Welcome, everyone, to Fulbright University Vietnam’s Convocation 2022! 

To our distinguished guests, members of the board, graduate and undergraduate faculty and staff, friends, family, and most importantly, our students – it is an honor for me to speak with you today and mark the beginning of Fulbright’s academic year.

I have had this great honor to speak at Convocation since our very first undergraduate intake in 2018. 

This year marks a special milestone in Fulbright’s history: It is our fifth intake of undergraduate students, and it is our first year with a graduating class of students. 

For many, this is the moment we have all been waiting for. Fulbright will finally have a graduating class, and Fulbright will be continually building, broadening, and championing a liberal arts education in Vietnam.

This fifth intake and the first graduating class — and all of the years before and in between to make it possible — comes at a time when your generation — “Gen Z” — is in the “Age of Now.”

If you want food or milk tea now, you open Baemin or Grab or GoJek. If you want entertainment now, you open Instagram or Netflix or TikTok. If you want to chat with friends and family now, you open Facebook or FaceTime or Zalo or Zoom. And for the brave few — Microsoft Teams! If you want basically anything else now, you open Lazada or Shopee or Tiki. 

So many things in life you want can happen now. 

But what we want  in life is not always what we need. 

The world is changing rapidly. There’s an acronym to describe this phenomenon: VUCA. Our world is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. At the same time, the world is facing a series of looming and existential threats: climate change, labor market automation from the 4th Industrial Revolution.

We all are experiencing this rapid change and these looming threats ourselves: A global pandemic taking the lives of millions. A military conflict in Europe. Catastrophic flooding in South Korea and Pakistan. Wildfires raging in California. What next?

In a world where everything seems to go sideways, how can we maintain the energy and optimism to do something about it? How can we curtail the impending doom and gloom we see across the news? How can we address these massive, world changing problems that just feel so far off? 

What we need in this “VUCA world” is not “life-on-demand”. Not everything at our fingertips now. 

What we need are critical and creative thinkers, ready to take on the “Grand Challenges” of Vietnam, the region, and the world.

What we need are pioneering spirits, ready to embrace the uncertainty and define it for others.

What we need are community minded leaders, ready to create the broadest social impact for as many people as possible.

What we need  is you.

If you will indulge me for the next 10 minutes, I want us to explore this question which our world is so at odds with: How can we create lasting social impact in the “Age of Now”?

In these next ten minutes, I want to share with you my perspective on answering this question, a case study demonstrating said perspective, and — as always — a distillation of what I shared into actionable advice. 

I began my sharing with the significance of this year’s convocation — the fifth intake

Your year, the Class of 2026 — the fifth intake — is the answer to how we can create a lasting social impact in the “Age of Now.”

The fifth intake represents a steadfast commitment to the future — to longtermism. This commitment comes despite all unforeseen changes. Despite all the uncertainty. Despite the critics.

Longtermism is the sincere belief that future people count. Longtermism is understanding that we here today must take seriously our role in shaping the future and the lives that will live in it. Longtermism — especially in our VUCA world with existential threats coinciding with the “Age of Now” — is to accept that we are living in a time of both exceptional opportunity and profound responsibility.

At Fulbright, we fully understand that progress takes time. It happens slowly. And, it rarely — if ever — goes in a straight line. Pushing for our better society, therefore, requires not only a high degree of patience and flexibility, but also a tolerance for contradictions, disruptions, and side steps along the way. 

At Fulbright, we have become comfortable with this fact. We need to stay comfortable with this fact. And most importantly — we must ensure that those who walk through our doors will be prepared to embrace this fact.

Now, onto our case study . Fulbright University Vietnam is longtermism par excellence.

As Vietnam emerged from centuries of colonization and decades of war, this young nation was starting over again, having the chance to define its own future — this time, on its own terms. 

Nearly 30 years ago — at least a decade before most of you were born — there came an idea from an unlikely pairing: former adversaries. 

This uncanny relationship between Vietnam and the United States is longtermism. It is quite literally the belief that future people count — that you here today mattered, even before you were born.

The path forward 30 years ago was not always easy, or clear, or straightforward. Fulbright started small, as an ambitious Economics Teaching Program to equip and train Vietnam’s current and future leaders with the world’s most forward thinking economics and public policy practices. 

As these leaders came of age with our young nation, year after year, decade after decade, it soon became apparent that we — Vietnam and the United States — must lay an even stronger foundation. To really cement this impact was to extend the reach to even more future people.

And so came Fulbright University Vietnam

It was with the courage of their convictions — now our convictions — that if we can build a strong enough foundation, we can continue to determine our own future. And that to do so is to accept and recognize and invest in future people. Because they count. Because Vietnam’s future — our future — is you.

This might feel like a lot to take in.

Many of you, fresh out of high school, may not have signed up for a lecture to be told that our future rests in your hands! 

