On October 17, Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (Fulbright University Vietnam) held the inauguration ceremony to welcome 65 new students of the Master in Public Policy Class of 2024 (MPP2024) at the Crescent campus. The event marks an important milestone in the academic and professional growth of the new cohort, who are committed to participate in the rigorous MPP program accredited by het Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

As the world is changing rapidly, today’s knowledge and skills may soon become out of date. In this VUCA world, a world characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, we are required to update our knowledge and skills to quickly adapt to changes. In this context, those who chose to pursuit the master’s degree at the Fulbright school are the ones who seek a transformative experience to equip themselves with updated knowledge and skills.

Unleashing potential and improving thinking capacity

In her welcoming remarks, U. S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City Susan Burns commended the new cohort for taking the initiative and time out of their busy professional lives to participate in this rigorous MPP program, which is the very best in the region. She expressed her belief that their hard work and commitment over the next 15 months will pay off.

I believe that the next 15 months will be a transformative experience for all of you, as you unleash your extraordinary potential and lay the foundation for endless opportunities and collaborations. I am excited to see what you achieve,” she said.

Trần Thị Bích Ngọc said on behalf of the Class of 2023 that the new students will soon go through what she described as “a challenging but rewarding experience” at Fulbright. They will experience stress and hardship as any Fulbrighter and will go through sleepless nights reading materials, doing assignments and joining group discussions, praying they could turn in their assignments before the 8:20 deadline. But it will turn out that the experience is also amazing with beautiful memories shared with their peers as they learn together and enjoy ‘Wow’ moments when they are enlightened by insights which are unknown before.

According to Ngọc, the most important thing is that the learning experience at Fulbright made her realize her limits to keep trying to enrich her knowledge and improve her thinking skills.

Because learning is a perpetual process, knowledge knows no boundaries and the world keeps evolving. We could only make very modest contributions, if any, to the society. The Fulbright school has taught me how to think, to criticize and raise questions about any problem I may encounter in the professional and personal life,” she said.

Ngọc, a film producer studying Master in Public Policy, quoted a line in the Indian film Pather Panchali written and directed by Satyajit Ray “At certain times in our lives, we all need to move on. That would make us less narrow-minded.” She said she felt related to the renewal of her mind and the improvement of her thinking skills after studying at Fulbright.

Welcome all of you to the Fulbright family for a transformative experience to gain better values for yourself, for the community and the society,” Ngọc said.

Gaining strength from diversity

Delivering his opening remarks, Assoc. Prof. Phạm Duy Nghĩa, Director of MPP Program at FSPPM, warmly welcomed 65 new students to the Fulbright School Alumni (FSA) network of more than 1,700 alumni and current students. The Class of 2024 gathers students who works in central and local governments, businesses, research institutes, and social organizations across Vietnam. The new cohort is also special because it marks the beginning of the Mekong-U.S. Partnership Master in Public Policy program, which includes two students from Laos.

At FSPPM, the diversity of students is a major strength, providing many different professional, economic and societal perspectives to problems and solutions of public policy and management. It also helps the students to develop empathy towards others, no matter how different they are. The Class of 2024 students will have a chance to not only learn from Vietnamese lecturers and fellow students, but also gain a new regional perspective from their Lao peers.

At the moment, public policy has attracted not only students who work in the public sector but also those from the private sector and social organizations thanks to its applicability and interdisciplinary feature.

Public policy has become associated to everyday issues affecting all citizens, from flooded streets, traffic congestion, mislabeled vegetables at supermarkets to gasoline shortages as we’re seeing these days in Vietnam,” Ms. Đàm Bích Thủy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, noted.

As a public policy institution with highly diverse range of students from different sectors, FSPPM is fortunate to be able to provide a public sphere that fosters policy dialogues across Vietnam and the region.

I would like to encourage the new students to take advantage of every opportunity during two years at Fulbright to get to know, to learn from, to understand and empathize with those whose identities, life experiences and beliefs are different from your own. I strongly believe the new cohort will continue to build a diverse and inclusive community at Fulbright,” Ms. Đàm Bích Thủy said.

Thuy Hang

Chairman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Phan Văn Mãi (second from left) at the inauguration ceremony

Assoc. Prof. Phạm Duy Nghĩa, Director of the MPP Program at FSPPM, delivers his opening remarks

New U.S. Consul General Susan Burns delivers her remarks.

Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, delivers her remarks.

U.S. Consul General Susan Burns awards full-ride scholarships for MPP2024 students from Laos under the Mekong-U.S. Partnership program.

Phạm Trường Sơn, MPP2021 alumnus, speaks on behalf of the Fulbright School Alumni (FSA).

Trần Thùy Giang (right), a Fulbright School Alumni (FSA) member, grants the new need-based financial aid packages sponsored by a group of alumni to MPP2024 students.

Trần Thị Bích Ngọc, MPP2023 student, delivers her remarks.

Mr. Nguyễn Xuân Thành, FSPPM’s senior faculty member, delivers the closing remarks.

In 2010, during the graduation ceremony for Fulbright School’s first Master of Public Policy cohort, the late Prime Minister Phan Van Khai remarked that he himself had learned a lot, especially about the market economy, through discussions with a group of Harvard and Fulbright professors. Such knowledge, which he “successfully applied during his tenure, contributed to the development of the country”.

As the Prime Minister of Vietnam from 1997 to 2006, he was one of the technocratic leaders with the most substantial contributions during the country’s reforming and opening period. He also played an influential role in establishing the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, the predecessor of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management at Fulbright University Vietnam today.

His deep connection with the Fulbright School stemmed from a study trip to learn economic reform lessons from East Asian countries, organized by a group of Harvard professors who founded the School in the early 1990s. At the time, Mr. Khai was the Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers (the equivalent position to the current Deputy Prime Minister). He and other senior officials in charge of the economic sector in the state apparatus then learned methodically for the first time the core pillars of the market economy – from supply and demand, prices, exchange rates, to the import-export mechanism – concepts that were still extremely foreign to those who had just come out of the centrally planned economy.

The then Prime Minister Phan Van Khai attended the graduation ceremony of the inaugural Master  Public Policy cohort

Although the Doi Moi process started in 1986, “Vietnam’s development programs, guidelines and strategies were still very vague and exploratory” because “very few people understood the principles of economics,” recalled Professor Thomas Vallely, Director of the Vietnam Program at Harvard University, who organized the study trip that year.

The impression from this trip was so profound that later on, Mr. Khai became an avid advocate for the idea of a training program in applied economics for Vietnamese leaders and officials taught by Harvard professors, at a time when the relations between the two countries still had not fully normalized.

That was because Mr. Khai, along with other visionary Vietnamese leaders at that time, understood that more than ever, the country needed leaders with knowledge and a market economy mindset in order to successfully lead the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy.

Later, Dr. Jonathan Pincus, Director of FETP from 2008 to 2013 noted that FETP “was an excellent idea born at the right time”.

A factor that shaped the Fulbright School in its early days was the emergence of Asian economies and the aspiration of Vietnamese leaders to be a part of the historic movement where the economic center of the world shifted from West to East,” said Mr. Pincus.

Overcoming numerous obstacles and challenges from both sides, eventually, Ho Chi Minh City, which had been considered a “laboratory” for innovative ideas in the early Doi Moi period, was chosen to be home to a Harvard training program. In January 1995, the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) was officially established, only half a year before Vietnam and the United States normalized diplomatic relations.

