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REI’s Spring Business Team: Focus and Depth

One of the inherent challenges in expansion is maintaining impact. One of our friends described this as not spreading yourself so thin that you become invisible! You may remember that REI recently expanded our Advanced Management Competency Certificate (AMCC) program to Foreign Trade University in Ho Chi Minh City (FTU2), as well as maintaining our program at Hanoi University (HANU). Some of our dear friends and partners here in Hanoi suggested that we present at fewer universities and focus on our AMCC students. They spoke, we listened.

Vietnam is changing, as is the entire world. Educational material once available only in printed form is now readily available on the Internet. Presentations once given only in lecture halls and classrooms are now recorded and available on YouTube and other platforms. Are we still relevant? Do we have something to offer that is unique, something not available online? We have asked ourselves this question, and asked our Vietnamese friends as well.

The conclusion? YES. We continue to present world-class material to university students, but what sets us apart is relationship and modeling. Our volunteer professionals are largely practitioners, who seek not only to teach, but to mentor. As they build friendships with students and faculty alike, conversations lead to deeper understanding of business principles, yes—but also of higher principles and values that lead to success and satisfaction in all areas of life. Our volunteers are available for one-on-one or small group get-togethers while they are in Vietnam, but also are available by email, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms while they are out of the country.

Our Spring 2019 Business Team, led by Dr. Cheryl Meredith and assisted by Loren Lancaster, was a happy mix of experienced REI presenters and first-timers. Merrily Madero continues to lead our AMCC program, and James Kang and Terry McHugh also returned to serve. Newcomers included Kenn Cygan, Minyoung Sohn, and Chad Gauger, who was new to REI but not to Vietnam, as he has worked here in the past. REI-Vietnam Director Craig Slater and his wife Kris were also in country to serve. The team spent one week in Hanoi and another week in Ho Chi Minh City.

Chad’s career with Cargill, which has included holding major responsibilities in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, opened doors of opportunity for our AMCC students. Cargill is a world-renowned company which brings, in their own words, “food, agricultural, financial and industrial products to people who need them all around the world.” Chad arranged a field trip for our AMCC students to the Cargill offices both in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Alas, the field trip in Hanoi had to be cancelled due to the impact on the food industry of an outbreak of Swine Fever. (Our HANU AMCC students, along with our team, instead visited the Museum of Ethnology and the Thanh Long Imperial Citadel.) But in Ho Chi Minh City our FTU2 AMCC students were treated to an informative visit to Cargill’s Vietnam headquarters, focusing on Cargill’s corporate culture, which reflects in many ways the values that REI espouses. A terrific visit.

In the classroom our team gave presentations on “Know Your Personality,” “Ethics,” “Emotional Intelligence,” “Developing Your Critical Thinking Skills,” “Strategic Planning,” “Cross-cultural Intelligence,” “Interviewing Skills,” “Negotiating for Success,” “Building a Team,” “Building a Successful Startup,” and “Strategic Leadership,” among others. One of our new presentations was given by Minyoung on “Data Visualization: Storytelling” wherein he showed the students how to read properly presented historical economic data and understand global economic trends as a result.

In addition to HANU and FTU2, our team was also hosted by the National Economics University (NEU), Posts and Telecommunications Institute of Technology (PTIT), University of Languages and International Studies (ULIS), Ton Duc Thanh University (TDTU), University of Economics and Law (UEL), and University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH). We are thankful, as always, for the warm reception extended to us by each of these partners.

One of our last activities in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City was a feedback and evaluation time with faculty and staff from our hosting universities. We want to listen and learn and adapt what we do to the expressed needs and desires of our partners. We want to continue to be relevant as we bring in our business professionals.

So a great team, great hosts, growing friendships, deepening impact! We look forward to our next Business Team trip in November. Do you have something to bring to the table? We would love to hear from you and have you as part of the team, as we build people to build nations!

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