Laughter erupted from the surprised business students when the normally dignified and dapper John Scruton-Wilson burst into the classroom wearing a T-shirt, sunglasses, and a long, frowsy-looking wig, ready to demonstrate how NOT to conduct an interview. He proceeded to high-five the interviewer, put his feet up on the desk and take a personal phone call. This was just one of the presentations given by the REI Business Team from March 15-25, 2014 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The goal: to train top-flight young business students to be world-class professionals, able and willing to build Vietnam and take an increasingly influential role in the global arena.
REI-Vietnam has been sending Business Teams to Vietnam for a number of years now. John himself, this trip’s Team Leader, counted this year’s program as his 10th year of presenting principles of business to eager university students as well as faculty members. One of the characteristics of these Business Team trips is the consistently high quality of our volunteer professionals. Our Spring 2014 team was remarkably diverse, with an Englishman (John), Canadian (Cheryl Meredith), Korean-American (James Kang), Vietnamese-American (Paul LeVan), and the odd assortment of Americans (Del Goehner, Regina Lewis, Brian and Ginny Teel, Randy and Jill Vernon).
This was the first trip to Vietnam for Regina (aka Dr. Regina Lewis, Department Chair and Instructor of Communications at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs). We found out that she's an accomplished speaker and a champion body-builder too! Regina brought a dynamism and energy to her presentations and her students responded with great enthusiasm!
Students at several universities enjoyed a wide variety of presentations. The topics included: Strategic Planning, How to Launch a Small Business, Coaching, Public Speaking, Personal Finances, Understanding Yourself and Your Team Members, among others. There was also time given for class participation, discussion and Q&A. Traditionally, education in Vietnam consists of lecture and memorization of the content. The more informal format, which REI launched during our Fall 2013 Business Trip, seems to be widely appreciated—and all the more by students comfortable in English or eager to try it!
But much of the impact of the team came outside of the structured class times. Someone recently asked Brian, our REI-Vietnam director, “What is REI all about, anyway?” Brian immediately responded, “REI is about LIFE.” The team sought to impart professional training in the world of business, yes…but after class there was opportunity to interact with the students, faculty and administrators on a more informal and personal basis. Some of our best conversations came over a bowl of pho (pronounced fuh), a wonderful soup that is the source of some national pride. Building relationships is one of the keystones of the REI approach to building people to build their nation.
One young man, Anh, shared his story of last year’s student fatigue, dissipation and academic failure. He experienced a turnaround thanks to the input and advice of his older brother, currently studying overseas. Now Anh is determined to succeed, and wants to get all the help he can to make the most of his life. “I’m attending every one of your presentations,” he said. “REI offers something I can’t get anyplace else.” Anh received something in addition to the professional training—something that he hadn’t anticipated: the listening ear of someone who cared. We don’t know Anh’s future, but we hope to stay in touch with him, and help him fully develop into fruitful maturity, professionally and in all of life.
REI looks forward to our next Business Trip, scheduled for Fall, 2014. Thanks to the generous spirit of our professional volunteers, we anticipate having a full contingent of experts ready to share principles of business, as well as principles of life, with the Vietnamese people.