For most graduates, commencement exercises signify the beginning of a journey, a new career and a new life, but for 150 of the newest Troy University alumni, commencement also signals global advancement.
In late fall, Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., presided over commencements at three universities in Vietnam, where the strength of the graduating classes at Duy Tan University (Danang), Hanoi University of Science and Technology and Vietnam National University’s University of Economics and Business (Hanoi) make the southeastern Asian nation TROY’s leading edge of expansion.
For many older Americans, Vietnam is analogous with war. It was with that frame of mind that Dr. Hawkins left Vietnam in 1969. It was during the Vietnam War in 1968-1969 that Dr. Hawkins led a platoon of Marines, earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His impression of that war-torn country changed in 2002 upon his first return to Vietnam.
In 2004 TROY began offering courses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and made history in 2008 when it became the first American University to award the baccalaureate degree in Vietnam. Hawkins returned to Vietnam in 2016 to discuss the addition of Duy Tan University to its list of partner universities. The founder of Duy Tan University was Dr. Le Cong Co, who fought for the Viet Cong, the former enemy of the United States. Dr. Le was recognized for gallantry in the fight against America.
The partnership of Drs. Le and Hawkins captured the attention of the media in Vietnam. In fact, the two are the subjects of a Vietnamese-produced documentary that features the relationship of the pair of war veterans turned educators. The documentary is scheduled for release in Vietnam in 2024.
“I’ve said before, ‘The first time I went to Vietnam, we carried bullets. Now, we carry books,’” Dr. Hawkins said. “Vietnam offers a chance to build relationships that make an impact not only within higher education, but for our graduates as well.”
“The Vietnam of today is a very different country than I first encountered. They are modernizing with the goal of becoming globally competitive, which is a mutual goal for us – we want our students globally competitive. I am convinced that Troy University is playing a major role in helping the Vietnamese people achieve success,” he added.
In all, more than 1,100 students participate in TROY’s program at the partner institutions, where they take classes in English from TROY professors in computer science, business administration, and hospitality event management. The value of the American degree translates into greater opportunity – and greater earnings – for TROY graduates in Vietnam.
“We are seeing tremendous growth of our programs in Vietnam and are expanding our partnerships there,” said Sohail Agboatwala, Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Services and Administration. “There is great interest from our partner institutions in expanding the degree offerings, and students are eager to engage in our programs.”
In fact, the TROY delegation that included Dr. David Van Buskirk, TROY’s Director of International Partnerships & Operations, had meetings that laid the groundwork to offer programs in cybersecurity, graphic design, and entrepreneurship. Officials with Duy Tan University inked a final agreement with TROY to offer Business Administration and those at Saigon Technical University in Ho Chi Minh City are looking at ways to offer TROY’s MBA.
“Educational leaders in Vietnam recognize the need and the value in partnering with TROY to bring American degrees to their students. Together, we develop collaborative programs that create highly skilled graduates who can build their country’s future for the 21st century and beyond,” Dr. Hawkins said.
Based on preliminary surveys with TROY graduates in Vietnam, 94 percent say their degree gave them better job opportunities compared to those having a domestic degree, and almost 70 percent believe the TROY degree helped them achieve a higher salary than their domestic-degree-holding counterparts.
“Just the proficiency in English that is required of our TROY students in Vietnam gives them a huge competitive advantage in the job market there,” Buskirk said. “Highly collaborative programs such as the one under development at VNU could be the first of its kind in Vietnam, combining graphic design, entrepreneurship and marketing elements. These programs will ultimately have a major impact on how Vietnam does business both domestically and globally.”
Students share that vision. Nguyen Tuan Anh, a product owner at Mantu and a recent UEB graduate in business administration, points to the diversity and global outlook of TROY programs.
“Studying at Troy University provides the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of students and faculty members from around the world, enhancing cultural understanding and broadening perspectives,” he said. “Troy University’s curriculum is designed based on international standards, providing students with access to the latest research and innovative teaching methodologies, preparing them for the global job market.”
Nguyen called the English language skills learned through TROY’s courses “crucial for success in the global business environment.”
“A degree from Troy University is widely recognized by employers and academic institutions worldwide, increasing the chances of securing a job or pursuing further education in other countries,” he said.
Nguyen also pointed to TROY’s support services as a critical component of academic success.
“Troy University provides strong support, such as modern online libraries, and research centers, which can enhance the learning experience and support academic success,” he said.
Duong Quynh Phuong serves as the Chief Creative Officer and design lead at Capi Creative. He completed a business administration degree at HUST last year and echoed Nguyen’s thoughts.
“Attending the TROY program gave me access to an open and modern educational program that provided me with both professional and social skills through interesting and practical subjects while improving language and communication skills,” he said.
Common themes that have emerged from alumni comments include English proficiency, international exposure and access to high quality academic knowledge as reasons for their success.
“The best thing about having the degree from Troy University is that it helps me to have an out-of-the-box mindset when evaluating things,” said Tran Duc Thuan, who earned a business administration degree at HUST and is an executive in the Service Quality Inspection Department at the BRG Group in Hanoi.
“We unpack the TROY teaching method in Vietnam, not just the academic subject matter,” Buskirk said. “Our students are learning teamwork, collaboration and the whole TROY dynamic that makes them not only better job candidates but more well-rounded people.”
That’s precisely what fuels TROY’s success in Vietnam, Agboatwala said. The University’s faculty serve a dual role: teach academic subject matter and develop the individual.
“Our faculty leave the Troy Campus, travel halfway around the globe to instill not just learning in those students, but to ensure students in Vietnam are just as prepared for life as a student from Birmingham or Troy or Goshen,” he said. “The students in Vietnam recognize this an invaluable by-product of our relationship building.”