This month, BUILD-IT was honored to interview Phuong Nguyen, who was recently appointed to serve as an advisor on the Vietnam National Council on Education and Human Resources Development. As the former country director for the Vietnam Education Foundation, Nguyen played a key role in the implementation of VEF-sponsored research projects on undergraduate education in computer science, electrical engineering, physics and agricultural sciences in Vietnam. Nguyen earned her doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Texas Tech University in 2005 and currently serves as the Vietnam country director for ASU, leading the university’s efforts of promoting STEM education throughout the country.
BUILD-IT: Phuong, can you tell us a little bit about the Vietnam National Council on Education and HR Development?
Phuong: The Council is an advisory body to the Prime Minister with regard to various aspects related to Vietnamese education and HR development for the period of 2016-2021, including evaluation of educational reform, refining and executing education laws and development strategies, HR development strategies and planning. As members we conduct research and advise the prime minister on important policies, measures, and projects to develop education, training, vocational training and HR development for Vietnam.
The Council consists of 26 members, representing the government, industry, and academia. Notably, the Council is chaired by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. ASU and Harvard are the only two foreign educational institutions having representatives appointed to the Council in this term.
BUILD-IT: What does being recognized and appointed to the National Council mean to you?
Phuong: Being recognized by the National Council is truly both an honor, and at the same time, an important responsibility for me. As country director with ASU, being recognized by the National Council presents many opportunities to ASU as a leading innovator in STEM education, including having access to the Council and its distinctive members, having direct input on recommendations made by the Council, and enhancing the visibility and credibility of the University in Vietnam.
BUILD-IT: Were you expecting such a high recognition?
Phuong: No, I was not expecting anything like this at all. On March 1, I received a phone call from the Minister of Education and Training, Phung Xuan Nha. He informed me that I was invited to serve on the Council and I accepted his invitation with honor. It was a very nice surprise for me.
BUILD-IT: Can you share a little about the work you currently do?
Phuong: Following my 11 years of work with the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF), I am truly grateful for the wonderful opportunity to serve as country director of the Arizona State University Representative Office in Vietnam. I am very proud to be part of the great local team here in Vietnam. We - a team of 11 excellent professionals - are working closely with our excellent colleagues in Tempe to implement the BUILD-IT Program in Vietnam, focusing on faculty development; technology solutions; STEM curriculum innovation; and higher education quality, policy, and leadership. I love my work as it is very meaningful for me to be part of the effort to innovate education in Vietnam, and it also presents a great learning opportunity for continuous professional growth and development.
In addition, I do volunteer work in my free time, including teaching Positive Living courses, participating in the "Millions of Acts of Goodness” Project, and the “Millions of Smiles" Project.
BUILD-IT: What is the one thing you have done in life that you are most proud of, be it in your career or otherwise?
Phuong: I have had opportunities to meet and inspire thousands of students in Vietnam to have big dreams and pursue them. It is so rewarding to learn that my work has helped contribute towards making a difference in the lives of many young Vietnamese individuals.
Also, my volunteer work has introduced Positive Living to hundreds of individuals, who develop better self-awareness and self-mastery to live happier lives.
BUILD-IT: Do you have any other aspirations you hope to accomplish in the future?
Phuong: I will further develop my knowledge regarding effective, successful STEM education system models and best practices in the world in order to contribute to the work of the Council in the best way possible. I also aspire to be instrumental in spreading the "Millions of Acts of Goodness” Project and the “Millions of Smiles” Project throughout Vietnam and beyond, making our world a better place to live.