August 10, 2010
SPEA in IU Perspectives on Policy
Bloomington, Indiana --
SPEA's Vietnam Young Leader students are getting accustomed to BloomingtonParticipants in the Vietnam Young Leader Awards program at Indiana University have been getting a strong dose of cultural immersion along with the intensive English classes designed to prepare them for the start of the school year.
Within two weeks after arriving at Bloomington, they had taken in a demolition derby and a country music show at the Monroe County fair and sampled some Hoosier delicacies: funnel cakes at the fair and pizza from Mother Bear's.
"And sweet corn," said Pham Trang, smiling and flashing an all-American thumbs-up gesture.
Vietnam Young Leader Awards students include, from left, Huynh Diep, Doan Phuong, Pham Trang and Le Tu.
The 15 students, who arrived in July, will spend two years in Bloomington, working toward a Master of Public Affairs degree from the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. They applied after learning about the opportunity from a government website and were selected as part of an effort to improve the skills of the country's public-sector work force.
The program, co-sponsored by SPEA and the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, provides full scholarships, with IU charging in-state tuition and the Vietnamese government covering the students' costs. It marks the first time that Vietnam has taken part in a specific program to send young people to the United States for training in public policy.
Anh Tran, a SPEA assistant professor who was instrumental in establishing the program, said it will address a shortage of trained public managers in Vietnam and strengthen ties between Vietnam and the United States. While the students will gain an education from IU's highly ranked programs in public affairs, SPEA will benefit from an increasingly international perspective in its classes and an expansion of the school's outreach and alumni network in Southeast Asia.
In an interview at IU's SPEA Building, Vietnam Young Leader students Pham Trang, Huynh Diep, Doan Phuong and Le Tu talked about their first impressions of IU and Bloomington.
The students live in apartments on Bloomington's east side, where they have started to make friends with other international students. They have relied on city and IU buses to get around a campus that seems large and sprawling compared to Hanoi, the crowded Vietnamese capital. But Le expressed an interest in the Bloomington Community Bicycle Project, where residents can "earn" a free bicycle by volunteering time helping with bike repairs.
"You have very good projects here to save the environment," Le said. "You have a lot of green jobs. I highly appreciate that."
Doan, who like Pham works in economic development, said she expects not only to learn about public analysis but to "improve my English and gain other soft skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking and communication, which are important to the future."
Huynh, who works for Vietnam's Ministry of Education and Training, hopes the program will continue and expand, so more Vietnamese students can study at Indiana University and IU students will eventually be able to study in Vietnam.
The students said they are grateful for the opportunity to study at SPEA and for the hospitality they have been shown by the people they have encountered in Bloomington.
"People are very friendly, very helpful," said Pham. "Most surprising to me, Bloomington is a very beautiful city. It's so green."
Perspectives on Policy