One of the most precious gifts that Fulbright has received is the collective support fostered by the multi-generational students. Fulbright students, both current ones and those who have long graduated, have been supporting the School’s development through their active participation in the university’ activities and fundraising efforts. For those master degree holders, it is a lifelong commitment with Fulbright to nurture liberal education focused on empathy and community-mindedness, as well as to inspire and empower the next generation of change-makers. 

The class gifts that fuel liberal education

The current students and alumni from Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) have made a significant contribution to the Giving Week’s Fund. It is the solidarity and sustainability of a community with diverse backgrounds and interests cultivated over the past two decades. Graduated years ago, members of Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP), the former institution of FSPPM, have gone a long way in their own pursuits, yet still sustained their tight knit relationships with each other and with Fulbright. 

Generations of the Master Program gathered at the Opening Day of Giving Week, participated in the Fulbright Fun Run, Giving Fair, and other exciting activities. There was an invisible urge pervading the FETP/FSPPM alumni community, which ignited a lot of ardent discussions in response to the donation. 

FETP/FSPPM alumni gather at the Opening Day of Giving Week 2022

“Immersed in the excitement of Giving Week 2022, the FETP 13 (2007) classmates got together to discuss how many trees and bricks to donate. We would like to thank the Organizing team for inspiring us with meaningful activities on the Opening Day of Giving Week,” proudly shared Ms. Lê Thị Quỳnh Trâm, an alumna of Class of FETP 13. In addition to nearly VND40 million (approx. US$1,700)  donated for the Student Development Fund, they also contributed one “tamarind tree” and three “bricks” to support the construction of the cutting-edge and environmentally friendly flagship campus in Saigon Hi-tech Park, which will soon welcome master and undergraduate students to liberal arts education.

Ms. Lê Thị Quỳnh Trâm, an alumna of Class of FETP 13 (2007)

“Following the suggestion of Ms. Trâm and Ms. Yến (FETP 13), I circulated the donation announcement in the Fulbright School Alumni (FSA) community and also posted on FETP 13’s private Facebook group. The FETP 13 classmates discussed the goal number of donations and together made contributions. At the end of the campaign, the number exceeded our expectation, not to mention the individual contributions were directly sent to the School,”  Mr. Lê Trung Nam, Director of Fulbright School Alumni. It has created a momentum for other classes’ donations, following FETP 13, FETP 11 (2005) contributed two “bricks”,  MPP7 (2014) donated one “brick” while MPP4 (2011) gave one “tamarind tree” and one “sapling”. 

Thus far, FSPPM’s alumni and current student community has contributed nearly VND150 million (approx. US$6,500)  to support campus construction and social projects of Fulbright’s students. 

The Opening Day’s activities have inspired the alumni to initiate donations

Fulbright School Alumni: the constellation of actors 

Managing the network of Fulbright alumni over the years, Mr. Lê Trung Nam believes that the transparency and integrity inspired by lecturers and the learning environment have glued the different personalities together. Besides, since 2015, the efforts of active members from FSPPM, such as Mr. Quý Tâm  (Chief Interpreter and Alumni Relations Manager) and other alumni, in organizing connecting activities, 20th and 25th anniversary of the FSPPM’s establishment, field trips and regular conversations (FSA Talks, seminars), which help strengthen the solidarity of this community.

Mr. Lê Trung Nam and Ms. Đàm Bích Thủy, President of Fulbright University Vietnam, at the Giving Week’s Opening Day

As fellows, the alumni always behave in a respectful and friendly manner regardless of their social status and backgrounds. Thanks to such cohesion, alumni and current students are always supported by their fellows in every walk of their lives. This is an essential vision of liberal education at Fulbright: train individuals to not only excel skills and harness enthusiasm, but also nurture empathy to support each other and create collective efforts towards the development of Vietnam and the world.

“I really believe in the power of education to change the world. It motivates me to contribute to the development of Fulbright through FSA’s activities. The alumni community has always desired to further support the School’s development, starting with the establishment of an Endowment Fund. Having Fulbright’s direct funding channel [like Giving Week] makes the donation even more convenient,” Mr. Lê Trung Nam shared about FSA’s plan with excitement. 

Alumni at the 25th anniversary of FSPPM’s establishment in 2020

The only requirement when Fulbright grants students and masters students financial aid or scholarships is a commitment to serve the community and pass on the legacy to future generations. Thus, their knowledge, skills and networks they acquire at Fulbright can contribute towards development progress for a better Vietnam and the world. The donation of FETP/FSPPM individuals and classes is a statement of that belief and commitment. Receiving love, efforts, both in-kind and cash donations, Fulbright is proud of the growing community of alumni and current students, which empowers Fulbright in making liberal arts education more accessible and nurturing the academic passion inside the young generation. 