I may be a few decades ahead of you all here today, but I am still playing my role in shaping our future — you matter

So, as is the best way to approach such large and complex concepts and problems, let me breakdown longtermism for you all today: university student edition.

First, before you set off focusing on future people, focus on your future self. Making the most out of Fulbright means fully immersing yourself in the experiences and resources we have to offer. 

This means approaching all of our activities, courses, events, opportunities, and people with an open mind. Some would argue that the purpose of college is to find out what you like, but I would argue that the purpose of college is to find out what you do not like. By being here today, I hope that you have come mentally prepared to challenge your own assumptions and, maybe, even change your mind on a thing or two.

Second, you do not have to be good at everything you do, but you should at least be interested in it. 

We have worked diligently to build a student body that is diverse in the broadest sense: academically, geographically, economically. You will meet people from backgrounds that you have never met before, from places you have not yet been. You will meet people who are going to be better than you. 

This is not to stoke competition. It is to remind ourselves that the world is so much bigger than us, and that we should be continually amazed and in wonder of what — and who — is out there. If you all here today can shift your expectations to not be the best at what you do, but the most interested at what you do — you will bring your own magic to this world. And that’s what we need. A little bit of everyone’s magic.

Third, go through your time at Fulbright in good company. Surround yourself with friends, mentors, faculty, and staff who care about you.

It’s going to be these people — these transformative connections — that can make or break your experience at Fulbright. 

Your Fulbright community will be filled with some of the most interesting people in your lives five, 10, 15 years from now. Don’t miss out on the opportunity for when you see them in the future where you can say “Remember that time when…?”

The one thing that you can — and should — do now is Invest building meaningful relationships, they are our future people, too. 

And, fourth — a bonus tip: Remember to call home. They miss you. More than you think. You’ll make their day — trust me.

So, 10 minutes have come and gone — hopefully no one is falling asleep.

How might you all capture the spirit of longtermism by making the most of your time at Fulbright? To recap: 

Explore what is out there, and be prepared to change your mind — hopefully more than once.

Be immensely interested in what you do. Being the best is overrated.

Surround yourself with good company. There is nothing like a good adventure with even greater friends.

Finally — remember to call home. Maybe after Convocation is over.

When you do all the above. When that’s all said and done, perhaps at that point, four years from now, you will look to your friends and recall: “Remember that time when that lady told us how to make the most out of Fulbright?”

Class of 2026, to our future artists, creators, leaders, shapers, and visionaries. 

To our champions of longtermism. 

To our future

Welcome to Fulbright University Vietnam, and welcome to the next best four years of your lives!

Dam Bich Thuy,

President, Fulbright University Vietnam

On December 19, 2021, a team of three students from Fulbright University Vietnam became the champion of the HLU Debate Tournament 2021 organized by Hanoi Law University. After competing in exciting yet mind-bending debates, the FUV Kardashian team comprising Ho Hoang Khoi Nguyen (Class of 2024), Le Minh Tu (Class of 2024), and Pham Thanh Chi (Class of 2025) surpassed 29 teams from various universities across the country to win the first prize of the debate tournament.

The debates were intense right from the preliminary round. Thirty teams had been randomly matched and gone through 4 qualifying rounds before the Top 8 teams were chosen to compete in the quarterfinals. The two knock-out rounds of the quarterfinals and semi-finals were heated as the debate topics became increasingly complex. Each team also honed their skills and accumulated a lot more experience as they moved forward to the following rounds.

The topic of the final debate was “We believe that post-war and conflicting countries should abandon the Medina standard in the prosecution of war criminals.” As it was an interesting and equally challenging topic, both teams presented many strong arguments, heating up the already-intense atmosphere of the final round. Eventually, with a convincing performance, the FUV Kardashian stepped up to be the winner of the competition. Since the team had made such a strong impression on the judges and the audience from the very first debate, it was an achievement they totally deserved.

Even though we did not have high expectations of achievements, we felt a bit stressful since the legal topics were relatively academic,” said Ho Hoang Khoi Nguyen, a member of the FUV Kardashian. “After each debate, we discussed online to reassess our performance to learn from our mistakes and encourage one another to do better in the following round. For me, the opportunity to acquire new knowledge, to work as a team and to learn from my friends was way more important than the result of the competition.

Organized by the Legal Skills Club of the Hanoi Law University, the HLU Debate Tournament 2021 provides university students with a chance to practice critical thinking and reasoning skills and also helps bring laws closer to the young generation by enabling them to voice their opinions on the current hottest legal issues.

👉 Read more about the competition HERE.

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.

A painting by Le Sa Long featuring a HCMC steamed rice stall giving free meals to poor people during Covid-19

This fall, a select few Fulbright students with physical disability and/or mental disorders will be able to receive financial aid from Wheel Cards Scholarship. This scholarship is established through the generosity and commitment of Wheel Cards to support college students with disabilities in Vietnam.

