HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM – Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright), the first independent, non-profit liberal arts university in Vietnam, announces today the inaugural members of its Founders Circle. The total commitment of $40 million from these eight Founders and their families will support the first phase construction of Fulbright’s flagship campus in Saigon High-tech Park, Ho Chi Minh City.
This commitment highlights one of the largest philanthropic gifts to a higher education institution in Vietnam. The eight inaugural members include:
- Henry Nguyen & Mrs. Nguyễn Thanh Phượng, Phoenix Holdings
- Lê Văn Kiểm & Family, Chairman of Long Thanh Golf, Investment & Trading JSC.
- Lê Nữ Thùy Dương & Family, Vice-Chairwoman of Long Thanh Golf, Investment & Trading JSC
- Trần Trọng Kiên & Family, Chairman and CEO of Thien Minh Group
- Cuong Do & Family, Former President of the Samsung Global Strategy Group
- Lê Hồng Minh & Family, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of VNG
- Vương Quang Khải & Family, Co-Founder of VNG and President of Zalo
- Lương Tuấn Nghĩa & Family, CEO of Evergreen Invest
“Fulbright is incredibly honored and tremendously fortunate to receive this extraordinary gift from our inaugural Founders. This significant support would help us turn our bold dream of a green campus into reality, a permanent home for the leaders of tomorrow where innovations, sustainability, creativity, and public service will always be nurtured and thrive,” says Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam.
The announcement of the Fulbright Founders Circle also represents a significant development of philanthropic work in Vietnam. While charity is widely practiced in Vietnam, private philanthropy, particularly in higher education is still limited. “Our Founders believe in the transformational power of education, and it is their faith in Fulbright’s relevance to the future of Vietnam that motivated this historic act of giving. As the beneficiary of such generosity, it is Fulbright’s responsibility to continue fostering impact not only in Vietnam but also in the world. We hope that this kind act of our Founders will inspire Vietnamese people to continue giving to education, a long-term investment that benefits generations to come,” she adds.
Fulbright’s flagship campus will be built in the Saigon High-Tech Park on a 15-hectare parcel of land donated to the University by the Vietnamese government. It will be the most environmentally advanced education complex ever built in Vietnam, committed to net-zero carbon emission. The campus will serve as a living sustainability laboratory for students, faculty, and the interested public.
In conjunction with the Founders’ gift, Fulbright University Vietnam is also the beneficiary of the $37 million via a 20-year direct loan from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to support the Phase I construction of accommodations, academic buildings, and dining and recreation facilities for up to 1,500 students. Fulbright University will continue its fund-raising efforts to complete the whole campus in the years to come, which is expected to accommodate up to 7,000 students across Vietnam.
This largest private gift in Fulbright’s history is announced together with the visit of the U.S. President’s Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry to Fulbright. As a veteran senator, Mr. Kerry has been playing a pivotal role in the normalization of the two former adversaries as well as the establishment of Fulbright University Vietnam.
Fulbright is honored to receive long-term support from the US and Vietnam government in forms of finance and land. These extraordinary gifts and support signify the public-private partnership approach to finance and build Fulbright University Vietnam. They enable the changes that not only better Fulbright but also benefit generations of Vietnamese people now and in the future as originally envisioned by the US and Vietnamese governments when they agreed to establish Fulbright University Vietnam as the first independent liberal arts university in the country.
About Fulbright University Vietnam
Fulbright University Vietnam, a new Vietnamese university with Vietnamese and American origins, serves Vietnamese and global society through teaching, research, and impactful engagement with the world. Fulbright develops highly educated, globally connected citizens prepared and inspired to engage with the challenges and opportunities facing Vietnam and the world.
The university traces its roots to a 1991 bill sponsored by Senator John Kerry to develop an exchange program for Vietnamese students and government officials. Following the success of this program, in 1994 the Department of State funded the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to partner with the Vietnamese university to establish the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, Vietnam’s first center of public policy. Both the exchange and graduate public policy programs are still in operation today and have trained over 2,000 public and private sector decision-makers.
In 2016, the public policy center incubated by Harvard transitioned to Fulbright University Vietnam, becoming the university’s first academic program. Today, Fulbright offers three academic programs – the Undergraduate Program in Engineering and the Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, and a problem-focused research program.
Dr. Ian Kalman has been a dearly familiar name to the Fulbright community as one of the founding faculty members at the university, as well as his often raved-about course on Digital Anthropology, among many others. Every year, Ian has managed to bring new values to the school, from leading a Fulbright Speakers’ Series, initiating our first academic conference, to his recently published book, Framing Borders: Principle and Practicality in the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory. Last week, we sat down with him to chat about his new book, his teaching philosophy, and his vision for the future.
From a local case study to a global phenomenon
While the topic of borders is not entirely new since it forms a fundamental part of political life, often is studied in historical or geographical terms: when, where, and how they were drawn. Ian, however, explores them through a perspective known as Symbolic interaction in sociology. “[It] is the theory that the realities that we live in are constantly being constructed through our conversations. The world that can be experienced is known and reproduced through dialogue, discussion, and interaction,” he explained.
His book, Framing Borders: Principle and Practicality in the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, published in 2021 by the University of Toronto Press, addresses a fundamental disjuncture between scholastic portrayals of settler colonialism and what actually takes place in Akwesasne Territory, the largest Indigenous cross-border community in Canada and the United States. As a multi-sited ethnography, the mainstay of anthropological qualitative social science research, the book explores how border crossing represents a conversation in which different actors “frame” themselves, the law, and the space that they occupy in diverse ways. The blurb follows: “Written in accessible, lively prose, Ian addresses what goes on when border officers and Akwesasne residents meet, provides an ethnographic examination of the experiences of the border by Mohawk community members, the history of local border enforcement, and the paradoxes, self-contradictions, and confusions that underlie the border and its enforcement.”
