Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) recently participated in the first annual “The Teaching and Learning Summit”, hosted by VinUniversity, and is proud to be part of a consortium of leading universities in Vietnam in our shared path towards academic innovation, a creative learning and teaching environment, and equality in education.

The “High-Level Roundtable: The Leadership Role of University in the 21st Century” was organized as part of VinUniversity’s Summit, which took place on June 17-18, 2022. The roundtable gathered various universities leaders from prestigious universities such as VinUniversity, Vietnam National University (VNU-HN), Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology – VNU-HCM, University of Social Sciences and Humanities – VNU-HN, Fulbright University Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh City Open University. The roundtable discussion played a pivotal role in initiating a long-term commitment in reimagining higher education in Vietnam through shared innovations, visions, and collaboration. The roundtable was also witnessed and fostered by Dr. Nguyễn Hữu Độ – Deputy Minister of Education and Training, and representatives from Hanoi University of Science and Technology, and Foreign Trade University Hanoi.

Throughout the discussion, university leaders presented their initiatives in accordance with five main themes: (1) digital transformation; (2) equality in education; (3) social/community responsibility; (4) connection/cooperation among higher education, community college, and secondary education; and (5) innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Innovation in higher education helps strengthen the quality of teaching within higher education and produce high quality manpower for the Vietnamese and global labor market. It also raises the standard for PreK-12 and other types of education to foster a more sustainable system for Vietnam. “Universities play a pivotal role in leading the future of education in the 21st century […]. They have the responsibility to collaborate with community colleges to build open courseware or resources to aid life-long learning, to establish a holistic learning environment, and foster a community of learners for everyone, at any age,” affirmed Dr. Nguyễn Hữu Độ, Deputy Minister of Education and Training.

Dr. Nguyễn Hữu Độ, Deputy Minister of Education and Training, at the High-Level Roundtable

Believing in that strategic role, since 2019, Fulbright University Vietnam has partnered with IEG Foundation to launch the Pioneering Educators Network (PEN) workshops to promote innovative teaching methods, updated educational trends, cutting-edge pedagogical practices for a community of educators from education institutions across Vietnam. This is an initiative that Ms. Đàm Bích Thủy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, shared at the roundtable to call for collaboration from other leading universities to expand the program.

Ms. Đàm Bích Thủy calls for collaboration from other leading universities to expand Pioneering Educators Network (PEN)

Our approach is to educate the whole person based on three main aspects – Knowledge, Skills and Mindset. And we believe that if students can get access to this new style of teaching and learning from a younger age, they can have a more solid foundation to thrive in universities,” Ms. Đàm Bích Thủy shared in her presentation. Heading towards the same goal, Ho Chi Minh City Open University also shared its initiatives to transfer knowledge and support the growth of community colleges and secondary education.

On a different front, Vietnam National University attached its role to the United Nation’s 17 sustainable goals, toward a high-quality, fully accredited undergraduate program. With its advantage in technology and entrepreneurship, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology – VNU-HCM and VinUniversity presented their initiatives to promote digital transformation and students’ creative ideas. And finally, the University of Social Sciences and Humanities – VNU-HN advocated that equality in education could only be achieved through scholarships, financial aid, and soft-skills training programs.

Dr. Lê Mai Lan, President of VinUniversity, shares VinUni’s initiatives

The roundtable opened door to a new network of leading universities across Vietnam to understand each other’s goals and missions and foster long-term partnerships. Six major universities proceeded to sign a joint statement to establish such a consortium to affirm the leadership role of universities in the 21st century. This consortium is the first step to attracting more universities in Vietnam to participate and together, to further develop high-quality education and achieve equality in access.

To build a more sustainable education system, we need not only the commitment of university leaders but also the shared goals, knowledge, and the willingness to learn from each other. “[Through this Summit], leading educators will join hands to create positive impacts in education, accelerate students’ entrepreneurial ideas, and improve the feasibility of adopting a research idea into real life,” Dr. Lê Mai Lan, President of VinUniversity affirmed.

