A year or so ago our good friend Dr. Thu Hoang, Dean of the Faculty of Management and Tourism (FMT) at HANU, suggested that we try something new. “I’d like REI to train a smaller number of students in-depth,” he said. “Maybe we could establish some sort of mini-MBA program.”
Shortly after making that suggestion, Thu and his friend and colleague, Vice-Dean Dr. Nga, convened a group of HANU business alumni to discuss and evaluate, together with REI staff and volunteers, the REI business program over the years. The discussion, pictured below, was refreshingly open, with both strengths and weaknesses frankly discussed. Parenthetically, this open discussion greatly honored us, in that the participants trusted us to receive their comments well. We are grateful.
One result of the discussion was the agreement that in addition to the traditional classroom format we have used for years, we could, in conjunction with HANU, develop a 2-year certificate program for a limited number of students, who would be willing to invest time in class preparation and completing assignments rather than simply sitting in on a class. Through the hard work and investment of many hours of several people, notably Thu, Nga, our own Del Goehner and John Scruton-Wilson, the program is taking form. The certificate is tentatively named the Applied Management Competency Certificate, and at this point we have decided upon these areas of emphasis: Strategic Planning, Cross-cultural Communication, Strategic Leadership, Ethics in Business, and Financial Structure, Analysis and Reporting.
We will launch our initial certificate class in October for 25 screened and selected students. Other students will be allowed to participate in the lectures and presentations, but will not be required to do the necessary prep and follow-up.
In addition, through the sponsorship of some of our Business Team members, two individuals, a faculty member and a student or recent graduate, will be selected annually to come to the USA on a J-1 visa, to visit cutting edge companies in California and Colorado (Google, Apple, the Broadmoor Resort of Colorado Springs, and several others) and meet with corresponding business leaders. Though the certificate program has yet to be officially launched, HANU has already selected their representatives for 2016, and as this article is being written, within days Professor Dzung Ngo and Ms. My Nguyen will arrive in the US. We are pumped.
The photo below shows our two J-1 Fellows, as well as others who hold a special place in our hearts. Front and center is Ginny Teel, wife of REI-Vietnam Director Brian and REI staff of many years. Behind her is Mrs. Binh, who was, interestingly, one of the business school student leaders during our first visit in 2004 (she helped lead the opening and closing ceremonies during REI Week). On the left is Professor Dzung (pronounced “Zoom”) who is the head of the Tourism department of FMT, and who has taught at HANU for 10 years. On the right is recent graduate Ms. My (pronounced “Mee”), an accounting major. Both these J-1 Fellows were selected from a very competitive group indeed, and to quote a line from “Men in Black,” they are “The best of the best of the best, SIR.” Our intention, as well as theirs, is that they take back to HANU whatever they may learn during their visit to the US, and share it with fellow faculty members and students. We can’t bring everybody over, but we are sure that these two special people will return to Vietnam and share with their colleagues and classmates what they have received in order to “Build people to build their nation.”
We will continue our established program at HANU and other campuses as well, but we are eager to see over the next few years what the results will be of this new business certificate program!
REI is also exploring a different new link for building into business in Vietnam. We are seeking to forge a much needed connection between graduates of our university business programs and actual employment opportunities. Last March REI’s Business Team met with a business entrepreneurs association in HCMC. This March meeting was critical because it gave our business educators the opportunity to understand current issues facing businesses in Vietnam today. The goal of our meeting was to learn how to make our university teaching timely and relevant.
One team member, Mr. Loren Lancaster (at right below), took this interaction to heart and decided to further investigate business needs in Vietnam. Teaming with REI Board member Paul Yankey (left) and REI’s Representative for Vietnam Relations Mrs. Lien (second from right), the trio has invested the past two weeks in Vietnam meeting with business professionals, including Ms. Van Anh (center) and Ms. Hang (second from left), both present at the March meeting, to gain even more understanding of what is needed there today.
While this is still an exploratory period, two truths have become apparent:
- REI’s commitment to build people to build a nation resonates deeply with noble-hearted men and women within the Vietnamese business community.
- REI’s extensive history in Vietnam gives us great potential to build bridges between the students we are helping to train and businesses looking for employees with their skills and values.
As mentioned earlier, this initiative is just getting launched. Much must be digested and understood. But providing the students with employment opportunities with companies that value professional skills and personal integrity is right in line with our calling to build those who will build Vietnam.