Ian shared that he first became interested in indigenous border crossings when he was an undergraduate student taking a class in Federal Indian Law, where he learned about the border crossing demonstrations. In these demonstrations, Native American people would march, parade, and simply walk across the border without stopping or giving identification to say that the border did not exist. Because for them as original people of the land with their own political and cultural identities, to a certain extent, the border does not exist. This resistance in literature, or rather refusal, piqued Ian’s curiosity, and he went on a quest to answer the question: ‘what does it mean to deny a border?’ and to learn more about the nuanced complexities surrounding this political yet cultural act.
A lot of researchers spend a few weeks or a month in the place where they do research to focus on secondary sources, surveys, focus groups and such, they would come in and get all the data that they could. But Akwesasne is the place where the border is part of everyday life, so in order to understand the border, Ian decided to experience the feeling about everyday life there, embracing the field of anthropology and its emphasis on long-term fieldwork. He held: “You need to be there until it gets boring, because it is boring for most people most of the time, waiting in/on line getting asked the same questions over and over again.” Ian has spent over a year living at the border, and crossed it over a thousand times, to fully immerse himself in the experience of the locals living there, as well as to see through the lenses of the border service officers. “The officers knew me just like they knew the people who live there. And that was part of what made the research feel worthwhile.”
The book itself provides broader meanings than just the descriptive analysis of borders. In fact, as an ethnography, “[it] is an intensive study of a specific cultural context with a theoretical basis that has something broader to say about the experience of being human. It’s about one thing, and it’s about everything at the same time. Many border regions are inhabited by people who are ethnically, culturally, historically, distinct from the dominant group. So this is a global phenomenon through a local case study,” he said.
Dialogues that shape our world
Borders, in a way, frame specific ideas of how the world works, especially in citizenship identity. Referencing the work of Erving Goffman, the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century, Ian regards the conversations at borders as matters of framing, such that when we pose the same question in different ways, we will get different answers.
For a border officer asking someone: ‘are you American or are you Canadian?’, demands that those are the only two types of people that one can be. For most indigenous and ethnic minority people, many of whom are located at the borders of different states, their identities, who they see themselves as their language, their culture, their way of life, is not American or Canadian but is one that is challenged by the borders. “So the question then is: if borders are not just these lines on a map, but are something that comes into being through conversations, in which you give your documentation to a person, and they demand certain things of you, and you communicate with them, it’s worth paying more attention to what takes place in those sorts of interactions, the sorts of conversations that happen, and how people come to experience this political reality through dialogue.”
In his work, Ian argues that rather than using identity indicators like nationality, race, social standing, or gender, etc., we should look to context as a predictive measure of human interaction. “Sometimes we pay too much attention to cultural differences while there are a lot of things that are pretty much shared across all human beings,” he contended. “We all want respect. We don’t want our time wasted. We want people to be nice to us. We want people to accept the identities that we put forward in the world. So if we start from that perspective and focus more on context than identity as something that determines people’s interactions, then it will give us a lot of flexibility. Because then, we can take a more proactive role in shaping the context.”
With the understanding and appreciation for the community, Ian has spent a few years making cultural training materials for border officers to help improve relationships. He also did policy reports for the Mohawk government, both related and unrelated to this border crossing matter, helped them do quantitative research and analyze data. Time after time, Ian grew very close with the community and he still goes back to Akwesasne now, not for research so much anymore, but “just because I genuinely miss it and I miss the people”. His eyes were sparked with joy as he shared about his memories there, about the time he officiated a wedding for two of his friends along the river, or simply just the nights they played Dungeons and Dragons together.
Throughout his academic research sprinkled with light-hearted jokes, we can find one overarching theme in the book: be nice to other people. The author elaborated: “It’s a different sort of call to action. This is not a book that preaches revolution, it’s simply a path towards treating people as people. And if you do that, you’re going to be more effective with your intended goals.”
Good learning is playful
That theme about kindness and the writing style that incorporates a bit of playfulness into a theoretical text is just about an accurate reflection of how Dr. Ian Kalman is in real life. He strongly believes that it is important to enjoy the classroom experience, to learn through stories and through laughter. More important is the ability to connect things that do not naturally seem connected. Quality learning is not so much about knowledge retention because, in this digital era, most information can be found on the internet easily. It is all about creativity, making connections, and piecing together the world in creative ways. “I think that good learning is playful. And that’s what I bring into the classroom as a teacher,” he affirmed.
Throughout our talk, Ian projected a calm yet funny persona. Sipping water from a Spiderman mug, he shared with us that he was born in the same part of New York as the friendly neighborhood hero. Growing up in such a culturally diverse city, Ian has long been nurturing an open mindset and keeping an eye out for inspiration from the daily moments of surprise. He was excited to share with us his upcoming project on comparative philosophy between Native America and Asia, which was inspired by the heightened exposure to Asian philosophy from his time at Fulbright.
“At the end of the day, Fulbright is going to be the biggest accomplishment I’ll ever lay claim to, not as a sole person, but as part of that. [Being a founding faculty member], I thrive on this sense of adventure and greatly enjoy the process of building something major. At Fulbright, there is this freedom to teach a variety of classes and work with amazing students, and I have wonderful colleagues beside me. I think we genuinely are providing something new and transformative, both for their lives and for Vietnam on the whole,” Ian said.