Dr. Jonathan Pincus, Director of FETP 2008-2013

Foreseeing Vietnam’s path of reformation

When the Fulbright School was established, the founders faced different choices and they made strategic decisions that set Fulbright apart from any other economic or political training program in Vietnam even later on. It was a decision to not target central-level officials like the typical approach, but to focus on modern economic knowledge and improving management capacity for local government officials instead.

In the early 90s of the last century, access to modern economic management knowledge was a luxury for local officials,” explained Mr. Vallely.

This decision of the Fulbright founders also came from keen observations of Vietnam’s reform trajectory when Mr. Vallely and his partner, Professor Dwight Perkins, Director of the Harvard Institute for International Development, visited Vietnam and did a survey here in 1989. They found that Vietnam’s crucial national economic reform was largely driven by local reformations, which were later often described as a journey to “tear down” the old mechanism from the bottom up.

These ‘jumping the fence’ actions, such as the discreet ‘agricultural land allocation’ movements in localities on the verge of renovation were meant to ‘emancipate’ production and business activities that have been suppressed for too long in the old mechanism. These reforms were successful because they precisely hit local pressure points. When central-level leaders observed that these experiments succeeded locally, they felt confident and bold enough to enact them into national policies,” Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Director of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, explains.

Professor Thomas Vallely, Director of the Vietnam Program, Harvard University and Harvard University President Catharine Drew Gilpin Faust at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in Ho Chi Minh City.

Professor Thomas Vallely and students from the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management during a short course at the Harvard Kennedy School.

According to Dr. Tu Anh, FETP’s decision to focus on training local officials, therefore, showed ‘a deep understanding of the reform trajectory in Vietnam’ and such incredible ‘foresight’ that even to this day, he still feels truly fascinated and grateful about.

As a result of that strategic decision, a community of more than 1500 alumni from 62 out of 63 provinces in Vietnam has become an invaluable asset of FSPPM today. They have contributed to forming an excellent class of officials and civil servants of Vietnam in the Doi Moi era, pioneers who created positive change in their own communities.

Mr. Seth Winnick, U.S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, shared a story with Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh which happened more than 10 years ago. Whenever he went to localities in Vietnam and met Fulbright alumni, he could recognize them almost immediately by their distinct expression of the “Fulbright DNA”. He even coined the term “FETP Index” – a province with a high index means there are many FETP alumni working there and they are definitely at the forefront of innovation and reform in Vietnam.

The outstanding contributions of FETP alumni didn’t just take place locally. Many people, after serving in the leadership role of a particular province or department, have been promoted to the Central Government to lead the planning and implementing of important policies at the national level.

In 2013, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, then Deputy Prime Minister, led a delegation of high-ranking Vietnamese officials to attend the Vietnam Executive Leadership Program (VELP) – a joint initiative of the Vietnamese Government, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Vietnam Program at Harvard University, and FETP.

Global knowledge – local action

When it first started, FETP did exactly what was “requested” by the Government of Vietnam at that time, which was to impart the most up-to-date knowledge on market economy to state officials, in accordance with the context of the country.

We then taught neoclassical economics courses the way you would at Harvard, with the Harvard Kennedy School’s curriculum being translated into Vietnamese in a way that was easy to understand,” recounted Mr. Thomas Vallely.

Mr. Cao Van Trong, former Chairman of Ben Tre province was one of the first students of FETP. Before entering in the program, he had already obtained a bachelor’s degree in industrial economics from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics. However, a year at FETP for him was an entire journey of “reconstruction”, from his knowledge to vision and thinking.

We learned very new knowledge about micro- and macro-economics, about the economy management tools, especially the two very important tools in the market economy: fiscal and monetary policies. But the most significant thing that I learned from Fulbright is the approach and mindset that dissects an issue from many different angles. That is a timeless value,” said Mr. Trong.

Taking it a step further, when FETP has built trust with the society and with the government system, the lecturers were able to boldly put real Vietnamese practices at the heart of the training program. Harvard’s famous “case study” method was modified by the lecturers to suit the Vietnamese context, which Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh often likened to the journey of “Vietnamizing global knowledge”.

2008 marked a historic milestone for FETP when it changed from a 1-year applied economics training program to a 2-year master’s degree program in public policy – the first Master in Public Policy program in Vietnam. Transcending the framework of a traditional economic training program, the School had begun to venture into the “sensitive” but increasingly urgent issue in Vietnam: public policy, public management, and public administration.

That was because, as explained by Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, after more than 20 years of renovation and integration into the global economy, Vietnam had entered a period when the old driving forces of growth had gradually become outdated and required the apparatus to introduce drastic reforms, especially in terms of institutions. The decisions were no longer simply to “emancipate” from the old mechanism as before, these reforms must be relevant to the vivid, creative, and multi-dimensional realities in the drastically changing context of Vietnam and the world.

Former Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen was one of the regular visiting lecturers of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program.

In order to solve these increasingly complex policy problems, leaders and executives needed to be equipped with new knowledge and mindsets. Therefore, Fulbright School’s faculty members have made constant efforts to create new knowledge that caters to the needs of the time. There are Fulbright “specialty” subjects such as Regional and Local Development, Public Investment Appraisal, Law and Public Policy… Every lesson at the Fulbright School has now turned into lively discussions about practical problems facing Vietnam.

From environmental and energy policy for the Mekong Delta region, to the strategy to promote infrastructure development projects following the public-private partnership (PPP) model, or even the strategy to build Thu Duc into a smart city, each graduation thesis of Fulbright students has been very practical policy analysis that they can continue to pursue after returning to their daily work.

Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh and students of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management during a field trip to study about Regional and Local Development in Hue

According to a veteran Vietnamese diplomat, it is the journey of engaging in the center of socio-economic development of Vietnam over the past 25 years, reflected in the constant efforts to update the curriculum to accommodate the needs of the community and provide the country with high-quality human resources has helped “Fulbright to become the only international educational exchange program that still continues to reach new heights”.

While other projects came to an end, FETP has now become the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), one of the first 10 public policy schools in Asia and the first in Southeast Asia to achieve accreditation from NASPAA – the “golden standard” of public policy, public management, and public administration schools around the world.

When they put down the first bricks to begin the construction of a humble school, located in a small alley on Vo Thi Sau Street, the founders of FETP could not have expected that it would go this far. Right now, Fulbright is not only “the most important educational legacy in the Vietnam-US relations”, but also an “invaluable intellectual property” of Vietnam.

Viet Lam

Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (Fulbright University Vietnam) has opened the applications for Master of Public Policy Class of 2024 (MPP2024).

(Read the full announcement HERE)

The MPP2024 program will provide scholarship packages for various groups of applicants granted by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State.

For Policy Analysis concentration:

Full scholarship (equivalent to about VND 526 million/student) granted to:

  • Policy consultants and policymakers from public areas; lecturers and research fellows from public universities and organizations; or distinction graduates from universities inside and outside Vietnam.
  • Policy consultants and policymakers from public areas of Laos (applicants of Mekong-US Partnership – Master in Public Policy (MUSP-MPP) program).

