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

Two weeks of the YSEALI Academy’s flagship seminar on Energy Economics and Policy has officially culminated with its graduation ceremony on July 16, 2021. Throughout the seminar, 35 young professionals coming from different backgrounds across ten Southeast Asian countries and Timor-Leste have come together on a quest for knowledge and bonded under the name of YSEALI Fellows.  

Bridging world-class experts to local professionals

The two-week intensive seminar covered a highly interdisciplinary field from not only energy economics and policy perspective but also incorporated other YSEALI’s signatures such as leadership skill workshops and cultural exchange experiences. Converging all YSEALI networks, the Fellows were invited to participate in a wide range of activities from morning to evening with professors from well-known universities such as Harvard Kennedy School, Monash University, UC Davis, and industry experts from the U.S., Europe, and Asia Pacific region with diverse experiences in Southeast Asia. Joining the seminar were also guest speakers from leading private corporations such as Siemens, First Solar, Wärtsilä, Nami Energy, Asia Clean Capital Vietnam, and Baker & McKenzie.

The seminar discussed a variety of topics ranging from the basics of energy use and conservation to macroeconomic framework and policy tools for energy management. It also took a close look at energy trends and issues facing the region involving emerging technology and policies, encompassing clean and renewable energy. And with that, the seminar concluded with a discussion on the future of energy, how circular economy framework can be embedded in businesses and governments’ climate strategies.

Utilizing the interconnected and multicultural aspects of such cohort, Fellows from different countries teamed up to deliver the “capstone” Team Projects on critical issues relevant to the seminar theme, e.g. clean energy transition, solar power, hydropower, solid waste to energy, energy and circular economy, and power sector policy. This collaboration brought to the seminar practical and diverse examples from each Fellow’s work in their community, thus combined to deeply root into the region’s context.

“The seminar has been nothing short of an insightful and great learning experience for me. We have been hearing from experienced industry leaders and academic professionals who have shared their invaluable time and expertise with us. I think overall, the seminar has been a good balance of reality and ideals. It has certainly equipped us with the fundamentals that we will need to navigate the challenges we are facing today and in the next few decades, while also helping us build connections in the region, whom I can now call my friends. For that, I will always be grateful.” – Ng Clarisse, a Fellow from Malaysia, exclaimed.

Young leaders united to take on challenges

In his remarks at the closing session, Professor Jay Siegel, Provost of Fulbright University Vietnam, encouraged the young leaders to continue embracing new challenges as they have been taking climate change into their own hands: “I think [this] is an incredibly important seminar because it’s an empowering seminar, it highlights your qualities as young leaders and encourages you to take risks as young leaders, to reach out to the world globally, to reach out to problems that may have once been thought of and that need to be thought of again.” 

Though 35 Fellows of the inaugural cohort may come from different backgrounds and experiences, they all share a unified spirit to tackle the climate crisis. At the certificate granting ceremony, Ms. Marie Damour, U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City, applauded the Fellows for stepping up to address this critical challenge amidst the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Climate change represents an immense challenge to the security and prosperity of Southeast Asia. And the region desperately needs the contribution of leaders like you to confront this existential threat. Your success is our success as you lead the development of an integrated, sustainable, and prosperous Southeast Asia.” – Ms. Marie Damour emphasized.

Prof. Dr. Le Vu Quan, the Director of YSEALI Academy expressed genuine thanks to the U.S. government’s support in establishing YSEALI Academy and entrusting such grand responsibility to Fulbright University Vietnam. Despite the disruption of the global pandemic, the flagship seminar still carried weight in delivering crucial conversations and connecting young leaders in the region for an imperative cause.

“COVID-19 has separated us by distance, but not in our heart and mind. In fact, the pandemic has enhanced us in unity as we had demonstrated in the seminar. 35 strangers who would not recognize each other on the streets of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Jakarta now become colleagues and friends, sharing common goals and aspirations for ASEAN. We are unity, ASEAN unity in one vision, one identity, and one community.” – Dr. Le Vu Quan remarked.

A milestone to success

Embodying the “we are unity” spirit as YSEALI cultural ambassador, Kuvarakul Thachatat, a Fellow from Thailand, looks forward to a promising future: “We are all going back to our own work after this seminar, where we will collect a lot more of knowledge and expertise along the way. And maybe in a few years, we should be in a position that we can give something back to the program, to YSEALI as well as to Fulbright University.” 

Thachatat is the youngest employee of GIZ Energy Thailand who earned Band 5 level “Deputy Director” in a German International Corporation. His previous experiences all revolve around energy, from being a part of the task force that supports the Ministry of Energy, Thailand in the development of the Thailand Smart Grid Action Plan, to lead and manage the Thai-German Climate Programme: Energy (4-year project with a budget of EUR 3 million); he was also invited as a guest lecturer on energy-related topics in many universities.

Kuvarakul Thachatat is like many other YSEALI Fellows, who as Dr. Le Vu Quan has described as young leaders with great talents and qualities. “[They – the Fellows] will succeed no matter where they are. But it would be our, the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam’s, honor to be a milestone to their success.” 

Bảo Trâm