All applicants please notice: Priority Cycle for Fulbright University Vietnam’s Undergraduate Program, Class of 2022-2026, on website https://apply.fulbright.edu.vn will close at 2 p.m. on Monday, November 29, 2021 (one month from today); unlike previous years, our portal will NOT close at Sunday midnight anymore.
Compared to the Spring Cycle, the Priority Cycle will offer many benefits:
☘ You have twice the chance of getting admitted (if you’re not lucky in the Priority round yet, you can re-apply in the Spring and your application has already been saved on the portal)
☘ You will have more time to learn about Fulbright as well as know your college destination before graduating from high school (Priority Cycle’s result will be announced tentatively by the end of March 2022; Spring Cycle’s result will be announced tentatively around early July 2022)
☘ You will have more financial aid and scholarship opportunities (Nguyen Phuong Family Scholarship is reserved only for students who applied in the Priority Cycle this year; Fulbright University Vietnam scholarship will be available for both)
We are looking forward to reading the stories, the personal essays, the original pieces of work from prospective applicants this year. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Admissions office via our office number 028 7303 7788, our office email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow our fan page at Road to Fulbright University Vietnam.
A group of students, including two from Fulbright University Vietnam, recently won the third prize in a contest calling for people’s initiatives to raise Ho Chi Minh City’s international status, organized by Tuoi Tre Newspaper and the HCMC Department of External Affairs.
Held between June 16 and August 16, the contest received more than 420 entries in the form of articles, slides, infographics, and video clips in both Vietnamese and English. Brother. In addition to Vietnamese applicants, many expats who are living in HCMC or have been to HCMC also sent entries.
Phan Hoang Dung and Hoang Ngoc Gia Huong (Fulbright University Vietnam), Nguyen Ky Nam (Sciences Po, France), Bui Le Mai Anh (University of Economics, HCMC), Truong Thanh Khoa (Hoa Sen University, HCMC) and Nguyen Thuy Dung (University of Architecture, HCMC) came up with the idea of the “Social Innovation Center” during the time of social distancing caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Subsequently, the students held online discussions to collect ideas for the introduction video and the infographic presentation.
Phan Hoang Dung from Fulbright University Vietnam said that this is not only a contest but also an opportunity for group members to do something for the city they call home.
“Ho Chi Minh City boasts a dynamic, creative and vibrant economy. The city is home to warm-hearted, generous and kind people. However, in the eyes of international friends, HCMC still lives in the shadow of the old Saigon – “the Pearl of the Far East”. For young people born and raised in HCMC like us, this is something we need to really think about. As we are young people studying and working in various areas, from public policy, media to entrepreneurship, we see the city’s branding efforts as a way for us to position ourselves in this big world. “What makes us different?” Although our discussions sometimes got disagreeable, we decided to believe in our common goal of this “Social Innovation Center”, Dung said.
The project aims to build the brand “Social Innovation Center” so that Ho Chi Minh City becomes a convergence point for businesses to create social impact and attract international friends to Vietnam.
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.
American author, financier, and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein joined a global virtual conversation at Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) to share his thoughts on leadership on September 23, 2020.
He was joined online by a famous moderator, American political commentator and journalist Chris Matthews, contributor to MSNBC and former host of Hardball with Chris Matthews, to discuss Rubenstein’s latest book How To Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers. Mr. Rubenstein fielded questions from undergraduate students and graduates of Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), the first academic unit at Fulbright.
What makes a great leader? How can leadership be developed into a force for true achievement? Mr. Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm based in Washington, DC, compiled notable answers to these fundamental questions from highly influential contemporary figures, such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Condoleezza Rice.
The book comprises select conversations recorded from Mr. Rubenstein’s role as an interviewer in which he explores successful leadership through personal interviews with globally influential figures.
Mr. Rubenstein’s answers to the thoughtful questions from Fulbright and FSPPM students, who had read the book in anticipation to the event, were further accompanied by his personal insight and experience with the highly influential figures mentioned, and his own lessons learnt as a successful leader.
According to Rubenstein, the most important questions that need to be answered are: Why do you want to be a leader? Why should you want to be a leader, not just a follower?
“There are over seven and a half billion people on the face of the earth. And you know, most of them are followers. So why don’t you just be a follower and have a nice, easy life?” he asked the audience.
For the entrepreneur and philanthropist, the main benefit of being a leader is the ability to do something useful with their life: to lead people is to incite others in working together to making their lives better, and thus to make the world a better place.
“I like to remind everybody that we’re only on this earth for a relatively short period of time. And you can walk through life and do nothing. But I think your life will be more enjoyable if you do something to help other people, and you do that by becoming a leader rather than a follower,” he stressed.
That message also echoes with Fulbright’s values, and a major criterion in selecting new students each year: Pioneering spirit, and Leadership qualities. Fostering the leaders of tomorrow is indeed a principal endeavor at Fulbright. Recently, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell announced that the U.S. Department of State intended to provide $5 million to establish the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Academy here at Fulbright, based on the U.S. government’s signature YSEALI program aiming to improve the education and skills of future leaders from all 10 ASEAN member states and Timor-Leste.
As Fulbright President Dam Bich Thuy remarked during the virtual conversation with Rubenstein: “It is a great opportunity for the young people of Vietnam and of Fulbright to hear from Mr. Rubenstein about leadership, something they will very soon need to guide Vietnam, and then the world to become a better place.”
What makes a great leader?
From the success stories of globally influential people and from his own experience, Rubenstein recognizes education as the most important force driving a young person’s self-improvement. Rubenstein himself was not born into a wealthy family. He studied hard to obtain scholarships to Duke University and the University of Chicago Law School. He worked as a lawyer before becoming highly successful in his career. To pay it forward, Mr. Rubenstein invests back into universities and spends as much time as he can on education, among other philanthropic endeavors. He now serves or has served as a board member of many leading universities in the world, including Harvard University, Duke University, and the University of Chicago.