Partial 50% scholarship (equivalent to about VND 263 million) granted to: Managers and executives from non-profit organizations, social organizations, and enterprises; lecturers and research fellows from private or international universities and organizations.

For Leadership & Management concentration:

Partial scholarships (40% tuition fees) are granted to admitted students to complete required credits. The remaining payable amount (equivalent to VND 252 million) accounts for 60% tuition fees.

Prospective students are middle and senior managers, managers in government agencies, enterprises, non-profit organizations and NGOs.

Scholarship for both concentrations is inclusive of tuition fee and fees for field trip (if any) and exclusive of lodging, course materials, extracurricular activities, Harvard course, and personal expenses.

Excellent candidates with financial constraints, from public sector or remote areas, or female candidates will be considered for financial aid.

This year, the Fulbright school will resume organizing the entrance examination for student selection with Quantitative skill and English tests for applicants of the Policy Analysis concentration after one-year hiatus caused by Covid-19. Applicants of the Leadership & Management concentration will be exempted from the tests.

For online application, please click HERE.

For details about MPP2024 admissions, please click HERE.

Application deadline:

  • July 24, 2022 for applicants from Laos under MUSP-MPP program.
  • August 4, 2022 for other applicants.

Built upon the heritage of Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, an initiative by Vietnam Program, Harvard University, Master in Public Policy (MPP) by FUV is designed to provide high-quality manpower for policy-making institutions and governmental bodies, NGOs, NPOs, private enterprises, research universities and institutions.

MPP program is directly offered and administered by Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), the first academic unit under Fulbright University Vietnam. FSPPM pioneers in developing and educating public policy programs with a view to advocating for a transformative public policy and management in Vietnam and the region – through its commitment toward excellence in teaching, research and civic engagement.

In July 2019, FSPPM is the first public policy school in Southeast Asia to be accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA, U.S.). Accreditation from the internationally prestigious network in public policy programs is a significant milestone projecting the school towards regional and international standards. Achieving the accreditation is a testament to the quality of education offered at FSPPM in par with other international programs.


The Admissions Office

Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management – Fulbright University Vietnam

105 Ton Dat Tien, Tan Phu Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City

Email: admissions.fsppm@fulbright.edu.vn

Hotline: 091-102-5103

Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) held the commencement ceremony for 47 students from the 2021 class of Fulbright’s Master in Public Policy (MPP2021). It is the second year the commencement ceremony took place in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic with a number of students joining virtually. All the faculty and students present at the ceremony gathered in the solemn yet cozy space of the school campus, sharing warm hugs and smiles as they ended a nearly two-year journey together with a lot of ups and downs.

The ceremony was held after several delays due to the complex development of Covid-19 pandemic. It was scheduled to take place in the summer of 2021 but was delayed until the final week of the year. One week before the event, many MPP2021 students took to social media to share their warm, sincere and heartfelt messages about their unforgettable journey with Fulbright.

Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Director of FSPPM, delivers his opening remarks.

While congratulating fresh graduates, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Director of FSPPM, stressed that the past two years were challenging, witnessing the maturity of MPP2021 students and making them understand that maturity never comes easily. He expressed his hope that the graduates would take advantage of everything that comes their way as opportunities to grow up and contribute to the development of the community and the country in the post-Covid context.

Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, congratulates MPP2021 graduates on their accomplishments.

Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, praised MPP2021 graduates for not only overcoming the challenges of a rigorous, demanding, and international academic environment but also the challenges of a global pandemic. “We, at Fulbright, often say that the Class of MPP2021 is the Class of MPP in the years of Covid-19. The journey that you have overcome to be where you are today has been disrupted and challenged by the outbreaks over the last two years in our country,” she said.

The disruptions and challenges could be about the students’ learning schedules and experience on campus, their work environment and career opportunity, or worse, the choices that they had to make in the critical moments of tragedies that befell their life, she elaborated.

Ms. Thuy expressed her gratitude to all the graduates for they have chosen to not give up, to never quit trying, to never let go of their dreams and commitments. “You are the shining examples of what it means when we speak about the spirit of “Embrace the Uncertainty” at Fulbright,” she said.

Assoc. Prof. Pham Duy Nghia, MPP Program Director, delivers his speech.

Assoc. Prof. Pham Duy Nghia, MPP Program Director, said FSPPM itself has tested its limits and intentionally posed these challenging tests on the students during the last two years. “Together, we have learnt and explored new things in a changing world. Amazingly, these explorations made us more composed, confident, and aware of our inner selves,” he admitted.

He claimed the tough time also offered an opportunity for the Vietnamese government, businesses, and people to demonstrate their resilience; meanwhile, the class of MPP2021 is where all students representing different stakeholders in the society show their visions, their insights, and their attitude towards the rapidly changing world.

Just like in previous years, FSPPM named the graduation ceremony Commencement as they expected that it would begin a new chapter in the life of each graduate. Ms. Dam Bich Thuy hoped that the education at Fulbright had provided the students with the skills and confidence to confront the future ahead – the future many experts have predicted as uncertain, complex, volatile, and ambiguous.

In times of a global crisis due to Covid-19, we are reminded of the importance of public policy and management in our life, she commented, as the effectiveness of a good public policy and strong leadership from the government has been crucial to how countries across the world are combating the pandemic and will continue to be so in our efforts to recover and rebuild our economies.

More than ever, this is the moment for graduates of the Public Policy and Management Program at Fulbright to demonstrate your spirit of being a pioneer, to demonstrate your ability to create positive change for the world and the people around you… Your duty is to apply the valuable knowledge, the skills, and experience that you have learned from Fulbright, and turn them into meaningful actions that will help the people around you, the community, and our society, no matter where you are, or how you wish to take your career further,” she said.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan is the keynote speaker at this year’s graduation.

Traditionally during the FSPPM commencement ceremony, a keynote speech is delivered by someone who has social prestige and makes a considerable contribution to the public policy and management segment. Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan is that one in this year’s graduation. He said he had great expectations of the Fulbright school’s graduates as the next generation of changemakers in Vietnam and told them to always incorporate the theories they had learnt in the rapidly changing reality to keep them deeply rooted in the Vietnamese context. He hoped they would nourish their talent and virtue on the mission to serve the country. After delivering his speech, the former Deputy PM participated in a Q&A session with MPP2021 students and shared about his own experiences and lessons in his economic diplomacy career with distinguished achievements.

Dao Thien Ly, a graduate of MPP2021-PA class, expressed her joy for overcoming all difficulties and challenges to achieve her goal on the educational path: the noble Master in Public Policy diploma granted by the Fulbright school.

Looking back on our journey, each of us sitting here cannot forget the nights we stayed up to complete all the assignments. The 8:20 deadline gave us goosebumps many times. Although we submitted our assignments, sometimes we forgot to press the turn-in button and received zeros. I am still shivered thinking about these deadline mishaps,” Ly said.

Dao Thien Ly, a graduate of MPP2021-PA class, delivers this year’s student speech.

She claimed that the diversified student base at Fulbright gave her the chance to learn from her classmates to acquire not only academic knowledge but also the attitude, manner, empathy, and mutual respect, and she thus became a better version of herself.

On behalf of MPP2021 graduates, I’d like to say we are committed to doing our best to be worthy of being a Fulbright student with knowledge, competence, and integrity, and we are ready to make a positive impact in any career field,” she said.

