The Entrepreneurship Seminar with the theme of “Born Globals: Scaling Startups beyond Borders” aims to unlock Southeast Asian entrepreneurial potential that can change the world. We will gather young leaders who will learn and work on expanding a mission-driven startup across ASEAN member states & Timor Leste and potentially beyond. The combination of online engagement sessions and a week-long in-person seminar/workshops will be high-speed, ultra-meaningful, and prepare the fellows for the Start or Expansion of an international new venture.

The seminar will start with 2 engagement sessions online and continue with a 1-week seminar series in-person in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from September 24 – October 1, 2022 (5 working days).

Applications are now being accepted until July 29th. Young professionals from across ASEAN and Timor-Leste who are between the ages of 25-35 (no previous YSEALI experience required) or between the ages of 36-40 (YSEALI alumni status required) are encouraged to apply.

If you want to learn more about our seminar, do join our Information Session Webinar on July 22! The YSEALI Academy team will answer questions, and tips on applying for prospective candidates.

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Southeast Asia can pride itself on having increased the number of startups and entrepreneurial activities. Yet, scaling these startups to solidly profitable levels has been a challenge. Partly because Southeast Asian home market is so diverse: so many countries, so many cultures, so many religions, languages, political systems, currencies, so many different regulations, so many different institutions.

This YSEALI Academy’s seminar on Born Globals focuses on learning unique startup capabilities that allow them to rapidly expand internationally. If you want to be part of this movement for a more regionally and globally connected startup culture, our next Entrepreneurship Seminar is for you!

The YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam will host young professional from across ASEAN member states and Timor-Leste to explore and discuss about the Born Globals together. The seminar will start with 2 engagement sessions online and continue with a 1-week seminar series in-person in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from September 24 – October 1, 2022.

Applications are now being accepted until July 29th. Young professionals from across ASEAN and Timor-Leste who are between the ages of 25-35 (no previous YSEALI experience required) or between the ages of 36-40 (YSEALI alumni status required) are encouraged to apply.

Apply at:

If you want to learn more about our seminar, do join our Information Session Webinar on July 15! The YSEALI Academy team will answer questions, and tips on applying for prospective candidates.

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Patricia D. Norland, the author of “The Saigon Sisters: Privileged Women in the Resistance”, is a former US diplomat among very few Americans who obtained visas to visit Vietnam in the 1980s. From a brief but momentous encounter, Patricia ended up devoting over 30 years of her life compiling a rich and robust account of Vietnamese history as seen through the lens of the Saigon Sisters – 9 childhood friends who studied at an elite French school in Saigon but as adults chose to stand up for Vietnam’s fight for independence. In a virtual chat with Fulbright University Vietnam, Ms. Norland recalled her journey.

The story of extraordinary women

In 1988, Ms. Norland came to Saigon for the first time. Working for a small nonprofit organization called the Indochina Project, she had the chance to meet Nguyen Thi Oanh, a social worker whose powerful presentation of the post-war traumas and challenges moved her deeply.

To Patricia’s surprise, Ms. Oanh was a student at the Lycée Marie Curie, a highly selective French school that accepted only a handful of Vietnamese students at the time. Despite their upbringing, Ms. Oanh and her friends decided to not only remain in Saigon during the most heated years of the French Indochina War, but also actively engage in the resistance against French colonialists.

Such a revelation urged Patricia to start looking into the reason why this band of sisters, though they came from wealthy families and received Western education, sacrificed their safety and comfort to struggle for national independence. Especially when the majority of books about 20th-century Vietnam were about male soldiers, diplomats and journalists, she felt compelled to tell these women’s stories.

The book was not written in a chronological order; instead, it is a glimpse into the sisters’ incredible lives as told in their own narratives: Tuyen, the political leader of the group; Le An, a dancer who performed in a dance troop that entertained soldiers before battles; Sen, the “beauty queen” who trained and worked in the maquis; Lien An, who became a teacher in Hanoi and later returned to become a principal in Saigon; Xuan, an elegant lady who met and fought side by side with her husband in the maquis; Oanh, who returned to Saigon after the Geneva Accords in 1954 and helped run a women’s hostel for students and refugees; and the three siblings Minh, Trang, and Thanh, each with their own individual journey.

When I first met these women and realized what they had done with their lives and how humble they were about it, I was convinced that they deserve to tell their own stories in their own words. It’s a sign of respect, and it was very important to me that their voices come through,” said the author.