The second Summit will be hosted by Vietnam National University in 2023.

Summer is traditionally the time when Vietnamese twelfth-graders enter their National High School Examination and apply to college. As such, students usually begin considering their options for college by the end of the first semester before finalizing their decisions halfway through their second semester.

Instead of following such timeline, Fulbright University Vietnam opens admissions from the beginning of students’ twelfth-grade school year. This causes some students to miss Fulbright’s application deadline.

Committed to providing students with fair and equal access, Fulbright implemented an additional undergraduate admissions cycle, allowing late-informed students to submit their application without having to wait another year. Consequently, Fulbright organized two admissions cycles this year. The Priority Cycle, opened on September 8, will conclude on December 1, 2019. It will be followed by the Spring Cycle starting from January 15to April 1, 2020.

Which cycle is best suited for you? Some students would rather wait until the Spring Cycle to ensure their applications are polished and perfected before submitting them. And all students are concerned with making the right choices and maximize their chances for admission. To help prospective applicants in their decision making, our admissions team at Fulbright composed a list of three reasons why you should consider applying in the Priority Cycle.

Reason one: two opportunities to be admitted

You usually have only one chance to apply to any university. However, with double the admissions cycles come twice the opportunity. If, for some unfortunate reason, your application does not qualify for the Interview Round, or fails to make the cut at the Interview Round, it will automatically be reassessed during the Spring Cycle alongside new applications.

You are permitted to review, adjust, and add to your initial application to improve its competency. Such revisions must be done by April 2020. By then, students should have more material to tell their stories to Fulbright’s Admissions Board via their personal essays or original pieces of work.

You can also update the transcript for your first semester of twelfth grade to clearly reflect your academic progress as well as improvements in your English proficiency. More importantly, you will have more experience to “fight” better this time around.

Reason two: higher chance to be accepted

Fulbright intends to recruit 130 students for its Class of 2024. Therefore, our Admissions team is likely to accept significantly more applicants during the Priority Cycle than during the Spring Cycle. If you apply during the Priority Cycle, your chance of acceptance will be higher.

Moreover, more time is allotted for the applications in this cycle, allowing you to work on and sharpen them. Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid advises prospect students to value time as an advantage while completing these applications.

“In this time of the year, while the pressure from the exams hasn’t peaked, you will have time to pay attention to details, down to every word, in your applications, to make sure you can intricately portray who you are as well as your virtues and capabilities to the Admissions Board”, emphasizes Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram.

Reason three: reduced stress during exams

If your application in the Priority Cycle is successful, you will receive the final offer letter of admission from Fulbright no later than March 2020.

“You will be relieved from all the stress coming from the exams. Fulbright requires that you finish your twelfth-grade curriculum and the National High School Exam; however, you will enter the exam with a much more relaxed mindset. More importantly, you can fully enjoy the last glowing days of your high school life.”

The Priority Cycle offers the tremendous advantage of flexibility, time, and practice. Yet Spring Cycle applicants should not worry: Fulbright is committed to assessing each and every applicant fairly. If you get to know about Fulbright later than others, the Spring Cycle is still your chance to become a “Fulbrighter”that very same year.

Minh Ha confessed: “To be honest, the decision to study at Fulbright is one of the most suitable decision I’ve made for myself. Many told me that choosing the best school is more important; but for me, the most important thing is to find a place where I can truly feel belonged.

I love social activities and Fulbright is one of those places that provides me with the skills, the knowledge, the passion, and even the partners to help me realize my dreams.

What I love most about Fulbright is that you know your professors and your friends will help you explore your ideas, no matter how crazy or naive they may seem.”

According to Da Ly: “I am not saying that Fulbright is better than any other universities; but Fulbright is definitely different from what I perceived a university would be like.

Life at Fulbright is as open as you are willing to expand your horizon. I now have to wake up early to do homework instead of staying up late like before, but that is my choice.

I now have to work on different small projects with my classmates. Unlike before, when I had to explore new grounds and find resources on my own, now I have all the help I can get from the Fulbright community, from how to shape my ideas to how to realize my them.”