Thuy Hang

Huynh Trung Dung sees his twelve-year-and-counting journey with Public Policy as an ordinary path simply because it occurs naturally to him. But the extraordinary lies in the persistent pursuit towards this one single field where he finds his best self.

Huynh Trung Dung – Public Policy Faculty Lead of the YSEALI Academy cum Lecturer at Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management

Public Policy is everything around us

From a very young age, Huynh Trung Dung already knew that he wanted to contribute to the common good of society. From his perspective, the public sector had more room for construction and direction in comparison to the private sector, and that is where he decided to work for the public good.

“Public Policy is everything around us. It is in every single breath we take, whether we stay inside or we go outdoors, we are all bounded by Public Policy,” Dung exclaimed.

There are social aspects that can only be regulated and resolved by state policies, especially those related to disadvantaged groups – the community of people with special circumstances, with limited rights and limited access to necessities. To Dung, there are three factors to evaluate the effectiveness of a public policy: fairness, equality, and longevity.

Fairness in resources. For example, Ho Chi Minh City generates more than 20% of GDP, more than 25% of the state budget so it should receive adequate resources, but in reality, the city only retains 18% of revenue, while the remaining 82% goes directly to the state budget. Inequality here affects the efficiency of budget use, meaning that if Ho Chi Minh City keeps more, it will generate more revenue for the whole country from that fund.

Equal access to rights among groups in society, regardless of financial condition, gender, religion, and other aspects.

“And finally the long-term calculation. Policy enacted in the present time needs to be considered with regard to its impact in the future. For example, if a policy aims to solve an economic problem now but causes harm to the environment, it is unacceptable because then future generations will have to bear the consequences.”

Education – a safe environment

Huynh Trung Dung realizes his passion with a Bachelor’s degree in foreign trade and diplomacy in Vietnam. Right after graduation, he spent eight years working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of External Relations of Ho Chi Minh City. During that time, he completed his master’s degree at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Singapore shares many similarities with Vietnam from geography, politics to culture and diplomatic relations. The studies I’ve done there were directly applied to my work in the public sector at the time“, he contended.

As a person who always put practicality and efficiency first, his intention to contribute to the public sector when he returned to Vietnam did not go as he expected. With a yearning for growth and development, not only for the common good but also for himself, Huynh Trung Dung decided to take a leap of faith and turn to education – a place “suitable for a calm persona, not too competitive”, where he could make the best use of what he has learned and experienced in a foreign environment.

Huynh Trung Dung at a social event in Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore 2008

Huynh Trung Dung’s educational career started at RMIT University Vietnam, then he joined the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP). When he was about to complete his Ph.D. and return home, he was happy to join YSEALI Academy as a Lead Faculty for Public Policy and lecture at the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), Fulbright University Vietnam. This place, according to him, is the best resemblance to his pursued public policy – “a big umbrella” covering many fields to solve interdisciplinary and global issues.

Huynh Trung Dung and FSPPM faculty at Harvard, 2018

At YSEALI Academy, he serves as a Lead Faculty for Public Policy. In this position, his responsibilities are not confined to the teaching duties, but rather, expand to strategic planning, proposing new topics, and inviting, connecting lecturers and experts from all across the world.

The diversity of students, as well as guest speakers, poses some challenges for Dung while also presents him with interesting experiences. The challenge was that he had to design an intensive program suitable for students in 11 Southeast Asian countries (including Timor-Leste) and from a variety of professions. It is also interesting because it is the first program in Southeast Asia to discuss public policy at a regional and interdisciplinary scale for young leaders in the region. All the while, being in a coordinating lead position also gives him opportunities to simultaneously learn more about fields that are not his specialty.

“Every country has its own solution for public problems, but there are many similarities. YSEALI Academy seminar is an opportunity for young people from different countries to learn from each other from both those similarities and differences. An avid example in the Public Policy seminar on Energy Economics and Policy is that Vietnam’s problem is coal power, while in Laos, Cambodia, it is hydroelectricity and in Singapore, it is solar energy, but we all share a few things in common: efficiency issues and the impact of energy use on different groups in society” – Mr. Dung reflected on the first Public Policy seminar at YSEALI Academy. This is practical as we join hands to discuss global issues under policy approaches from many countries and different professions, to work together to do something useful for today and for the next generation, the future.

Huynh Trung Dung in a Q&A webinar for YSEALI Academy

Practical interdisciplinary over pure academia

For Huynh Trung Dung, Public Policy must go hand-in-hand with practice. When deciding to continue studying for a Ph.D., among many options, he chose Pardee RAND Graduate School, USA. Unlike the majority of graduate schools in the U.S., Pardee RAND School under RAND Corporation is a leading American non-profit think tank organization, so its program is built on real projects. Where students work directly with experts.

During his research at RAND, he participated in many policy analysis projects in various fields of security, international relations, and healthcare. Research and analysis projects at RAND are mostly absorbed and applied by policymakers.

Huynh Trung Dung and his colleague at RAND, 2017

While teaching at the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management as well as the YSEALI Academy, he fosters an environment where students are encouraged to debate, apply, and implement real-world projects. “When I have concerns in my head and we discuss facts together, then I really learn many things,” Dung shared.

Accompanying young people from many different fields yet all share the same interest and desire to contribute to society via public policy, Huynh Trung Dung feels inspired and energized every day. Especially in the Public Policy seminar at YSEALI Academy, he was impressed with the cooperative spirit of fellows from all over the region. “There are students who are highly specialized in their field but still were open to learn from the sharing of other fellows from different fields and in return, they also bring their knowledge to share with the whole team. While working in groups, the young leaders coordinate with each other very smoothly and openly, aiming towards the most multi-dimensional and practical solution” – Huynh Trung Dung excited.

He hopes to see more young people who are dynamic, creative, and interested in the common good participate in public policy seminars at the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management and YSEALI Academy, where students are to freely explore the academic world while also can immerse in practical applications, where they can find their community and join hands to tackle the world’s interdisciplinary problems.

An Bình

Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (Fulbright University Vietnam) has opened the applications for Master of Public Policy program of 2021-2023 (MPP2023).

This year, the MPP2023 program will provide scholarship packages for various groups of applicants granted by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State.

*For Policy Analysis concentration:

+ Full scholarship (equivalent to about VND 508 million/student) granted to: Policy consultants and policymakers from public areas; lecturers; research fellows from public organizations; or distinction graduates from universities inside and outside Vietnam.

+ Partial 50% scholarship (equivalent to about VND 254 million) granted to: Managers and executives from non-profit organizations, social organizations, and enterprises.

*For Leadership & Management concentration:

+ Partial scholarships (40% tuition fees) are granted to admitted students to complete required credits. The remaining payable amount (equivalent to VND 252 million) accounts for 60% tuition fees.

Scholarship for both concentrations is inclusive of tuition fee and fees for field trip (if any) and exclusive of lodging, course materials, extracurricular activities, Harvard course, and personal expenses.

Excellent candidates with financial constraints, from public sector or remote areas, or female candidates will be considered for financial aid.

For online application, please click HERE

For details about MPP2023 admissions, please click HERE

Master of Public Policy program by FSPPM is the only public policy education program in Southeast Asia to be accredited by NASPAA with the longest accreditation period possible (7 years).