Even though each of the sister had her own role in the revolution and they later walked very different paths in life, there were things they all shared that connected them and fueled their spirirts: the traditional Asian families they grew up in where they were taught to love the homeland, the anger towards colonial crimes, and most importantly, the liberal education they received at the lycée.

Courtyard of Lycée Marie Curie

“The lycée de is one of the main inspirations for rebelling. As Xuan, one of the sisters, put it, ‘At lycee Marie Curie, we received a liberal education. Teachers taught us in a multi dimensional international way. We learned about Russia by reading Tolstoy and Tchaikov, we became aware of the American Declaration of Independence. As we compared notes, we found that the French ideals were not for our people. In other words, we needed our own revolution’,” Patricia explained.

Fighting for a cause greater than oneself

As a former US diplomat, Ms. Norland used to help manage academic and cultural exchange programs, including the Fulbright scholarship. Sharing the same values that Senator Fulbright advocated, she believed that the essence of international education is to acquire empathy, the ability to see the world as others see it. It is also her purpose of writing “The Saigon Sisters”.

“I think mutual understanding helps us prevent conflicts and to promote peace. We’ve got to have that empathy and listen to more than just one side of the story. So I feel very strongly that we need to be doing more of that, stepping in other people’s shoes,” Ms. Norland asserted.

Ms. Norland during the webinar with Fulbright University Vietnam

Empathy is also the virtue that shone through the journeys of the Saigon Sisters. Being of a high status background, the women could have easily turned their backs to go study abroad and enjoy a comfortable life. Yet they decided to “get out of their French skirts and put on black pajamas”, join demonstrations, or even go into the jungle to support the maquis. From sleeping on the floor to eating unfamiliar food, the women sacrificed so much more than just personal convenience. They put their family, their children, their careers, and their own safety on the line to live with and fight for the people.

Patricia recalled: “I really love that the Saigon sisters, even though they came from such privilege, clearly, very much respect the peasants that they interact with in different ways, even in the jungle when they are with the monkeys. I think part of it is the empathy that they had seeing their people so subjugated by the French. I think it shaped them for a life of wanting to help their people, not just against the French, not just to survive the Americans, but all the way through. It’s an ingrained empathy.”

Published in 2020, “The Saigon Sisters” is commented to be a book of our times. While global challenges are creating a more and more disruptive and polarized world, it sends a vital message to the young generation about respect to others, giving back to the society, and selfless dedication.

As we live in very stressful times between COVID and things like climate change, it’s good to hear very inspiring stories about women who dedicate their lives to something bigger than themselves. It’s fitting now under these times to hear stories of endurance, commitment, courage, and resilience,” Ms. Norland remarked.

Anh Thư

Last week, Fulbright University Vietnam invited famous Vietnamese moviemakers to an intimate virtual fireside chat, where they shared enlightening insights about their work. Industry veterans including directors Charlie Nguyen, Phan Dang Di, Phan Gia Nhat Linh, and film producer Tran Bich Ngoc were joined by Amazon’s Head of U.S. film acquisitions Dan Truong for a thought-provoking conversation.

The gap in the Vietnamese film market

Although COVID-19 caused detrimental impact on movie theaters, the industry still had some good news in the last two years. To name a few, in 2020, “Tiec trang mau (Blood Moon Party)”, directed by Nguyen Quang Dung and produced by Phan Gia Nhat Linh, was a box office sensation which brought in 175 billion VND ($7.5 million) in ticket sales, making it the highest-grossing movie of the year and one of the highest of all time. “Rom”, an independent film directed by Tran Thanh Huy became the first Vietnamese film to receive the prestigious New Currents Award at the 24th Busan International Film Festival. Such commercial success and global critical acclaim are proof that the industry has come a long way.

Producer Tran Bich Ngoc remarked, this is an exciting time for moviemakers. The rising popularity of streaming services means that movies now have an extended life, being accessible to a broader audience long after they are screened in theaters. However, with a 20-25% annual increase, demand is accelerating faster than can be met. “I think the market itself doesn’t have enough internal strength yet to satisfy the growth of the market,” she said. “We don’t have enough technical production crews to satisfy the growing number of films we produce a year.”

Even though there have been some hugely lucrative movies, this is still considered a risky business. Especially when it comes to arthouse and genre films, investors are generally more reluctant. It is also increasingly costly to produce a film.