Phuong Thao shared: “When I came to Fulbright, I started realizing what it is like to be respected, to express my thoughts freely without the fear of being judged, and to build my own future.

Fulbright is an open environment that allows us to think out of the box. Our ideas can be crazy at times, but they are definitely unique.

Everyone here is friendly and supportive. The tea ladies are willing to share food with us anytime. The nice photographer always takes nice pictures for us to post on Facebook. The professors do not hesitate to play games together with us in the dorm. And there are many more stories like that. Fulbright is a family.

In my last feedback I have to Ms. Pam, I told her that Fulbright was beyond my expectation. I could imagine what a university would be like in other countries such as America, Canada, or Singapore. I also knew that Fulbright would be an open environment. But honestly, when I study at Fulbright, I think it is even better than what I imagined.  

At Fulbright, we can choose to focus on what we are really interested in. We can freely share our thoughts and have the opportunity to follow through with our ideas. I have to say there is no boundary to limit our creativity at Fulbright.”

With Thuc Khang, “if you like to explore, to experience new territories, my advice for you is to apply to Fulbright. Fulbright is a place that always welcomes you to express your true self. Studying at Fulbright, you will become a real adult, living indepently away from your family.

Fulbright gives me the opportunity to be as creative as I can be, to pursue my dreams, or even to explore my limits so that at the end of the day, I have to say: “Wow, I’m actually very good.” And that is Fulbright.”

To Thuy Linh, “the environment at Fulbright is something so unique that I get to experience for the first time. At Fulbright, everyone is equal, even if you are a student, a faculty, or a staff.

If you don’t hesitate to dream and challenge yourself in a completely new environment, I think Fulbright may be the right place for you.”



SHoP Architects co-founder Gregg Pasquarelli sat down with Fulbright to describe the process and inspiration that distinguishes Fulbright’s campus design and development.

To Build From the Ground Up

Why was SHoP first interested in the Fulbright campus project?

SHoP was interested in working on the Fulbright campus here in Ho Chi Minh for a variety of reasons. First of all, to envision a university from the ground up is an amazing experience and opportunity.

Secondly, I think Fulbright has challenged us to almost rethink what higher education is and to bring the ideals of the Vietnam and the ideals of the United States together in a single building, in a single campus, is an incredibly interesting opportunity. So, as architects, we were just thrilled with the challenge.

What aspect of the Fulbright project most excites you personally?

What excites me personally about the Fulbright project is to think that we are trying to design a campus and a school that will help the lives of thousands of young people, many of whom are not even born yet.

So, to sit here at this point and try to think about what will help people see the world in a different way 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now is incredibly inspirational. It makes me get excited every day when I wake up and start to draw.

SHoP mentioned “spaces for innovation.” We’re wondering what does SHoP do to support, build, and craft a “space for innovation?”

SHoP is fortunate enough that not only do we innovate within our own company and that it is a huge part of our culture, probably almost half our space in the office is just open. It doesn’t have desks. It doesn’t have rooms. It’s a place that can constantly change. So, we can test out new technologies.

We can test out new ideas. We can meet and talk and have groups come together to try and tackle really interesting challenges that we’re facing in the world. We’re also very lucky in the fact that we get to work for some of the best and most advanced technology companies in the world.

We’re building a lot of buildings in New York and in Silicon Valley. So, we see that these companies are doing the same thing as well.

Spaces that we can’t even envision today how a student in 10 or 20 years might use it. It’s about giving students the opportunity to control their own destiny, to invent their own ideas, and to solve problems in the world that we don’t know what they are at this point. So it’s that openness – that ability to gather – that is incredibly important.

Friendly. To the Environment and With Society.

Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City is moving toward being a ‘smarter’ city. What does SHoP envision a sustainable campus being? What does sustainability mean to you?