“I believe education is the key to one’s success. If you’re well educated, I think you can do really good things in life,” he emphasized.
But he also reaffirmed that academic success is not the only factor at play to guarantee success in life. Working hard is another factor.
“There’s nothing more likely to get you ahead in the world than hard work. If you work nine to five, five days a week, you’ll probably have a nice life. In many respects, you’re not likely to be that successful,” he asserted.
What he learnt generally is that it is possible to be successful in life if one is willing to make some sacrifices and work hard. “As a general rule of thumb, if you come from an extremely wealthy family, you’re not likely to be as much of a leader as if you come from a lower income family or a middle-class family… Extreme wealth doesn’t usually produce people hungry for achievement, who want to strive for something. Generally, the great leaders of the world came from modest backgrounds.”
Rubenstein also advocates that integrity is an important leadership trait, saying good leaders should surround themselves with good people with a moral compass, and never take ethical shortcuts.
“When I started practicing law, the first day the head of the firm came in and said, ‘Look, the most important thing I’m going to tell you and the only thing I’m going to tell you is this: it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and it takes five minutes to ruin your reputation.’”
When initially writing How to Lead, Mr. Rubenstein broke down leadership into 12 qualities: luck, desire to succeed, pursuit of something new and unique, hard work / long hours, focus, failure, persistence, persuasiveness, humble demeanor, credit-sharing, the ability to keep learning, and integrity.
But he concluded there was a 13th quality: responding to crises. For David Rubenstein, the ability to rise to the occasion is the hallmark of a great leader.
“When you have a crisis, that’s when you have to show your real mettle and your ability. In my own view, the greatest American president was Abraham Lincoln, because he managed to hold the country together during the crisis of the Civil War. Franklin D. Roosevelt was not considered a great intellectual or a particularly important person until he became president. And then World War II broke out, where he rose up to be one of our greatest presidents.”
“When you’re in a crisis situation, you can show your abilities and if you rise to the occasion, I think you can become a great leader,” he responded to an FSPPM student on the question of leadership in times of crisis.
While discussing the attributes to successful leadership such as luck or intuition with our students, Rubenstein noted that those things do not come to them without doing anything.
“If you sit in your office all day, or you’re home, you don’t meet other people, you don’t really have a connection with other people, you’re not going to get a lot of luck. Luck comes from people that you meet, who might introduce you to somebody, people that give you an idea, people that might inspire you,” he claimed.
According to Rubenstein, good leaders are humble because they realize they had a lot of luck along the way, and they did not succeed all by themselves.
“You can make your own luck,” he concluded.
He shared his thought that great leaders in the world have a certain kind of instinct, or gut reaction, or intuition; however, it comes about through experience. “Your own experience gives you an instinct that this is a good idea, or not a good idea,” he said.
Finally, what distinguishes a leader from a follower is vision, Rubenstein affirmed. A leader must have a vision to share with their followers of what he or she will lead them towards.
“How do you communicate that vision? You have three ways to do it: you can be a very effective speaker. You can be a very good writer. But the most effective way to communicate your vision is to lead by example,” he summarized.
Dang Thi Manh, alumna of Fulbright Economic Training Program (FETP)’s Master in Public Policy (MPP), never expected to hold a managerial position in an American multinational company given her humble background as an English teacher.
Manh took a sharp turn in her career path. From the English teacher of Foreign Trade University (FTU) in Ho Chi Minh City to the current title as Procter & Gambler (P&G)’s Supply Chain Manager for feminine care brands in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand markets, the two-year master in public policy program at FETP propelled her to new horizons.
Founded in 1995, FETP was a partnership between the University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City and the Harvard Kennedy School, USA. In 2016, FETP was developed into the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), the first academic unit at Fulbright University Vietnam.
In 2009, Manh was looking for a master’s program to advance in her career rather than remaining a lecturer for English language majors at FTU, when a colleague recommended she take the MPP program at FETP.
Manh held a bachelor’s degree in English-language Pedagogy and never thought she could learn economics for her graduate program. Meanwhile, FETP offered MPP curricula with either economics or management-related majors. Importantly, FETP was the only economic training program in Vietnam that opened to all applicants regardless of their undergraduate backgrounds. In order to qualify for FETP, Manh completed foundation courses as required by the Ministry of Education and Training for those who did not graduate from Economics or Management majors, before entering the MPP2 class at FETP.
“It was a miraculous turn that led to enormous changes later on, changes I would never have anticipated,” she says.
After graduating from FETP in 2011, Manh decided to change jobs. She enrolled at P&G Vietnam with the position of Demand Planner. She worked there for eight years until a promotion in Singapore for her current job. She is now working in Singapore and will come back to Vietnam in several years.
“The grandma language”
Manh encountered the biggest challenges of her life when she studied at FETP because most of the economics-related majors in the program referenced concepts she had never learnt before. But no matter how hard these majors were, FETP’s classes were always filled with excitement. Manh always felt most inspired by Professor Dang Van Thanh, lecturer of Micro Economics, who always started introducing a new economic term by saying: “This term is translated into grandma language as…”
“That’s the way he expressed abstract, hard-to-understand terms with the simplest phrases that all grandmothers could understand, so there was no way we students could not understand, as they were related to real life issues,” Manh recalls.
Since then, the exchange of ideas in academic areas using “grandma language” became a trait of Fulbright culture. Not only Prof. Dang Van Thanh but other professors also managed to rephrase complex terms of economics, finance and management with simple and familiar words accompanied by humorous and vivid examples.
