PHAM THUY TIEN (Vietnam), YSEALI Professional Fellow in Civic Engagement

It was my third day with the University of Montana Foundation and it could not be better. Words can’t express my appreciation to my fellow partners at the UM Foundation who must have worked extremely hard to arrange such a detailed schedule for me. Although I can hardly have more than one hour free between the meetings and classes, I actually so much enjoy. I could learn plenty of new things that I have never heard of when I was in Vietnam, such as endowment scholarships, honors programs or prospect research for potential donors.

Among classes I participated was the Management and Organizational Behaviours – an undergraduate class of business students. I found it indeed interesting and helpful since it was related to psychology from which I, for the first time, knew we could learn to be optimistic and our pessimism could be under control. Before the class started, I had a chance to talk with the students who were pretty much wanted to know about Vietnam and opportunities to come to my country for exchange trips. It was positive as young people in America nowadays learn more about Vietnam. Back in 2007, when I got a scholarship for “The Semester at Sea” organized by Virginia Tech University joining the American students on the ship from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City, some approached me to seek for information for their reports and questions I received were:

– Do you have rice to eat?

– Do you have computer?

– Do you have television?

It was Vietnam tens of years ago. All they know about my country at that time was “Vietnam War”, not a fast developing economy as we really were. Now, things have changed and I am glad that Vietnam is viewed as a promising land for foreign investment and business opportunities.

I brought this story to my presentation (about Vietnam, my job and my objectives at UM) at the Rotary Club of Missoula, a part of Rotary International, which is a professional service club working worldwide for non-profit projects, including international youth exchanges. The club members showed their interest in Vietnam by raising questions about the current generations in Vietnam and how the country is growing.

Meetings with new people have enlightened me with insights about educational practices and supporting services in Montana and in The US, as well as initiatives to improve the education quality and diversify the programs. Meanwhile, working with the UM Foundation has brought to me a new well-organized system of raising fund for the university, in terms of providing scholarships, facilities, buildings and curriculum development. They are all excellent ideas and absolutely helpful for the work at my foundation back home. In addition, the trip opens to me new opportunities of cooperation. A talk with Peter Baker at the International Center has led to a potential partnership between my foundation and the UM in which we are planning to figure out a collaborating mechanism of the Dean’s Merit Award and the scholarships provided by the foundation for graduate programs so that more Vietnamese students can be sponsored to study at UM.


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