With a curriculum that incorporates global modern knowledge with insightful local understandings of Vietnam context and faculty members including both practitioners and theorists, FSPPM focus on both delivering advanced knowledge to students and promoting essential competencies for life-long learning, effective leadership, and cooperation in the workplace, together with strategic thinking.

FSPPM proudly boasts an established team of faculty members who are distinguished and vocal researchers in Vietnam and worldwide. Lectures and case studies are drawn from faculty’s research studies in which understandings of Vietnam policy context are embedded within observable regional and global trends.

Faculty members, comprising of top graduates from leading universities in their respective fields, are diversified in composition. Besides, the school frequently has international scholars from prominent international universities like Harvard University, Duke University, and Tufts University.

Over two decades, FSPPM successfully recruits a student base diverse in geographical locations, expertise, background, and working experiences. They are policymakers and consultants, university lecturers and research fellows, managers in public, private and non-profit organizations. FSPPM students work in extensive fields including industry, agricultural, mining, environmental, banking, housing, commercial, tourism, airlines, healthcare, education, energy, tax, and public administrations. Given their unique background, the diversified students create an enriching learning environment benefitting their classmates.

The two options for Master of Public Policy program at Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management – Policy Analysis and Leadership & Management – are designed to meet various needs of the students regarding the schedule, scholarship, and financial status. However, the two concentrations have one thing in common: the academic rigor that pushes students to graduate with the master’s degree they can be proud of. Depending on their background (public or private sector), students will experience the unique academic environment of each concentration in a different way, but in general, students are required to truly invest in their studying to get the equivalent reward.

From world-class education options

Policy Analysis (PA) is a concentration with an academic background in economics and policy teaching of which Harvard University’s top professors laid the foundation more than two decades ago at FETP (Fulbright Economics Teaching Program). This is the first Master of Public Policy program in Vietnam, and the only in Southeast Asia to achieve international accreditation by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Meanwhile, designed with a similar academic standard that combines Harvard’s up-to-date knowledge of economics, management and leadership, the Leadership and Management (LM) concentration is a special version tailored for middle and senior managers of all industries.

Therefore, FSPPM’s academic background and the quality of the Master in Public Policy program are suitable for those who are ambitious to pursue a graduate program that follows U.S. educational standards but is located in Vietnam.

Phan Thi Mong Thu, a student of MPP22-LM class, said: “The NASPAA-accredited training program and unique learning experiences are the main reasons for me to choose to study at FSPPM.

Meanwhile, Le Thi Oanh, a MPP22-PA student who decided to postpone her work at the Da Nang Department of Home Affairs for more than one year to study at FSPPM, said: “At Fulbright, I got a chance to experience an international-standard learning program in comprehension with Vietnam’s policy case studies. It is the combination of theoretical knowledge and case studies that made the class extremely enjoyable and interesting”.

To elaborate on this, FSPPM’s senior lecturer Nguyen Xuan Thanh said that FSPPM’s Master of Public Policy training program was formed by the school’s experience of over 25 years incorporating Harvard’s latest copyrighted knowledge of economics and management into Vietnamese context.

You will find in Harvard classrooms the knowledge of modern economics and management and case studies from different countries for reference. But a class that blends Harvard’s knowledge and Vietnam’s reality can only be found at FSPPM.

Vu Hai Truong, a student of LM22 class, said FSPPM’s MPP program is flexibly imported to suit Vietnam’s practical contexts.

The program that is designed to deeply rooted into Vietnamese context is a unique characteristic of FSPPM. It helps me apply the academic theories to my current work as well as relate more closely to the knowledge I gained here,” he said.

Time: The most valuable opportunity cost

With a 15-month full-time schedule, PA is the only concentration to receive full scholarships granted by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State, exclusively for policy consultants and policymakers from public areas, lecturers, research fellows from public organizations, or distinction graduates from universities inside and outside Vietnam. A partial 50% scholarship is granted to managers and executives from non-profit organizations and social enterprises.

For in-office civil servants, especially those in managerial positions, the sacrifice of time and the suspension of work for studying at FSPPM must be taken into serious consideration. But it is obvious that serious investment in education would bring in good results in their career. The time investment for knowledge enrichment can be seen as venture capital for them to improve their professional capacity. The full-time learning experience offers an opportunity for students to realize the gaps of knowledge and the shortcomings of their professional skills so that they could improve themselves and identify the direction for their career paths.

According to Mr. Nguyen Xuan Thanh, there was a time in Vietnam when many public servants who wanted to pursue graduate studies joined graduate programs which allowed them to attend classes in just several hours after work. Although it seemed to be convenient for these public servants, these programs failed to offer an ideal academic environment where students could be deeply engaged in intellectual exchanges with the faculty and the diversified groups of classmates and be inspired to absorb new knowledge.

Experiencing the school’s cultural and academic environment is a very important thing in ensuring learning quality. Students can learn from the faculty, their classmates, and even from the way a class is organized,” he said.

Ngo Nguyen Thao Vy, a lecturer from Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, is currently a student of PA22 class. She still cannot forget the “panic attack” when she got introduced to Quantitative Methods, one of the best courses offered by the PA concentration at FSPPM. In the first class, students were exposed to a lot of English terms and Thao Vy struggled to finish the first assignment of this course.

I even doubted myself for pursuing this course and wondered if I could survive the first two semesters. Despite having certain achievements in the field of legal studies before, I feel so small in the “sea” of new knowledge. When I felt like a lonely eagle struggling to figure things out, I got help from the instructors and teaching assistants. When it came to the third assignment, I grasped the meaning of the course and identified the methods I could apply in legal analysis journals that I will write later,” she recalled.

Thao Vy claimed that only a few schools in Vietnam can push students’ boundaries like Fulbright, where students unleash their full potential under the pressure of assignments and readings with near-Harvard standards in a short period of time.

“What contributes to the success of MPP program at FSPPM is that while the same training model and methods can be applied in other educational institutions, the enthusiasm and understanding of the faculty have helped to inspire students who had the intention of giving up to return to a more serious learning cycle.”

From a short-term training program on applied economics for government officers to a Master of Public Policy program, over the past 25 years, FSPPM has seen a huge number of students majoring in Policy Analysis. Among more than 1,500 alumni from 62 out of 63 provinces across the country, about 62.3% are from the public sector.

In an attempt to diversify on-demand training, this year, FSPPM allows distinction university graduates to apply for the MPP program without being required to have two years of working experience like before. It aims to encourage research-oriented students and students who plan to pursue postgraduate studies while taking advantage of the NASPAA-accredited graduate program.

LM – the concentration characterized by high applicability

Leadership & Management is a concentration introduced by FSPPM just several years ago. It has a curriculum based on modern economics, policy, and management with Harvard standards. The program is tailored based on the demand of the market, with prospective students having solid career backgrounds and practical experience from the public and private sectors, social organizations, education, and research institutions.

This concentration offers more flexibility than Policy Analysis in terms of teaching and learning methods: it can be a part-time program, suitable for students who hold managerial positions in companies and organizations and cannot leave their jobs to dedicate their full-time study at FSPPM. The courses of this concentration are characterized by high applicability, suitable for decision-makers in companies and organizations.

