright says:

“We hope that the Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festival is not only an interesting recreational activity for students who love movies, but also a useful source of information for student’s career development. On the other hand, we are also working hard to build a network of moviemakers – potential employers with students at Fulbright, to explore opportunities for cooperation and recruitment in the future.”

Anh Thư

Unlike most Vietnamese universities, where work experience is usually required only in the last year of study, Fulbright students’ ambition to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real context led many to seek opportunities right after their first year. A core pillar of liberal arts philosophy, experiential learning contributes greatly to Fulbright’s robust and integrated education.

Purposeful exploration

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it would be how much uncertainties the future holds; and it has definitely changed the way our world functions. Careers that have never been thought of will emerge, and old careers will be transformed. So to prepare for a future of uncertainties, the young generation needs an education that equips them for success and allows them to design their own future. This is where liberal arts education comes in.

As Vietnam’s first liberal arts university, Fulbright focuses on cultivating a strong sense of social responsibility, along with solid yet transferable intellectual, soft and technical skills. The interdisciplinary and critical approach helps prepare students to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. Fulbright students are allowed to take their time to explore many different areas of interests before committing to any particular major.

Similarly, with the support from the Career Development service, they are inspired to consider various career options, have multiple internships and projects in different professional industries before deciding their own path. Students can arrange to meet with a career coach to review a resume, prepare for an interview, or discuss broader career aspirations.

“I think there is something indescribable about the moments that we’re in. Vietnam is in this stage of rapid development… we need people who can actually think critically and have a breadth of knowledge, who will have exposure to different experiences, encompassing different cultures and different academic areas. That is why a liberal arts education is very important, because it demands both breadth and depth,” says Vincent Pham, Fulbright’s Manager of Partnership Development. “Students here spend two years exploring academic courses, so why can they not do a similar exploration with professional industries and fields?”

Vincent Pham, Fulbright’s Manager of Partnership Development

This is reflected in one of our students’ internships this past summer. Vu Nhat Huy had just completed his first professional working experience at Vulcan Augmetics, an engineering startup specializing in creating robotic prosthetics, dedicated to empowering the amputee community. Despite not having prior experience in the field, Huy was willing to step out of his comfort zone and immerse himself in Vulcan’s ambitious mission. Huy shared that from the very beginning, even at the interview, he could already sense liberal arts in action, “It encouraged trust, clear communication, and equal opportunities for every employee to be creative, fail, work and learn across departments.” In return, Huy’s willingness to “take on new challenges and unusual assignments, which requires a lot of creativity and courage” is highly praised by his employer Trinh Khanh Ha, Vulcan’s Co-Founder and General Manager.

Vu Nhat Huy’s product, an arm cover he sewed himself

To tailor a meaningful experience

Finding the right fit for students to intern at can be a challenge, especially when “internship culture” is still a rather new concept in Vietnam. Right off the bat, they have to be on the same page about various aspects of the internship – what the student is capable of, what skills they wish to develop, what the company expects from them, and so forth. The Career Development department at Fulbright facilitates this conversation, so that the internship can be rewarding to both students and employers.

With a quick Google or Facebook search, one can easily find a myriad of job or internship proposals that range across almost every field and position. However, for students with little to no prior work experience, they might struggle to land a suitable spot. Based on feedback from this year’s interns, Fulbright is developing a comprehensive protocol that would help students navigate job offers, set certain standards for future internship hosts, and create a stronger alignment of expectations between employers and students.

According to Vincent Pham, to make sure the experience is meaningful and constructive, establishing an environment of mentorship and ownership is essential. As mentees, students get to observe the finest practices in the industry and receive guidance to improve their work and themselves. On the other hand, they need to have enough freedom to respectfully raise their opinions, make their own decisions and step up when they are ready.

At Mark Your Wall, a creative start-up with a passion to tell stories through wall art, Fulbright student Truong Vu Anh Thy had a memorable internship. Although Thy had a rough start where she had to familiarize herself with a professional work environment, the whole experience ended up exceeding her expectation. Not only were Thy and her partner, another fellow Fulbright student, able to enrich their portfolio with an art project of their own, her communications and collaborating skills were also enhanced.

Part of Thy and her partner’s project presentation, photographing walls of Saigon

“My expectation about the internship was mainly that I was going to be an assistant to help other staffs. And this can be a chance to learn and understand how everything works. But it turned out differently. We got to do the project ourselves, we got to decide the theme based on a brief from our supervisor, Ms. De Geer. The project was mainly done by us, with Ms. De Geer as the advisor. It was a back and forth process of prototyping and feedback, resulting in a final product that both sides agreed on,” Thy reflects on her internship. “After all the feedback, we started to grasp what the company wanted, and applied our understanding to the project. Through this opportunity, I have gained experience on how to work efficiently as a collaborator, a staff.”

Adrienne De Geer, Mark Your Wall’s founder fondly appreciates Thy and her partner’s efforts. “A very positive and creative process, with a high level of flexibility and focus on learning for the students.”

Cultivating an ecosystem of support

At Fulbright, both the Career Development department and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) have been leveraging their resources to prompt internship opportunities for students. While the CEI has a specific focus on entrepreneurial and innovative startups, Career Development provides connection to an extensive network of partners, from art, media, technology to education and non-profits, accommodating a diverse student community with varied interests and strengths. Especially for a new university like Fulbright, these partnerships are a substantial asset in the long run.

On a broader scale, Fulbright’s initiative is setting a precedent for other universities and higher education institutions in Vietnam, to design and promote valuable experiential learning programs, as well as foster a healthy internship culture. Nowadays, neither theoretical nor practical knowledge is sufficient without the other. According to a recent BCG report, 1.3 billion people globally have misaligned competencies for their job. It is thus necessary for all students, not just those pursuing a liberal arts education, to get exposed to the labor market early in their academic journey. From businesses’ perspective, this is a catalyst for them to further discussions with the education sector. With them getting more involved in finetuning the curriculum, it will better cater to each industry’ demands and employers will be able to recruit the most competent students as soon as they graduate.

Nguyen Dai Hoang, one of the two Fulbright students currently interning at Zing News says, he enjoys working in a friendly environment with supportive coworkers. “I struggled in the first few days at work, but quickly realized that the approach of ‘fast failure’ that is introduced and promoted at Fulbright can be applied everywhere. I started to think of the tasks I did not complete successfully as the practical lessons that gradually enhance my performance, instead of taking things personally and getting upset about failed tasks,” Hoang recalls.

Hoang’s supervisor, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tuan, Assistant Managing Editor at Zing News expresses compliments for his two journalist interns: “Their professionalism, dedication and versatility really impressed me. Both are eager to learn and open to new assignments – new and challenging ones.” Such positive testimony gives hope for more long-term, fruitful collaborations on the horizon for the Fulbright community.

Anh Thư – Bảo Trâm