***

About Giving Week 2022

Giving Week is an initiative at Fulbright to bring our community closer, to appreciate each other’s passion and dedication for education, as well as to create a tradition of unity. 

Fulbright Giving Week 2022 wishes to Empower Changemakers through many exciting events, to name a few: Giving Fair; Human Library; Art Exhibition, Music Show.

Each VND500,000 (approx. US$22) is equivalent to a sapling, VND10 million (approx. US$440)  is presented by a brick and 20 million (approx. USD 870) can grow a tamarind tree. Those are essential donations to construct our District 9 Campus. 

To make a contribution, kindly fill in this form

About Fulbright School Alumni

Since 1995, more than 1,500 students from all over Vietnam have graduated from the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), formerly known as the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP). Our alumni are making an impact in a diverse range of roles within the government, the broader public sector, the not-for-profit sector, and private organizations in 60 of the total 63 provinces nationwide.

The Fulbright School Alumni (FSA) network is hugely diverse and provides a valuable lifelong network of fellow graduates and public policy professionals in Vietnam. FSPPM alumni stay connected to the School and have a significant impact on our academic development and operation. Academically, they support the School teaching efforts with different capacities, be it guest lecturers, tutors or teaching fellows, or student mentors. As for research and outreach, FSA members work closely with faculty as analysts and collaborators, bringing in local understandings valuable to research questions.

An Bình

Nguyen Chinh Luan, a student of Master in Public Policy Class of 2022 (MPP2022) at the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), Fulbright University Vietnam, is a Franciscan friar. Having a bachelor’s degree in economics, Chinh Luan chose to leave mainstream society, stepping into the realm of faith and dedicating his life to serving others. At the Fulbright School, he got exposed to advanced management and leadership knowledge in order to realize his aspirations in the journey of service.

After graduating from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics in 2004, Nguyen Chinh Luan took the road less traveled. Instead of settling down in a professional career like his peers, he decided to enter a Catholic religious congregation. He initially joined the Vietnamese Province of Jesuits (the Society of Jesus), a religious congregation of the Catholic Church, then continued in Jesuit religious formation for nearly four years.

Later, he transferred to the Order of Friars Minor Conventual – a branch of the Franciscans who were founded by Saint Francis of Assisi (Francesco d’Assisi) in 1209. Their mission is to live among the poor, relying on common resources to serve them. Dedicating himself totally to God, Friar Nguyen Chinh Luan professed simple and solemn vows, spending years discerning more deeply the ways of God. He studied Philosophy for three years and Theology for four years at the Franciscan Theological Seminary in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City.

Last weekend, Friar Nguyen Chinh Luan was ordained to the priesthood.

After equipping himself in pastoral theology, Friar Luan began to connect with people in the real world. He went to Thai Binh, a province in Northern Vietnam, where he worked at a friary located next to Van Mon Leprosy-Dermatology Hospital in the Vu Van Commune of Vu Thu District. French priests built this locale as a leprosarium more than 100 years ago. For a year, Friar Luan went to the hospital every day to visit elderly Hansen’s Disease patients. Friar Luan and his religious brothers also opened a facility at the friary to care for children of the commune with Down’s Syndrome. He then went to the U.S. to participate in the Provincial Chapter of Saint Joseph of Cupertino Province of California and begin an apostolic assignment in a parish there.

Nguyen Chinh Luan and a patient with leprosy at Van Mon Leprosy-Dermatology Hospital in Vu Van Commune, Vu Thu District, Thai Binh Province

After 15 years of following God’s teachings in service to the less fortunate, Luan realized that he needed to enrich his knowledge about his profession and learn new skills to cope in this volatile world. At the encouragement of his religious superiors, he decided to pursue a master’s degree. In a conversation with one of the Californian friars who is an alumnus of Harvard University, Luan became aware of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, which was originally a partnership between the HCMC University of Economics and the Harvard Kennedy School.

“As part of my religious vocation, I had taken care of the poor, orphans, people with HIV, people with leprosy…; everything was done with heartfelt intent. I served them just because I loved them in the spirit of the Gospel. Nonetheless, my management skills were still quite limited. I realized that love without knowledge is a kind of blindness and knowledge without love an emptiness. So I decided to pursue further education in order to better serve the poor as I always desired to do,” he recalled. Friar Luan then applied for the Master in Public Policy program’s Leadership & Management concentration at FSPPM and became a student of the school in 2020.