“As we were inspired by our professors, we also tried to summarize our findings and viewpoints in the simplest and clearest way, avoiding tired clichés and fancy words when doing exercises and writing essays. The ‘grandma language’ helped us understand clearly the nature of technical terms so that we could know how to use them correctly and in the proper context when it came to presentation,” Manh says.
Two years at Fulbright school helped Manh form the habit of speaking and writing in a simple style. After graduating from FETP and working for P&G, she realized that it sounded easy but held significant meaning. Simple speaking and writing made communications at work easier and saved a lot of time for all sides.
“With the habit of using “grandma language” at work, I was usually praised as “clear and sincere” by my colleagues,” she claims.
Manh uses the phrase “servant leadership” to describe the attitude towards teaching, learning, and working in the academic environment of Fulbright. She remembers FETP lecturers acted as if they were inferior or equal to students in terms of academic status; they taught and instructed students to explore the beauty of knowledge with genuine humility.
“They were the wittiest yet most humble persons I had ever met. No question was ignored. No concern was forgotten. No idea was not listened to. No criticism was rejected,” she explains.
Not only professors but academic affairs officers, assistant lecturers, administration staff and librarians at Fulbright school were the most friendly, hard-working and dedicated persons she had ever known, according to Manh. The spirit of service at its utmost level in this academic environment made students like her feel respected and appreciated.
Immersed in that spirit of service, she also applies the “servant leadership” philosophy in her work to serve clients, customers, as well as to serve herself, her family, her colleagues, and her community.
“The spirit of service has brought a lot of achievements to me, such as the “Servant Leadership” award granted by the corporation. This recognition made me so proud, more than any awards in business I’ve ever won,” she emphasizes.
At FSPPM, even small things like the daily 8:20 a.m. assignment deadline meant something bigger to students. No students were allowed to give excuses for missing that deadline, whether it was illness, traffic congestions or computer breakdowns. No excuses were accepted for missing the deadline. According to Manh, the 8:20 deadline trained students to work under pressure, to take responsibilities and to deliver on commitments.
“I myself bring the commitment spirit into my work and personal life. When I’m at home, once I promise with my children to do something, I will definitely do it, even if my children are still too small to “force” me into doing and punish me if I do not. When I’m at work, for something I can do, I say I can do and I will definitely do it; for something I’m not sure I could do, I say I will try my best to do it but I cannot pledge about the result.”
Manh believes the habit of making and delivering on commitments brings essential trust. To be trusted by her family and colleagues is to make her work smoother and see many problems solved.
The former student praises Fulbright school’s principles, saying one of the most valuable teaching it brings to students is the attitude towards learning: a life-long learning spirit.
According to her, learning is not only about the two years of study required for majors. It does not only take place inside the four walls of the amphitheater or the library. Learning at Fulbright is learning from others. It is home to a diverse community of students with different background, each bringin new perspectives to bear through their own experiences and ideas from which she can learn.
Manh applies this philosophy of celebrating diversity she discovered at Fulbright to her work, finding great success through simply listening and learning from her co-workers and her company’s working environment.
“Day after day, I always find myself learning and updating my knowledge. Many of my colleagues have come to master technology and digital tools as they process and analyze data, while am still struggling with manual filing. I’m very concerned about that and determined to learn from them to improve my performance, to save energy for what cannot be replaced through technology, where the human heart and mind reigns,” she elaborates.
Manh’s company leadership must have seen her desire for learning when they promoted her to more challenging responsibilities in Singapore, where she can develop in her career path.
“For me, success is not about being promoted to a higher position; it’s about how you find yourself improved in terms of knowledge, skills, competencies, how you can help your colleagues and juniors improve, and finally how you can get along with others in work and life. Learning or working must lead to the ultimate goal of getting along with people in your family, in your society and your community. I always believe that learning non-stop is the key to that kind of success,” she concludes.
A knowledge initiative pioneered by Fulbright, Open Courseware is a public resource with learning and research materials published online for public access. In line with Fulbright’s values of shared knowledge, the early 2000s saw Fulbright School build Open Courseware from scratch to benefit not only Fulbright learners and graduates, but also the broader Vietnamese society.
At the time, the internet was not as widespread in Vietnam as it is today. Users had to dial in using their phone connection, which suffered from rather slow speeds. In many corners of the country, Internet cafes opened where users could pay for better and faster access instead of their sluggish home connection. To many users in Vietnam at the time, Internet was only for news, games and some limited personal communication, with even emails seeing limited use. However, leaders at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, precursor to the current Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, saw the great potential in harnessing the Internet to build a digital platform for educational purposes.
In late 2002, FETP sent one of its managers, Mr. Truong Si Anh, an expert from HCMC’s Institute of Economic Research boasting a great depth of experience in international cooperation projects and a master graduate from the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S. Mr. Anh was assigned with an important mission: learning how to build an Open Courseware (OCW) for Fulbright inspired by the MIT model.
As recalled by Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Senior Lecturer of Fulbright School, FETP was at the time the leading school teaching advanced market economics principles in Vietnam. FETP graduates consisted of – and still remain – a wide alumni network spread across Vietnam’s diverse landscapes. Those from big cities had a better access to the latest research and information, while learners from smaller cities or rural areas were at a disadvantage when following new trends. Fulbright’s response was to develop an online platform based on MIT’s innovative technology, and thus help our students, graduates and all other interested parties access the materials necessary for their self-study and research in economics.
