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Vietnam trip highlights opportunities for collaboration

February 02, 2009

Karl Theisen, associate director for business planning in ASU Global’s Policy and Strategic Partnerships Office, Global Engagement traveled to Ho Chi Minh City Jan. 13-17 for a series of meetings that built on continuing discussions related to joint projects between ASU and Vietnamese partners.

Theisen met with developers of the Tri Viet University, an initiative headed by Madame Ton Nu Thi Ninh, who visited ASU in October. ASU continues to provide mentorship and collaboration as the project moves forward. Discussions focused on two defining characteristics of the planned institution: the university as social enterprise and developing a sustainable, green campus. Both are important aspects of President Michael Crow’s “New American University” concept.

Theisen also participated in the second annual binational conference, “Higher Education in Vietnam: American – Vietnamese Partnerships,” co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and the Vietnamese Ministry of Education, attended by some 400 representatives of the government, university and private sectors of the two countries. The agenda focused on Vietnam’s higher education reform, current collaborations and potential areas for expansion, including implementing more joint programs and increasing the number of Vietnamese students attending U.S. universities.

“The U.S. Consular Offices in Vietnam issued more than 10,000 student visas in 2008,” says Theisen, “despite the economic turndown. And that number is expected to grow.” According to a recent report by the Institute of International Education, Vietnam had the highest percentage increase of U.S.-bound students from among the top 20 “places of origin” and ranked 13th overall among all countries sending students to the United States.

Theisen says it will be increasingly important for ASU to establish broad name-recognition of the university to help foster expanded programming and increase the number of Vietnamese students choosing ASU. “ASU already is a known entity in Vietnam,” he says, “but not yet well-recognized. It’s a brand-conscious culture, so this is an opportunity for ASU Global.”

ASU interest in Vietnam also encompasses climate change adaptation research and capacity training. According to the World Bank, Vietnam is among the top five countries most susceptible to the effects of climate change, due to its low-lying regions and large agricultural base. This creates significant interest among international organizations and donors that focus on climate change, along with strong opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches to these challenges.Theisen met with several potential partners to share a proposal developed by ASU faculty that outlines such an interdisciplinary approach to help policymakers and implementers adapt to these inevitable changes.