“Where did you get that?” asked a Vietnamese friend of ours who works at one of our partner universities, as he stared at the medal pinned to Brian’s lapel. “Twenty-two REI staff and volunteers were just awarded this medal and a Certificate of Merit by the Ministry of Education and Training,” Brian replied. “Do you know what it is?” “Yes I do,” replied our friend. “That’s the highest national award given by the Ministry! What did you do to deserve it?” Good question!
When REI’s Spring 2018 Business Team served in the Hanoi area and in Ho Chi Minh City earlier this month, it was “business as usual,” so to speak. REI has sought to invest in business students, young professionals, business consortiums and government agencies since 2004. Any growing nation needs a robust economy, which requires a trained workforce and skilled, visionary business leaders. Our business teams seek to help train both future and present leaders.
Ten years ago the annual per capita income was $1,143. In 2016 (the most recent year for which World Bank data is available) the per capita income was $2,170. We like to think that we have made at least a small contribution to that increase. And those numbers reflect an improvement in the quality of life. People can pay for their children’s school fees. People can better address health needs. People can afford a better diet. Lives are being changed for the better.
This April our Business Team consisted of John Scruton-Wilson, Del Goehner, Dr. Cheryl Meredith, Gail Flander Jones, Jen Knellinger, Loren Lancaster, Merrily Madero, and Brian Teel. Together they presented on over 40 different topics, giving 110 presentations to university classes, 50 ASEAN Ambassador Students, hospital doctors and night school MBA students.
This is a typical program for our business teams. Each spring and fall a skilled and committed team of volunteers comes to Vietnam to help train present and future business leaders.
This trip, though, had some very special events. One was the graduation of the first class of the Applied Management Competency Certificate program which REI did in collaboration with Hanoi University’s Faculty of Management and Tourism. Seven students completed the course; two of the students are currently on an exchange in the U. S. with REI. An additional four students completed 75% of the requirements but were unable to complete the entire program within this time frame due to opportunities they had to study abroad at other universities within the past two years. That is representative of the level of students who applied to be a part of the program.
The certificate program requires students to undertake 50 hours of classroom experience plus pre-reading or homework in addition to their regular studies during their junior and senior year. The courses involve practical application of the subject matter, rather than learning theory from a textbook. This program involved nine members of REI's business team who, over four semesters, created a total of sixteen different class topics or subjects within their areas of expertise. They prepared their respective class materials and also prepared a variety of presentations using a variety of teaching styles while being able to interact with the students.
While this class has just completed their requirements, a new cohort of 24 students started the same program in the fall of 2017. This new group should complete their certificate program in the Spring of 2019.
Another highlight was the participation of one of Hanoi University's alumni in giving our presentations. Duc has been involved with us for several years, and has developed a close relationship with Don Colebourn, one of our stalwart volunteers, who has mentored him in his entrepreneurial efforts. It was a pleasure to see Duc sharing principles of business success with a slightly younger generation who aspire to the same success that Duc has achieved.
But perhaps the most memorable event of the trip was the awards ceremony at the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET). REI was recognized for its long-standing contribution to the building up of Vietnam. This will be only the second time in our 26 years of service that we have received this honor. In 2008 the Ministry of Health honored six of our team members in a similar awards ceremony. The phrasing given during the awards ceremony was “Awards Presentation Ceremony of the Medal for Cause of Education and the Certificate of Merit from the Minister of the Ministry of Education and Training.” Each of the 22 recipients of the award had either taught full-time in Vietnam for five years, or had come to teach and train as a visiting professional for 10 years. We offer our heartiest congratulations to these honored resident staff and volunteers!
What do you have to offer? As time marches on, some of our most faithful and skillful business professionals are approaching the end of their time as REI volunteers. If you have professional skills to share with our Vietnamese friends, please contact us! Our next Business Team will go to Vietnam in November. Come along! We need you!