As the world’s first wheelchair/ disabilities-related NFT project, Wheel Cards has garnered much interest from people around the globe. Recently, the project was featured on Binance’s NFT platform along with Maye Musk, the mother of Elon Musk. Featuring pixelated characters in wheelchairs, Wheel Cards were sold out in mere seconds for the past 13 days.

Wheel Cards was founded with a mission to raise awareness about wheelchairs and disabilities in the Web 3.0 Metaverse space. The founder, Kunho Kim, spent his youth in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam before attending Harvard in 2012. While at Saigon South International School, Kunho learned of the difficulties Vietnamese people with disabilities face daily. Kunho founded one of the first student-initiated non-profit organizations to donate wheelchairs to paraplegic patients in Vietnam.

With the mission to create a more disability-friendly world, the Wheel Cards team decided to create a scholarship specifically to financially aid students with disabilities at Fulbright University Vietnam. Nam Tran, who is the director of development and strategic initiatives, hopes that “The Wheel Cards scholarship can help raise awareness about disabilities in Vietnam and become a catalyst to create a more equitable world for students with disabilities. We at Fulbright University are excited to work with Wheel Cards team to embrace new technology including blockchain, and the possibility of a more inclusive future that Wheel Cards is envisioning.” 

Kunho Kim (right) donating wheelchairs to patients in Vietnam when he was in high school

Being the world’s first NFT project to create a scholarship program, Kunho hopes that the Wheel Cards scholarship can leave a positive impact. “This was my childhood dream to give back to a society where everyone helped me become who I am right after I had a ski accident in Montana, USA eleven years ago. I hope with this scholarship students with disabilities could advance into any area they want to without much financial burden while studying at Fulbright University. Our team is very grateful to a community of supporters who made this possible and hopes to continue supporting more students with disabilities in the future with our Wheel Cards community members.”

About Fulbright University Vietnam:

In May 2016, during his official visit to Viet Nam, President Barack Obama announced the establishment of Fulbright University Vietnam, Vietnam’s first independent, not-for-profit, liberal arts university. We are an expanding international team of educational innovators, with deep roots in Vietnam, strong political and financial backing, and connections to educational institutions around the world. 

We believe in the power of collaboration, transdisciplinary thinking, and risk-taking, and we understand that effective education requires putting students at its center. Globally integrated but deeply embedded in Vietnamese society, Fulbright is dedicated to providing a world-class education, utilizing the latest advancements in institutional design, teaching, learning, technology and other fields to create an institution that is both innovative and globally relevant. Importantly, Fulbright is committed to serving Vietnamese society through rigorous research and responsible civic engagement.

About Wheel Cards:

Wheel Cards is Door Labs’ first NFT collectibles project. Door Labs’ mission is to create an inclusive metaverse in which all abilities, colors, and genders are represented and celebrated. As part of the mission, Door Labs created Wheel Cards, the World’s first wheelchair/ disability-related NFT collectibles project, and aimed to raise awareness about disabilities, and wheelchairs in Web 3.0 metaverse space. Moreover, Door Labs recently partnered with the Korea Paralympic Committee to create Kaard, the World’s first Paralympic NFTs.

“As time evolves and technology changes the way we operate, it is easy for a chicken to fly as high as an eagle because knowledge can be accessed easily and widely no matter where you are from.

Yet, in reality, some choose to live the life of a chicken when they are born an eagle and never get to know what is there at the horizon. So what make an eagle not being able to fly high?”

Dao Anh Thi, CEO of Isobar, a recipient of Forbes 30 under 30, posed that question to our young students at “Overcoming comfort in the digital age” seminar organized at Fulbright University Vietnam on October 20.

Three speakers, coming from different background and personal experience, shared with Fulbright students their quest to “overcome comfort” – stepping out of their comfort zone to take risks, explore new horizons, and undertake meaningful work.

“You need a lot of courage to break away from your comfort zone and take the risk to explore your limits. When the world keeps evolving, the line between invaluable experience and old-fashioned preconception has become so fine.

Learning how to learn has become a crucial skill. If you and your mindset are fixed, you are actually moving backward,” journalist Nguyen Luong An Dien shared.

TV host and CEO Tran Quoc Khanh looked at this “overcoming comfort” quest in a different light: “It is really hard to know where your comfort zone actually stops to step out of it.

It is best just to take risk and say what you think with honesty. The world around you will react to that and you can learn from that. The more you fail, wrong, and hurt, the more you grow.”

 

40 Rocketeers had the most memorable night during their time participating in the Fulbright Everest Launchpad program.

Together, these students organized and enjoyed their FEL Talent Show and Prom Night. The night was filled with joy, laughter, and colors.

FEL Talent Show and Prom Night was the time for these young souls to shine in their own ways in their songs, their dance, or playing different musical instruments.

For some, it was their first time to perform on stage and unleash their talents for the world to see. But above all, it was the night they will never forget.