Trinh Thi Diep Thu, a student of LM22 class and an officer from the Ministry of Transport, said: “To compare with other graduate programs offered by public universities, the MPP program at FSPPM is more practical, open-minded and professional. The distinctive value of this program that I earn is the deep understanding of how the society works and communicates and I can apply agile thinking at work in a public office.”

Vu Hai Truong, a student of LM22 class, recalled a “bad experience” at work as an NGO officer. He got the approval from leaders of a local government in Vietnam to arrange a team of doctors and medical staff in the U.S. to the Vietnamese province to provide ophthalmology treatments and distribute medicine and glasses for local people. But at the last minute, the local leadership canceled the decision, causing losses to those involved and affecting his reputation.

After studying here at FSPPM, I realize the importance of the interaction between NGOs and policymakers, and I understand that such incident happened because I did not know how to reach out to local authorities, to negotiate and work with them.”

Vu Minh Anh, a student of LM22 class, shared his view that learning at FSPPM helped a businessman like him to interact and have empathy with those from the public sector and social organizations.

“Today, all issues need an interdisciplinary approach, so this is an opportunity for me to learn their analytical frameworks and their way of thinking to have empathy and efficiency at work. Being introduced to different perspectives has humbled me and helped me become more understanding with policymakers…”

Although the teaching and learning methods are flexibly designed to be suitable for students’ time budgets, the program’s training quality is still ensured. Because of the condensed schedule (every 6-8 weeks, students gather to spend 9 consecutive days studying on the campus), the lectures are designed more concisely and more effectively. Since they have to absorb a huge amount of knowledge in such a short time, LM students will touch on the most important topics and spend time on discussions, debates, and exchanges with instructors and classmates, cutting down the time spent in class for theoretical subjects that can be done through readings.

“The huge amount of knowledge, the case studies, and teamwork under the pressure of time will help students practice discipline and make specific plans for the best learning experience at Fulbright,” lecturer Nguyen Xuan Thanh concluded.

Xuân Linh – Thuý Hằng

The 25th anniversary of Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP), predecessor of Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), functions as a Homecoming ceremony for different generations of alumni.

The Anniversary was cohosted by the FSPPM and FETP Alumni network. From all corners of Vietnam, over 350 graduates and current students gathered to celebrate, representing as many as 24 cohorts, from one year diplomat training programs (starting from FETP 1 – abbreviated as F1) to one comprehensive two year master’s in public policy (current cohort is Class MPP2022).

The excitement lingered in the air many days before the anniversary as alumni gathered for class reunions, sharing their love and nostalgia for the school, changing their Facebook profile picture to the 25th Anniversary frame – even those currently staying abroad. Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh began his opening remark with these observations. He also noted that “most of us have experienced different educational settings, but we all agree it is hard to find a school with such strong bonds among faculty, students and staff like we have here at Fulbright. Chemists may struggle to explain the bonding chemistry within our community. What cannot be justified by science can only be felt by heart and that’s when we truly understand and cherish the Fulbright spirit and our values.

Small but mighty

Dr. Tu Anh recalled that, over the quarter century it took for FETP to grow into FSPPM, the Fulbright School as it is dearly called by its alumni was shaped by deep seated values, academic rigor, and discipline. Today, these values have become the DNA that makes us at Fulbright, and that runs in the FETP & FSPPM family.

Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh

This was the vision of our founders. 25 years ago, leaders from both sides of Vietnam and the U.S. dared to dream the impossible and step forward for a bold idea: build the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, a bilateral U.S.-Vietnam partnership project organized by Harvard University and Ho Chi Minh University of Economics. The decisions were made prior to the return to official diplomatic relationships between the former foes.

To this day, I cannot help but admire the founders’ vision in building this ‘small but mighty’ school,” emphasized Dr. Tu Anh.

Professor Jonathan Pincus was Resident Director of FETP from 2008 to 2013, a time of critical transition for the program as it transformed from a one-year diplomat program in applied economics into a two year comprehensive master’s in public policy. Joining us for the ceremony, he added to Dr. Tu Anh’s words on the founding values of Fulbright, noting:

“The other factor that shaped the early days of the Fulbright School was the rise of the Asian economies, and the desire of Vietnam’s leaders to be a part of that historical shift in the economic center of gravity from West to East. FETP was a good idea that came along at the right time. Obstacles had to be overcome on both sides, and the founders needed persistence and courage to get from the chalk board to reality. We salute them for their foresight and perseverance,” said Dr. Jonathan Pincus.

Prof. Jonathan Pincus

Reflecting on 25 years of history, Madam Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam (of which FSPPM is the first academic unit), commended the strenuous efforts of the founders who turned the impossible into a tangible reality. What began as an educational partnership with Harvard University in a time when the Vietnam-US relations left many skeptical, led us to become a leading regional public policy school, achieving more than we could have ever guessed. FSPPM not only trains new generations of Vietnamese leaders, but also enhances open policy dialogue based on extensive research and sincere policy feedback.

“On such an incredible journey, we have overcome together many obstacles that felt unsurmountable. And so I want to convey my deepest gratitude to the generations of Fulbright members who have joined us over the last 25 years: Mr. Brian Quinn, FETP’s first director, Mr. Jonathan Pincus, Mr. Tu Anh, Mr. Xuan Thanh, Mr. Duy Nghia, the leaders, faculty, and staff of FETP who have worked tirelessly towards Fulbright’s educational legacy. Their unrelenting will and extraordinary dedication are the reason for our strong foundations, allowing for Fulbright University Vietnam to reach higher and fulfill our dream. One day, on those foundations will stand a world-class university in Vietnam, for Vietnamese people,” said Madam President.

3 critical decisions

The founders’ vision from those early days have since been realized into concrete action plans. After a quarter of a century, Dr. Brian Quinn reflected on some of the wisest decisions made at the time. As former FETP leadership and Harvard representative from 1995 to 2000, Prof. Brian Quinn recalled 3 important decisions that contributed to FETP’s rise. Firstly, the school would not focus its work on central government which already benefitted from abundant international aid and support. Instead, Fulbright would dedicate its resources towards increasing, through education, the economics and management capability of public officials operating  at the local government level.

“In 1995, public administrators in local government in Vietnam were isolated, having limited connection to the world. We hoped that Fulbright could provide those provinces with opportunities to connect with the world,” said Prof. Brian Quinn.

Secondly, Fulbright would recruit students nationwide, making the school a national institution, not a regional one. A Fulbright cohort to this day remains composed of students from different regions and professional backgrounds, gathered from all corners of the country. Thirdly, Fulbright would be an institution for the Vietnamese.

From the outset, we knew that Fulbright was not an American school. To be successful, it should stay true to its objectives as a graduate school in Vietnam. That is to say, we needed to invest in people, transferring teaching competency and management capacity to our Vietnamese colleagues. We saw this as the only successful path towards building a real school. Fast forward 25 years, and it seems we were right to make that choice,” shared Dr. Brian Quinn.

The diverse Fulbright community

Indeed, Fulbright is now managed by Vietnamese administrators, setting the school apart from other foreign educational experiments in Vietnam. This unique feature was a deciding factor in FSPPM gaining accreditation and thus become one of the first ten public policy institutions in Asia – and the very first in Southeast Asia – to be accredited by NASPAA, a global standard for public administration, affairs and policy education.

One of the first Vietnamese faculty members to join FETP/FSPPM, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, former Dean of FSPPM, also shared his thoughts.

