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May 29, 2014
HANOI, Vietnam --

(Ryan Piurek from the IU Communications Office traveled to Hanoi with university officials and SPEA’s Anh Tran and David Reingold. Here is his account of the group’s accomplishments in Vietnam)

Besides the incredible culture and history here in Hanoi, what impressed members of the IU delegation most about their time in Vietnam was the enormous enthusiasm of the institutions we visited.

Indeed, it was difficult not to be inspired by the intense interest that IU’s Vietnamese partners have in the university’s vast academic and research resources as they aim to strengthen the educational and governmental systems in a country that, in recent years, has proven to be one of Asia’s fastest-growing and most dynamic economies.

The meetings at Vietnam National University, the National Assembly and the National Academy of Public Administration highlighted how respected IU is for its expertise in areas in which Vietnam has real needs, such as finance and public administration. IU is also renowned for its vibrant history of institution-building in Asia, including in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and, most recently, Myanmar. Representatives from each of these organizations not only welcomed members of the IU delegation with open arms, but expressed their enthusiasm and willingness for faculty, staff and student exchanges between their organizations and IU and expanding upon existing collaborative efforts that, in recent years, have made a major impact on Vietnamese society.

One such program is the Vietnam Young Leader Awards program, a prestigious scholarship program that brings outstanding government officials from Vietnam to the U.S. to work toward earning master’s and Ph.D. degrees. The goal of the program, which is co-sponsored by IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training, is to address a shortage of properly trained public officials in Vietnamese government, while also strengthening ties between the U.S. and Vietnam. When the program was inaugurated in 2010, it marked the first time that Vietnam had taken part in a specific program to send young people to the U.S. for training in public policy. Today, IU works closely with the Vietnam International Education Development (VIED) office to select and send 15 to 20 government employees to SPEA for coursework geared toward both enhancing their policy management skills and expanding their worldview.

At a meeting at VIED, the office’s director general, Nguyen Xuan Vang, expressed to IU President Michael McRobbie, the first standing IU president to visit Vietnam, his office’s gratitude and appreciation for IU’s continued collaboration on the Vietnam Young Leaders Awards program. “Thank you for bringing so many first-rate students to IU for the Young Leaders program,” Vang said, adding that he looked forward to working with SPEA Executive Associate Dean David Reingold and Anh Tran, a Vietnamese native and SPEA faculty member who was instrumental in establishing the program, in continuing to build upon an initiative that has “contributed to the vibrancy of Vietnamese society and its economy.”

When it was his turn to speak, IU President McRobbie pledged IU’s continued participation in the Young Leaders program and in helping VIED, which is responsible for administering all scholarships to Vietnamese students, achieve its lofty ambitions. VIED aims to send 10,000 students overseas, including 1,000 to U.S. institutions, for Ph.D. programs by the year 2020.

From the meeting at VIED, it was a short drive to the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam and longtime foreign serviceman David Shear for a lengthy discussion about IU’s educational efforts in Vietnam, including the Vietnam Young Leaders Awards program, and its plans to expand its overall involvement with Southeast Asia, particularly through the establishment of a new center for Southeast Asian studies that will be part of the new School of Global and International Studies. It is no exaggeration to say that Ambassador Shear was extremely pleased to hear about IU’s high level of engagement in Vietnam, and he enthusiastically encouraged members of the IU delegation to continue to push forward new initiatives that contribute to the betterment of Vietnamese government and society.

To further demonstrate his excitement and support for IU’s engagement here in Hanoi, the ambassador opened the doors to his residence to IU alums and friends of the university. The guests included 2012 graduate Tarlie Townsend, who, last year, was named a Luce Scholar, one of 18 recipients of a nationally competitive award designed to enhance understanding of Asia for future leaders. Townsend, who earned a dual degree from IU in neuroscience and Germanic studies, is wrapping up a year in Hanoi working within Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The guests also included nearly all of the more than 25 alumni of the Vietnam Young Leaders Program, who had a chance to meet members of the delegation and share stories of how much the program had meant to them and their country.

The event was a wonderful wrap-up to an energizing and eventful two days in Hanoi, in which new bridges were built between IU and Vietnam that will almost certainly result in even greater engagement here in the years to come.