Returning to Fulbright School from his trip to MIT, Si Anh rolled up his sleeves to tackle the designing and developing of the digital platform. Fulbright’s OCW shares many features with WhiteBoard, a software for instructors to develop highly interactive lessons and access standardized syllabi approved by well-known institutions. Based on the great advantages of WhiteBoard, Si Anh broadened the scope for Fulbright OCW, allowing instructors to integrate diverse sources for their lectures, maintaining a highly interactive environment for learners, and enabling them to track the daily updates to their reading list, lecture notes, practice exercises and case studies. Si Anh’s commitment to FETP’s OCW project continued throughout the subsequent years, even as he moved on to become the Deputy Dean of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program.
Fulbright Open Courseware was officially launched in 2003 and rapidly became an essential component of the school’s educational activities. Course syllabi, lecture slides, reading lists, case studies and practice exercises were all published online, making OCW instrumental to FETP’s pedagogical approach. As Dr. Tu Anh recalls, the mid-2000s saw downloads soaring to one million per year, with 80,000-90,000 downloads a month on average, and the busiest months clocking at 120,000.
“Fulbright Open Courseware has been a prominent platform to share the knowledge and the academic values of Fulbright School to society, particularly to those having difficulty in accessing reference materials in times of constrained resources,” noted Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh.
Indeed, one of Fulbright OCW’s greatest strengths is its dedication to open access. The courseware is not meant to serve only those enrolled at Fulbright: instructors from other universities frequently download lesson plans from OCW for their use in class. Learners can tap into this vast resource for their independent study and research. On top of being freely available another guiding principle was to develop a platform where knowledge can be continuously updated. All course syllabi, lecture notes and practice exercises are uploaded, revised, and adjusted annually, keeping the learning resources from becoming obsolete the way school books are prone to do, and providing distant Fulbright graduates with a means to access the latest data and discoveries from around the world.
Since then, Fulbright OCW has fulfilled its objectives to extend beyond serving only Fulbright learners by becoming a valuable learning resources for the general public. Many major universities in Vietnam, including HCMC University of Economics, Nong Lam University, HCMC University of Technology, Banking University HCMC, and HCMC Open University, have relied on Fulbright courseware as a valuable reference for their curriculum in economics, finance, and policy.
Dr. Tu Anh remarks that “many universities have looked to our syllabus, lectures and readings uploaded on OCW for their inputs. Fulbright Open Courseware has already had a lasting impact in suffusing the academic values of Fulbright to society at large. Beyond the benefits to our students, OCW is effective in delivering quality reference materials to policy makers and researchers looking to further their understanding of economics and public policy.”
Developing new media for knowledge
From its early days as part of FETP, to today’s FSPPM, Open Courseware has been constantly developed and updated to become the platform it is today: a repository of vast resources, and an important legacy for FSPPM. Virtual versions of course syllabi, lectures, reading materials, case studies, as well as the one-year diplomacy program and executive courses are available.
Nguyen Thi Thien Trang, Master of Public Policy (MPP) class of 2021 (Policy Analysis concentration) appreciated how OCW’s comprehensive offerings enable self-study.
“The courseware delivers great educational content for learners in economics course. For prospective candidates, this platform also introduces the academic approach and educational philosophy of Fulbright.”
On a similar note, Nguyen Tuan Anh, MPP 2021 (Leadership & Management concentration) commended Fulbright Open Courseware for its diverse and public platform open to all learners, as Fulbright places no restriction to access or downloads for web users, in contrast to many foreign institutions.
“The greatest benefit of Fulbright OCW is its complimentary access and download. If you register in a U.S. program, some content is locked behind a subscription plan. In this courseware, copyrighted materials have been purchased by the school, and learners can focus on reading and learning the material without worrying about pirated intellectual property.”
Over a decade, from the early 2000s to 2010s when knowledge was available in limited forms, Open Courseware pioneered an innovative channel to share knowledge with public policy learners and practitioners. Today, with the development of virtual platforms, knowledge can reach a wider audience under more diversified forms. In this changing landscape, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh saw how the significance of Fulbright OCW was not as prominent as it was during 2000s and urged the school to look for new channels to spread its resources. All materials continue to be published onto OCW accompanied by stricter intellectual property restrictions. In addition, Fulbright School is working with other institutes and learners to foster new modes of virtual learning.
“Society demands for more interactive content as opposed to static reading materials. When Open Courseware was initially developed, online interactions were not as prevalent as they are today. Nowadays, learner interactions with sources of information must be enriched using modern technological solutions. This is our school’s vision, which is why we have been experimenting with this idea for the past two years to come up with a promising new platform,” said Dr. Tu Anh.
In July 2019, Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management has earned its accreditation from Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), and entering the international network of leading public policy institutions. To international academics, NASPAA accreditation is commended as the “gold standard of public policy and management education.”
To Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh and his colleagues, NASPAA accreditation is the first medal obtained in their relentless race towards higher international standards over the past decades. Preceded by the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, the current FSPPM, had already firmly established itself as an outstanding public policy research and education institution within Vietnam. Yet complacency and contentment with the status quo or past glory have slowly eroded the foundations of many formerly successful organizations.
As such, international accreditation is not merely seeking recognition or prizes. Recognizing the pitfalls of “self-comparisons”, the board of the school set in motion the process of “benchmarking against the world”. As Dr. Tu Anh puts it, “International accreditation is not our ultimate goal. We want to initiate the internal transformation to becoming a distinguished academic organization in the region and the world, striving towards the highest standards in academics, and making meaningful contributions to Vietnam society through our quality research and education activities.”
Impressed with “breakthroughs made by FSPPM in its search of international recognition,” Dr. Terry Buss, former Dean of Carnegie Mellon Public Policy School in Australia believes that “Fulbright School has great potential to be among reputable institutions in Asia Pacific region.”