“I am fortunate to be a colleague of the most devoted teachers on earth. It is indeed impossible to fully gauge the depths of their devotion. I have seen generations of tutors ready to skip lunch or even dinner to ensure their students understand the lesson and do their homework. I have seen many teachers stay up all night to support students, even staying up until morning to ensure dissertations were submitted before 8:20 am. I wonder if there are other places like our school, where teachers love to prepare tough and long problem sets, and then worry whether students can do it and submit it in time,” said Dr. Tu Anh.

FETP index

More importantly, the proof of Fulbright’s success lies in the continued support of generations of alumni; the network which now counts over 1500 alumni has become the most valuable asset of the school. Dr. Tu Anh recalled an anecdote where Mr. Set Winnick, the United States General Consul in Ho Chi Minh city, said that whenever he went to visit the provinces, he could immediately guess whether that person was a Fulbright graduate, as if they carried Fulbright’s DNA with them. Seth Winnick even came up with the term “FETP Index”: if a province has a high index – meaning there are many FETP graduates in the province – that province will definitely be at the forefront of innovation and reform in Vietnam.

FSPPM lecturer Nguyen Xuan Thanh is a member of the Economic Advisory Group of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Prof. Jonathan Pincus emphasized that both the founding vision and a supportive environment were necessary to get Fulbright started. But the reason it has survived so long, and even thrived as it evolved from a teaching program to a full-fledged graduate program, is the quality and enthusiasm of the students. That enthusiasm continues after graduation, in one of the most active alumni associations in Vietnam.

“Wherever I go in this country, I meet Fulbright alumni who speak with great affection for the school, and who still enjoy a deep sense of attachment, even decades after their Fulbright experience. The sense of belonging felt by present and former students is a testament to the intellectual community that has formed around the school, and has supported its development over the years,” commented Prof. Pincus.

FUV President, Ms. Dam Bich Thuy extolled how Fulbright alumni continue to exemplify the Fulbright spirit: integrity, commitment to service, team spirit and mutual support.

“They are an invaluable asset that any school would be proud to call their own,” said Ms. Thuy.

President of Fulbright University Vietnam Dam Bich Thuy

Nguyen Phuong Lam, Director of VCCI Can Tho, Class of FETP 9 and MPP 4, said that the word “Fulbright”, colloquially known as “Fulbright School”, always brings forth great feelings of affection and a deep sense of attachment. Because the School has fostered generations of Fulbright School Alumni (FSA), talented people who have realized their great potential. Among FSA members, there are senior officials in the central government, leaders or managers at local governments, and successful entrepreneurs in the business sector. Others are pursuing their passion with community-based development projects.

“We heard many stories about life at Fulbright School, which create strong impressions both for those who have gone through it and those who have yet to do so. The hard work, the pressure of deadlines are such that people unfortunately do drop out of the program. Finishing homework at dawn is a normal pattern, reaching the deadline of 8:20 am is a regular race, and no student can do more than try their best every 24 hours. The most terrifying part of studying here is that there is fierce competition among students regarding their place in the score distribution. One would feel the risk of falling behind if he or she does not catch up in the race or fails to respect academic integrity. Nevertheless, Fulbright graduates all have a strong personality, positive thinking, and transparency in their actions. We share a bond, and a sense of responsibility to one another. The fact is that no one seems to be left behind when it comes to graduation! For me, as well as for many other FSA members, Fulbright is where we came into our own!”

Xuan Linh

On the morning of October 26th, 2020, Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, Fulbright University Vietnam hosted a ceremony to welcome the Master of Public Policy cohort of 2020-2022 (MPP 2022), with over 80 new students in attendance.

During his opening speech, Dean of Fulbright School of Public Policy Management, Professor Pham Duy Nghia emphasized the long partnership between Fulbright Economics Trading Program, now FSPPM, and the United States. For 25 years, FSPPM has grown alongside the US-Vietnam bilateral relationship, with the support of the Vietnamese government and the U.S. State department to train effective policymakers, devising sound policies in the economic, political, and social context of Vietnam.

To individuals, more knowledge means greater freedom. And at the national level, a good public policy identifies mechanisms for effective management of resources and impartial distribution of public welfare,” said Mr. Nghia. This role has never been more important than in the context of the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the devastation wrought by floods along the coasts of Vietnam.

This sentiment was echoed by Marie C. Damour, U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, who attended the inauguration. In her words, “in our uncertain times, one thing is clear: we need policymakers and leaders that can rise to the challenges of our uncertain times, and find new ways of thinking and new approaches that can improve policy and improve lives.”

Students were filled with excitement and anxiousness in equal measure during the ceremony, with the promising but arduous journey ahead. The new cohort includes many students who will balance family life, careers, as well as studies, a challenging task, especially this year, as acknowledged by Mr. Nghia.

And yet, as Dr. Le Thai Ha, Director of Research at FSPPM explained in her closing remarks, at Fulbright, students are never alone. Convocation marks their entrance in a new community, where everyone will learn from their peers as much as from their teachers, where students were selected based on their strengths and rich experiences, in their lives and in their work. Here begins a new journey for the future policymakers, entrepreneurs, elite faculty and researchers, connected by a shared commitment to the betterment of Vietnamese society, who can support each other on their way to success.

“The most unique aspect of this school compared to other international learning environments is the friendship and compassion among colleagues, teachers and students, and fellow students. It is a valuable asset that will stay with you beyond graduation,” Dr. Le Thai Ha concluded.

Dean of Fulbright School of Public Policy Management, Professor Pham Duy Nghia

Ms Marie C. Damour, U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

Dr Vu Thanh Tu Anh

Dr. Le Thai Ha, Director of Research at FSPPM

A day in mid-2007, in the office of Ben Wilkinson, Harvard Vietnam Program representative of Fulbright Economic Teaching Program (FETP), a candidate for a part-time librarian position was waiting for a job interview.

The candidate was Truong Minh Hoa, a bachelor’s degree holder from Library and Information Science Faculty of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City. Hoa’s experience was still limited; having only worked as a full-time librarian at Van Hien University, HCMC.

Hoa looked anxious and nervous as he had never talked to a foreigner before, while he was the third candidate to be interviewed for this position. Much to his surprise, Ben spoke fluent Vietnamese; it made the interview much more comfortable and warm. Hoa wanted to be polite and called Ben “Sir,” making the latter laugh. Ben corrected him immediately: “I’m not that kind of high-ranking officer!” It turned out to be Hoa’s first memory about FETP.

Hoa got accepted for the position. In the library inside FETP’s small campus on Vo Thi Sau Street, District 3, his desk was set next to that of Ms. Mai, the full-time librarian. It was beyond his expectation that he would work here for 13 years, in a small library where he experienced the most exciting days of his work life.

For the pursuit of knowledge

Although the library of FETP was not home to a vast collection of books like those of old universities, it took Hoa by surprise in his first days of work. The library welcomed anyone seeking information, even if they were not FETP students. They could access all kinds of books, including the rare ones. Later on, Hoa realized it was part of Fulbright school’s culture: a student-centered approach for the pursuit of knowledge.

It was totally different from what Hoa experienced at other libraries, where books were strictly kept and the distribution of books to library users was restricted. Therefore, Hoa felt very pleased with FETP and quickly fitted in this new environment.

