Our Spring 2015 Business Team completed a two-week trip in March. The team, consisting of seven different business professionals (John Scruton-Wilson, team leader, Carl Boruck, Del Goehner, James Kang, Tom Knighton, Mike Renstrom, and Ron Smith) presented 80 1½ to 2 hour long classes to approximately 4,000 – 4,500 students at seven different universities. The course offerings covered 25 different topics. During the first week in Hanoi, the Business Team gave a total of 43 classes within four days. Six presenters presented 37 classes to three different universities within a four-day period during the second week in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
The classes are often very practical presentations, which cover a variety of topics from Marketing, Interviewing Skills, Starting a Business from an Idea, Leadership, International Communications, Motivating without Money, and Banking and Finance. The students learn from people who have had first-hand experience in running businesses or major departments of major corporations.
We welcomed two new participants this year. Mike Renstrom, a businessman in the Seattle area who has created and operates some unique business opportunities, mesmerized students with some of his business creations. Having never attended a university himself, he was able to share very personally on being a young entrepreneur at the bootstrap level. Of course his much younger age, as compared to that of the average Business Team member, was also a big plus with students. The second new team member was Carl Boruck, a retired banker currently living in the Seattle area. Carl was effective in explaining how our banking industry helps build our economy through careful lending of others’ money to growing businesses. In Vietnam, people are cautious about putting their money in banks for fear of not being able to get it back. Therefore great amounts of money that could help generate and grow their economy never get into that deposit/lending cycle because of the trust factor. Carl not only touched on bank lending but also shared his experience about how non-banking institutions can provide longer-term collateral lending opportunities from which banks are prohibited.
We were grateful to have Tom Knighton, who was instrumental in launching REI business teams in 2004, re-join our team for part of the time this year. Due to other commitments and circumstances, he has not been able to be with us for the past two or three years. His presentations on Leadership are always well received by students. Students are always looking for the “silver bullet” that will make them the next leader of their generation. Spring 2004 was the beginning of the whole concept of sending business teams to various universities, and some team members continue to return year after year. Vietnam has changed dramatically in the past twelve years. One of the university presidents, with whom we met, reminded us that 2016 is the beginning of the new 12-year zodiac cycle. Because of the many changes we have experienced over the past twelve years, it was an excellent reminder to us to continuously review our programs to make sure that are services are still relevant and fresh.
Our job is to find the best content and delivery that will help Vietnamese students realize our goal of Building People to Build Nations. In April 2015, past Business Team leaders met in Chicago for two days to review the past twelve years and take a fresh look forward. From that meeting came the birthing and development of a new certificate program. Based on a survey taken in 2014, we were able to determine what the students need most in the way of both personal and professional development. Based on that information, we are developing a nine-subject course certificate program for one of the universities as a pilot program. Some of the courses will be taught through distance learning and others will be a combination of distance learning and on-site instruction or workshops. The program will involve several semesters. Both the spring and fall team members will teach various classes during those periods. This allows us to go deeper with students academically and also foster the opportunity to build better relationships with students. The uniqueness of this certificate program is that the classes will (1) focus on applied learning, (2) be taught by practical experienced instructors, and (3) be taught in English. We are excited about the prospects of the new program.
Building business leaders to build their nation—the goal of the REI Business Team!