Realizing the spirit of service

For over two decades, FSPPM has successfully recruited a student base that is diverse in geographical location, expertise, background and work experience, coming from various public, private and social organizations. Luan regards it as a chance for him to meet all kinds of Vietnamese professionals and learn from them. Although the academic pressure at FSPPM is quite intense, no one is left behind.

At the convocation ceremony of my class, someone said in their speech: “No one will ever be left behind.” Back then, I did not fully understand what they meant. After more than one year studying here, I find it quite accurate. When I saw teaching assistants who were willing to stay up all night to help students with assignments, or teachers and other classmates who were there to help whenever I needed, I really understood that no one would ever be left behind,” Friar Luan said.

To Friar Luan, serving the poor is his purpose of life. Therefore, it is only natural for him to feel deeply connected with the mission of FSPPM, the commitment to public service. Fulbright’s educational environment is where the professors inspire students with the spirit of service and provide them with useful tools to convert their good intentions into good deeds for the community and the country.

When I first came to Fulbright, I had a vision but it was not clear. Learning from the professors here, I feel inspired and encouraged, and I believe I can gradually implement my plans of service to the community,” he said.

Nguyen Chinh Luan and Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management

Friar Luan highly appreciated the faculty members at Fulbright, among them Prof. Pham Duy Nghia, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of FSPPM, and other senior lecturers like Dang Van Thanh, Chau Van Thanh, Nguyen Xuan Thanh, Le Thai Ha, Nguyen Quy Tam and Huynh The Du.

Their knowledge is both broad and deep, and so are their hearts, to make their visions come true. I think Fulbright is like a school of old Confucianists in which the professors are truly patriotic Confucians. I can feel their love and their desire to serve the country, and their love is gratified by their contributions to not only education but also to the public policy field,” he commented.

As a Franciscan, Luan deeply understands what it is like to live in poverty. He spent many years living with the poor, the sick and the marginalized. That makes him especially empathetic to their sufferings, their aspirations, and their needs for a better life. He knows that he needs to serve them better with the help of knowledge and skills. At Fulbright, he studies leadership, financial management, budget management and other public administration courses that will help policymakers come up with the best decisions and solutions.

What I have learned at Fulbright over the last year has changed the way I think and also the way I live. The curriculum provides a wide range of knowledge about the processes of policymaking: how a policy is issued, implemented and supervised. From that macro perspective, students can apply what they learn in order to solve specific problems in their organizations. This knowledge is very useful because it not only helps one navigate the activities of one’s organization, but also steer that organization in a broader capacity, to serve the society we live in,” he commented.

Nguyen Chinh Luan and FSPPM faculty member Chau Van Thanh

Looking back at his experience at Fulbright, Luan also praised the school for training students to perform well under pressure and to know how to learn on their own.

Put under high pressures at Fulbright, students learn to withstand any obstacles they face when they go back to work in their respective organizations. They become stronger, more resilient and more determined to perform better at work,” he said.

After finishing his master’s degree in public policy, Luan plans to return to northern Vietnam and build other orphanages and daycare centers for children with Down’s Syndrome. He also plans to expand the daycare system in his order’s friary in Thai Binh Province.

I want to open more facilities for orphans and for underprivileged people in other provinces. Previously, we just ran the orphanage the way we would run a family. Now that I have acquired leadership and management skills, I can see how things can be better organized,” he said.

Nguyen Chinh Luan and MPP2022 students

He also wants to open more medical clinics for the poor and the elderly. As he sees the need for low cost healthcare services for those who cannot afford medical bills, he sets sight to build a clinic in the friary of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Thai Binh province in the near future.

People in the neighborhood work primarily in agriculture, so the clinic would mostly treat farmers, and elderly people with musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory diseases and common infections like flu and digestive diseases,” he said.

Last weekend, Friar Nguyen Chinh Luan was ordained to the priesthood. The ordination came as he just finished the MPP program at Fulbright and started working on his thesis. Both events mark the end of his basic spiritual and academic training and the beginning of an apprenticeship to his lifelong calling: to love and to serve.

Nguyen Chinh Luan and MPP2022 students during a field trip to Thua Thien-Hue Province in April

Thuy Hang

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.

Ms. Dang Thi Manh represented the FETP student community at the meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry visiting the school on the occasion of his official visit to Vietnam.

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.

“Servant leadership”

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.

Ms. Dang Thi Manh continues to uphold the values of Servant Leadership in her career and life

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.

Thuy Hang