According to Hoa, FETP’s library also had a different approach towards its users compared to other libraries. Traditionally, students in Vietnam keep a certain distance with librarians; they feel reserved and uncomfortable when interacting. When they talk to librarians because they wish to borrow a book, librarians are addressed as if they were superior.

“They might think librarians are grumpy and unfriendly. But here at FETP, students could search and look for the books they wanted themselves, in a totally open library. They just had to sign up with the librarian if they wanted to bring the books home,” Hoa recalled.

The open library gradually grew the bond between Hoa and the students. Their interactions and mutual support formed a friendly and comfortable academic environment at Fulbright school, where the relationships between faculty and staff, library officers and students were more akin to a big family.

“FETP completely changed the way I think about my work, the way I interact with my colleagues and students, and made me understand that librarians can contribute to building the culture of “serving for the pursuit of knowledge,” Hoa emphasized.

A turning point in his career path was when Ms. Mai resigned from her position at FETP. Hoa became the full-time librarian, working very hard to keep up with all the responsibilities by himself. He classified the books, labeled them with barcodes, put them on the shelves… He settled into a routine in which he found excitement and inspiration.

After a while, he found the perks of being a librarian were not just helping students find the information they needed. It brought him endless opportunities to learn, immersing into knowledge in the wonderful academic environment of Fulbright.

Founded in 1995, FETP, which has now become Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), was a partnership between the University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City and the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). IT was initially designed to teach applied economics for Vietnamese policymakers, with the curriculum “imported” from HKS. Books and other documents used at FETP were updated constantly by HKS.

“In an attempt to build the academic space at Fulbright, we bought a huge volume of books on modern economics and market economy, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, econometrics, development economics, and a vast literature reviewing economic development in East and Southeast Asian countries and in the world,” said Prof. Nguyen Xuan Thanh.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Amazon had just began operating internationally, and it was not easy to source books for FETP. Imported books were also subjected to strict censorship before entering Vietnam. HKS supported FETP in accessing the latest books and other economic documents from abroad. FETP translated these books into Vietnamese for students, mostly public officers from various cities and provinces across Vietnam who came to FETP for public policy study and had limited mastery of English.

Since the early 2000s, the bilingual library of Fulbright school has been home to a vast collection of newly published books on modern economics, something you may not find in other libraries across Vietnam.

True to a student-centered approach, there was a close connection between faculty members, academic affairs officers and the librarian at Fulbright school. Hoa actively assisted faculty members to find documents and prepare for translations. Sometimes, Hoa would go out himself to source the books students could not find in Fulbright’s library.

“The Fulbright environment changed me completely, from someone who just sits passively waiting for students to borrow books to an active, multi-tasking librarian,” he reflected.

It was not just the books that consumed Hoa’s time and efforts. The librarian was also heavily invested in building and maintaining OpenCourseWare, an important online platform for FETP’s teaching and learning program built in the early 2000s. At that time, Vietnam’s internet landscape was dominated by internet cafés all over the big cities. FETP began to publish its teaching and research materials online.

Inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare Initiative (OCW), FETP, and now FSPPM, publish course syllabi, lecture notes, reading lists, assignments and case studies online. Both teachers and learners can access these resources and freely download documents.

The OpenCourseWare requires constant updates on a yearly basis, from majors, lectures to assignments; for cases studies, updates are more frequent. For more than one decade, Hoa has kept a steady course at the helm of OpenCourseWare, a unique legacy for those learning and working in policy-related fields offered by Fulbright school.

Nowadays, the booming development of technological platforms allows easier access to knowledge. But Hoa still dedicates his time and efforts to the platform, with a systemized approach and in accordance with copyright laws.

“FSPPM’s OpenCourseWare is up to date and hits over 1.5 billion page views each year, not just from FSPPM students and users inside Vietnam. We also have users outside the country,” Hoa added.

Warm-hearted librarian

In 2008, FETP shifted from a one-year training program on applied economics to a complete Master in Public Policy. Hoa actively helped students find statistics for their research and graduation theses, though it was not part of his job. As students came from various cities and provinces and their graduation theses covered different areas, the statistics they required differed greatly. Each year, Hoa would contact the Bureau of General Statistics of Vietnam and the statistics offices from cities and provinces across Vietnam, collecting data from statistical yearbooks. So far, FSPPM has owned a collection of statistical yearbooks from all cities and provinces, providing a comprehensive compilation of statistics on social and economic conditions and activities at local level with constant updates.

“The collection of figures and statistical yearbooks has been a very interesting experience for me at Fulbright. In my first days here, professors taught me to search for official data from the databases of international organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations Development Program, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, Economist Intelligence Unit and more, all for the research and reports on macroeconomics; at that time, the data was not widely available online like today. That experience helps me a lot when I am assisting lecturers and students with their research and learning,” he explained.

Dang Thi Manh, former MPP2 student, remembered how busy she was in 2011, juggling her graduation thesis and a new job. Her thesis compared public finance models in Da Nang and Binh Duong provinces in relation to a socio-economic development model. She needed figures regarding the two provinces’ budget, revenue, and spending, and turned to Hoa.

“The collection of statistics became a burden for me given the pressure and time constraints. I deeply appreciated Hoa for his care and his willingness to help me gather the data for my thesis. I remember waiting for the release of the 2010 Statistical Yearbook to get the updated figures. As soon as the yearbook was available at the library, Hoa called me. Thankfully, I managed to use the figures to finish my thesis on time,” she recalled.

Hoa experienced memorable moments both bitter and sweet with the students of FSPPM who share the motto “Work hard, play hard.” He remembered the students of MPP4 class usually gathered to eat sweet soup after lunch under the tamarind tree when the campus was located on Vo Thi Sau Street. One of them would enter the names of all students present in an Excel file and use the Randbetween function. The random number indicated the person numbered would have to pay for all the sweet soup servings that day.

FSPPM students said they always remembered the 8:20 a.m. deadline to submit their daily assignments. Hoa was tasked with labeling the assignment papers as “Late,” in red letters, if they missed it.

Former students like Manh said they cherished the moments spent together and thought of Hoa as a sincere, warm-hearted, and dedicated person.

“He knew very well the topics that we were interested in and recommended books related to those topics to us. Whenever the school or each class hosted an event, he quietly held the camera and sneaked into different corners to take photos for us. When we had free time or took a rest, he always talked to us. During the lunch breaks under the tamarind tree, we chatted about our studying, our life, our family and our hometowns. Hoa became close to us. Looking at the number of former FSPPM students who attended his wedding, many people were so surprised and asked how come that young librarian had so many friends!” Manh recalled.

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep, a student of LM2020 class, also shared her warm feelings for Hoa, ‘the guy with the unforgettable smile’. “I wonder how he managed to finish so many tasks in such limited time. He has a lot of work to do, and many of us ask him for help, but he always smiles.”

“After the graduation ceremony on August 6, Hoa wrote a note to say goodbye to us on his Facebook page; he made me cry. I think our students may forget this or that person in school, but Hoa is always remembered. Thanks to him, I realized that a humble job done wholeheartedly is really valuable. The way Hoa is doing his job each day, the way he is serving students is a pillar of Fulbright,” she added.

Xuan Linh-Doan Hang