February 28 – March 4, 2018 – Danang, Vietnam
We had a busy and eventful week in Danang last week so this weekend’s trip to Hue was a much-needed break from the fast-paced schedule of meetings, discussions, and tours. More on Hue later in this post.
Trang set up a series of meetings with some of the most interesting people in Danang who are working on advancements in our common areas of interest which include innovation and education, trade and community resiliency.
After arriving in Danang from Ho Chi Minh City, we began the week with visits to many of the experts working for the Danang Institute of Soci-Economic Development (DISED). First Trang introduced me to many of DISED (http://dised.vn/) staff and her coworkers who are involved in many aspects of economic development research, writing, and consultancy. While there we met with Dr. Huynh Huy Hoa, Deputy Director of DISED, Mai Thi Thanh Hoa, Head of the International Cooperation Division, Nguyen Viet Quoc, Head of the Economic Research Department and Xuan Quach, from the Center for Consultancy on Sustainable Development. The DISED team welcomed me warmly and provided an overview of the organization. DISED and their team of talented professionals lead the way in providing the local, provincial and national governments with quality research and data from which good decisions can be made and policy implemented.
Following introductions, Trang toured me around the DISED administrative center which is made up of an impressive building and grounds.
Later that afternoon, we met Trang’s Sister, Nhu, at a local coffee shop where she educated me on the fascinating cultural and political history of Vietnam. We ended the evening with a great dinner where I was amazed at the knowledge and interesting facts and stories Nhu was able to share.
The following day we met with the Director of Green Viet, Tran Huu Vy (http://en.greenviet.org/). Green Viet’s mission is to raise awareness of the Red Shanked Langhor monkey and their habitat. The Red Shanked Languor inhabit the Son Tra Peninsula just outside of Danang. We discussed the challenges that development and disappearance of habitat have on the languor population which number around 1,300 on the peninsula. We also discussed the importance of “telling the story” of the Son Tra and its flora and fauna to not only the international visitors but to the local community as well. The existence of this unique species of monkey and shrinking habitat present an opportunity to let the world know about the value this animal brings to Vietnam and its people. I suggested creating opportunities for dialogue with the State of Montana’s tourism office in order to better understand how to tell the languor’s story to build interest in the conservation effort. We toured the peninsula and saw several groupings of the animals.
Friday was one of the busiest and most exciting thus far in the exchange. The day began with Mr. Dinh Quang Cuong, Head of General Division, Danang Office of People’s Committee and Director of Danang Climate Change Coordination Office (CCCO) and Danang’s Chief Resiliency Officer (CRO). Our discussions revolved around how the CCCO is leading the way in facilitating meaningful inter-provincial partnerships to address the impacts of climate change on the central coastal communities of Vietnam. The video below outlines the CCCO strategy:
Click the link for the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx-PX7xG5Lg
We noted in our meeting that while substantially different in scale, (Danang population approximately 1 million) our two communities have similar challenges as it relates to the impacts of climate change. As Bozeman (population approximately 50,000) beings its resiliency dialogue we can turn to Mr. Dinh and the CCCO for advice and cooperation. We agreed that a joint video meeting could take place in the future in order to establish a more formal connection between the CCCO and the City of Bozeman’s Sustainability Office led by Ms. Natalie Meyer. Thank you, Mr. Dinh.
Next, we traveled to the administrative offices of Danang University (www.udn.vn/english) where I met with Associate Professor and Vice Rector Dr. Le Thi Kim Oanh. Dr. Le welcomed me to Danang University and described the strength of the engineering, agriculture, education, economics and science and technology colleges, among others. We compared the strengths of Danang University and Montana State University, Montana’s land-grant and flagship institution and agreed there may be opportunities for student, faculty and knowledge exchange formalized by an eventual Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Danang University and Montana State University. I intend to communicate this willingness by the leaders of Danang University to partner with the Montana State University leadership and work to facilitate future conversations. Finally, we discussed the growing demand for entrepreneurial “maker space” in high tech communities such as Danang and Bozeman where students and entrepreneurs can gather to share ideas and resources. Danang University supports a maker space in their downtown area in cooperation with Arizona State University. Following the meeting with Dr. Le, we took a walking tour of the campus.
We then traveled to the outskirts of Danang where FPT Software Co. Ltd. (https://www.fpt-software.com/our-campus/danang/). Director Nguyen Tuan Phuong and his associate greeted us warmly and sat down to discuss the IT potential and outsourcing strengths of Danang. FPT suffers from the same challenges finding enough qualified employees in the local workforce to meet the growing demands of this global company (5 offices in the US and 22 around the world). We discussed and agreed on many topics including the need to align educational opportunities with market and employment realities and the need for strong university partnerships. I discussed the strengths of Bozeman in the area of IT and technology and informed my hosts about the strong technology transfer program at Montana State and the growing technology sector (including photonics and optics) we have in Bozeman. Finally, I described the value that 2-year education brings to the community and economy by lowering the barriers to gaining the skills that can put people to work more quickly and for less cost. I provided examples of 2-year curricula in photonics and optics technicians, culinary arts, high tech manufacturing and aviation, among others. We agreed that continuing the conversations in the future is mutually beneficial and perhaps we could discuss international educational and/or professional internship opportunities for students and employees in the technology field.
The final stop of the day was at Duy Tan University, or DTU (http://duytan.edu.vn/), Vietnam’s largest private university. We were met by Mr. Nguyen Huy Phuoc (Mr. Noo) Director of the Global Exchange Office. Mr. Noo described the rapid growth of DTU in Vietnam and abroad. DTU, established in 1994, has over 50,000 graduates and currently educates about 20,000 students. DTU’s international partnerships include those with Carnegie-Mellon University, Penn State University, Cal State Fullerton, Troy University, Appalachian State and Purdue Universities in the US and the University of Coventry in the UK. DTU is all about the student and student mobility and as such could make a great international partner with Montana State University where the focus is on student engagement and success. There is existing alignment between DTU and MSU in the sciences, architecture and entrepreneurism. I also note that DTU has created partnerships with at least one US 2-year college. Mr. Noo and I agreed that future collaboration is a distinct possibility and I agreed to bring this message of willingness to partner back to the Montana State University leadership.
Click the link for the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX8M-ZhY9t8
Saturday morning we traveled to the Imperial City of Hue. Located in central Vietnam, about 2 hours north of Danang, Hue served as the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors from 1802 to 1945, and capital of the protectorate of Annam, a French protectorate encompassing the central region of Vietnam. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor’s home; and a replica of the Royal Theater. In Hue we met with Ms. Hoang Thi Binh Minh of the Department of Geography and Natural Resources of the Mientrung Institute for Scientific Research (http://eng.misr.com.vn/). Minh organized a wonderful traditional Hue style lunch complete with local delicacies including, soups, spicy smoked fish, chicken and many savory sautéed vegetables all of which were accompanied by refreshing watermelon juice and green tea; so refreshing on the hottest of hot days in Vietnam. Over lunch, we discussed everything from mine site reclamation to historic preservation (of the imperial city) as an economic driver for the tourism industry. She is also working on several cooperative sustainability projects in and around Hue including solar and wind energy projects. We returned to bustling Danang this afternoon (3/4/18) to get ready for next week’s busy schedule.