Internal pressure to move forward
In its early days, FETP was hidden away in a small alley on Vo Thi Sau street, where classes with foreign lecturers were accompanied with interpreters and Vietnamese teaching assistants for language aids. It would be hard for these early cohorts to imagine their successors would one day take classes at prominent universities such as Harvard and confidently interact with international classmates and world-renowned scholars at these institutions.
The short course “Firms, Market and Economic Development in East Asia” last August at Harvard Kennedy School created a fantastic experience for Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep, Class 2020 of MPP Program – Leadership & Management. In over two weeks, participants attended courses by around ten professors, distinctive scholars in their respective fields and discussed the successes and failures of domestic firms as well as their effects on one nation’s growth and economic development.
“Despite its duration of around 2 weeks, this Harvard course was packed with astonishingly diverse and useful knowledge. Learners were immersed in the admirable learning environment of Harvard, debating and contemplating novel ideas with scholars well known for their academic achievements and deep understandings of Vietnam and its region. The instructors are always willing to answer in great detail long-standing questions we had. We are exposed to unique and diversified perspectives on controversial political and economic issues and practise essential skills for effective leadership and management in the public and private sectors,” noted by Ms. Diep.
Dr. Tu Anh believed that sailing FSPPM students to greater oceans and exposing them to international academic environment with foreign professors and classmates in world-acclaimed institutions is a strategic move of the school. In the past two decades, Fulbright worked hard to “localize global knowledge” and contextualize universal theories to equip leaders and managers with market principles and advanced management skills during the country’s transition towards reforms and modernization. However, the school has currently changed its focus on training the next generation of leaders with a “global mindset and willingness to make a positive impact on any fields they are devoted to, be it public or private.” A proven recipe for success, promoted by FETP for the last 20 years, is “to be excellent. The bar needs to be risen to allow to reach the world. International exchange programs will motivate our students to improve and compare with their international peers,” explained Dr. Tu Anh.
In return, Dr. Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, a long-standing academic partner of Fulbright believes there are many wonderful learning opportunities for Kennedy students when they participate in exchange programs with FSPPM.
“To a certain extent, challenges currently facing Vietnam are not uncommon to those we are grappling with in U.S., though set in a different institutional context. Therefore, the two schools (Kennedy and FSPPM) are shouldered with one same mission to address these global challenges. Knowledge transfer will drive innovation and transformation. I believe Kennedy students can gain a better understandings of development challenges confronted by developing countries and foster their new perspectives and experiences,” stated Dr. Elmendorf.
Continuing innovation – the DNA of pioneering institutions
“Benchmark against the world for knowledge innovation” is the philosophy adopted by Fulbright since the first days, unlocking the great potential of this 20-year-old institution to achieve even more. This philosophy inspires Fulbright to keep on innovating and improving beyond the school’s established reputation.
In order to meet the changing needs of labor market, innovation at Fulbright is not limited to the expected Master of Finance, Law or Business or to introducing new training programs, such as the Master of Public Policy in Leadership & Management. Innovation is woven into every level in FSPPM’s quest for solutions to Vietnam’s developing challenges, with issues ranging from urbanization, energy security, climate change, land reforms, and the environment, to sustainable development more broadly. Dr. Tu Anh revealed that his faculty are in talks with their Harvard colleagues to develop joint research initiatives serving as reference framework for Vietnam policy makers – a combination of universal knowledge and local policy actions.
One of the challenges Vietnam needs to address, according to Thomas Vallely, Director of Vietnam Program at Harvard University and founder of Fulbright Economics Teaching Program and Fulbright University Vietnam, is how to develop cities sustainably. Megacities such HCMC and Hanoi in particular should fulfill their great potential to be growth engines, driving Vietnam to the next level of modernization.
Mr. Vallely believes that Fulbright has a mission to pioneer the most urgent development issues facing Vietnam’s growth, and therefore needs to redefine its direction to be more involved in policy research and dialogue focusing on megacities, particularly HCMC, given the lack of effective urban development strategies in Vietnam at the moment.
Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh and his faculty share this view. In recent years, they have been proactive in their policy consultation projects for the HCMC government, ranging from making HCMC into an international finance center to research solutions that will improve the city’s transportation network reduce the environmental degradation common in urban cities.
Fulbright researchers have to that effect a huge advantage unique to our modern times. They have at their disposal more accurate and more reliable research tools, as well as many avenues to utilize big data. Although large dataset research is only introduced at a few public policy institutions in the world such as Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech for their research purposes, Dr. Tu Anh believes utilizing big data in research activities are instrumental for leading public policy institutions forward in our era of digital transformation. To keep abreast with this trend, FSPPM quickly recruited outstanding big data experts into its faculty, such as Dr. Huynh Nhat Nam, who has over 10 years of experiences in working for Australian government and universities in big data projects and developed simulation models for urban infrastructure networks. Soon after joining Fulbright School, Dr. Nam and his colleagues have successfully earned a research grant worth 10 billion VND from Vingroup Innovation Foundation (VINIF), opening the path to harnessing big data to develop optimal and cost-effective operations for the HCMC public transport system.
Recently, as the world is hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, FSPPM has been particularly engaged in policy consultations for the central government as well as HCMC authorities. FSPPM research teams built simulation models to describe and explain the underlining dynamics that govern the spread of Covid-19 in HCMC, one of the two pandemic hot spots in the country. The research findings are expected to provide policy makers more accurate information and forecasts as basis for proper and timely policy responses to contain the epidemic. To provide the general public with expert analysis on Covid-19 developments, Fulbright faculty have also led public webinars to discuss the implications of the virus on Vietnam from different perspectives, from economics to public health, law, or public governance.