The movie is going to be a lot smaller now compared to if it had been made for the same budget two years ago. We have to downsize the crew, rush the production, and the location is getting much more expensive than before. So all of this added a lot of pressure on producer,” director Charlie Nguyen proclaimed.

Talent development – challenges and opportunities

In 2013, the Prime Minister issued a strategy to develop Vietnamese film industry and satisfy the people’s demand for a more robust cultural life. The goal until 2020 was to gear the industry towards industrialization, modernization, and integration, while staying imbued with national identity. By the end of the decade, the country has witnessed a tremendous growth in film productions, both in terms of quality and quantity. Unfortunately, industry insiders agree that there is still a lack in world-class talent.

According to Phan Gia Nhat Linh, producers often have a hard time securing high quality personnel for their productions. He recalled: “We were looking for a production designer for one of my feature films but the person I wanted was already fully booked with other productions. We don’t have many good choices to work with, and it’s also very hard to find new faces.

In Vietnam, there are only a few universities where students are formally trained in theater and cinematography. But the reality is that not all graduates end up working in the industry, and without enough field practice and long-term professional support, aspiring film makers will always be far from reaching their full potential.

I think it all comes back to how to nurture the talent and education and training so then the screenwriters, editors, and production crews know how to work in a professional environment,” commented producer Tran Bich Ngoc.

Mr. Phan Gia Nhat Linh is also an avid advocate of education. “We opened a cinematic space called ‘Xinê House’ for young talents and we have an education center where we try to invite experienced and established filmmakers to come to share their experience with the new generation,” Mr. Nhat Linh said. “I think the good news is schools like Fulbright and Hoa Sen are now introducing filmmaking curriculums. That is what we are lacking right now.”

Initiating a cinematic ecosystem

Going forward, the movie industry is expected to see shifting dynamics. Instead of being a passive audience, moviegoers will be able to actively invest in what they want to see by means of ticket presale. Such feedback and financial support from fans – “fan-vestment” – is predicted to be one of the driving forces of modern cinema.

In order to satisfy their niche audience, streaming services will acquire more local content, creating opportunities for independent films with original, authentic stories. Hence a dialogue between Vietnamese filmmakers and international film distributors like Dan Truong is essential for each party to understand and deliver to their respective target stakeholders. “I’ve had a lot of production, acquisitions, and financing strategy experience in the US and now in the streaming platforms. Yet it has been said that things work differently in Vietnam, and I’m not surprised to hear that. So it was super helpful to get these perspectives,” Dan revealed.

As an academic institution, Fulbright can act as a catalyst for such meaningful conversations. Moreover, this network can help students who are navigating through career development recognizing trends and demands of the labor market to better prepare for it. In a recent talk with Fulbright students, Dan also gave advice to those interested in a career in film, both on the creative side and the business side.

I think it’s very valuable if we can create this kind of communion, this kind of creative support so that we can elevate talent to the next level. I want to create a platform where filmmakers can come together to help one another and for the new filmmakers to have this embracing creative community around them,” Charlie Nguyen emphasized.

Anh Thư

As one of the few female C-Suite leaders in the United States, Sheryl Sandberg has a surprisingly down-to-earth persona. On March 5, she dedicated her time for a conversation with Fulbright community about her take on the importance of education and preparing for a future of uncertainty post-pandemic.

Known as a leading executive, Sheryl shared that she is a big fan of liberal arts education for a number of reasons, one being its nature of interconnected and multidimensional training across trades. Moderating this insightful discussion was Mr. Cuong Do, Senior Advisor and former President of the Global Strategy Division for Samsung Group, member of Fulbright’s Governing Board.

The importance of well-rounded education

Ms. Sandberg started the conversation with an old adage: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” As Sheryl emphasized the importance of liberal arts education, it is not a coincidence that amongst all Vietnamese educational institutions, she chose Fulbright to pay a virtual visit.

Resonating with Fulbright’s vision of reinventing higher education for Vietnam, Facebook’s COO exclaimed: “I’m just a big fan of liberal arts education, because I think it teaches you to think, and it teaches you to think hard. It teaches you to structure ideas and make arguments.” Rather than continuing the traditional vocational education that has helped Vietnam to pick up the economy post war’s devastation, higher education must be reimagined with transformative core values, aiming to nurture foundational skills, critical thinking, and lifelong learning ability for creative breakthroughs, which are essential for the 21st century. That is the core pillar of liberal arts education and is also the profound mission that Fulbright University Vietnam carries.