Ho Chi Minh City is an incredibly interesting and thriving metropolis. As a born and raised New Yorker, when I arrived here the first time, I felt the same energy in Ho Chi Minh that I feel in Manhattan every day. It’s diverse. It’s vibrant. It’s interesting. It’s growing. It’s young. It’s looking towards the future.

So, when I think about designing buildings in cities around the world, you try and tap into that energy. As a growing city – as in all the cities that are coastal – we’re facing big issues with sea level change, with climate change. We have to try and think about what that university will be, and what the conditions will be decades from now.

So, sustainability is incredibly important not just in the sense of technology having photovoltaic panels or other kinds of things. But also what the buildings feel like. How do they deal with the sun? How do they deal with the wind? How do they deal with sea level change?

The most sustainable thing you can do as an architect is make buildings that people love and that they take care of and that use high quality materials that last a long time.

You don’t want people to rip things down and renovate them every 20 years. That’s an environmental disaster. But building buildings that last 50, 100 200 years? That’s the most sustainable thing you can do.

What do you think defines a SHoP project?

A SHoP project is different than, I think, many other architects where they have a definitive, signature style. They always use a particular color, a particular shape, or a particular form.

SHoP is incredibly interested in working closely with our clients, thinking about the local context, using traditional materials, and taking those materials and using cutting-edge technology – laser cutters, robots – to take traditional materials and reinvent them into a new way of looking at those materials for the 21st century.

Are there ways that the general public can follow and be aware of what SHoP is doing?

I’m very fortunate to be a founding partner at SHoP and to have helped start this firm with my partners almost 20 years ago. We are working on incredibly diverse projects all over the world. Sometimes it’s hard for even me to keep up with everything we’re doing and innovating.

That’s what makes it exciting to go into the office every day, and to travel around the world, and to be able to connect with amazing clients like Fulbright. Right now, we have 19 major projects under construction around the world.

So, over the next two years many of these projects are going to be finished, and there will be a lot of press about them. You’ll be able to read quite a bit about them. But the best way to connect is when you are in New York is to stop by the firm and say hi. We’re constantly changing what we’re doing.

SHoP as Participants, Observers, and Learners

We’re wondering whether there will be possible workshops, discussions, meet and greets with the general public in HCM while planning, working, and constructing.

We would love to start to think about a public outreach process. On some of our projects we’ve had 20, 30, 40 meetings with the public and have people come in, show them the model, show them the ideas, talk about what we’re trying to do. We love listening to feedback. We love public engagement.

We also envision when the campus gets built that it’s not going to be a campus that has a wall around it and only people who are students and faculty have access. We see it as an asset for Ho Chi Minh City and an asset for Vietnam as a whole.

Anyone is welcome to walk on that campus, to meet the students, to talk to professors, to see what’s going on and to see the interaction. We’re designing the campus in a way that will always be welcoming.

You visited a lot of architectural places in Vietnam.  What impressed you the most?

I think that what is interesting in Vietnam is the traditional Vietnamese village planning, how it’s different in the north, in the central, and in the south. Just learning that difference over thousands of years, how it emerged. Then to see the French colonial influences on the architecture. Then to see the Western influences on the architecture.

But most importantly to see how Vietnam is bringing these things together. I think that we haven’t even seen yet what a true Vietnamese architecture is going to be, because it’s going to blend those thousand years of history and what’s coming next in a country that is filled with so many young people looking toward the future.

I hope that our project is one tiny, little part that can push those visions forward. It’s just an amazing country and an amazing place to spend time.

What does SHoP hope to learn about Vietnam while working on the campus?

I want to learn how to be a better Vietnamese cook, for sure, because the food is so good here! It’s amazing!

I really will say this: Vietnam has an energy and an incredibly positive attitude about the future. It is a place that I just love being every time I come here.  I’m happy. I’m energized. I’m inspired. The people are fantastic. They’re smart. They’re driven. You can see that it’s really a country about the future.

We feel honored to be able to spend time here and to be able to design a building that we think is going to be very important for the future of Vietnam. I can tell you that we have already learned so much just by spending time here.

But, definitely, I want to be a better Vietnamese cook.