Dr. Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, celebrated in Vietnam in January 2020 the 25 years anniversary of the two school’s partnership, and was quite impressed with how FETP and FSPPM grew over time, never losing their pioneering momentum while maintaining their commitment to public service.
“Nowadays, there are few problems that can solved solely by the government or private sector. Greater cooperation from all stakeholders are required for any effective solutions. I believe Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management is best positioned to build these relationships and enlarge the views of challenges facing Vietnam today,” noted Dr. Elmendorf.
- Việt Lâm
In 2019, the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management’s Master of Public Policy degree (MPP) became fully-accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) in Washington, DC (NASPAA) (https://www.naspaa.org/).
NASPAA accreditation is the most prestigious award a public policy and management school can receive. The School became one of only 11 non-US schools to be accredited worldwide: only 187 schools in total have to meet NASPAA’s rigorous standards. There are nearly 400 public policy graduate programs in the US seeking this accreditation. No other Vietnamese or ASEAN school has achieved a western accreditation at this level.
Whereas nearly every school usually fails to achieve accreditation in its first year, and most candidate schools have not yet attained NASPAA standards, the School did so on its first try. Not only that, but NASPAA found no major deficiencies, but cited many best practices that might be employed by others.
Earlier in 2008, the School became the first graduate school in Vietnam to offer an MPP degree. In 2016, the School was authorized to award the MPP under its own imperator. Prior to this, the School awarded the MPP under the National University of Economics in Saigon, with which it had partnered for two decades.
NASPAA accreditation is daunting.
The NASPAA Process
NASPAA requires approximately two years of intensive work to complete the accreditation process. The first step is for schools to submit detailed information and statistics, demonstrating that they are eligible to undergo the process.
Next, schools prepare a report demonstrating that they have met NASPAA’s rigorous standards that reflect state-of-the-art best practices, innovations, and performance characteristics of the world’s most prestigious universities.
NASPAA is evidence-based, looking at a school’s mission, goals, and objectives; faculty qualifications and performance; student achievement academically and in the job market; infrastructure and financial resources; classroom facilities; strategic plans, and curriculum.
Some, but not all, of the evidence developed by the Fulbright School included…
- Surveys of alumni; employers; and government and business leaders.
- Surveys of current students upon enrollment and graduation; student class evaluations; and student opinions on student services.
- Outside expert evaluations of course curricula; student exams; student homework; and graduate thesis evaluation.
- Verification that students had mastered the policy and management curriculum.
- Studies of alumni jobs (types and salaries) obtained after graduation; program satisfaction; use of knowledge on the job.
- Analyses of admission practices, enrollments, grading, marketing, and counseling/advising.
- Assessment of the School’s website, brochures, and marketing materials.
- Comprehensive program evaluations.
The School chose several exemplar universities in the region to see how closely it mirrored their best practices.
A report documenting evidence is then prepared and submitted to a panel of 20 or so NASPAA members who are experts in all aspects of administering policy and management schools. The panel reviews the report and requests additional information or documentation as necessary. The School also employed outside experts to review the report before submission to NASPAA.
School leadership and faculty met with NASPAA leadership in Beijing to here presentations on state-or-the-art practices. For example, how to succeed in employing video conferencing and online classes.
Next, a site-visit team is sent to the school to verify the claims in the report to NASPAA in a four-day visit. The team consists of two senior faculty persons from NASPAA accredited schools and a public administration practitioner. All three must have expertise in theory and practice. Site visitors may review any data, reports, student exams, and theses, or documentation they like. This usually includes confidential interviews with faculty and students.
The site visit team then reports back to the panel who thoroughly review their findings against claims and achievements in the report.
NASPAA insists on in-depth faculty and student participation in preparing the report.
The faculty gathered data, prepared sections of the report, and voted on any changes in School policy, procedures, or data gathering. Students and alumni participated in focus groups to offer their opinions about the School.
In addition, the School enlisted internationally-recognized experts in policy and management to help the faculty think about best practices, options, and strategies necessary to become a world-class program. Part of this effort included “in-service” capacity-building opportunities for faculty to stay abreast of the latest learning in public policy and management. For example: developing and writing up case study materials geared to the Vietnamese experience, but based on the Harvard University case study model.
Why Pursue Accreditation
NASPAA accreditation has numerous advantages.
Students graduating from the School can rightly claim that they received a world-class education, recognized everywhere. This helps in applying for jobs, seeking a doctoral degree, or transferring course credits to US and western universities.
Faculty can burnish their credentials when changing jobs, seeking grants and contracts, or competing for academic rewards.
The School can attract visiting professors and guest speakers to embellish the program. Accreditation helps attract outside funding.
The School has numerous partnerships made possible through accreditation. For example, the School recently partnered with the National Academy of Public Administration (www.napawash.org) in Washington to pursue joint projects, exchange faculty and fellows, and offer courses and seminars. NAPA is an organization, chartered by the US Congress, whose members are elected for their lifetime contributions to public policy and management. It is considered the highest honor for practitioners and academics.
So, with this foundation, the School now has the potential to become a leading institution in the Asia-Pacific region. It is already well on its way to doing so.
Evidence of Success
Receiving accreditation is the ultimate indication of a successful program. The most important indicator in my view is the 1,300 alumni. Whenever the School offers a program, the alumni show up. Whenever the School needs help or support, the alumni respond “whatever you need.”
Other indicators are that 90% graduated from the program, and 95% are employed in public policy and management positions.
When the school held an information session for this year’s class, several hundred potential students showed up, and another 10,000 viewed the event online.
Dr. Terry Buss (NAPA Fellow, Fulbright School’s Senior Advisor on international accreditation)