Mr. Cuong Do reminisced when he was Sheryl’s senior, after she first joined McKinsey & Company, he was impressed with her ability to lead and work with people. Sharing her approach to leadership, Sheryl strongly advocates for the educational environment that Fulbright fosters, where the questions are more important than the answers, where all ideas are valued, and every student is to freely explore and progress to the best version of themselves. She added, “not only did liberal arts education teach me to critically think, but it also taught me the importance of hard work, discipline, being open to new ideas, and knowing that you are always learning.”

Recalling the trajectory of Facebook, Sandberg stressed that the learning and growing piece is one of the key components in a well performing team, that “we have to learn to think and think again.” Echoing her close friend Adam Grant in his new book Think Again she mentioned, “intelligence is generally thought of as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world there are other cognitive skills that may be more important: the ability to rethink and unlearn.”

Curious about how Sheryl has grown through her career path, Ninh Quynh Anh (Class of 2023) asked Sheryl to share what she would regard as the most important skills in her development. Upon reflection, Sheryl identified the hard skill to be communications – how to get ideas across clearly, how to write effectively yet simply – and the soft skill to be empathy – how to share compassion with others.

Breaking the glass ceiling

As the moderator applauded her for being “a beacon of light supporting women in the workplace and at home,” Sheryl addressed the obstacles that women still face in the 21st century. Although there are many differences across cultures, there is one thing that exists everywhere in the world, some places prominently, some more subtly: the glass ceiling. “We are culturally biased against female leadership… The word ‘bossy’ and its equivalent are used in every country in the world,” Sandberg asserted. She explained that girls are often called out as ‘bossy’ and ‘aggressive’ while boys are praised for their ‘leadership skills, and that happens everywhere.

This cultural stereotype against female leadership still exists because women do the majority of caregiving. Sheryl’s foundation, Lean In, published a survey in October 2020 reporting that 25% of women were considering downsizing their careers or leaving the workforce due to burnout. The pandemic threatens to undo decades of progress that professional women have made.

Answering Nguyen Thuy Linh’s (FSPPM student) question about how to conquer gender-based obstacles and break the glass ceiling, especially in traditional Asian societies like Vietnam, Sandberg advised students to be explicit about being ambitious and to earn their seat at the table.

A message to aspiring young minds

From Google to Facebook, Sandberg is known to have a keen eye for spotting “rocket ships”. When asked by Jack Nguyen Lam (Class of 2023) for tips on how to recognize “rocket ships”, Sheryl shared that a “rocket ship” can mean two things: one is the personal value – you must truly believe in the company’s mission and its impact, and second is the potential to grow. “For me, I’ve always wanted to work on things that would actually impact a lot of people,” Sheryl confessed.

As the pandemic came sweeping in, the whole scene of working is changing more rapidly than ever before. Jobs and skills that are in demand now may be obsolete within the next few years, and many future jobs do not yet exist. Vu Hai Truong (a graduate student in Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management) asked Sheryl what skills she would pinpoint as crucial for students to focus on building in preparation for this dynamic environment. The COO answered: “Don’t try to plot your career out. Because if I tried to plot my career when I was your age, I could never be here, because there was no internet and Mark Zuckerberg was in elementary school. So, don’t plot it out. Instead, work on critical thinking skills, writing, communication, math, etc. Those are the things that really help us.”

Sandberg encouraged Fulbright students to find their own “rocket ships” in the green space, contending that it is impossible to find a “rocket ship” by following somebody else who has already done it. Mr. Cuong Do added: “If you want to grow, you have to make things happen, you have to create it. If those things didn’t exist, just apply the critical thinking skill I mentioned at the beginning and make it the ‘rocket ship’ you aspire it to be.” Both quoted their favorite poet Robert Frost, encouraging young minds to take ‘the road less traveled ’. Sheryl credited liberal arts education for cultivating entrepreneurial spirits, in which students are empowered with the requisite interdisciplinary skills for success in the fast-paced, unorthodox work environment.

Mr. Cuong Do concluded the chat with a heartfelt remark: “There’s nothing so great in the world that cannot be solved by people with great will. At a university like Fulbright, we are not training followers. We are not training people to go and pursue the path that has been created by someone else, we are training the future leaders to go and solve big problems in the world. So, go and do the hard things, because they need to be done. Don’t do the easy things.”

Bảo Trâm

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